“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.

 

 

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Cold calls to collaborations, and other tales of connected learning

I’m a big fan of the cold call.

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. Screenshot 2016-06-03 21.28.18This 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.

Screenshot 2016-06-04 01.28.20
Image from Dr. Ruben Puentedura’s “SAMR and TPCK: A Hands-On Approach to Classroom Practice”

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!

 

References:

Dede, C. (2014). The role of technology in deeper learning. New York, NY: Jobs for the Future. http://www.studentsatthecenter.org/topics/role-digital-technologies-
deeper-learning

Puentedura, R. (2014, December 11). SAMR and TPCK: A Hands-On Approach to Classroom Practice. Retrieved June 3, 2016, from http://www.hippasus.com/rrpweblog/archives/2014/12/11/SAMRandTPCK_HandsOnApproachClassroomPractice.pdf

Zeitz, L. (2014, September 6). Create collaborative research projects with Google Apps. Retrieved June 03, 2016, from https://www.iste.org/explore/articleDetail?articleid=16

 

digital Human Library and WalkInto: A New Idea in the Production and Consumption of Virtual Field Trips for Education

Everyone has a story to tell. Why not use the power and diversity of WalkInto and publish your story in an engaging, interactive and personal way?

WalkInto is an online platform for photographers using Google Street View for publishing commercial virtual tours, to exponentially increase the marketability of their beautiful work. WalkInto can be used by Google Trusted Photographers, Google Views users or anyone else who has a story to tell on Street View.

As of September 2015, Google has rebranded Google Business View as Street View. This change means that the WalkInto platform is now accessible to all! Users no longer need to be “certified” or Google Trusted photographers. Anyone can choose a ready-made photosphere by searching in Street View within WalkInto, or create their own using their mobile device with the Street View app (on both Android and iOS) to make it a more personalized experience.

WalkInto coupled with Street View is a web-based application where teachers (and students!) can embed their own learning materials according to their grade/interest level needs and wants – each tour is fully customizable and lends itself well to inquiry-based learning. The ability to embed various multimedia items, including YouTube videos, Google Docs, Forms, Slides, etc. to customize the tour encourages the production of personalized content. It also provides an accessible platform that caters to a wide variety of learners.

We at the digital Human Library see this as a unique opportunity for the field of education. The dHL hosts one of the largest collections of multimedia virtual tours on the web, and we will be extending this collection to include tours created by the dHL and WalkInto teams. The dHL will also host the content that is created to provide more opportunities for teachers to find, access as well as curate their own content.

Here are two examples of tours developed for two different groups of students as part of a UBC Master of Educational Technology design project:

Post-Secondary: UBC Department of Civil Engineering Hydro-Technical Lab Walk-Through

Elementary: UBC Pacific Museum of Earth

Screenshot 2015-11-06 19.14.25
Example of the WalkInto Dashboard, where users can easily customize their virtual tours

Last month, I had the amazing opportunity to learn from leading researchers in the field of Educational Technology at the Washington State University Tech-Ed Conference. The invited speakers and paper presenters provoked thought and discussion surrounding how technology, but more importantly, the careful thought and good teaching behind the technology, can be transformative. I presented a paper on behalf of my colleagues at the University of British Columbia’s Master of Educational Technology program (Novak Rogic and Alison Pattern). Our proposed group design project was about using Google Street View and WalkInto as a medium for teacher and student-created virtual field trips (VFT). This is a new concept in VFT’s, and the only limit to this tool is your imagination. Some ideas our group thought of were: flipped classrooms, marketing and promotions for colleges and universities, school walk-throughs for parents, etc.

What are some of your ideas?

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Washington State University Tech-Ed Conference, Oct. 1-2, 2015: Using Google Street View and WalkInto as a Medium for Virtual Field Trips

Over the past 2 days, I have had the amazing opportunity to learn from leading researchers in the field of Educational Technology at the Washington State University Tech-Ed Conference. What a beautiful conference and campus, and the people were inviting, engaging and all-around great folks. The invited speakers and paper presenters provoked thought and discussion surrounding how technology, but more importantly, the careful thought and good teaching behind the technology, can be transformative. I presented a paper on behalf of my colleagues at the University of British Columbia’s Master of Educational Technology program (Novak Rogic and Alison Pattern). This was a group design project from ETEC 510 where we designed an online, technology-supported learning environment.

