An Introduction to Electronic Field Trips (for teachers new to the concept)
v1.0, Sept 22, 1995
Written by Scott Coletti, Middle School teacher
Crittenden Middlel School, Mt.View, CA

The following document is a rough draft. Rather then perfecting the document first before making it available, I felt it was important to get it out there. Pleae send suggestions or comments to

When asked what I could contribute to the Live From the Stratosphere electronic field trip, I immediately thought of the first-time teachers struggling, as I had, to integrate cyberspace into their classroom environments. My goal here is to produce a document that will assist beginners in handling their first electronic field trip.

This document is designed for the first-timer, beginner, newbee, never-been-there- nor-done-that participant of an electronic field trip. You are involved in education, down on the ground, in the classroom, whether as a student, parent, teacher, community and/or business volunteer. I speak to educators for mechanical convenience in the production of this document, but everyone is encouraged to come along on a trip of discovery making learning powerful and alive.

This document will provide hands-on activities and resources that the beginner can order or access right away. The prescribed actions assume ready and easy access to the internet. People not yet using the internet can take advantage, now, of this type of educational opportunity. This can be accomplished with ready and easy access to the following resources: phone, vcr, tv, Fax, snail mail and/or Fed X-type carriers. Of course, a functional and practical understanding of your particular technology tool set is needed. Taking on a new educational technology is not the occasion to be learning many new skills at the same time, unless, of course, you do not also have a life.

SOMETHING LIKE THIS- Institutions are rhetorically endorsing tech in ed. But at this time, down in the classroom, the teacher is getting little support. At this point in time most of what I do is done on my own time. The odd stipend finds its way to my checkbook, but that is an exception. To wit, the activity of running an electronic field trip in the classroom is part of a teachers personal adoption of technology in education, a fact of life that defines you as an innovator in your school, district, region, state or country.

An email service is available from the LFS project called a maillist (see page 6 for a simply drawn definition of a maillist). If you join this service (it's free) you will get mail several times a week that is germane to the classroom project. The mail will include 3 things: updates from the LFS team offering resources for the classroom teacher; field journals from the staff, scientists, students, and teachers involved in the project; a discussion carried on by anyone joining the Discuss-LFS list. Also, some of the journals will be written down to the 5th/6th grade language level.

Two of the most powerful shifts that take place on the internet, absent from other current forms of communication mediums, are, one: the opportunity to interact with other people (people who are participating in the same project as well as those who are producing the project), and, two: the opportunity to contribute unique, original content and process to the project. In the last 4 years at each turn, I have tried to contribute something to the online projects I participated in. As a newbee my contribution was nothing more then filling out the response, feedback, and evaluation forms. That contribution was plenty as my plate was rather full. I was busy figuring out how to up load and down load, access the projects and clearing houses that offered them as well as how in the world to get started, etc.

All educational resources (archived, current, and upcoming) the reader interacts with, on and off the internet, come from the "PASSPORT TO KNOWLEDGE" project. The Live From Antarctica trip (see Appendix) is useful as an archival project for both training and classroom use. LFS will represent the current (NOW) trip. And LFHst (see Appendix) will give opportunity for planning a trip during the first quarter of '96. I will refer to several project models, but I will stay focused in this doc on the current "Live From The Stratosphere" experience.

So, this is your first time participating in an electronic field trip, you have used your computer, modem, phone line and an account with some internet provider. If you are like most of us, you are simultaneously teaching a full load as your day job. Take heart, heroes and heroines of 21st-century education, all you need now is time. New users should plan on spending between 1 and 8 hours a week outside of class. On page 10 of the Teachers guide you sent away for will be some suggestions on "Customizing Your Field Trip" to meet your time constraints.

