There are so many great things happening at our school right now that I find I don’t have time to blog about one before I’m deep into another project with another teacher. All that I know is we’re having some fun!

picture-3Let’s start in Mr. Jessee’s room where I wanted to share a great Google Earth project that the third grade team has been working on for the past month or so. I talked about this in an earlier post so won’t go into all the back ground here. But you can visit Mr. Jessee’s class blog and download Google Earth tours. This time the students created video tours using Google Earth and take you to landforms around the world. Of course the trip starts off from school and then you’re swept away learning about landforms and some pretty cool facts. As usual, if you download and listen to the Google Earth files, we’d appreciate a comment on the blog. Let us know what you learned or if you have a landform to share, please push our thinking. πŸ˜‰

In Ms. Tulli’s 3rd Grade class they’ve been deep into some science research learning how to analyze data. Ms. Tulli wanted to capture what the students were learning so grabbed a flip camera and simply asked:

What have you learned about graphs and analyzing data?

Pretty cool! If you get a moment to watch the video they’d love a comment on their class blog as well. πŸ˜‰

And finally to round it all off is our whole 5th grade team and their amazing adventure into blogging for learning and as e-portfolios with their students. They are all continuing to build their own skills as well as finding ways to incorporate blogging into just what they do. As teachers start to wrap their heads around it and as students get better and faster at blogging, they are becoming just a part of what is done in 5th grade. I walked into Mr. Armitage’s room yesterday and before I had a chance to say hi to the class Collin approaches me and says:

“I’m getting a lot of views on my blog”

“Really? Why do you think that is?”

“Because I’ve been blogging a lot?”

“Cool! About school?”

“No, about my trip to Beijing over break!”

So…here’s a 5th grader who on his break could have taken his thoughts, his feelings, and just kept them to himself. Instead he decided to share what he learned about the Great Wall of China with the world. I encourage you to stop by Collin’s Blog and read about his adventures on the Great Wall.

2_dsc00147This is EXACTLY why we need to be connecting students to these types of learning opportunities. This is “free” writing time. This is time that this student took to write, not in class, not taking class time, but taking time from his day to learn, to write, to communicate, to share. When we at schools decide to not fight the technology but enable and teach students how to use it to promote thinking and learning we get amazing things happening like this.

Now let’s think of this as an e-portfolio and pretend that Collin is in 11th grade. He’ll have these memories, these words to look back upon. He’ll be able to say, “I wrote that? That sounds so much like a 5th grader!” which we all do when we look back. There is learning here, and we’re not even talking about when in 8th grade and he studies China in history class and the perspective and link-ability he’ll have from what he’s currently thinking, to what he experienced on this trip.

These are the things that get me excited! These are all ways that students can create information from what they know and add it to the world of knowledge that we know as the Internet. This is why I go to school everyday!

BTSN parents Blogging!Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been working closely with a couple of our 3rd grade teacher looking at their mapping unit and using Google Earth. I talked about the lessons I was helping with a couple blog posts ago.

What has been really great about this project is how I’ve been able to support and differentiate the project at a teacher level based on their comfort zone and knowledge of technology and still meet the learning outcomes.

Ms. Tulli’s students just posted their KMZ file that you can download and learn about landforms from the kids. If you have time the kids would really appreciate what you learned from their landform project. You can leave a comment on their class blog.

Ms. Tulli and I sat down at the end of last year and marked this unit as a place to integrate technology. This year we met, looked at outcomes and came up with a plan. Ms. Tulli had never used Google Earth before in the classroom and was ready to stretch herself to not only learn the program but use it in her class for learning. The final project is great, I only wish I would have videoed the class on Friday as they sat with partners and got to take the tour and talk about the different landforms together. The conversation was fantastic, they were excited to see their placemarks and those of their classmates. Now we just need some comments from the community (yes…that means you! πŸ˜‰ )

BTSN parents Blogging!Next to Ms. Tulli’s room is Mr. Jessee’s room. We’ve been working on the same project only looking at a different product. Instead of place markers with information we’re hoping to record the students voices and video their tour. So they will be creating a video tour of their landforms giving information. We’re hoping to be finished with the project next week and I’ll post their final .kmz file here so you can take the tour.

