The web provides History instructors and students with a wealth of engaging virtual tours and online exhibits. I integrate them into my American History and World History survey courses online. Students generally like the web-based explorations.
Students typically complete a virtual tour about their selected topic and then apply their new knowledge in a creative fashion such as writing a diary entry from the perspective of a person who lived through that event.
Students flourish with these assignments for several reasons. Students have fun with the tours, especially when they can make choices about what happens to them next (like with the Salem Witch Trial tour). Students spend time reading about aspects of a topic they find interesting and yet they can gloss over topics they find less intriguing. When creating their written assignments, students identify with the personal perspective of the person they opted to be in that historical moment. They also appreciate the opportunity to apply some creativity to a subject (History) they all-too-often think is just about memorizing boring dates and facts. Virtual tours offer an opportunity to help shed that misconception and make history interesting for the students.
Here are some of my favorite virtual tours and web exhibits:
Salem Witch Trials: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/features/97/salem/
Lewis and Clark: http://www.lewisandclarkexhibit.org/index_flash.html
Ancient Egypt (The British Museum): http://www.ancientegypt.co.uk/menu.html
A Pictorial Tour of Persepolis: http://www.artarena.force9.co.uk/persepolis.htm
The Sport of Life and Death: The Mesoamerican Ballgame: http://mesoballgame.org/ballgame/main.php
How do you use virtual tours and web exhibits? What are your favorite web exhibit resources? What are your students’ favorite resources?