Of course the 8 or so hours a week will be unevenly distributed throughout the project. You might find yourself running a 15 hour a week commitment doing orientation and preparation work. Then, once the project begins, the work will involve keeping up with the net traffic for yourself and the kids. During this time you will do the following work:


  1. Begin learning about electronic field trips
  2. Join Live From Stratosphere An Electronic Field Trip
    1. Use a few of the many student-centered components
    2. Use one teacher-centered component (e.g., maillist, mail-serves, conferences)
    3. You will find and gather materials to begin the project.
    4. You will schedule a time in your day to harvest materials of an ongoing, time-sensitive nature.
    5. You will be acting as a filter (DEFINE LINK) for your students, culling out information that is appropriate for your grade level and student population. You will work with people acting as online filters or doing the work yourself.

      (Teacher's Note: It was disconcerting to me when I joined one project to find the vocabulary way over my kids' heads. After a short time (a couple periods), I dropped that project and detoured to a project my kids would understand. When you engage the LFS projects, you have the assurance that lots of people have shaped the materials for the students as well as provided teacher-oriented material. In fact, there will be junior field journals written especially for our students/children with less-developed language skills. We are targeting the 5th/6th grade reading level.)

    6. Plan your lessons (Using the Teacher's Guide is a great resource. A comfortable and straightforward common teacher's tool that will not take much adaptation on our part.)
    7. Shape pre- and post- broadcast lessons (The Teacher's Guide provides an excellent sequence of lessons for the teacher.)
    8. Execute and adjust the plan as necessary.
    9. Etc,Etc....

After having used the net for 3 years in the classroom, I strongly encourage the use of a plan B when making your lesson plans...the best laid plans of mice and men and all that. I remember three years ago when I had a project cooking with only one modem and one unreliable internet provider. The lesson from cooking that project was to get my hands on at least 3 ways to get to the internet. That way no matter what was broken or down for the class period, my kids didn't get burned. I also learned to design a plan C that used nothing fancier then paper, pencil, and copies of information I already had at hand.

Electronic Field Trip: A Working Definition

All teachers are familiar with the notion of Instructional TV (ITV). Ideally, ITV is educational programing with material and student/teacher interactivity, serving a broader criteria, a wider audience, a richer content of instruction than would otherwise be possible. A great example is a physics class taught to any high school student that qualifies. A district gets to offer a physics class in concert with all districts in a region without moving the limited, but highly interested, student population to the teaching site.

Start thinking about electronic field trips as an ITV model that works out with weights 30 hours a week. You still get live television with a video tape option, but the projects are offered nationally and internationally, not just regionally. Because of this national scope, global and off-planet destinations are possible. Also, current experts and resources are brought to bear for the purpose of executing a sustained and more powerful Rfield tripS than any region could muster.

Print materials suggesting hands-on, in-class activities are available as with ITV. Additionally, internet, online computer resources are created, referenced, and supported, for enhancing, expanding and enriching everyone's learning experience.

Resources created, referenced, and supported could be any and all of the following list. This is a working list, by the way, in no way intended to be all inclusive. Resource examples are such things as challenge questions; puzzles; question and answer data bases; ask-an-expert forums; collaborative science experiments; learning centers; various email tools and traffic; content; images (for analysis and aesthetic); interactive lessons; and links to related information archives and material. And, of course, as with ITV most Electronic field trips focus on curricular goals by grade range. So the current field trip my school has chosen to participate in, Live From the Stratosphere, targets the middle school grades.

The differences between contemporary ITV and RElectronic Field Trips" are indeed significant. The programing is designed for instant response and feedback from all participants via two-way audio, video, and internet traffic. Participants also gain a powerful participatory sense of audience. And what kid doesn't love an audience? When an audience is interested in what a young person has to say, the experience has an apparent and positive impact on learning. Additionally, the notion that a big production team is assembled for their learning is also important. (Think about what is usually being said by the structure of the school day and the limits of supply and resource.)

Via the internet, materials that relate to a project branch out in easy-to-follow links in so many directions as to be firstly and practically infinite to the human mind. Secondly, these links and their connectedness provide opportunities for the individual to follow personal interests.

