Walk With Us visits Moosonee in May (Athikipisim, or Frog Moon), for the arrival of warm weather and open water

Walk With Us traveled to Moosonee, a community in northern Ontario located on the Moose River, from May 10-11, 2017. Our goals were to map as much of the town as possible with our 360′ cameras, talk to community members to learn more about Moosonee and the people who live there, and finally, to spend some time at Bishop Belleau Catholic School, where we had a surprise planned for a group of five Grade 3 students!

This was our travel itinerary:

WEDNESDAY, MAY 10, 2017

Leave Timmins 6:25 am (ONTC Station: 54 Spruce Street South: 1-705-264-1377)

Arrive Cochrane 7:45 am (ONTC Station: 200 Railway Street: 1-705-272-4228)

Leave Cochrane 9:00 am

Arrive Moosonee 2:00 pm (ONTC Station: 1-705-336-2210)

THURSDAY, MAY 11, 2017

Leave Moosonee 5:00 pm

Arrive Cochrane 9:45 pm

Leave Cochrane 10:45 pm

Arrive Timmins 12:00 am

After traveling for 6 hours, 20 minutes (not counting layover time in Cochrane), Walk With Us arrived in Moosonee, where we were met by Mrs. Wanda Zelau, principal of Bishop Belleau. She graciously offered her vehicle to transport our bags to Christ the King Cathedral, where we would stay the night.

After we were settled, the cameras were out and it was time to capture some photos before dinner at the Sky Ranch Restaurant (where we would also have breakfast and lunch the next day – we love Sky Ranch)!

We captured a fair bit of the community in 1.5 hours, and two of our students even took it a step further and captured an entire street with proper spacing between panos – 3 metres – so that they would be able to connect the panospheres together using the Street View app. This will allow a viewer to actually be able to “walk” down the street using the advancement arrows. More great learning!

The next day, we had scheduled an interview with Madelaine Blundon, an elder in Moosonee. We were greeted at the door of the Seniors Complex and shown to the common area, where the students sat at a large table in the middle of the room and opened their Walk With Us folders, ready to record their interviews. These folders also contain a consent form, and students ensure that anyone they interview and/or take photographs of must be asked for their permission before any material can be used in the virtual tours they will be creating.

A big takeaway for me from the conversation was when Madelaine very simply and thoughtfully stated that we need to listen to our young people, as they have something to say.  I remember thinking to myself that the Walk With Us project was built on this exact notion.

WWUInterviewElder

Aboard the train on the way to Moosonee, we had met Reverend Norm Wesley from Moose Factory. After hearing about the Walk With Us project, he agreed to speak to our students on the same day as our interview with Madelaine. We had lunch together at the Sky Ranch, where he informed us that he had prepared a presentation for the students. Reverend Wesley spoke about the significance of the six seasons as known by the Cree people: Winter (Pipon), Spring (Sikwan), Break-Up (Mithoskamin), Summer (Nipin), Fall (Takwakin), and Freeze-Up (Mikiskaw). He had the students each choose a puzzle piece and allowed them some time to read what was on their card. Then, he started a timer with 6 minutes on the clock to solve the puzzle in a way that made sense to the students. Let the problem solving begin!

Prior to Reverend Wesley’s beautiful presentation, our students had the opportunity to teach five Grade 3 students about the SAM Labs Curious Cars kit, where the kids would have the chance to build and program cars using the Curious Cars iOS app which connects wirelessly to various rechargeable modules, or SAM blocks.

Back in March, I presented a workshop at the International School of Brussels (ISB)’ “Learning by Design” conference, and the workshop was all about the Walk With Us Project. The founder of SAM Labs is a graduate of the ISB, and the company had set up a kiosk at the conference. Upon hearing about Walk With Us, Ivelin, an employee of SAM Labs, generously donated the Curious Cars kit to the club so that we could learn it and gift the kit to students of Bishop Belleau. And that’s exactly what we did!

SAMLabKids

Finally, it was time to head back to Timmins after a whirlwind of a trip. Walk With Us would like to thank the community of Moosonee for all of the kindness and hospitality shown to us, and rest assured we will be back! Hopefully next time we will be able to cross the river and visit Moose Factory. Until then!

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Walk With Us Project receives new funding from Ministry of Education!