With both teachers we started with what we wanted the students to learn and then found a way to get to that understanding. As a supporter to the project, I allowed the teachers to tell me what they were thinking and then supported them in that outcome. By working this way I could get a feeling for what the teachers’ comfort level was, what they wanted out of the project and then could help structure the lessons around the teacher, their skills, and the outcome to get to the product they were after.

BTSN parents Blogging!We talk about differentiating for students, and what I think this project shows is how you can apply that to teachers as well. Produce two great products while at the same time supporting the teachers where they are within their technology comfort level and guide them in learning something new. There is more than one way to meet outcomes, there is more than one way to learn a skill or a program like Google Earth. The projects might be different but the outcome, the learning, is the same for the students.

Thank you to Ms. Tulli and Mr. Jessee for taking a risk with me and trying something new, learning along the way and in the end, producing some pretty cool artifacts of learning.

Working in mapping skills with 3rd graders and the smartboard. Comparing GEarth with a map. Over the past two weeks I’ve been working with our 3rd grade teachers on a social studies project to introduce the students to some mapping skills. Of course the USSR no longer exists, yet many atlases in schools and even school encyclopedia talk about the USSR as though you should be able to find it on a map. The left overs of social studies curriculum reviews that seem to always get pushed to be the last curriculum to be updated at schools. Funny how we want our students to be “global citizens”, “globally aware”, and communicate globally, yet our curriculum in this area seems to fall behind, math, reading, writing, and science. Maybe it’s just me and the 3 past schools I’ve worked at and where they are in the curriculum review cycle….or is it the pressure of standardize testings taking it toll. Most standardize tests do not have a social studies component and we all know that what doesn’t get tested doesn’t get………anyway. πŸ˜‰

Over the last three weeks we’ve been looking at maps…and just for a second stop and think about the maps these kids are going to need to know how to navigate in their future. You’re still going to need an atlas when trying to find your way across Thailand, but a GPS is better for most parts of America. Then there is Google Earth and it’s ever constantly updated data (we looked at the typhoon off Japan today). Google Maps with its street view and pin point addresses, and iPhones and BlackBerries that let you find places on the go.

Oh how the mapping world has changed yet the skills of reading a map have remained the same. On that note here are the first three lessons I’ve been co-teaching with 3rd grade teachers around comparing maps and answering the question “What can a map tell us?”

Lesson 1: Google Earth Exploration
Whenever you introduce a new program/tool to students on the computer I find it well worth the time to give them 10-15 minutes to just play with the program. Of course we’re not allowed to “play” in the classroom as I tell the kids…so let’s call it explore in case the principal walks in. This always gets a couple of laughs and we spend the rest of the time with this little inside joke about “exploring” the program (picture 3rd grader making the quotes in the air as they say explore….so cute!).

After this explore time we come back together and the students report on what they learned. Most of the time they have covered and shared all the basic movements of how to work Google Earth. Zoom, rotate, search, orient. Done…and probably faster than I could have taught the skills individually to the class.

Next I set up a “Start Position” so that when I say “Please return your Earth to start position” students know what I mean. For us that’s zoomed out to see the whole world on your screen and oriented so the N for north is facing up. From there we can continue to the next part of any lesson over the next couple of days.

https://www.thethinkingstick.com/images/2009/09/Picture-11-300x272.pngLesson 2: Continents and Oceans
Next lesson we look at a map of the world (great free maps here) and we start the lesson by talking about how important a compass is to a map (building on the N facing up in Google Earth) we draw a compass on our map and write our names in the North/East corner (only N/S/E/W directions wil be given from this point on).