Beyond the reality of almost instant and expansive access to information lies another opportunity -- an opportunity to engage visual materials, tools, and techniques for the purpose of visualizing information (Edward R. Tufte, Envisioning Information and The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Graphics Press Box 430 Cheshire Conn.06410). Cumulatively these factors yield a sense of ownership by the student lucky enough to be allowed the opportunity to construct personal meaning.

Current fundamental tenets of how learning takes place (Appendix A) are expressed profoundly by a learner using electronic field trips. Electronic field trips are addressing a borader criterion of learning, more closely approximating the reality of successful learners.

The Science Framework for the State of California recognizes the need to "Demonstrate the enterprise and operation of science...examining the array of job prospects and interest areas...and describing how the products of science and technology change society."


The PASSPORT TO KNOWLEDGE (the umbrella program for the various "Live From ..." projects) project will also suggest practical ways to embody the suggestions of Project 2061 ("Science for All Americans," "Benchmarks for Science Literacy") and the National Science Standards developed by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences, as well as state assessment panels.


One of the ways that you and your kids can stay abreast of events during the project is to join a group of interested people on a type of email service that looks like a group newsletter service. Everything that anybody writes to one common address is published and sent to the people on a list. This type of email is called a maillist. In other words, a maillist is an automatic server (server definition link) of any email traffic generated by those people on the list. The automatic server sends each list member all the mail sent to the server. Some maillists (like updates-lfs) do not allow everybody to send messages but instead limit the sender to a select group of people.

Those on the project doing the support, science, and content provide periodic "Journals" and "Junior Journals" of their activities. The journal traffic is rich in content and, perhaps even more importantly, the process of doing science.

(By the way, using this traffic is a great way to gain a feel for the culture developing around a project.)

There develops a question and answer data base that teachers can access. This would be text traffic that you would go out to get off the internet somewhere. You might go to a Gopher site, FTP site, or World Wide Web site. One of the ways I use the QandA DB is to have the kids pose qUs that they are interested in getting answered. Then after school I sort the qUs by how I think they can be answered:

  1. Do I have a CD ROM that will address the question?
  2. Is the question big enough to warrant a call to the city library's computer catalog?
  3. Would the student profit from a guided trip online to answer the question?
  4. Do I know of experts or internet addresses that answer the question already?

Once questions are in their respective piles, I get online. Once at the project question and answer data base, I have been known to just down load the whole thing to my computer for perusal by me and the kids off line (DEFINE LINK FOR OFF LINE). Also, I have gone through and matched up my students' questions with any answers already posted.

Strong student response to the email traffic for the question and answer data base was observed. One surprise was how strongly the students demanded daily email traffic checks. Each day, first thing in the door..."did I get any mail from ...So And So...did my question get a reply... anything from New Zealand or Australia yet?" Because of the 7th graders' responses to email traffic, I recommend all new teachers include this in their activities.

Teacher's Note-
(This task is a great reason to have students transcribe questions into an electronic file. The questions can then be copied, edited, and uploaded with ease)

Another thing I did with the data base was use recurring words to run searches on the internet (Lycos, Web Crawler, etc.). That way I generated additonal resource lists related to the projects. Of course, during the LFA trip the kids found and used some servers from Australia and New Zealand to get resources for their product (in that case the product was a slide show produced in ClarisWorks 2.0 or jigsawed team teaching). They also generated email traffic using the mailto of those email links whose pages they used for their reports. This activity generated a great deal of interest from the students.

I used the following techniques while running an electronic field trip: smart filters, expert teams, jigsawing, slide show productions using ClarisWorks 2.0., reading pairs, teacher assistant for a day (TA for a Day), etc.

One of the students' strongest experiences of learning was when I chose them to be TA for a day. During one or several periods I observed their ability to drive the Macs, interact and help their fellow students, and solve problems that arose. I tried to pick a student whose particular talent matched the shape of the day's lesson. So one young man who was great at the "Edit" menu was given the job of TA for a Day when I ran my NY minute (DEFINE LINK) on cutting, pasting, moving, and erasing images, text, movies, and sound files from slide shows.

