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Choosing the virtual fieldtrip and reading the background information

The LEARNZ website and participation in the virtual fieldtrips is available free to all NZ schools.  The only time a cost is incurred is when your class decides to send a virtual ambassador to take part in one of the fieldtrips.  To register your class go to http://learnz.org.nz

In the centre of the front page below the banner you will find the links to find out more about LEARNZ, register your class, or enrol for a pending fieldtrip.

LEARNZ Homepage

You can now begin using the material from previous fieldtrips as part of your reading programme.  Simply go to the "Find a Fieldtrip" tag and browse the possibilities via the map or the Fieldtrip Chooser below the map..

Find a fieldtrip

Fieldtrip chooser

You will see that there are drop down menus where you can search for fieldtrips on a particular inquiry topic or subject area, or that were held in a particular year.  The current year can be scrolled through from this page. Fieldtrips that have already occurred are still available for enrolment, which will provide usage information to LEARNZ, but they can also be used simply by logging in with your username and password.  Enrolment in trips from previous years is not required – just log straight in.




Once you have chosen a particular fieldtrip and logged in, you can now read the background information provided by LEARNZ for people to prepare for the fieldtrip.  

The section in the blue box is aimed at teachers, so here you can find out everything that you need to know about the fieldtrip, and while the trip may have already taken place, all the content from the trip is still available - so to support their reading, there are also pictures, videos, and audioconferences that will add to the interpretive skills of the reader when accessing web based material.  Students can be guided through the fieldtrip, or with more able students this can be a contracted reading programme for a period of time that you choose. 

The red box contains the background reading material for students at two levels - easy and standard - aimed to be 2 years apart in reading age.  LEARNZ suggests that teachers scaffold the reading of the background pages so that students read the box at the top, then click on the first image to enlarge it, read its caption, click "next" until they have been through all the images for that page, then click "More" to take them back to the whole page where they can read the whole thing.

See below for software that can support your less able readers, giving them the confidence to proceed independently and without labelling as failing.  The glossary will help them with words that they may be able to decode but do not comprehend the meaning.

The green box provides the further material developed during the fieldtrip.  The field trip videos, audioconferences, diaries and other components reinforce understanding, as students are re-presented with key concepts and new vocab in different ways.

Remember that reading is about more than just decoding and understanding text - particularly in this wonderful world of the internet.  Here you get the opportunity for your students to use CTRL F to do keyword searches on the page to locate information more quickly (digital scanning), to use tools such as Popplet, CMap, Inspiration or other mindmapping tools to more effectively take notes and write summaries or explanations, to use recording tools such as Vocaroo, Voicethread or IShowYou to present their findings, understandings and explanations.  Perhaps they can even role play an audioconference to explain important ideas.

Check out the "Find your eTools" page for further ideas on ways to read, write, record and present - make your students digitally literate too.

 If students need additional support to read this material, you can download a free text read software programme at http://naturalreaders.com  Once this has been downloaded to your PC or Mac, you click on the Floating Toolbar (PC) or Miniboard (Mac) and when you highlight text on the page, the reader will read the text aloud.  NB For the PC version you have to click the triangle to initiate the text reading.  (Unfortunately the natural reader has big trouble with Maori words and is an American accent with the free version but we won't hold that against its ability to support readers.)  Note that you can speed up or slow down the text reading using the cog tool, but much variation from the standard creates chipmunks or sloths.

Each of the background pages has an activity or question to guide reflection on the information contained within each page or to take students further in their inquiry around the topic.  These can be used for independent or group work as part of the reading session.  They could also be used as the stimulus for further research and inquiry beyond the LEARNZ page.

Of course LEARNZ can be used as part of your reading programme, or alternatively the LEARNZ fieldtrip may be the basis of an inquiry topic with much of the reading taking place as part of literacy.  The glossary can be used to support the need to learn subject and curriculum specific vocabulary, and students can learn to read effectively online so that they don't end up like much of our generation felling a forest to read the information. Check out my prior section on reading skills for online reading.