Virtual Tours for Teaching History in the Digital Age

Sunday, January 4, 2015
2nd Floor Promenade (New York Hilton)
Clayton Brown, Utah State University
Fieldtrips are ideal opportunities to help students connect what they learn in the classroom with the world outside. While the historian would love to lead students on a tour of the pyramids at Giza or the Mayan capital of Tikal as we teach about these topics, virtual tours can provide the next best thing. Utilizing the latest in graphics technology, today we can go beyond pictures and videos and provide students with opportunities to travel across the surface of the globe in high definition, to manipulate accurate 3-D reconstructions of monumental architecture, and to enjoy 360 degree panoramic views of important sites. Many excellent virtual tours are available in the public domain. Students can wander the halls of the Louvre Museum in Paris perusing world-class exhibits, or explore the Vatican in Rome and admire Michaelangelo’s masterpieces in high definition. But you can also create your own novel tours of places you choose and tailor the information that is presented to your students. Screen capture programs like Camtasia allow you to record a tour, to which you can add voice-over narration or captions. But the most effective type of virtual tour is interactive. Using free programs such as Google Earth and 360 Cities, it is now possible to place students at a virtual site and give them the freedom to explore on their own.

This poster session illustrates how one can interact with a cutting-edge virtual world that combines digitized images and to-scale 3-D recreations of thousands of sites of academic and popular interest. The session will screen an E-poster--that is, a short (2 minute) video that will run on a continuous loop from my computer to a LCD screen at my table. The video demonstrates the capabilities of virtual tours beginning with a captioned tour of the Vatican in high definition, followed by a Google Earth fly-through of the Silk Road with voiceover narration, and concludes with a demonstration of a website that allows for independent student exploration of virtual cultural heritage sites across the globe as illustrated at Here students can fly around 3-D reconstructions of historical monuments and enter panoramic images to look around. The session will provide a handout that explains what virtual tours are, how they are created, and how they can be effectively used to supplement any history course. Illustrated instructions are supplied for the type of virtual tours demonstrated in the session along with the presenter's contact information.

See more of: Poster Session #1
See more of: AHA Sessions