“Bringing the forest to the classroom, bringing our knowledge to the global forest,” an approach developed by Dr. José A. Reque Kilchenmann, a member of the Sustainable Forest Research Institute at the University of Valladolid (Higher Technical School for Agrarian Engineering) in Spain has been selected as a the finalist in the IUFRO Global Competition on Best Practices in Forest Education[. The main goal of this competition, beyond rewarding select winners, was to share best practices in hopes of learning and continued collaboration – a central tenet of the IUFRO structure.
A major problem in forestry didactics is the arrangement of field courses. Costs, accessibility, academic calendar – or sometimes more simply, climatic conditions – are well known limitations for field courses. Based on panoramic pictures and virtual walk through programs, we are developing and sharing open access 360-degree virtual realities. Each tour consists of a set of linked panoramas (one per stand) to be displayed on a normal PC without Virtual Reality devices. The user can freely experience a virtual walk through in real forests, moving from one stand to the other and from one point of the stand to the other at his/her own pace.
Points of interest and additional information can be highlighted and displayed via hotspots. Virtual Forest Tours will never be a substitute for field courses, but instead provide opportunities for “bringing the forest to the classroom” and offer enormous worldwide innovative possibilities in all kind of forestry didactics and in forestry extension.
Virtual tours for forest innovation
Virtual tours (VT) are mainly effective in constructivist didactic strategy and support for case studies. Based on collaborative learning and drawing significantly from VTs, forestry bachelor students published online self-designed webpages based on class projects. The activity focused around the silvicultural diagnosis of different forests and silvicultural prescriptions. The complete set of webpages was presented and finally open access published on the wikispaces platform with the motto “bringing our knowledge to the global forest.” Although wikispaces closed in 2018, many of the original websites are published here.
For further information and a video with Dr. José A. Reque Kilchenmann, Dr. Jan-Peter Mund, and VNU students explaining how to make a virtual forest tour, click here.
In related news, another member of the Sustainable Forest Research Institute, Pilar Valbuena, collaborates as a jury member on the “Emprendedor Forestal – Young Forest Entrepreneur Reforestamos” programme in Mexico, which was awarded with an Honourable Mention on this IUFRO Global Competition.