Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History offers self-guided virtual tours (NMNH Virtual Tours) that take the viewer through various exhibits (both past and present) within the museum. The tours are accessible both through a desktop computer or mobile device. I enjoyed the tours for the visual experience and engagement that they provided. Users are able to travel from room to room, look around the room in 360 degrees, read information boards (generally, although some were too small to read, which is a downside), and zoom in on points of interest.

Through the use of this website, students would be introduced to artifacts and species of animal that they would not have been exposed to otherwise, except through an image in a book or online source. Students are also visually exposed to a large range of related artifacts, animals, and so on, that would otherwise have taken much longer to view (i.e., using a book or even a website with only single images) and that perhaps would not have been grouped together in quite this way if using a different source. In this case, users are given the opportunity to explore a variety of different, and yet connected, species, artifacts, and exhibits, which can be discussed collaboratively during the viewing (i.e., partners or groups of three share a computer/virtual experience), and then collectively discussed as a whole class, allowing for students to have a basis for discussion (due to their own virtual experience and small group discussions) before discussing as a larger group. With a virtual tour like this one, there are opportunities for teachers to provide and challenge students with pre- and post-tour questions or concepts that can be kept in mind while viewing, or used to reflect back on experiences already had in the tour.

Just in case the link embedded above does not work for you, here is the link to the NMNH Virtual Tours: http://naturalhistory.si.edu/VT3/index.html

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