The Walk With Us (WWU) Project has received new funding from the Safe Schools and Student Well-Being Branch of the Ministry of Education. This grant has been established in order to help school boards build capacity in supporting safe and accepting school climates for all students.

The WWU club (based at O’Gorman High School in Timmins, Ontario) offers a safe space for Indigenous students to share with each other and, in turn, educate others to help them better understand where they come from when they attend secondary school in Timmins. Our students are from various James Bay communities, including Peawanuck, Fort Albany, Kashechewan, Attawapiskat, Constance Lake, Moosonee, Moose Factory, and Mattagami First Nation.

These funds will cover the costs of teacher release, travel, digital photography and filmmaking kits and photo editing software. Here is a breakdown of how we will be using the funding:

Travel

Bus rental from Timmins to Constance Lake First Nation and Matachewan First Nation for 360’ image captures

Technology

Digital Photography and  Filmmaker Kits (Ricoh Theta S 360’ camera, Grifiti Nootle iPad mini Tripod Mount and Stand, Ricoh TH-1 Water resistance hard case) x3ricoh_910720_theta_s_spherical_digital_1183083

iPad Air 2, Otterbox Defender Case, Rode VideoMic Me Directional Microphone x 5

 

 

 

Photo Editing Software

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Adobe Lightroom and Creative Cloud Photography Plan Subscription (3 years)

 

The Walk With Us team would like to extend a big thank you to the Ministry of Education for helping us achieve our vision! 

Walk With Us End of 2016 Updates!

As holidays approach and 2016 comes to an end, I thought I’d put together a few updates about Walk With Us and thank all WWU supporters for all of the encouragement, expertise, time, energy, and all around #edulove given to us this year.

While there was a focus on learning the different types of technology this year (360′ cameras, working with Google Maps and publishing panospheres to Street View, WalkInto tour building software, Twitter for our social media campaign and Google Classroom’s mobile app for communication purposes), 2017 will bring our Storytelling Series, where we will invite artists, writers, reporters, and other local and not so local storytellers to help inform our digital storytelling.

Happy Holidays from Walk With Us!

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Learning by Design Conference at ISB in Brussels, Belgium, March 16-19 2017

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As part of ongoing efforts to spread the word about the #walkwithusproject, I had submitted a proposal to present at the Learning by Design conference at the International School of Brussels in Brussels, Belgium. I learned about it through my UBC MET program, and believed that the conference’s themes (engage, empower, connect, innovate) fit with the WWU vision.

Well, I received an email yesterday from the LbD Program Advisory Committee letting me know that my proposal was accepted! I’m excited because a) it will be the first time I formally present about Walk With Us, and b) it will be my first time in Europe.

I can’t wait!

These guiding questions were shared to help me with planning my session:

How do you envision the 90 minute workshop?

    – In what ways are you going to connect to the LbD conference themes
      (engage, empower, connect, innovate)?
    – What instructional approaches are going to engage your audience?
    – How do you plan to ensure that participants will be able to apply what they learned in your workshop?

I’m already drafting parts of my workshop in my head, using the above questions as well as information from part of my proposal:

 

 

I will post my workshop materials following my presentation. For more information about the Learning by Design conference, you can visit their website here!

Walk With Us: First trip to Mattagami First Nation

The Walk With Us club traveled to Mattagami First Nation yesterday to take our first panospheres for Google Street View. We were welcomed warmly by Mattagami’s Chief Walter Naveau, his wife Cathy Naveau, who is the Education Director, and Jennifer Constant, a Councillor on the reserve. To open the day, we sat in a circle in their community centre on the floor of the gymnasium. We are more grounded that way, Chief Naveau relayed to us. They spoke about how encouraging it was to see these students come together in this way, and how important it is for young people’s voices to be heard; how technology is a good thing, as it connects us all, and helps to create public awareness of issues our Indigenous communities are facing: one being the CN Rail oil spill last March. 18 months later, after much persistence, the community has secured a proper clean-up, although they don’t yet know when this will be happening. Chief Naveau has met and spoken with Dr. David Suzuki, and Dr. Suzuki is scheduled to visit Mattagami FN on Friday, Nov. 18th. They also spoke about the fact that many people still believe that people on reserves live in teepees, and other common misconceptions, that we would be helping to dispel through our virtual tours. Chief Naveau stressed the impact of affirming the voices of the youth, and to allow them to tell the stories through their own eyes, ears and perceptions.

