Spring Clean-Up with Litterati and Google Maps

It’s finally March, and that means the official start of the seasonal cycle in the Omushkego culture. In the Omushkego Cycle of Life (Ininiwi Pimatisiwin), there are six seasons, beginning with Spring, or Sikwan. Next comes the Blooming of the Earth (Miloskamin), then Summer (Nipin), Autumn (Takwakin), Freezing Up (Mikishaw) and finally, Winter (Pipon).

The Omushkego Cycle of Life model was illustrated by the renowned artist Richard Kamalatisit (1959-2008), image from the Omushkego Education – Mushkegowuk Council Cycle of Life document, Moose Factory, ON

Spring means warmer weather and longer periods of daylight, and the arrival of spring provided much excitement for the Omushkegowuk, according to the Omushkego Cycle of Life document (Omushkego Education Dept). And in the beginning of the Blooming of the Earth season (this begins in May), this was the time to clean up, store winter tools and equipment, and begin preparations for summer.

As we all know and experience in northern Ontario, Spring also reveals the debris hidden beneath the snow from our long winter season – from the coffee cups that once held that delicious dark roast to get us through the work day to the cigarette butts that drivers flick out of their windows. These are obviously examples of some of the negative impacts of human interactions with natural habitats and communities, but whatever types of trash we find, each piece can effectively be turned into data in order to analyze these impacts.

Enter the Litterati app, available on iOS and Android. Litterati started out as an Instagram account dedicated to taking pictures of trash (uploaded with #Litterati), and then taking those already geotagged, time-stamped images and plotting them onto a Google map to visualize this data. Then, others around the world started taking and tagging pictures of trash, until eventually, Litterati became a movement – a way to crowd-source cleaning the planet:

Earth Day is Sunday, April 22nd. A common school activity for the Friday before or Monday after this day will be to supervise students in beautifying their schoolyard or neighborhood as they pick up litter and either recycle or toss it. Why not take it a step further and use technology to record the number and types of trash? Litterati not only allows you to track the quantity of litter, but it also allows you to tag each piece of litter with what it is and even the brand, thereby collecting qualitative data too. And with this data comes questions, which leads to further research, and finally action – a process known as geo-inquiry:

 Geo_Inquiry_Poster White

Keep in mind that students need to create their own accounts, and therefore the age rating is 13+, and if under 18, they need to have a parent or guardian’s permission. See the Terms of Service “For Humans” here. One word of caution is that students should not be posting pictures of themselves, as the photos are taken directly through the app and then will be uploaded into the “digital landfill” for use on the interactive map, seen below. Photos should only be of litter, and each photo counts as one piece!


Photos are held in your Litterati gallery until you tag them appropriately and Upload into the Digital Landfill. Maps are updated hourly! Tagging is important because this information is then used to place litter into pollution categories – for example, if you come across a Dasani plastic water bottle, you might tag it using the brand name #Dasani and then #plasticwaterbottle. See below for suggested hashtags.

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The Delta Conservatory, Sacramento Area Creeks Council and the Franklin High School Plastics Club has put together a great guide to use in your own trash mapping efforts – here is a list of hashtags found in their guide:

Packaging: #plasticbag #straw #styrofoamcontainer #ziplocbag #plasticlid
#plasticplate #paperbag #plasticbevbottle #paperplate #otherbag
#glassbevbottle #plasticsilverware #foodwrapper #plasticcap #6packrings
#plasticcup #metalcap #cleanerbottle #styrofoamcup #bevcan
#petroleumbottle #stirrer #plasticcontainer
Smoking Related Debris: #cigarettes #cigar #cigarettelighter #tobaccopacking
Other Litter: #pen/pencil #rope #fishingline #toy #styrafoam #fishinghook
#balloon #carpart #otherfishinggear #ball #smallelectronics #miscplastic
#shoe #plasticnetting #battery #clothing #fishinghook
Large Debris: #largeelectronic #furniture #tire #appliance
#buildingmaterial #foamcushion
Small Debris (less than 2 cm): #styrofoampieces #plasticpieces #glasspieces

ALTERNATIVE: This activity can also be done by making your own classroom collaborative map using photos you take with your phone/tablet (with Location services turned on so that said photos are geotagged) and Google My Maps. The image below shows a geotagged photo taken by a phone, and imported into My Maps:


If your photos are backed up by Google Photos (How-To here), you can easily import photos (briefly illustrated here):


You can then easily share your class map on school-approved social media, and even start your own trash mapping hashtag.

NB: If you have multiple photos to upload, you can import them using a CSV file, spreadsheet or KML. More info on this method in a subsequent post!




CreeGeo Photo Stories: Kashechewan First Nation

Last month, I visited the community of Kashechewan in my new role with Mushkegowuk Council. I had the opportunity to meet two amazing classes, one at Francine J. Wesley Secondary School, and the other at St. Andrew’s Elementary School. These students were natural mappers, problem solvers and critical thinkers as we learned some beginner coding with the Sphero SPRK+, and during a Geo Walk where we captured images of Kashechewan using tablets from the CreeGeo department. The aim of the day was to create a floor map, complete with streets and landmarks, and have Sphero navigate/roll around the community using the programs students built.

