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…
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.
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 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)
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!
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!
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).
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…
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
More often than not, in my experience, the people I have reached out to in the world of education have reciprocated to the point where some pretty great things have happened. Transformative, even.
There was that time I cold-tweeted Dr. Leigh Zeitz of the University of Northern Iowa with a link to a research project I conducted. I had adapted and applied his work to a project for my school board about creating collaborative research projects with Google Apps for Education. This led to a Google Hangout where I had the opportunity to talk to someone I may never have had the opportunity to meet otherwise, and he even helped me narrow my focus for a research question I had been working on for one of my courses. I brought this knowledge back to my group, we applied his suggestions and it definitely paid off.
Whenever I have a question about Google Sheets (which is all the time), I tweet to Alice Keeler and she always responds. I’m sure she will tire of me eventually. I tweet to her about other things too.
And back when I was applying to UBC’s MET program, one of my visions was to develop a type of online platform to connect educators to artists. I was working with Virtual Researcher on Call at the time as a classroom teacher, and I asked my contact there if she knew of any such platform in existence. That’s when I first heard about the digital Human Library and Leigh Cassell. I contacted Leigh in September 2014, and long story short, I am now VP for dHL’s Board of Directors and a Library Curator for the site.
This is how things happen, my friends.
So how does using technology to collaborate with others lead to transformative learning?
Harvard University’s Dr. Chris Dede wrote a three-part series for Ontario school and system leaders participating in the Technology and Learning Fund (TLF). His first think piece is entitled “Technologies that Aid Learning Partnerships on Real-World, Authentic Tasks”. In it, he states that “modern digital tools and media now enable the use of deeper learning strategies in schools (Dede, 2014) including:
Connected learning encourages students to confront challenges and pursue opportunities that exist outside of their classrooms and campuses (Ito et al. 2013); and
Collaborative learning enables a team to combine its knowledge and skills in making sense of a complex phenomenon
When educators themselves model connected and collaborative learning practices, they show their students the importance of working together to exchange information and ideas, solve problems and extend the existing task beyond what it is to potentially create something new. This may have never occurred had they kept the learning confined to their own classrooms.
There are numerous video-conferencing platforms educators can choose from (Google Hangouts is a personal favourite, as we are a GAFE school board), and webcams are pretty standard these days, as are projectors – but where do they even start connecting with people?
I recently had the opportunity to collaborate with a wonderfully passionate educator named Sean Robinson. We connected via Leigh Cassell. He asked me to speak with a group of educators at Centennial Secondary School in Coquitlam, BC about my experiences using various services to help connect students to experts in various fields. Here they are:
I spoke about how I had used these websites in classrooms in order to help modify and certainly transform students’ learning experiences in various subject areas. You can read more about it on Sean’s blog here.
If you look at Dr. Ruben Puentedura’s “SAMR” model, a sort of measuring tool for educators to integrate technology into their classrooms, the ultimate goal is to not only enhance but transform student experiences so that it results in higher levels of achievement. This is done through “redefinition”: the technology actually allows for the creation of new tasks, previously inconceivable.
Here is an example of the SAMR model at work, using my experience with Mr. Cull’s Grade 5/6 classroom in Cobalt, ON and “Exploring by the Seat of your Pants”. Prior to the Google Hangout with adventurers Tarran and Ollie, who would soon kayak the Amazon River, the students thought of questions they would like to ask the pair:
During the Hangout, students had the opportunity to have a conversation with Tarran and Ollie, and would also follow their journey via their website. The students therefore had a stake in their own learning.
There was a follow-up Hangout upon completion of their epic journey, and the same class participated and was able to ask questions to extend their learning.
Here is what the task would look like in each stage of SAMR:
Substitution: Using Google Search to research the Amazon River Run, and Google Docs to type up a report / presentation.
Augmentation: Incorporate interactive multimedia – audio, video, hyperlinks – in the presentation to give more depth and provide a more engaging presentation.
Modification: Create a digital travel brochure for the Amazon River that incorporates multimedia and student created video.
Redefinition: Participate in a Google Hangout with the explorers, provide authentic interviews, follow their journey via the website and then follow up afterwards. Incorporate all artifacts into final product.
If you’ve made it this far, you are awesome.
If you would like to join a Connected Learning Partnership, please click here and get ready to expand your world!
Letting go of Kurzweil and Dragon Naturally Speaking and embracing web-based Read&Write…it can be done, but not without a few (minor) hiccups, as is usually the case when implementing any new technology on a large scale.