We’ve been invited back when the community’s big teepee is set up at their powwow grounds by the end of this month. As well, the community will be holding a “viewing” of the students’ 360′ images when they are live on Google Street View! As soon as the students export their images to me, I will be uploading them into a shared Google Drive folder where one of our amazing partners, Neil Cariani of Creative Xistence 360, will be editing the photos to ensure they adhere to Google Street View’s quality and privacy standards.

The skills our students are learning are valuable, relevant and current; and this project has brought us together for a common purpose. The amount of organic problem-solving that occurs when students are placed in the driver’s seat was very thought-provoking for me as a teacher – students were demonstrating understanding, patience and resilience when issues arose with the cameras/technology, and together we attempted possible solutions, with the kids taking the lead in many instances. The pride they continue to demonstrate is incredible, and students were taking it upon themselves to interview community members to help with their storytelling projects down the road, when we create virtual tours of their home communities, with the backgrounds being the images they took after submitting to Google Street View. Each student received a folder containing items they would need for the day, including an agenda, pen and paper, step-by-step instructions on how to export 360′ images taken via the Street View app (we do not want them to publish right away to Street View prior to our editing process) and Photo / Interview Release forms for when they engage in interviews with community members.

One of my highlights (and there were so many) was having the chance to interact with the students, and just learning and laughing with them. There was one instance where we wanted to take a picture overlooking the Mattagami River. We set up our tripod in front of a log, and we wanted to see if we could “hide” from the 360′ capture by laying down behind the log. Nope! You could clearly see five of us laying down (it also didn’t help that I was wearing a bright green jacket at the time, the kids pointed out), and we had a bit of a giggle fest afterwards since that definitely wasn’t a natural pose to capture for Street View. 🙂 We decided to casually walk down the street so that the student whose smartphone was connected to the camera could press the image capture button to take the picture. Much better, and definitely more natural.

Here are some pictures from our day together. It was cloudy unfortunately, but hopefully when we visit again the sun will be out. We made two cameras work between 16 students yesterday, but 1:1 cameras will really open up opportunities – Google’s Camera Loan program has just confirmed that we will be receiving 20 cameras to help our cause – a mix between Ricoh Theta S (the ones we use now) and the Samsung 360’s! We are also planning local half-day trips to take updated images of Timmins (since the latest Street View images taken here were largely in 2009 – there have been some changes to the city since then).

Watch out for us!

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Google Collaborative Writing: Playwrights in Vancouver, BC and Timmins, ON Connect on a Google Doc

A couple of years ago, Google Docs commemorated National Novel Writing Month by inviting authors Edan Lepucki, Tope Folarin, and Mike Curato to participate in a short story challenge. The three writers were tasked with writing a short story…on the same Doc…in three different locations…in real time.

The beauty of Google Docs of course is that the same Doc can be shared with multiple people, and with 3 different permissions, depending on the type of activity desired: View, Commenting, and Edit. In this scenario the 3 authors all had Edit rights, and because it is a live document, they could collaborate to write a story together in real time. As their story unfolds, the audience is able to see the developments every step of the way.

The authors were later asked about the process they went through, and all three commented on how they had never before written a story with others in real time. One author mentioned feeling an “incredible rush”, and another stated that they were all “feeding off one another”, and that it was more fun writing in a group than by yourself.

I wanted to recreate this activity, and my vision was to invite my sister Amy Lee Lavoie to collaborate with one of our Timmins, ON area high school students (Max) who loves to write, and has written plays for the schools she has attended on her own time. These plays were performed by students in grades 7 and 8. She is in grade 11. My sister is a playwright based in Vancouver, BC, and I thought it would be an important and memorable exercise for a young writer to engage in a real-time collaboration with an established and incredibly talented (I may be biased but it’s the truth!) playwright. These two would never have had the opportunity to collaborate had it not been for the power of Google Hangouts and Docs (and my hand in the introductions I suppose).

