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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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.

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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

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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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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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Dave Ruch: The Largest Online Gathering of K-5 Classrooms

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These boys wanted to sit closest to the action!

Dave Ruch is a dedicated and talented performer and teacher artist from Buffalo, NY. However, geography is a non-issue if you’d like to have Dave entertain and educate the students in your classroom. All that’s required is an Internet connection, laptop or other device that is hooked up to a projector/SmartBoard, and you’ll have yourself a live, interactive concert in your classroom or school.

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My class at the beginning of the concert. It wasn’t long before the majority were on their feet, along with their makeshift signs.

At the end of October, which is Connected Educator Month, he will be hosting a FREE live-streaming concert from his home studio in Buffalo and is encouraging as many participants from across the globe as possible! As a teacher who has had the pleasure of inviting Dave into my Grade 4/5 classroom last year, I can guarantee you that this is not an experience to be missed. His timed responses are so spot-on that it took a lot of convincing for my students to believe that he could not actually SEE them. They were engaged from start to finish.

The largest online gathering of K-5 students will be held on Friday, October 30th at 1:15 EST.

For more information about this event, and/or to book Dave Ruch for your classroom/school, please visit his website or the digital Human Library, where he is one of our MeBooks.

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:

NECDSBCODEProjectPreSurvey

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

May2015CODEGoogleCollaborativeInquiryProjectSlides

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

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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:

NECDSBCODEProjectPostSurvey

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:

StudentWork

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

 

 

Kayaking the Amazon River with Tarran and Olie! A Google Hangout on Air Adventure

A Grade 5/6 class at St. Patrick’s School in Cobalt, Ontario participated in a Live on Air Google Hangout with two explorers on Thursday, June 11th. Tarran and 2015-06-11 (1) (1)Olie were in Lima, Peru, and have since embarked on an epic journey that will have them kayaking the Amazon River! The students had the chance to talk to the two adventurers, and asked them questions such as “What are some of the risks involved with kayaking the Amazon River?” Tarran and Olie also showed the2015-06-11 (2) (1) students what their packs consisted of (essentially one other outfit), the food they will be consuming (think astronaut food!) and the route they will be taking. Find out more about their journey here, and follow Tarran and Olie as they continue on their adventure!

The teacher and his students explored the Amazon River before the live Hangout, so that they were prepared with questions 2015-06-10 (1)– it paid off, because the two adventurers loved the poster the students made with their questions on it – their faces lit up. Watch the recorded broadcast here.