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3 Ideas for Using Computer Science on Your Next Field Trip



Students + technology = new learning opportunities for your next field trip. Here are three programs for students with advanced, developing, and basic computer science skills that can help them build connections between technology, academic subjects, and their student travel experiences.

But, we’re so busy! Why does computer science need to make its way into our classroom and field trip experiences?


A recent article from the Associate Press offers statistics that suggest all teachers need to support technology in education if we want our students to develop these important skills.  From the article, Growing Push to Expose More Students to Computer Science:

  • Currently, computer science is taught in only about one of four high schools nationwide with fewer in lower middle and elementary school grades.
  • Only 27 states allow a computer science course to be counted toward graduation requirements in math or science, according to Code.org.

If you need more convincing, you can read the words of warning and encouragement from Melissa Moritz, the Deputy Director of STEM at the U.S. Department of Education, in her post Three reasons why teaching, learning computer science is critical that offers an explantion of the following reasons to do more with technology.


1. For our young people to succeed in an increasingly global, knowledge-based economy, they must be equipped with knowledge and skills that go beyond mastery of foundational academic subjects.


2. Ensuring that all students have the opportunity to access rigorous coursework in STEM subjects — including computer science — is a matter of equity.


3. Kids can invent their future using computer science skills, and jobs in computer science-related fields are growing.


With all of these great reasons in mind, here are three technologies to consider before your next field trip.


Advanced Computer Science SkillsTaleBlazer


This blocks-based software allows students to create and play location-based augmented reality games. Augmented reality means that only part of the situation is real, kind of like historical fiction, but it’s a Web-based game instead of a work of literature.


The game will take place on location during the field trip, so the place is real. However, the creator of the game will develop a virtual experience at that place that can be played as a game when you and your students are there. The virtual experience will allow players to do more than what they can actually do on site. 

  • Example: A game is developed that takes place at the Lincoln Memorial. When the student develops the game, it should be based on research about the Lincoln Memorial
    • What can be seen there?
    • What will they really do there?
    • What could they do virtually that they can’t do in real-life that would add to the experience? This is what they will use to create the game that can be played with you are there. Maybe give a speech on the steps as virtual characters or re-arrange inscribed letters to create a secret message based on Lincoln’s beliefs. Possibilities are limitless.
  • Technology skills needed: To design the game, experience with block coding is extremely helpful. To play, students need to know how to use an app-based game on a mobile device.
  • Technology needed: A web-enabled computer is needed for game development using a visual, blocks-based programming environment. To play the games when on a field trip, an Android or iOS device is needed to download the mobile app and GPS capabilities are needed to sense the location of the players within the game.
  • Application: To create a game that is authentic to the experience you will have on the field trip, students will need to research locations you will visit such as monuments, landmarks, and artifacts they might encounter. They also need to think more deeply because they are creating an experience that goes beyond reality. Talk about higher-order thinking skills.


Image from Taleblazer.org



Developing Computer SkillsPowToon


Using this web-based tool, students can create a multi-media presentation that tells a story through written word, music, imagery, and video. The program offers pre-designed templates that can be edited or students can design presentations from scratch using text boxes, animated characters, and music selections.


Students can create a presentation from many different perspectives, like a museum curator, a tour guide, or a historian looking back on an event.


  • Example: I have used this with 8th graders for a trip to Washington, D.C. with great results. Students created presentations that related how a theme they were assigned in advance could be seen through three, different lenses using pictures they took on tour. One of my favorites was a presentation on the theme diversity that included images and descriptions of how Martin Luther King, Jr., Congress, war memorials, and embassies all reflect the theme of diversity in different ways. 
  • Technology skills needed: The ability to download and upload photos, use a clipboard of objects, drag and drop objects, and type text.
  • Technology needed: A web-enabled computer.
  • Application: Students use technology that they need to manipulate successfully in order to communicate their ideas. It takes planning, problem-solving, creativity, and persistence to create an animated story piece by piece. Students also will need to have an in-depth knowledge about the subject of their presentation, which requires research, analysis, and organizational skills.



Image from https://www.youtube.com/user/PowToon



Basic Computer Skills – Google Goggles


This app is a know-it-all that can help your students learn more about things they see while on a tour. Using a smart phone camera, students take a picture of an object and the app will explain what was photographed. It will even suggest links to more information – talk about extending their learning.


While this app doesn’t require programming skills or knowledge of algorithms, it reinforces the utility of technology and computer science for conducting research, analyzing data, and sharing information in our digitally connected society.


  • Example: Taking a photo of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and Google Goggles will tell you about its history and provide links to learn more about this iconic structure.
  • Technology skills needed: Students need to know how to download an app and how to use the camera feature of the smart phone.
  • Technology needed: A smart phone with a camera and the ability to download Google apps.
  • Application: Students can learn more about objects and landmarks that interest them while on a field trip. Having ownership of their learning encourages students to be more engaged and they will enjoy the experience more if it interests them. You also could challenge students to use Google Goggle 3 – 5 times in a day and keep track of five new things that they learned.


Screenshot from Google's mobile Web site.


We look to technology to entertain, educate, socialize, and problem-solve. As we prepare the next-generation for the challenges our society faces, here’s hoping they’re equipped with the computer science know-how they will need to keep us moving forward. The more opportunities we give them now, the better prepared they will be. 


Topics: Curriculum standards and student travel

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