Next we compare the map sitting in front of us to Google Earth (Google Earth not required) that we “explored” last session. Students come up with the following similarities and differences:

  • Both have land and water
  • Google Earth allows you to search for places
  • Google Earth allows you to zoom in
  • “I can’t find my house on this map”
  • Google Earth is more colorful

In all three classes I’ve done this in so far the first difference that students point out is the ability to search…that is a whole other blog post!

After we do this short activity we use a SmartBoard Notebook file to find and name the different continents and oceans. As students uncover or move the continents on the SmartBoard we color the continents in different colors on our maps and label the oceans. (Writing this at home, tomorrow will upload and share Notebook file)

Lesson 3: Transferring information
One of the outcomes is to get students to understand the concentric nature of maps. Continents to Countries to States/Providences to Cities. We’ve now covered the continents in the previous lessons and move to countries. Seeing that Asia is where our students have had the most experience we start there. We open up Google Earth turn on the boarders and labels layer and match the countries in Asia with the country outlines on our Asia map. We then label the countries and zoom in on Thailand to mark major cities. (I haven’t taught this lesson yet…..but this is what we hope happens.)

That’s where we’re at so far, it’s a short unit of study but our hope is by the end of it students will create their own Google Earth tour. If we get there….I’ll be sure to post the results here!

A big thank you to Elizabeth Helfant for inviting me into St. Louis for a chance to spend a day with the staff of Mary Institute Country Day School. I was the last in a string of one day workshops that Elizabeth put together for her staff. Being the last of the summer was nice as it allowed us to talk about how tools such as Google Earth, Blogs, and Wikis can be used in the classroom. We spent the first part of our time not talking about the tools but looking at examples of how they are being used in the classroom.

We spent some time searching and exploring the Google Earth in Education section. Where teachers can download some amazing layers into Google Earth to teach with. From there we looked at some high school examples of how wikis and blogs are being used in different high school classrooms.

We spent some time discussing Welker’s Wikinomics still one of my favorite class based wikis. What’s great is that Jason Welker freely shares his rubric for grading the wiki and his rules of conduct for students. Teachers appreciate seeing exactly what the student expectations are for such a site.

From there we talked about WikiBooks.org and how teachers could use this site to not only study, but create the textbook of the future with students. I’ve yet to hear of a teacher actually doing this…but still feel it has some potential in the classroom.

Next we looked at some examples of blogs. My two favorite student blogs Theory of Knowledge and Chemical Paradigms where perfect examples of just how introspective high school students can be. Teachers were shocked at how personal and in-depth some of the posts from students were. How they took pride in their work and how having an authentic audience engaged the students in meaningful ways.

After spending the first half of the day discussing how these different tools might fit into their classes we took the second half of the day and just allow teachers to start and build their wiki or blog or play with Google Earth. The history department got together and laid out some ground work for a wiki they want to use this year. Others explored the use of Nings from previous presenters in the summer. In the end we just gave them time to work….the kind of time teachers say they never have.

It was a nice relaxing day in beautiful St. Louis and I hope the teachers that spent the day with me learned as much as I did.

Two recent lessons I have been involved in are using Google Earth with 2nd Graders and having 5th graders create audio books for Pre-K students.

Google Earth Lesson (2nd Grade):

Have students pair up. (I always have kids number 1 and 2, it makes it easy to say “OK, #1 your turn to ……)

Students start Google Earth and each person is allowed 5 minutes to explore the program. Click here, click there, spin the Earth this way and that. I find I have way less interruptions if you just give kids time to explore the program “their way”. Giving just 5 minutes gets all those “what’s this do?” out of the way.

After both kids have had a turn at exploring the program, they come up to the front of the room and we talk about what they learned or found cool.

So many times we use the phrase “Teaching & Learning” but really we need to be asking ourselves:

Are we focusing on teaching or learning?

