Scaffolding and Virtual Fieldtrips

As a simple virtual fieldtrip, a teacher might send students onto the Internet with instructions to learn about the monuments of Washington, D.C. Checking in with these students five minutes later, it wouldn’t be surprising to find them exploring Web sites about the Backstreet Boys or the Los Angeles Lakers. A great virtual fieldtrip, like any good Internet-based activity, requires a balance between structure and open-endedness.

Structure has many obvious benefits, including the following:
keeping students on-task throughout the activity.
providing enough direction so that students know what is expected of them.
helping to ensure that learning goals are met.

Likewise, open-endedness has wide-ranging virtues, including:
allowing some level of choice, giving students a sense of ownership.
taking advantage of the diverse resources available on the Web.
motivating students by putting them in the role of investigator.

The balance between structure and open-endedness is a key principle of scaffolding. To provide scaffolding is to give students a set of questions or tasks that guide their work. Good scaffolding keeps students on track but provides opportunities for student choice. Explore!

How can scaffolding be provided to ensure a successful virtual fieldtrip? This topic will be your focus for much of the remainder of this course.