Friday, May 22, 2009

Google Earth IEP

For my IEP I decided to tackle Google Earth.  I have had limited experience working with Google Earth, but being a social studies guy, I wanted to really get a good handle on it.  I feel a lot more confident with Google Earth now and am absolutely amazed at how much Google Earth can do. Google Earth is a more than just a location finder.  I learned how to 
  • fly an airplane
  • create a tour of my favorite places to visit
  • view stars and constellations
  • look at World War II shipwrecks through Youtube
  • Check out the solar system
  • Track the migration of seals off the Pacific coast
Classroom Idea
Since I am going to be teaching fifth graders next year, I wanted to come up with a plan that I could use for that age group.  After some brainstorming I decided to create a project called My Ultimate Vacation. 
Living in Ketchikan for the past three years I have had the unpleasant opportunity of dealing with multitudes of tourists.  The most frustrating part of dealing with some tourists is answering the question, "What lake is this?", when they are referring to the ocean. Another good one is, "What elevation are we at here?".  It goes to show that a lot of travelers put little to no effort into learning about the places they are visiting.  
So I decided to have my students pick one place on each continent that they would like to visit with the exception of Antarctica. Antarctica is a beautiful place, but I thought that fifth graders might have some problems finding a location that would want to visit. After picking their destinations, they would have to answer a few geography questions about each location.  This information would be gathered and made into an Ultimate Vacation using the tour function on Google Earth.  The students would present their vacations to the rest of the class.  By doing some initial research on these locations, they would start developing good travel habits by knowing where they are traveling to as well as get to know how to use Google Earth.  
For the project handout go here.
To view my Ultimate Vacation Tour, click here
To view the six lesson plans that will help students complete this project, click below
To view the rubric for this project, click here.
As with the majority of assignments that I have done for this class, I was met with some challenges with this one.  I am happy to have worked through most of them with some hard work and some help from Dr. Ohler.  My main challenge was publishing my tour so that I could share it with my students.  I tried using different features on Google Earth, but for some reason I was only allowed to use about two minutes of audio when I made a movie on Google Earth.  I was not able to fix this problem and it was a real pain. 
Dr. Ohler suggested using a program called Jing.  This program allows the user to take a photo or video record anything that is happening on your screen at any given time.  I was able to run through my vacation presentation and record the whole thing with Jing.
This program also caused some initial problems, but after Dr. Ohler pointed me in the right direction it became a very handy tool.  When I made my first recording using Jing, instead of uploading it straight to (which is a free place to upload your files) I copied it to my computer and then tried to upload it.  I waited two hours for the file to upload and was frustrated to see that it didn't work properly.  Apparently I had captured too much of the screen, which created a large file that didn't really show what I wanted it to show.  
On my second try, I made the Google Earth view finder smaller and uploaded it straight to the website.  It worked much better that time.  Jing was an extremely helpful tool which I plan to use more in the future.
Although my project was geared toward a younger audience, it could easily be adapted to fit a more mature audience.  I plan on using it when I get back from Mexico with older students. The questions will need to be a bit more involved, and I will want them to explore using many other functions of Google Earth that I didn't even touch in my assignment.
I thought that was a great assignment and although I feel more comfortable with Google Earth, I feel like there is so much more to learn.  I look forward to exploring it some more and making it a staple in my classes.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Digital Storytelling

Although I don't feel like the most creative person, I felt like I was able to really create something that I was proud of.  Telling stories are such a great way to learn about something.  Especially in history, where everything is a story, you can really find ways to connect with students.
I had a few problems with this project.  First, I had a difficult time deciding if I should tell a fictional story, or go with more of a report type of project.  I decided to go with the fictional story.  Jason thought that I would be able to connect with the audience better, and after I compared the two scripts, I agreed with him.  The next problem that I had was that I noticed the pictures were very grainy after I started the project.  I had to use them though.  They are the real pictures of the events that unfolded, and I felt that they were necessary even though some of them were hard to see.  I didn't do a great job of telling the story.  It seemed like it was obvious that I was reading a script.  If anyone has some ideas for making the dialogue more interesting, I would like to hear them.  One last thing, I have no idea if the names of some of the places are pronounced correctly.  I tried to figure it out, and now that I am finished and thinking with a clear head, I guess I could have asked Laron.  Oops.  
Great project.  Here is my rubric, script, story map, and of course the story.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Social Web has been a valuable website for me this year.  Although it is not geared to my content area specifically, I was able to find a social studies chat board that I participated in from time to time over the last couple of months.  Although I didn't write a lot on the board, I was able to get in touch with some very interesting and well established social studies teachers. They were very friendly and generous with their insights and lending of materials.  I definitely will continue to use this resource in the future.
It is very comforting as a beginning teacher to know that there are people out there who are willing to share their successes and failures with others.  Too many times this year, I have seen and heard from other teachers how sometimes they feel on their own in the classroom.  I am sure some districts are different than others, but it is nice to know that there are places on the web that you can go to feel camaraderie with other professionals in your field.  You can visit the social studies chat board here.