The response was so positive that I started playing with the concept. I ran a number of TA teams for a week with equal success. Of course I got a chance to reteach skills, ostensibly to the TA, but the other students had their ears firmly to the ground so they would not miss out. We all learned a lot.

Have the kids split up into expert development teams. Have at hand materials prepped and ready to go:

  1. CD Rom resources: I had 3 2x CD ROM readers and 3 CD's. They were Groliers (URL?) and Comptons Encyclopedia (URL), and Small Blue Planet (URL) for the students' chronosphere activity. To find out what is currently going on with online encyclopedias you can join "HOTWIRED" (ezine (DEFINE LINK) of Wired magazine) for free, and then check out the article on Brittanica's move to make its encyclopedia available on line.

    Teacher's Note-
    For item 1- Pre search your CD ROM resources, noting key words. Also, of course, it is a good idea to teach searching for information on a CD in a quick NEW York Minute (post link here-my NY minute on searching electronic resources).

    ASIDE- The seventh grade class that went on last year's Live from Antarctic field trip found it interesting to push around the idea surrounding the way sunlight and time zones distribute themselves globally. Successfully transferring our planetary system's relation to the sun is the best way to create a domain of knowledge for moving to the subject of the inner planets. And the CD Small Blue Planet does a wonderful job of conveying the concept of the planet's chronosphere. If you would like a tour of the planets in anticipation of LFS, LFHST or any solar astronomy unit you are teaching, check out the University of Arizona's Tour of the Planets ( URL-lpl is server).

  2. Video tape relevant to the field trip. I showed footage from the previous years Passport to Knowledge (Live From Other Worlds), when some of my student got to drive a submersible robot underneath the ice off McMurdo base in the Antarctic. This gave rich visual display of environs around McMurdo base and the environs in general.
    The expert team that looked at this footage was responsible for finding the best 3 minutes, using one-minute segments. The team used the VCR inch meter and annotation techniques as their tools.

    ASIDE- Here I tend to limit tape "watch" time to 10 minutes at a time believing that a hands-on activity associated with 10 minutes of viewing provides a bounty of information, more than enough for middle school students to assimilate

  3. Computer network resources- From local education BBS's to Global School house (URL LINK) (aka FredMail) to Freenets and commercial networks such as AOL, Compuserve, Prodigy, Delphi, full internet connectivity with graphical World Wide Web browser capability. I used what would assure me that the kids would experience success during their harvest (DEFINE LINK FOR HARVEST).

    Teacher's Note-
    Do a presearch on whatever connectivity you have. Saving bookmarks (DEFINE LINK), noting key words, and teaching search techniques for electronic resources.

  4. Email traffic (lists, learning centers, journals, content specific or concept specific ezines (DEFINE LINK) prefiltered by yourself relevant to the day's topic/s.
  5. Journal filtering by student teams is a favorite of mine. I give students the task of reading a journal and then summarizing it so that a student 2 to 3 years behind them can understand the key concepts and content. Also use a "What I Learned Today Language Journal" that I modified for use during e trips (POST LINK FOR DOWNLOAD???) The What I Learned Journal includes the following questions:
    Where info came from
    What I did not understand
    Where I went to clarify what I did not understand
    Words I had to look up
    Topics of great interest to me

  6. Prepublished material is often available that is free and easy to get your hands on. NASA has many publications related to their mission of promoting science in K12 education. In the Teacher's Guide, on page 61 (MY DRAFT AT LEAST) is a list of materials that represents multiple mediums; video, books, magazines and lab materials.
  7. Smart Filtering (DEFINE LINK) is last on this list because it requires a lot more time. I consider smart filtering to be a more advanced activity.

