Google Earth in English, pt 2

A while back I wrote about Mr. Whatley using Google Earth as  a way for students to create their own ‘life maps’ in Grade 8. Here’s an example: Bloomability Life map (10MB .kmz file). This was also featured in our Speedgeeking session in February.

Now it looks like the Grade 8 Humanities class is going to use Google Earth to create a timeline (of sorts) of events worldwide that led to Vietnamese independence. I think it will be a great way to show the inter-dependence of events in France, the Soviet Union, China and Vietnam and how they collectively affected Vietnam.

Get Your Geek On!

When my principal approached me in November about organizing a technology-in-the-classroom showcase, I knew just what I wanted to do: Speed Geeking. I first heard about speed geeking from Kim Cofino (who I later found out learned about it from @FrznGuru).

First, I sought out seven volunteers willing to share something cool they’ve done in their classroom. By cool I mean creative, innovative, engaging and effective. It was pretty easy to come up with a list of teachers to approach since I’ve been trying to track who’s been doing what with Google Forms. The tricky part was finding new faces to act as presenters. One of the criticisms of previous sessions like this (rightly so, I might add) is that it is always the same people showing their goods. Instead of asking for volunteers, I strategically approached people from different departments who mightn’t have otherwised stepped forward.

Then I divided our staff (Middle/High School only) into 7 groups. This worked out to about 6 or 7 teachers per group. They were a mixed bag in terms of gender, department, comfortability with technology, age group taught, etc. I wanted the groups to be as diverse as possible.

On Wednesday each presenter gave a 7 minute presentation, including time for questions/discussion. I found this great online countdown timer to help keep track of the time. Then all the groups rotated through every other presentation. In under one hour all 50 teachers saw all 7 presentations and were able to ask clarifying questions to suit their own needs. Here’s what it looked like in practice:

(BTW, the music in that video was remixed by one our grade 10 students using ACID Xpress 7.0 and showcased in one of the speed geeking sessions.)

The feedback from teachers has been extremely positive. A quick sample of comments received:

  • Timing helped listeners and presenters – 5-7 min was enough for brief questions and to pique interest to prompt a teacher to further investigation. Teachers were forced to ask only VERY pertinent management questions, and could go back to the expert later if interested.
  • Loved it- enough time to see what some great ideas without needing to hear lots of detail that I can’t absorb quickly.
  • I really enjoyed just getting a snapshot of what is happening in other parts of the school-I was amazed at what kids are actually doing!
  • 7 minutes at each section was so effective
  • Lovely job done by lovely people who were each quietly modest about the cool things they’ve been doing.
  • Good, quality presentations – how to implement, what it can do for the kids, thoughts of where you can use it, and possible drawbacks (ie: tech difficulties you would have to sort out or live with). Beauty.
  • Very real and meaningful examples that were inspirational. This was PD like it is supposed to be.
  • Thanks a lot. Its a really good set up. Can we do it again next Wed?
  • This session came at a good time and was the right type of duration for a Weds afternoon – too much focus on technology can be overwhelming, but it’s good to see what others are doing and what’s working well. Thanks
  • Most effective tech. session this year, for me, by far. It was enough to really get a sense of the great things people are doing and gave me lots of ideas.

Perhaps most telling for me: when asked to rate their willingness to do this again, 21 of 27 rated it 5 out of 5. Everybody rated it 3 out of 5 or higher.

The fast pace did not suit all participants and there were 2 comments reflecting that, but I think the overall feeling was that this was a good thing.  Also, it was suggested that there be two rounds of speed geeking so that the presenters from one round would be able to view presentations in the other round. I think this is a great idea but it would have been difficult to manage in the one-hour time slot I was given.

If you’re looking for a great way to share ideas, I would definitely recommend speed geeking!