This afternoon and evening I spent about three hours with my 9 year old son, and about 4 hours on my own, exploring and creating with the new features of Google Maps. I was inspired to do so by David Jakes, who gave a WONDERFUL presentation on Friday at TechForum in Austin about both Google Earth and Google Maps.
This afternoon Alexander and I were working on a digital alternative to a 4th grade salt map assignment about the landforms of the United States, which I wrote about last week on our family learning blog. While I wish this was actually an alternative, in fact it is a “supplementary” activity because I never got around to asking his teacher if he could do something with Google Earth (I didn’t know about the “create-your-own” options of Google Maps) last week INSTEAD of a salt map. So, he and his mom are going to go ahead and create the salt map tomorrow I guess… but what he created on his own in Google Maps and using VoiceThread this afternoon and evening is REALLY great. When he gets finished with the entire project, I’ll help him embed the map in a post on our family learning blog and I’ll cross-link to that here. I’m sure we’ll post some comparative photos of his traditionally-done salt map as well. I’ll see if he’s willing to be interviewed on a comparison of the learning outcomes of each activity. He rolls his eyes now when I ask to interview him for a podcast, so we’ll have to see… I’m not going to force him to be recorded for an interview if he doesn’t want to do it.
After he went to bed, I played some more with Google Maps and created this “Multimedia Travelog” which links many of the image sets I’ve posted to Flickr from around the United States in the past year, and a few from other parts of the world.
I am REALLY enthused about the ability to easily paste embed code into the description of a placemarker in Google Maps. The one thing I cannot figure out, however, is why I cannot get pasted embed code from VoiceThread or even YouTube to work. I tried this both on my Intel-based Macbook and on a HP laptop running WinXP and Firefox. No dice in either case. The Google Earth Outreach blog gives instructions for embedding a YouTube video into Google Maps, but these steps aren’t working for me. I have no idea why. At least it’s working to embed Flickr images, and I’m able to make links to other pages.
Alexander created one VoiceThread for “The American Plains” this afternoon and linked it on his own Google Map. I’ll probably help him create at least three more tomorrow as well. He’s using all Flickr Creative Commons images and even linked each image in VoiceThread back to the original website for proper attribution. The main obstacle to him being able to do the project 100% by himself is the fact that apparently there is still a Flash issue with Mac OS 10.5 Leopard which prevents uploading of images directly into VoiceThread. We were able to work around that today by uploading the images (with private permissions) to a new Flickr set, and then importing the images from Flickr into VoiceThread.
The geographic connections which Alexander is making as he works on this project are terrific. As an example, tonight he showed me the Hudson Bay and said, “Dad, that must be SO big. Look at how large it is compared to the Gulf of Mexico!” He was moving around inside Google Maps and showing me both bodies of water. That kind of comparison and discovery is EXACTLY the sort of learning we need students to do with geographic ideas and topics. Google Earth and Google Maps provide WONDERFUL tools for this type of learning, but of course each learner needs to have access to his/her own computer to do this type of work.
I’m thinking at some point we are going to have to move our family into a school district somewhere, probably in Oklahoma, Texas, or Kansas, that is implementing a 1:1 laptop initiative (with Macintosh portables, of course) with middle and high school students. The only district I know of in Oklahoma doing this now (with laptops of any ilk) is Howe Public Schools. I know in Kansas they have between 20 and 30 schools around the state implementing laptop initiatives. I am really mystified why we don’t have a similar number of districts here in Oklahoma doing the same. I love where we live, but it is starkly apparent to me that the potential learning of my own children is VERY limited by the fact that they don’t have individual access to laptops at school. Having that access at home is great, but I don’t want my own kids to have to go back to “all pencils and paper” when they leave our house and return to school. Currently, that’s our situation.
I think we will try and record a screencast of Alexander presenting his “landforms project” and send that to school as a Windows Media File saved to a CD. That way he’ll be able to share it without bandwidth or website access issues at school if he’s able to. I’ll post a link to his finished project and screencast here when he’s done, which will hopefully be later tomorrow afternoon.
I’m having so much fun doing this project with him! Our kids are still attending public schools, but we are also certainly “home schooling” with additional learning activities like these. We are fortunate to have access to the computer hardware, Internet connectivity, and knowledge resources (thanks David Jakes) to create these sorts of digital opportunities for learning.
Like Google Notebook, I like how Google Maps now allows users to create a “profile page” which automatically links to all your publicly shared maps. Very cool and useful!
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On this day..
- A Teachable Copyright Moment from Erik Qualman - 2011
- Alan November's Opening Comments: Innovative Learning Institute 2010 - 2010
- Authenticity in Math: Connecting to the Real World - 2010
- A new day dawns for the U.S. Presidency and Electorate - 2008
- Voting in Oklahoma 2008 - 2008
- Why is voting cool now? - 2008
- K12Online06 feeds and agenda complete - 2006
- Good Thoughts on Wikis - 2005
- WPA Wireless Security - 2005