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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Class Dojo

Class Dojo is an online classroom management tool that helps parents stay informed by signing up to receive “behaviour reports” via email every Friday, and helps students by recognizing when they exhibit positive behaviour, as well as behaviour to work on to reach class and individual goals. The students and their parents love this program, and I appreciate it as well because it’s a user-friendly way to build a bridge from school to home. I can give students behaviour points from my iPhone, and can be anywhere in the classroom doing so (or the school, for that matter)!

Here is a free parent letter that I had downloaded from Made by Picture Perfect Designs on Teachers Pay Teachers. I copied the content into a fully editable Google Doc if you are an avid Google user like me. The version on TPT is a Microsoft Word document.