Teacher's Note-
As with any great teaching, the job is to develop a focused lesson that leaves room for the wondering human mind. I try to leave room in my lesson design so that if I see lights go off in the students' eyes, I can figure out how to connect their interests to the topic. One tool I use is slide show production using the draw module inside ClarisWorks2.0. Asking the kids to choose a curricular topic related to our electronic field trip gives them open range on what they want to express.

During the LFA project last year our class took a vote on which learning center to join. With much discussion and debate the kids strongly, overwhelmingly chose the center dealing with survival in extreme environments, which led to living quarters, which led to a program within my local region called "Math Renaissance Project." The project had a Mac software program and curriculum to teach middle school math by designing a habitat for the South Pole station. During broadcast 3 when a high school student Elizabeth showed us the new living quarters, the design sparked much interest in the kids. Here is a lesson in real classroom management, though. While I was able to snag the lesson book and software for designing South Pole habitat, I did not execute the lesson in class because of time constraints. Typical of a classroom teacher, great ideas and materials, no time.

VIDEO COMPONENTS- ANNOTATION AND NOTE TAKING. Annotations using word processing and quick-time clips in the ClarisWorks draw environment. The ability to take short (10 second max) clips from video/audio and drop them into ClarisWorks with appropriate annotations proved to be a hit with my middle school kids. They thrive when presented with this kind of task. For the last couple of years they have spent hours outside of class generating these slides for their slide shows. They are willing to struggle with some fairly abstract concepts to figure out how to add quick time audio and video to their presentations. In order to intelligently choose the footage, they had to review the tape, nailing down big ideas of concept and content. This was a fruitful endeavor in the class.

3 ways for Packaging Email Traffic
One of the issues I had to struggle with was how to package email traffic to the kids. My use of paper was limited by the fact that a rationing system is in place on campus, and I did not want to use up what little allocation I had.

Another way to get the email to the kids was to make multiple disk copies. The time involved with this task was much more than using the copy machine. Although I will say that the kids related positively to being handed a disk with material differently than being handed paper.

The third way was to send the file out over the network in the Mac lab. Yes, I teach in a Mac lab all day. Of course after downloading the email traffic of whatever sort, I had to tweak the file, usually because some contributors to the email stream did not understand how to get clean copy into an email message. They used too many columns, or a non proportional font or too large text point size. Because of this fact I allocated time to clean up the text format so there were no broken lines, orphans, and such. Of course an entire forest was saved because I stripped out the email headers before replicating the files.

Another way I tried to handle the email was to get kids to go pick it up themselves. Of course the student/s who were expecting traffic were never on the 2 computers with modems. Or their skills were limited to AOL. I was using my most robust internet account to handle the email traffic. It was robust (DEFINE LINK) but the interface (DEFINE LINK) was difficult for the kids to use. So at times I would forward the students' mail to their AOL accounts. Then they could access their mail on their own time.


Use electronic excerpts from Teacher's Guide on net.

Web Chat, Virtual field trip into KAO, teacher registration and mail list as way to connect with real people.

Teacher orientation broadcast is a great way to become familiar with the content and process of the project. Ours will occur Sept 19 11:a.m. to 11:30am.

Link to downloadable book mark file for LFA,LFS,LHST.

Kids loved slide show project at end of year (DOWNLOAD LINK TO ONE) Quakes show

NIH Image and expert online and in class.

Info management is diff for e trip because of so much material. A speed reading course is not out of line.

Remote sensing history???

Down load pages for off line viewing using a Graphical browser give instructions for using NETSCAPE. Using Netscape as a multimedia tool.

Hard drive management-a real classroom issue. What I do and have done.

Complex instruction set Stanford School of Ed work?
Other people doing or referencing projects-
CoSn, Global School House, Acadamy One, Nasa K12 internet project, etc.

Appendix A
Fundamental tenets of learning (RPaperts Mathetics, Blooms Hierarchy, Gardners modes of learning styles, Dillons (SP??) Metaskills, Piages Developmental Stages, the European Science Foundations work on learning in Humans and machines and Fierrars (sp??) Pedegogy)

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