Arizona To Expand Virtual Field Trips

A partnership between Central Arizona College and the Pinal County Interactive Television Consortium is expanding its virtual field trip offerings to school districts in Arizona.

In recent years, owing to time constraints and financial limitations on education budgets, many schools simply have not had the resources for group site visits. In addition, many of the schools in the Pinal iTV Consortium are located in rural areas on the rough, sometimes mountainous terrain that marks much of Arizona's physical geography, creating obstacles to accessibility and technological infrastructure.

Using a broadband wide area network and 24/7 monitoring services provided by Austin, TX-based Trillion Partners, the partnership is aiming to offer expansive learning opportunities to students in member districts that struggle with all of these issues but still want to give their students the most diverse and engaging educational opportunities available.

A notable example of the impact such virtual field trips have had is the Eloy Elementary School District in Eloy, AZ. Last year students made a digital visit, via in-school video monitors, to the Toledo Science Center in Toledo, OH, to learn how rollercoasters are made and function, then built their own coaster as a class project.

"The expanded reliable bandwidth has enabled a huge increase in the quality of the video conferencing," said Bill Steber, director of technology for EESD, adding that the substantial increase in bandwidth capacity will allow his district to as much as triple the number of virtual sessions this school year over 2008-2009.

Richard King, executive director of multimedia support for Central Arizona College, noted that demand in the state for virtual field trips has increased dramatically in recent years. He said that the WAN has increased network speed five times, and will allow him in the coming year to add several more schools to the network and even to add high-definition videoconferencing.

About the Author

Scott Aronowitz is a freelance writer based in Las Vegas. He has covered the technology, advertising, and entertainment sectors for seven years. He can be reached here.