As is sometimes the case, I did run into some technical difficulties. For one, our administrator did not have Google Hangouts on Air (GHOA) enabled. I assumed that because our regular Google Hangouts (GHO) were enabled (we use this platform all the time in our board), that GHOA would be as well. This is not the case! Your Google Admin must enable GHOA through Google +, as we learned here.

Second, even though we were able to enable GHOA in time for the event, it was not working for our student. So, we resorted to a regular GHO and it was still amazing. The only thing is, in regular GHO there is no automatic recording feature. I tried to enlist the help of third-party screencasting software, but it wasn’t meant to be that day!

So, I resorted to the faux-pas of taking pictures and video with my iPhone in an attempt to capture some of the spirit of the activity (I know, I know). Definitely nowhere near the production value of the commercial above, but I WILL try again!

Amy wrote the beginning of the play as a starting point for the activity:

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The shared Doc was up, the GHO began, and a frenzy of collaborative writing ensued!

Although there may have been some nervousness in the beginning, our student Max quickly got into the flow of writing and soon the two writers were creating a hilarious dialogue together. The two characters in the play, Eric and Thea, were growing sassier with every keystroke. There were no real pauses between writer switches, lots of laughter, and intense concentration throughout the process.

At the end of the call, the two writers weighed in with their thoughts on the collaborative process – Amy in Vancouver, and Max in Timmins.

Amy: I often think of playwriting, or the act of writing, as a solitary thing, but theatre is really a community-based art form. It requires an incredible amount of energy and diverse bodies to bring it into the three-dimensional realm. This exercise brought me back to that feeling of collaboration. And that, to me, is about risk taking, curiosity and imagination. It was so much fun!

Max: It was fun, it was a little stressful at first trying to find my groove and get into it, but it went well though!

The real-time, collaborative process itself was particularly rewarding in that it forced the playwrights to go against their usual instincts in order to follow their co-writer’s lead and move the story along. There was a real sense of connectedness, and it’s a beautiful thing when the writers are 3,782 kilometers away from each other.

It is my hope that I will be able to facilitate more of these collaborative writing opportunities for students through the digital Human Library‘s extensive community of experts, and even via some local writers, to further cultivate a love of writing. I can only imagine the valuable input a teacher could gather from watching collaborative writing unfold – the student’s individual writing process would be apparent, as would the type of writer they typically are (whether they prefer to get their words and ideas onto the Doc and not worry about spelling errors, or if they are the type to fix their errors as they go).

And, it’s fun. 🙂

A huge thank you to Amy and Max for participating in this little experiment with me…let’s do this again soon.

Here are the beginnings of the collaborative play in Google Docs. It’s not finished, as we only had approximately 30 minutes of writing time, but it’s a cliffhanger!

 

 

“Walk With Us” receives funding from OTF!

OTF Acceptance Letter

!!!!

When this idea first hatched, I had been promoting Google My Maps to students and teachers at Bishop Belleau School in Moosonee, Ontario and St. Patrick School in Kapuskasing, Ontario. This app allows students to actually create their own maps for virtually any purpose, and before we played with the app, we started our learning with a question: “If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?” And it’s funny…you would think that kids would immediately want to navigate to places they may have seen in movies, or have discussed in class, or read about in books. No, the place they most wanted to see is…

Home.

Kids want to see their house, the park they play in down the street, their schools – these are the special places in their beloved communities they want to see on this map and show off to visitors (in this case, me).

The thing is, when I showed them how to use Pegman within Street View, they soon realized that they couldn’t drop him anywhere. They asked why he kept jumping back, why they couldn’t see their house, their street, or anywhere in their entire community?

 

 

I explained that in order for Pegman to be able to show them these places, he would need to know where to look – the photographers who take these pictures and upload to Google Maps have not yet been to these smaller communities in Northeastern Ontario, therefore Pegman simply can’t see places where pictures have not been taken.

They understood, and one student even said that he would like to become a Google photographer.

I showed them the Street View app, where anyone can take photospheres with an iOS or Android phone (360′ images of a place) to give them an idea of what this type of photography entailed.  To upload and publish to Street View, images must adhere to specific quality criteria outlined by Google.

So I began to think: why couldn’t students capture their communities so that they can be represented on Google Maps and Street View like other places in the world?

