Tag Archive for googleearth

It’s not about the next big thing

No matter how many amazing technologies that educational technologists may personally enjoy, our work in schools is fundamentally about supporting teachers and students. We provide the tools and means for teachers with limited time and risk tolerance to try activities that apply modern pedagogies and use social technologies. We ourselves operate in a different world, immersed in social technologies at our desks and at home, able to spend far more time than can most teachers.

I spent an hour today with arts teachers from grades PS-12, focused on a single topic: posting multimedia content to web sites. If we post more content, students can exhibit more work, and visitors can learn more about the school’s arts program. Our teachers already have the media—digital photos, audio, and video. They just need help crossing that last hurdle to post the content online.

mask work

We have our share of early technology adopters. They build amazing lessons with technology tools: trip planning with Google Earth, language activities for homework with Voicethread, real-time group writing in Google Docs and class discussions in Moodle. Now we are grooming the second level of teachers who are eager to learn new technologies once they have seen others use it successfully, and the platform looks stable. This second wave of teachers is much larger than the first, so many opportunities exist to provide training, visit classes, and involve the innovators in providing leadership and guidance. The second wave will make student-centered classroom uses of technology commonplace, not just exceptional.

Many kids figure out how to post content on their own, especially in the higher grades. Younger students need more assistance, especially with audio, since the most successful commercial networks emphasize photos and video. Substantial online writing—especially collaboratively—is often a new experience for students. We have also found some success with students learning skills in one grade and carrying them on to the next.

Helpful in this endeavor is insideCatlin, our “walled garden” of social software open to the members of the school community. While I completely understand some educators’ insistence on teaching students to use publicly available tools, we find it easier to scale technologies to multiple classrooms when everyone uses a common platform that we can bind to our login system and customize to our liking. Intranet-based services also ensure that authorship of posted content is easily identifiable, helping teach responsible use within a community setting.

I have scarcely mentioned Twitter at our school. Does it have potential as a useful tool? Sure, but we’re better off using scarce teacher time to deepen one’s still-nascent understanding of the last few years’ inventions, to enrich their curricular applications and actually improve student learning. I’ll continue to tweet, but I won’t encourage our teachers to (at least not yet)! I may even get into Second Life (if someone drags me there), but I would not roll it out here in a big way. Teachers’ brains and schedules are currently full. Except for the rare few, they can’t give these new technologies the time they require to make them really useful in the classroom.

What successful experiences have you had scaling new, curricular applications of technology to the majority of your teachers?

Authority and experimentation

Paul, nice job introducing the trip planning project using Google Earth. I especially liked how you explained how teacher authority (or “genius,” as you put it) is actually the face of experience. Students think you magically know all the answers, but this is actually because you’ve done the project many times before. Then you explained that moving the project into Google Earth means that you will encounter problems for the first time and not be as able to answer the students’ questions correctly the first time. I couldn’t read the students’ reactions to this … perhaps they were mildly stunned. I hope that the more adventuresome among them will view this as an opportunity to lead the exploration and define the project for future classes! Onward and upward. Good luck with it.

Trip Planning Project Using Google Earth

A teacher would like to move his annual seventh grade trip planning project from paper to Google Earth. The basic idea is that each student plans all of the details of a trip to an international destination of his or her choice. The report includes maps, itinerary, a description of each stop, a detailed trip budget, and general overview of the destination.

Google Earth promises to add value to this project at several levels. Earth’s core functionality is mapping — it provides an unlimited number of maps, at a variety of zoom levels, of every stop on the trip. Unlike paper maps, you can even display a view of a couple of blocks in a city and produce maps for remote locations that would otherwise be hard to find. The flyover tool provides a sense of scale difficult to communicate by any other means, as the viewer zooms from one location to another. Believe it or not, about a quarter of the families actually take the trip that the student has designed (there’s an authentic project for you!). It’s a lot easier to share this project with others in digital form. It’s even possible that the family would be able to take the student’s work with them on a smart phone!

We found that .kmz files can store nearly all of the information the teacher wants students to include. The placemark Info window apparently accepts HTML, because we found ourselves inserting links, paragraph tags, and even images embedded from other locations on the web. Earth’s print function automatically compiles the placemarks in a folder and produces step-by-step output suitable for sharing with others on paper if desired. Students could even store their bibliographies in the KMZ file, perhaps in the last placemark on the tour. Itinerary can be included by naming each placemark with the trip day. In this manner, all of the information the teacher wants students to research is embedded right in the most relevant place in the tour.

For kicks, we tested the concept that a KMZ file would be useful on a smartphone. We emailed a sample KMZ file to my Blackberry, but it didn’t open from Mail. Then, I uploaded it to a web site instead and accessed it from the Blackberry browser — then it worked great! Google Maps for Blackberry opened the KMZ file and displayed all of the placemarks in Rome right there. We didnt’ test whether the placemark details were retained but were sufficiently impressed that Maps could display the Earth file in a useful way. This feature could be useful for a lot of other applications for when you want to take with you a number of locations that you have looked up ahead of time.