Trying somethng new: Google Cardboard

Assembling Cardboard viewers


For at least a year, I have been planning to buy a Google Cardboard to experiment with, knowing that it would have so many possibilities in a high school Social Studies setting.

Finally, thanks to our school tech guy, we have purchased about 8 of the cheapest sets we could find ( the ‘$US exchange is a killer). When I pulled the first pieces out of the packaging, I wondered if our spend-thrift had been a mistake, but after finally figuring out the full assembly, we have ended up with sturdy little gadgets. My Work Experience student, Kamille, spent the better parts of two class periods assembling them, but, “It was fun.”

So now, MY learning starts. Fortunately I have a great list of VR education sites to start with–shared by a teacher at a Google Summit event who attended the “Cardboard” session that I didn’t have time to.   I might take my first practice group expedition the next time I supervise DT room…..


Trying Something New: Google Maps Games and More

Recently I attended a Google Education Summit hosted by the Ed Tech Team. It was two days of intensive, brain-busting, ed-tech heaven.  In addition to keynote addresses and app slams, there were eight sessions, each with over 5 options to choose from.  Although there were only about two people that I recognized from my own school division in attendance, a colleague from another school has suggested that I share some of the nuggets here in my ‘Trying Something New’ space.  So here you go, Sherry….

One of my biggest passion areas is geography, so why not start there? I attended a great session on Google-Mappy-Goodness, so here are some of the highlights.

  1. – This is a most addicting geography game. It’s not the first or only one of its kind, but I do like that it gives hints after the ‘bonus’ time clock has elapsed. Basically you get about 1600km to start with; every kilometer that you are away from the target, you lose kilometers …at zero your game is over. On my iPad, I eventually realized that I could chose a favourite category, such as ‘Science and Geography’; this was helpful as I could avoid the ‘Entertainment’ category!  A significant downside to this site is that it is VERYsmartypinsAmerican based, although it does allow for kilometers. (Fortunately, I am able to do well at the game because I have traveled to Washington, DC several times and every 3rd or 4th question seems to be located in or near the American capitol.) In fact, although I have had a few Africa and Australia questions and handfuls of Europe questions, I have not encountered a single Canadian question.  I can’t seem to find anywhere to change the settings to amend this.   Addicting nonetheless.
  2. Another fun geography game is  This is great game for critical thinking.  It gives you a google maps image of a town or country side and you have to guess where in the world it is. Sometimes I can’t even get on the right continent, but types of vehicles, houses, road conditions and of course vegetation and topography can all be clues. Now and then they will throw you the occasional road sign to use as a hint.  Now here is a great Canada option!  Once you are in the game you can substitute “Canada” for “world” in the url, and it will give you Canadian locations. The screen shot below shows your score at the end of the game and how far off you were for each guess.geoguessr
  3. Of course the most exciting aspect is learning again what new powers are in Google Maps.  Check out   to get to Google’s My Maps.  From here you can create all sorts of wonderful layers of maps. You can turn the layers off and on. Like any good Google map, you can add place pins with biography notes, pictures (slide shows even!) and videos.  You can even draw an outline around a country, thus creating a polygon. You can then drag polygon to anywhere on the world map to compare its real size –try this with Greenland! Here is a link to the map that I am trying out as a new format for my class Current Events notes. If the link works, it should look like this image below. Each pin is customized and contains a summary for our Current Events notebooGoogle CE Mapks, as well as pictures and even video links.  At this point I’m still getting used to the building process, and haven’t tried using it live with my class instead of  my reliable Smart Notebook file format.  Hopefully soon.  There are way too many features to Google Maps and I am far too inexperienced to describe their use, but it is certainly worth watching some youtube explanations about!
  4. Of course, there is the new Google Earth that geo-types are buzzing about…..more to explore!

So, that’s my Geo -Learning from my Google Summit Experience.  Thanks @armstrongedtech

Teachable Moment-December 5

In Grade 10 Social Studies we spend the semester studying globalization.  We are at the part of our course where we really focus on learning about human rights.  On Thursday, we were looking that the kind of pictures that make students glad they live in Canada: children fishing in the garbage laden Yangtze River in China, orphanage beds where kids sleep 3 or 4 to a single bunk, sweat shop workers seated in neat rows on the floor, child weavers squatted in front of a carpet loom in Bangladesh, injured children after the Haiti earthquake…

Of all the pictures we looked at, the one that  caused the most spirited conversation was of a homeless couple and their dog, early twenties, on the streets of San Fransisco. Franco Folini Under a CC Licence “If they’re homeless it’s because they deserve to be”, quoted one young gal.  “Yeah,” chimed in another, “there probably there because they did too many drugs.” After a few similar comments, one brave young gent broke in: “Well, just a minute. I know of a man in town who…..”  Slowly, a few other students challenged their classmates assumptions that homelessness is a deserved condition.

As any good Social Studies teacher, I feel that I need to sometimes stir the pot to challenge perspectives. One of the early opinionated commenters was a young gal who has had some serious but mysterious medical ailments recently and has undergone a barrage of tests and hospital visits.  I casually asked her how her medical situation would be if she lived in the United States. Her answer went something like this: “We would be bankrupt! Do you know how many tests I’ve had lately.  All of my hospital visits would cost a fortune in the States. We would just have to give up…..Oh my God! Maybe they’re homeless because they couldn’t pay their medical bills. That would be me. My family.”  Short pause. “This course just keeps messing me up.”

Ahhh!!! The power of a teachable moment.  This conversation was occurring right about the time that Nelson Mandela’s death was announced.  Tomorrow…Nelson Mandela and human rights.