Click on the Adobe Spark Page below to take a tour of Kashechewan and see some of the students at work/play!

CreeGeo Photo Stories

Ricoh Theta S + Google Street View

As part of a new online course at the ACCESS Centre here in Timmins, Ontario, I was asked to give two half-day workshops at the end of the month. The students will learn how to use the Ricoh Theta S camera along with the Google Street View app in order to take 360′ images at Gillies Lake. They will then upload these images into D2L’s ePortfolio app as part of their learning journey. Walk With Us Project will be lending eight 360′ cameras to support this unit. My presenter Slides are below:

Walk With Us Project: Inspiration and Implementation

The Walk With Us Project was inspired by two events.

During the 2015-16 school year at Northeastern Catholic DSB, I was visiting classrooms at Bishop Belleau School in Moosonee, Ontario to teach about Google Maps, My Maps and Street View, and their applications in the classroom. Before long, students figured out that their communities were not represented on Street View. They wanted to show where they lived, played and went to school. However, since 360′ imagery is needed for Pegman to “see” in Street View, a discussion began about why there were no pictures, how pictures could be taken, and what would be required.

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 young 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 we wanted to help. The majority of this group of students are Walk With Us club members.


For our inaugural year, the Walk With Us project ran as a club at O’Gorman High School (NeCDSB) in Timmins, Ontario. We met every Tuesday during lunch hour (11:30 – 12:30), and documented our journey via TwitterTeach Ontario, and My Blog, although the students also had ideas about how to capture footage and share with the world (including a vlog).

One of our members, Neebin, created our club logo. She explains her thinking behind her colour choices for the finished product:

“The world will be green and blue and the eagle will have original eagle colours, the teepee will be beige and black with the footprints representing the medicine wheel with the colours red, yellow, black, and white.”


Our project involves using an overlay software called WalkInto, 360′ cameras (Ricoh Theta S) and Google Street View  to provide a  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 Indigenous communities face, 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. Currently, we have funding to visit Mattagami First Nation and Moosonee/Moose Factory, where our students will capture 360′ imagery to submit to Google Street View – quite literally putting their communities on the map.

The students received 360′ photography training via Google Hangout from Neil Cariani, a Google Trusted Photographer in Clarksville, Tennessee and owner of Creative Existence 360. Neil is also volunteering his time to edit the students’ 360′ photos to adhere to Street View quality guidelines, and advises the educators involved in the project. As well, students will participate in virtual tour building training courtesy of Boni Gopalan, founder of WalkInto, also via Google Hangout.


Embedding your SV images from Google Maps into WordPress

I thought I’d create a brief, no-talky screencast about how to embed your own Google Street View images into a WordPress site. You can embed these interactive images into any site that supports iframe; I just demonstrated using WP as I personally use this platform. If you have ever taken 360 photos with your phone or a 360 camera and uploaded to Google Maps, you’ll have a tracking list of these photos in the G Maps menu under “Your Contributions”.

If you haven’t taken these types of photos, you can also find existing ones by searching a location in G Maps and choosing a 360 photo within the knowledge card (indicated by a circular arrow – if it’s a still image, the icon would be a camera). Then you would click on the 3 dots beside the photographer’s information to open a menu, and choose “Share or embed image”. Then, Ctrl-C to copy the code and Ctrl-V to paste into a site of your choosing. To illustrate, I searched for Science Timmins in Google Maps:

Search for a location in Google Maps
Choose a 360 photo, click on the 3-dot menu and select “Share or embed image”
Ctrl-C to copy the embed code, and Ctrl-V to paste into desired site


Here is the result using a pano I had taken of the Timmins Wake Park in June 2017:


And here’s the silent screencast so you can try it yourself!

Engage. Connect. Innovate. Empower. #ISBLbD #walkwithusproject

Back in December 2016, my proposal to facilitate a 90-minute workshop at the International School of Brussels’ Learning by Design conference was accepted. And so began the presenter’s slideshow frenzy…

Waiting for my flight to Brussels at Pearson with my lunch companion, Google Slides

In preparation, I was asked to plan my workshop with the 4 conference themes in mind:

Engage. Connect. Innovate. Empower. 

To me, these are not only themes – they are calls to action; particularly in my current role as an Educational Technology teacher, and certainly in any role in education.

ISB staff and students were heavily involved throughout the conference, and the LbD planning committee, staff and students must be commended on their delivery of a thoughtful, innovative and engaging conference for all attendees. Here is an article about the conference written by LbD student journalists, highlighting a few of the student projects presented on the last day of the conference.

The support I received as a presenter before, during and even after the conference was nothing short of impressive (special shout-out to the IT department for setting me up with Apple TV!). Each of the workshops, panel discussions and break-out groups were thought-provoking, and, more importantly, I had the opportunity to meet some really great people who I hope to keep in touch with for a long time.

Screenshot 2017-04-29 21.14.24
ISB educators using 360′ cameras and the Google Street View app

Here are my workshop slides. Educators, you can read about some preliminary research about the mapping/storytelling platform, and try it out in your classroom. If you do, please connect with me!

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:


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.


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!


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!