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.

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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.”

wwu-logo

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.

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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…

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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.

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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 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

photoshop-lightroom-cc-deal

 

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: 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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“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.