My Board purchased TextHelp‘s Read&Write Chrome extension (Premium) as a comprehensive assistive technology solution for our students this year. Since we are a Google Apps for Education school board, and the fact that R&W is a fraction of the cost of Kurzweil and Dragon (and less intrusive), it just made sense. Our Google Admin pushed out the extension to all Google users in our board, and the ed tech team then needed to show these users where to find the Read&Write extension, how to allow and authenticate the extension, and provide some training as to how it works.
Part of my job was to devise a roll-out plan for training and implementation, and perhaps more importantly, a philosophy behind this new assistive technology so that our message is consistent and clear. I was chatting with my friend DJ Cunningham of LearnStyle about said philosophy one day, and he basically handed it to me on a platter:
When Read & Write is introduced, it should be promoted as a MAINSTREAM tool, and not as a SPEC ED tool. We want ALL students to use this, as it is helpful for everyone. We do not want to alienate our students in Spec Ed. – DJ Cunningham, LearnStyle
Since R&W is basically a toolbar that appears on webpages, in Google Docs and when working with PDF and ePub files (whenever you activate it by clicking on the purple puzzle piece), it is far less conspicuous than the telltale headsets and laptops designated for one particular group of students. R&W works on any device, and is far more user-friendly than Kurzweil and most certainly Dragon (voice profiles, anyone?).
The tools in each of the 3 toolbars (Docs, webpage and PDF) are useful to ALL students (and teachers!). It also promotes the important idea of taking ownership of HOW each person learns, remembers material, studies, researches and takes notes. When using the various tools, users can determine whether or not the tool is useful to them, depending on how they learn. They can pick and choose the tools they wish to use at their leisure, depending on the actual activity and if/when they need it. Of course, this time for classroom practice needs to be fostered by classroom teachers, following proper training facilitated by an educational technology team.
Our Implementation Strategy:
Work in conjunction with representatives from IT and special education departments to develop training materials for Read&Write, including troubleshooting potential (and actual) issues and creating a Google Slides presentation that can be shared for initial training and future reference
Train our Ed Tech Champions using the Google Slides presentation via Google Hangouts (I conducted 3 separate half-day sessions, working with champs from the Central, North and South regions)
The Ed Tech Champions then facilitated in-class training sessions for Grades 3 and up in their respective schools (I stressed the importance of the sessions being mainly about accessing Read&Write for the first time by ensuring proper Chrome session sign ins, hands-on practice and including as many EA’s in the training as possible)
A Few Hiccups:
Our school board works with Windows laptops, Chromebooks as well as some iPads. Many school boards use a variety of devices, which I think is great! But, we did run into some issues when working with Windows laptops and the fact that teachers/students were not seeing the “purple puzzle piece” in order to start the initial authentication process. Ensuring teachers and students were actually signing into their Chrome browsers, and not just their school Google accounts, needed to be addressed.
Another hiccup when using our Windows laptops: some users could not click on the “Allow” and/or “Accept” buttons to authenticate Read&Write. So, they could see the puzzle piece and click on it, but then the permissions would run too far down the page and they could not actually click to Allow the application! Fortunately, we came across this article from TextHelp to troubleshoot: http://support.texthelp.com/index.php?action=artikel&cat=5&id=244&artlang=en
Accessing Read&Write on an iPad is very different from accessing it on a Chromebook or Windows laptop. It is essentially a keyboard that you have to add under your General Settings, and the functions are certainly more limited. I would suggest simply turning on your Accessibility features under Speech (Speak Screen is great for use with webpages) and use Siri for STT and TTS (if you have iPad 3 or later).
Read&Write sometimes has trouble extracting text from within images when certain materials are scanned and OCR’d (so, mostly PDF files and some webpage content). Now, Kurzweil had difficulty with this too. HOWEVER, there is now a new Screenshot Reader tool in the Read&Write toolbar!
This tool is its own extension, so you have to install it independently from Read&Write. It is essentially a screenshot tool, and when you click on it, your cursor turns into a screenshot capture tool (like a plus sign) where you drag your cursor around the text you want it to capture, let go, and then it reads the content out loud! This is a great solution for image-heavy content. This tool also works with Google Slides and Google Drawings! I’ve tested it out with different types of graphs, as an example, and it reads the content quite well.
I want to share with you a Google Slides presentation we are using for training and reference. I modified, added to and updated it from presentations by Randy Kirsh and Tammy Tkachuk, and they are both credited within the presentation. If you are a GAFE school board and looking into alternative assistive tech solutions, this could help. Feel free to contact me as well if you have any questions.