Random Thoughts

World Landform Tour via Google Earth

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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! 😉 )

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.

I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


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  3. Thank You Thank You! How did you know that I need to teach Landforms to my second graders this year?
    What a wonderful resource and a great idea. I look forward to using the kmz file as well checking out the class blogs.

    • Glad you found this helpful. If you get a chance I’m sure the 3rd graders would love to get some blogging comments on their class blog from your 2nd graders. 🙂

      I love how we can all use resources from each other. You never know where your next lesson will come from. 😉

  4. Maggie Hos-McGrane Reply

    I’m currently doing something similar with our 4th Graders in Zug. The students are looking at different regions of Switzerland and started using Google Earth last week. I will show them your work with the 3rd Graders at ISB which should fire their enthusiasm. When they have done their tour of Switzerland we will share it with your 3rd Graders too.

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  7. I was hunting for landform ideas using Google Earth, and I guess I’m not too surprised that The Thinking Stick popped up!

    I’d like to do the same thing with my students here in Chennai, but I have a technical question: were all students working on one single computer to create the KMZ file or is it possible for students to be working on separate computers while all contributing to the same file?

    Thanks for the idea and support!

    • No, each student works on their own KMZ file and then you can save it and import them into one file. It’s fantastic!

  8. How did you differentiate? Do you have any lesson plans you can share. I would love to do this with my third graders.

    • Jeff Utecht Reply

      Hi Stacy,

      If you go to coetail.com and search there for “Google Earth Tours” or “Google Lit Tours” you’ll find some lesson plans. These are students of ours who have gone through the COETAIL program and produced some fantastic lesson plans.

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