This came up in a discussion with Kim earlier today, (BTW….the two of us in a room for longer than 10 minutes is enough deep conversation to keep me going the rest of the day) that what we are focusing on is not necessary student learning, but instead teachers teaching. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and take our eye off of what we’re really here for.

As we continue to support teachers using technology tools in their classrooms we need to realize that teachers’ use of technology is not the same as supporting teachers teaching with technology. In these early days I’ve been supporting the use of technology. Answering questions about SmartBoards, Entourage, Office 2008, OSX 10.5, etc. Although it’s important to support teachers in the use of technology it’s much different then supporting teachers teaching with technology.

Supporting the use of technolgy

Supporting the use of technology focuses on the tool itself. Not on the learning or the students. When we support teachers by helping them with a SmartBoard Notebook file, or teaching them some new trick in Office, we are supporting their use of the tool, not their use of that tool for learning. One can easily get sucked into supporting the use of technology full time (such as I have lately) and not make a true impact with technology in the classroom as a learning engine.

As long as we continue to think of technology as a tool for learning we are going to get caught in this circle of supporting teachers use of the tools, rather than focusing on student learning.

Technology as a tool worked when the impact on learning was small. I think of the use of Word or any Office application for that matter. It was a tool that we used to replace a way we had/have always done things.

Technology for Learning is Bigger than the Tool!

Technology for learning is about connecting students to information and using applications that allow students to manipulate data, ask questions and interact with information.

I think of the use of Google Earth…not to study the Earth being round (using the tool like a globe) but instead using Google Earth with an overlay of migration patterns to talk about why people migrate (a lesson I did last year with 5th graders). Then having student interact with data by having them create their own migration pattern, and share that information with others (connecting information) to create an understand of why students in international schools migrate and where they come from.

I am continually reminded of the Marc Prensky article in edutopia where he states the different levels of technology use.

  1. Dabbling.
  2. Doing old things in old ways.
  3. Doing old things in new ways.
  4. Doing new things in new ways.

To me using technology as a tool is still dabbling with technology and not really affecting learning in a deeper more meaningful way….I mean it’s 2008!

When a new technology appears, our first instinct is always to continue
doing things within the technology the way we’ve always done it.

Technology as a tool.

What we’re talking about is invention — new things in new ways.

Technology as a connector to information allows us to look at data, to interact with learning like we have never been able to do before and connect with people, places and things in ways we were never able to do prior to the Internet.

What I find when I talk to teachers it that this is a HUGE jump! Thinking beyond replacement into a world where you can create, invent, and think about information and learning in new ways does not come natural to many educators. (Ouch!)

Let’s focus on learning, let’s focus on creating an atmosphere in which technology is more than a tool, but is an embedded part of our classrooms, our own thinking as we plan lessons, and a gateway to inventive teaching. Let’s stop using technology as a tool and start using it as a way to connect ideas, to create new and interesting way to learn and interact with information in ways that were never possible before. Let’s use technology as a way to make learning meaningful and authentic to learners.

It’s more than a tool….it’s a connection creator!

Monday night while in Manila I had the privileged to Skype into the first day or school for elementary teachers at Chets Creek Elementary. By far this was the highlight of my trip to Manila and really I just happened to be in Manila it could have been from anywhere.

Melanie Holtsman contacted me about a week ago and asked if I’d be willing to Skype into the first day of school for the teachers to talk about technology. It seems the principal had bought ever teacher the book Web 2.0: New Tools, New Schools as a book study and according to Melanie I’m mentioned in it a couple of times (yet to be verified by me) so she thought it would be cool to showcase just how easy it is to connect to people around the world.

I have to say I didn’t sleep the night before thinking about how to motivate teachers on the first day of school. I’ve sat through those meetings (just did it two weeks ago) and there is usually two things you’re thinking about. Either you just want to be in your classroom getting ready, or you still want to be on vacation…either way you usually don’t want to be where you are.