Here is my presentation about using Google Street View and WalkInto as a medium for teacher and student-created virtual field trips. This is a new concept in VFT’s that allows for both teachers and their students to create and produce incredible content – it is not limited to VFT’s by any means! Some ideas our group thought of were: flipped classrooms, marketing and promotions for colleges and universities, school walk-throughs for parents, etc.

What are some other applications you can think of?

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NECDSB Google Collaborative Inquiry Project

As part of my school board’s Council of Ontario Directors of Education (CODE) funding, I was tasked with developing and executing a research project. Based on this article on the ISTE website, and the work of Leigh Zeitz, an associate professor of instructional technology at the University of Northern Iowa, I worked to modify the concept presented to better reflect the needs of the grade levels I planned to start working with – namely Junior and Intermediate levels.

Our project is focusing on how the use of technology, specifically the collaborative tools offered by Google Apps for Education, can increase cooperative, constructivist learning environments and enhanced student achievement and engagement. We are examining whether students’ learning about a topic is transformed, using the tech tools provided in the classroom and by collaborating with peers/the teacher (working cooperatively) to further develop thinking skills.

In my first course at the University of British Columbia’s Master of Educational Technology, I worked with two students to develop a platform for virtual field trips (VFT) for teachers and their students. We used Google Business View (GBV) and an application called WalkInto that allowed us to embed educational materials as overlays to enhance the virtual field trip.

Our project posited that GBV can be used as a tool for creating interactive, audience-responsive, virtual field trips for students. GBV is an online application, part of the Google Maps suite. It allows certified users to create 360’, interactive views of the interior of Google Map’s location.

For our project, we created an interactive tour of UBC’s Pacific Museum of Earth. We used UBC’s wiki spaces to build a teacher’s guide on the use of our virtual field trip for educators, which includes suggested activities, curriculum expectations and how to use the VFT.

I wanted to combine the elements of a VFT and the collaborative affordabilities of Google Apps for Education, in order to build a unique, engaging and cooperative learning experience for students while gathering data for my board’s CODE research project. So, the NECDSB Google Collaborative Inquiry Project was born. CODE Inquiry Project - 10

The target group of the project research for this phase is Grades 5 and 6. One Grade 5/6 class in Cobalt, Ontario and one Grade 6 class from Timmins, Ontario were highlighted for the purposes of this research. The subject areas we focused on were Literacy (Writing) and Science (Scientific Inquiry / Research Skill Continuum); with a particular emphasis on collaborative inquiry and group work performed entirely online using Google tools.

Prior to my classroom visit, I sent a link to a Pre-Survey that I created in Google Forms. The summary of results can be seen here:

NECDSB CODE Project Pre-Survey

I created a Google Slide Deck to introduce the VFT to the students, and take them through the steps of the project:

CODE Google Collaborative Inquiry Project Slides

Measuring Student Engagement: VFT and Google Apps

Measuring student engagement is a tricky endeavour. While there does not appear to be a single definition for engagement, the following definition represents an aggregation of the literature: Engagement is seen to comprise active and collaborative learning, participation in challenging academic activities, formative communication with academic staff, involvement in enriching educational experiences, and feeling legitimated and supported by university learning communities (Coates, 2007). This definition suggests that engagement is the amalgamation of a number of distinct elements including active learning, collaborative learning, participation, communication among teachers and students and students feeling legitimated and supported (Beer, Colin, Ken Clark, and David Jones. “Indicators of engagement.” Proceedings ascilite Sydney (2010).

