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Virtual field environments (VFEs) based on actual field sites are being used in professional development programs to familiarize teachers with field sites and give them the opportunity to practice investigative fieldwork, thus helping them make better use of limited field time. In other cases, the construction of VFEs provides a catalyst for actual fieldwork, and teacher workshop participants author VFEs that they can use with their own students. Virtual fieldwork development also improves technological skills relevant for the teaching of Earth system science. This article looks at what VFEs are, some of the practical and pedagogical issues involved in their design, and how they are used in teacher professional development to support and encourage field education.

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