Although for some reason, I think the teachers at Chets Creek might break that rule. When I Skyped into the room I found everyone dressed up in costumes from different countries. A tradition at Chets Creek. What a fun staff and what a great way to try and keep the first day blues away by having a purpose for being there.

I started off the presentation by taking the staff on a short tour of my career. Using Google Earth we started where I was raised in Spokane, Washington zoomed right in on my parents house and the two combines sitting out back (the pictures are old because I know for a fact that the combines are in the field this week πŸ˜‰ ). From there we flew to Saudi Arabia directly to the house that we lived in on the compound and you could see the pool out the front door (13 steps) and the pool out the back door (15 steps). That was resort living at its best! From there we flew directly to our apartment in Shanghai and then to our new house in Bangkok before ending up on the hotel I was staying in in Manila.

My message: The world has just gotten a whole lot smaller! I talked briefly how making global connections today is what our students do. Distance and time have become irrelevant. The web has allowed us to connect to people when we want and when we need and our students already know that. I challenged the staff to take something they already do in the classroom, some lesson, some curriculum outcome and find a way to modify it to connect their students globally. To allow them to write, create, and share with a global audience.

We then showed them some examples of things they could do. Like joining Jen Wagner’s A Room With A View project. I talked about how this type of project could fit into multiple parts of the curriculum at all grade levels. I know Kim is planning on joining the project with some of our classes here.

We looked at some examples of blogs both of teachers and of students. We looked at examples of classroom wikis and how teachers where using them in different ways to accomplish different goals.

I really enjoyed myself and am totally overwhelmed by the response of the staff.

But the best part of the whole experience happened today when I was reading some of the blog posts from teachers. Suzanne, an Instructional Coach, recapped the day on her blog and talked about the Principal Susan Phillips:

Our Principal, Susan Phillips, then presented on Web 2.0 and School 2.0. She reiterated that the web has changed. It has gone from software based to web based from individual to collaborative from offline to online from costly to free and from copyrighted to shared. We, as educators, must move swiftly as this shift happens in order to reach and engage all kids. We must focus on project based learning that is rich, real, and relevant. We must have engagement that precedes the content. We must encourage risk taking, ask for help, search for answers. We must embrace the web as participatory, and have students as designers for learning. To be successful we can no longer be digital immigrants teaching to digital natives.

Now I don’t know about you, but if I had to move back to the States tomorrow, I think I would be giving Susan a call for a job. I’ve read that statement three times now and each time it gives me chills to think that this is a principal of an elementary school. This is a leader who is not making excuses but one who is taking the opportunity that has presented itself and is determined to lead her staff and students into the 21st Century. Her latest blog post starts this way:

The Journey Begins…

Risk more than others think is safe.
Care more than others think is wise.
Dream more than others think is practical.
Expect more than others think is possible.

By all accounts I think Chets Creek is going to be a school to watch this year. They have the vision, the leadership, and an energized staff ready to take a risk and try something new. With Melanie at their side for support they are going to do some great things for kids!

Thank you for inviting me into your school, may this year be your best one yet!

I mean I know you can do it…I’m doing it..but is this amazing or what.

My Mother-in-Law is on her way to China. Using a flight tracker and Google Earth I can watch in real time as she makes her way across the Pacific. Seeing that we are about 10 miles from the airport and it’s pretty foggy and because Google Earth is so cool, I did a quick search for ‘airport weather google earth’ and came up wit this link.So now I have the weather for over 3000 airports around the world at my finger tips. So I’m done for the rest of the day following my mother-in-law and giving my wife detailed updates every 10 minutes…just to fill up her inbox.

Flight ACA037 is at 37000 feet
Traveling at 470knots
About 4,000 NM from Shanghai
Weather conditions at PVG:
Vis: 1.1nm
Wind is N at 10kts
Ceiling: 1100ft

This is just crazy stuff!

[tags]google earth[/tags]

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