A Virtual Field Trip to London


Our latest guest blog is by Damian Ward. Here, he demonstrates how the latest online technology opens a world of learning to students despite the physical location of their classrooms…


Hey teachers, do you annually take a group of students on a cultural tour of a city? Is it all about historical sites, sights or ‘higher’ culture like galleries and museums? For many art teachers like myself, all of the above are an absolute essential for teaching students about visual awareness, but unfortunately can be costly and squeezed into curriculum time. This post suggests a way to supplement your students’ learning using multimedia technology on a virtual field trip to London!


Every year I try to take my students on a trip to a major city; essentially contemporary art is the focus but also traditional and historical pieces as well as architecture and the pure excitement of a city trip, which will be a first experience for some. Although I’d love to take my suburban British kids to New York City or Reykjavik, we usually settle for the sights and sounds of our capital, London. Here’s how to do a virtual version of the same trip:


What you will need


  • Computers
  • Sketchbooks
  • Anything to draw or record with!



We spent a little time talking to students about the City of London, places, people and events. One of the common events remembered was ‘The Great Fire of 1666’ as depicted in this image:


The Great Fire of 1666


The spectacle was witnessed by diarist Samuel Pepys and some students also recalled elements from this. So our virtual journey begins near the site of the historical blaze to explore depictions of fire in modern and contemporary art as a theme for visual research.







A virtual field trip can be put together from any combinations of media, and those available on the web provide great resources such as panoramic photos, VR animations, combinations of multimedia and even newer integrated resources such as the Google Cultural Institute’s Art Project or Historic Moments.


For this mini-tour, a combination of Google Earth, street view on Google Maps, Wikipedia entries and gallery websites was used. The GCI Art Project resource provided a ‘street view’ environment of the interior of Tate Modern and interactive images of the fire from the collection of the Museum of London.


Student’s responses included:


  • Screen grabs/still images
  • Prints of maps to work on
  • Sketches and notes in colour and monochrome
  • Audio recordings of descriptions or responses to imagery.



The advantages of our virtual field trip included:


  • Working at our own pace and direction; street views of St. Paul’s Cathedral could have developed further sketches of neo-classical architectural shapes or contrasts with the modern engineering of Millennium Bridge.
  • Some students focussed on the street art of London that could be explored on the Google Cultural Institute site as a meaningful representation of urban living.
  • Our one hour session covered just Fleet Street to Tate Modern – there’s so much more to explore this way!


The disadvantages discussed:


  • Working in groups on laptops; some collaboration but not the freedom of ‘being there’.
  • Tate Modern’s exhibitions not included in ‘street view’ mode which led to a discussion of changing/touring gallery presentations.
  • Missing the soundscape of the big city; more meaningful if you have been there in person!

About the author: Damian Ward

Damian WardDamian Ward blogs about creativity, educational use of technology, eco/green issues, multimedia and e-learning. His personal blog can be found at damowarddotinfo.wordpress.com, started in 2006 as a reflective practice on education, technology and creativity. He has been teaching art and design for over 20 years and occasionally other subjects too. One time senior leader and educational consultant, currently a Head of Art and digital-media artist/practitioner. Based in the UK. If you would like to share ideas, follow on Twitter @damoward

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