The students used Google Slides for collaborative note-taking during their VFT and Google Docs for collaborative research report-writing. The elements of these Google Apps that could be used for collaboration purposes were:

  • Chat within the Doc and/or Slides (including Google Hangouts chat tool)
  • Suggested Edits
  • Comments
  • Share button

IMG_0476IMG_0588

 

The students were given the choice of tool they used throughout the process. In our post-survey results, the majority of students used the chat tool (30 out of 32 students at 93.8% of respondents). This is not surprising. According to the Media Smarts report “Young Canadians in a Wired World, Phase III: Life Online”, which is a report based on the findings of a survey administered in 2013 to 5,436 Canadian students in grades 4 through 11, “online life has become increasingly social, with social networking now an integral component of many online activities. Online media are primarily used for entertainment and communicating with friends and family, and one of the most frequent online activities reported by students are: reading or posting on someone else’s social network site, at 41% of respondents (“Life Online Report – MediaSmarts.” 2014. 24 Jun. 2015 <http://mediasmarts.ca/sites/mediasmarts/files/pdfs/publication report/full/YCWWIII_Life_Online_FullReport.pdf&gt;).

As educators, we should heed these findings, and listen to our students who tell us (and show us) that they like to use social media. Also as educators, we should realize that just because students use social networking sites for chatting with friends, does not necessarily mean that they are using these sites to their fullest potential. Participatory civic uses of digital media are also relatively low. This is an area we can (and should) tap into in order to harness student engagement and move forward towards a participatory civic culture that fosters active and collaborative learning. Students in this project were given the opportunity to engage in this type of learning environment.

During the activity, the students frequently demonstrated that they were engaged with the project. Three qualifiers were used to gather anecdotal evidence: Interest, Time on Task, and Enjoyment in Learning.

Interest:

  • Evidence of collaboration in the classroom and using the Google tools;
  • Evidence of students being able to fulfill their roles within their teams happily, and;
  • Participating in all stages of the project

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Time on Task:

  • Evidence of on-task chat
  • Use of comments
  • Use of suggested edits

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Enjoyment in Learning:

  • Evidence of a willingness to share ideas
  • Demonstrate working with team members and participating enthusiastically in the process (pictures of their chats, etc.)

CODE Inquiry Project - 15  Screenshot 2015-07-21 16.51.22
At the conclusion of this phase of the project, I sent a link to the two teachers involved to my Post-Survey. The summary of results are here:

NECDSB CODE Project Post-Survey

My full research report, including my methodology, observations, measurable outcomes and a summary of my findings, can be found here:

CODE Phase 4 Research Report 2015 (Melissa)

The project was a success in that the students responded favourably to both the VFT and the use of a Google apps platform to collaborate in groups online. Both were a familiar and engaging forum to them, and their enthusiasm was indicated in their post-survey responses, and demonstrated throughout the time we spent together.

It is my belief that the students who participated in this research project gained significant insight into a new way of collaborating in group work situations, and a new way to research various topics. 87.5% of the students felt that the platform provided to them (Research Team roles combined with Google tools to support and enhance) helped them to learn the material better. 

The survey results, as well as anecdotal notes taken during the activity, show an impact on student learning, and certainly on student engagement. The results hold promise for future collaborative learning opportunities in the classroom, and also indicate that further research is required across multiple grades and subject areas.

Here is a sampling of student research projects:

Student Work

Stay tuned for the next phase of research in Fall 2015! Please contact me if you would like any further information about this project, and the next phase of research. I welcome any ideas for improvement and the potential for collaboration.

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Attempting to get some sun while working on the research report
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Analyzing pre-survey results
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Analyzing post-survey results

 

 

Application to UBC MET Submitted!

So after months of preparation: impromptu meetings, cold calls, networking, and the realization that I have a lot of great people surrounding me in unrelenting support – I have submitted my application to graduate school.Back in July, I visited my sister in Vancouver.  I had been researching grad school programs, truthfully for a few years now, and none seemed quite right for me.  I was beginning to feel like Goldilocks – school and clinical child psychology? No.  Curriculum studies? Nah……and then I came across UBC’s Master of Educational Technology program.  Just right.

I want to explore the use of video-conferencing in the classroom further, and I proposed adding an experts panel comprised of artists to the Digital Human Library website (link on my About page), where kids in rural areas like Northeastern Ontario can interact with artists from across Canada to enhance the Arts curriculum and engage them in an authentic learning experience.   This is all done from the comfort of their classroom, which means costs are down.  And when I say down, I mean FREE.  I want to create a resource to help teachers, and ultimately, students.

Stay tuned.

UBC MET Application Screen
UBC MET Application Confirmation