Fast forward to later in the school year, where a group of high school students created a presentation about the suicide crisis in the Attawapiskat First Nation, Ontario. Attawapiskat declared a state of emergency after 11 people tried to commit suicide in one day. Since last September, over 100 people in the community of 2,000 have attempted suicide. These students bravely stood in front of their school and spoke passionately about their own experiences grappling with issues they have faced, and how they came to overcome these obstacles. The underlying message was one of hope for a brighter future, and to never give up. They wanted to tell their stories, and I wanted to help.

Walk With Us: Affirming the Voices of First Nations Students Through Digital Storytelling

Our project involves using an overlay program called WalkInto, 360′ cameras (Ricoh Theta S) and Google Street View  to provide a groundbreaking forum for youth to share stories of their upbringing, culture, and traditions, and to discuss the issues that affect them. We hope to increase awareness of some of the challenges First Nations communities are currently facing, and foster hope in the connections we create in order to spread positive messaging and resilience. This project will teach skills that actively prepare learners for the 21st century, one of our board’s improvement planning priorities, including (but not limited to): critical thinking, communicating ideas, understanding media, working with various technologies, and collaborating in teams. Virtual tours will be submitted to A Kids’ Guide to Canada, a nation-wide project to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2017.

Professional learning goals we plan to achieve through our project:

  • Learning and applying digital media skills to transfer to students (spherical imaging, WalkInto overlay program, producing various media works including audio and video recordings)
  • Collaborating with colleagues, community partners and project partners from around the world via video conferencing
  • Increasing awareness of the challenges faced by Aboriginal youth in remote northern Ontario communities
  • Empowering Aboriginal youth with a global platform to share their stories and relay positive messages to other youth
  • Finding creative ways to deliver the Ontario English curriculum and align it with the Aboriginal perspective with a particular focus on media skills and oral communication

We have amazing partners to help facilitate certain aspects of our project. The co-founders of WalkInto will be planning a Google Hangout (GHO) with the students to teach them how to use the tools to build virtual tours. In addition, they will provide server resources to host the project and WalkInto credits to cover operational costs. A photographer, Neil Cariani from CreativeXistence360, has agreed to facilitate a GHO about spherical imaging and teach students how to operate the Ricoh Theta S camera, and will also lend his expertise with post-processing (Photoshop). These skills will align with the media strand of the English curriculum. These sessions will be held during lunch hours, and we hope to invite community partners from our Native Friendship Centre and Misiway Milopemahtesewin Community Health Centre, Ojibway and Cree Cultural Centre, as well as elders, to talk about storytelling and traditional healing. We will provide the students with a private, online forum (Google Plus community) so that they can communicate with team members throughout the project and share their thoughts as we learn together. Students will also study exemplars of various non-fiction narratives about overcoming adversity to guide them in their own journeys of hope.

This project will provide a space for First Nations youth to share their stories and thereby build their self-confidence and well-being. It will enhance their understanding of a variety of technological tools, which aligns with the 6 C’s of 21C teaching (thinking critically, communicating clearly, working collaboratively, embracing culture, developing creativity, and utilizing connectivity). We hope that students will be engaged in their learning, as they will have a stake in the project, as it is comprised of their personal stories. They will also have the opportunity to reach beyond their community and form real connections with youth, educators/mentors and global partners through the use of technology.

These are some of the resources we plan to use for this project (this can be an ongoing list):

  • Ricoh Theta S cameras (2) and tripods; smartphones and/or iPads to control the camera’s movements on the tripod
  • WalkInto platform (virtual tour building overlay software) and Google Street View (publish our photospheres to Street View)
  • Google Hangouts for training sessions with our technology partners, as well as for our community partners
  • Timmins Native Friendship Centre, Misiway Milopemahtesewin Community Health Centre, Ojibway and Cree Cultural Centre, and elders
  • Walking the Path, Ontario curriculum and Aboriginal Perspectives Toolkit documents

This project serves a dual purpose:

  1. To provide students with the opportunity to quite literally put their communities on the map; and
  2. To provide students with the opportunity to build digital artefacts to contribute to a national project, where their stories will be seen and heard by many, far and wide

I can’t wait to see what they can do.

For more information about A Kids’ Guide to Canada, follow here and here.

The digital Human Library is a proud sponsor of A Kids’ Guide to Canada, and you can read more about this amazing project by kids, for kids here.