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.”

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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 End of 2016 Updates!

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

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

Happy Holidays from Walk With Us!

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Walk With Us: First trip to Mattagami First Nation

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

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

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

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

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

Watch out for us!

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Google Slides Presentation: Indigenous Math Games

My students learned how to play two different Aboriginal math games (more can be found here).  They had fun playing Throw Sticks and Stick Dice, games originating with the Apaches in the Southwest United States and the Pomo Indians of California, respectively. During large celebrations that would last about four days, nations would get together and would feast, dance and play games. Many of these games involved gambling and setting large wagers against neighbouring tribes.  The kids didn’t want to stop playing the game, which is interesting, because all the materials you need to play this game can be found in nature, and not on an iPad!
For Throw Sticks, you need: 40 rocks, arranged in 4 groups of 10 in a circle, 2 feathers for place markers, and 3 sticks (we used popsicle sticks) that must be decorated using the same patterns and colours on each.
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Throw Sticks

For Stick Dice, you need: 6 (popsicle) sticks, all decorated the same on one side only.

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Stick Dice
Obviously there weren’t any Mr. Sketch markers back when this game originated, but I imagine that they would have burned etchings into the sticks to create patterns, and/or used things like berries for dyes.  The students were then taught how to use Google Slides.   They especially loved the transitions effects and how you can “drag and drop” pictures using Google Chrome, as opposed to Internet Explorer where you have to save your image and then upload it.  As part of our procedural writing unit, their task was to create a presentation all about how to play the game of their choice.  When these are complete, they will be teaching another class how to play their games by showing their presentations on iPads. And because you should end your procedural text on a positive note, I’ll apply that here:  Amazing work, Grade 4/5’s!