Ricoh Theta S + Google Street View

As part of a new online course at the ACCESS Centre here in Timmins, Ontario, I was asked to give two half-day workshops at the end of the month. The students will learn how to use the Ricoh Theta S camera along with the Google Street View app in order to take 360′ images at Gillies Lake. They will then upload these images into D2L’s ePortfolio app as part of their learning journey. Walk With Us Project will be lending eight 360′ cameras to support this unit. My presenter Slides are below:

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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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Walk With Us visits Moosonee in May (Athikipisim, or Frog Moon), for the arrival of warm weather and open water

Walk With Us traveled to Moosonee, a community in northern Ontario located on the Moose River, from May 10-11, 2017. Our goals were to map as much of the town as possible with our 360′ cameras, talk to community members to learn more about Moosonee and the people who live there, and finally, to spend some time at Bishop Belleau Catholic School, where we had a surprise planned for a group of five Grade 3 students!

This was our travel itinerary:

WEDNESDAY, MAY 10, 2017

Leave Timmins 6:25 am (ONTC Station: 54 Spruce Street South: 1-705-264-1377)

Arrive Cochrane 7:45 am (ONTC Station: 200 Railway Street: 1-705-272-4228)

Leave Cochrane 9:00 am

Arrive Moosonee 2:00 pm (ONTC Station: 1-705-336-2210)

THURSDAY, MAY 11, 2017

Leave Moosonee 5:00 pm

Arrive Cochrane 9:45 pm

Leave Cochrane 10:45 pm

Arrive Timmins 12:00 am

After traveling for 6 hours, 20 minutes (not counting layover time in Cochrane), Walk With Us arrived in Moosonee, where we were met by Mrs. Wanda Zelau, principal of Bishop Belleau. She graciously offered her vehicle to transport our bags to Christ the King Cathedral, where we would stay the night.

After we were settled, the cameras were out and it was time to capture some photos before dinner at the Sky Ranch Restaurant (where we would also have breakfast and lunch the next day – we love Sky Ranch)!

We captured a fair bit of the community in 1.5 hours, and two of our students even took it a step further and captured an entire street with proper spacing between panos – 3 metres – so that they would be able to connect the panospheres together using the Street View app. This will allow a viewer to actually be able to “walk” down the street using the advancement arrows. More great learning!

The next day, we had scheduled an interview with Madelaine Blundon, an elder in Moosonee. We were greeted at the door of the Seniors Complex and shown to the common area, where the students sat at a large table in the middle of the room and opened their Walk With Us folders, ready to record their interviews. These folders also contain a consent form, and students ensure that anyone they interview and/or take photographs of must be asked for their permission before any material can be used in the virtual tours they will be creating.

A big takeaway for me from the conversation was when Madelaine very simply and thoughtfully stated that we need to listen to our young people, as they have something to say.  I remember thinking to myself that the Walk With Us project was built on this exact notion.

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Aboard the train on the way to Moosonee, we had met Reverend Norm Wesley from Moose Factory. After hearing about the Walk With Us project, he agreed to speak to our students on the same day as our interview with Madelaine. We had lunch together at the Sky Ranch, where he informed us that he had prepared a presentation for the students. Reverend Wesley spoke about the significance of the six seasons as known by the Cree people: Winter (Pipon), Spring (Sikwan), Break-Up (Mithoskamin), Summer (Nipin), Fall (Takwakin), and Freeze-Up (Mikiskaw). He had the students each choose a puzzle piece and allowed them some time to read what was on their card. Then, he started a timer with 6 minutes on the clock to solve the puzzle in a way that made sense to the students. Let the problem solving begin!

Prior to Reverend Wesley’s beautiful presentation, our students had the opportunity to teach five Grade 3 students about the SAM Labs Curious Cars kit, where the kids would have the chance to build and program cars using the Curious Cars iOS app which connects wirelessly to various rechargeable modules, or SAM blocks.

Back in March, I presented a workshop at the International School of Brussels (ISB)’ “Learning by Design” conference, and the workshop was all about the Walk With Us Project. The founder of SAM Labs is a graduate of the ISB, and the company had set up a kiosk at the conference. Upon hearing about Walk With Us, Ivelin, an employee of SAM Labs, generously donated the Curious Cars kit to the club so that we could learn it and gift the kit to students of Bishop Belleau. And that’s exactly what we did!

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Finally, it was time to head back to Timmins after a whirlwind of a trip. Walk With Us would like to thank the community of Moosonee for all of the kindness and hospitality shown to us, and rest assured we will be back! Hopefully next time we will be able to cross the river and visit Moose Factory. Until then!

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