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

Trying Something New: Flipgrid

Have you ever made a really cool assignment and then forgot to assign it? Well, hopefully this has happened to you, but every so often it is a trick I like to pull on myself.

When I first try out a new tool, I am always trying to come up with an engaging and yet meaningful and productive way to work it into the flow of my course. When I wanted to try out, I  created a simple but effective way to incorporate Flipgrid into a lesson on Digital Citizenship that I would be teaching at the very end of my college course for pre-service teachers.  And then promptly forgot about the assignment.

I re-discovered the assignment after the Digital Citizenship lesson, but before my students had submitted their final work for the semester, so I invited them to try out Flipgrid anyway. They were to read a newspaper article about teachers and social media sites in Ontario, as well as a legal response to the same article. Then, using Flipgrid, they were to record a 1-2 minute video reflection and post it in the ‘classroom’ for classmates to view if they chose. So basically, Flipgrid is a tool that lets students submit video responses to a prompt, and watch what their classmates have to say as well.  The paid “Classroom” version of Flipgrid then allows students to make video responses to their classmates’ video responses, but alas, as usual, I have a budget for the free version!

Check out the assignment and responses here.

Flipgrid does seem like a tool that I will use to create future assignments with….and hopefully remember that they exist!

Chromebooks and the Substitute Teacher

I did something with my sub plans recently that I would not have dreamed of doing in the past few years: I had my students type important in-class essay exams with the “portable technology” with a substitute teacher.

Chromebooks are so reliable that I took this risk.  I would NEVER have left a sub with this task a month ago when we had to rely on using Office 365 on the iPads.

There were a few steps I took to help this process go more smoothly.

  1. I had the class (who had not yet used the Chromebooks for writing an essay) totally set up their new document the day before. We named it and shared it, so that all they would have to do is open Office 365 and start typing.
  2. I created step by step visual instructions on the SMART board for the next day when students would have to find their way back to the document.

I was pretty confident this would work and it did! Every single student successfully completed their document. (One exception was a student that I have in another class who was absent on the set up day; he chose to use Google Docs as that is what his other class was using to type and share with me.)

Not only that, but because students had shared their documents, I was able to mark all of their essays online before the end of Christmas break without having to travel to school to get their work. – Trying Something New

In our college EdTech class this week, students had the task of researching several Web 2.0 tools and blogging about the three that were most exciting to them.  I’ll readily admit that it doesn’t take much to get me excited about EdTech Tools, so in the spirit of learning with my learners, I too will be blogging about a favourite EdTech tool.

I’m not sure where I first encountered a few months ago, but Mark and Marli at Spiral are certainly doing a fine job on Twitter of asking teachers to try out their new tool; several of my pre-service teaching students have been asked to try it out via Twitter and they’ve been able to reply that they’ve already used it as a student!  If nothing else, it has been exciting for my students to have these kinds of interactions as a teacher on Twitter!

So what is Spiral? It’s billed as a “collaborative” app and has several distinct features.  Some of these features are similar to other tools or apps like Socrative, Poll Everywhere, Padlet, or even Edmodo or a blogging site, but they have some neat “collaborative” aspects that set them apart.spiral launch

“Quickfire” is one of the two modes publicly available on the app. Students login to their teacher’s account using a join code the first time, or username and password given by the teacher.  Basically then they wait for the teacher to “fire” a question at them.  What I love about this as a teacher, is that the questions don’t have to be pre-planned so you can really ask what ever question fits the flow of the lesson. I can ask it orally, or type it in for students to see. Once I launch it to them, they submit answers that appear anonymously on the white board so we can compare responses, test theories, answer basic fact-based or review  questions, make predictions…the possibilities are excitingly endless. There is also a “pie graph” view which works best for shorter one or two word answers or if students are asked to pick between a few different choices.  Here’s one of the neat parts: as answers appear, I can give them a check mark, or send them back for revision…”Mrs. Kannekens would like you to revise your answer.”

Here’s an example: In my EdTech class, students all sit at computers and many are distracted by their own screens.  I find this a challenging aspect of teaching adult learners in a computer lab.  Spiral lets me throw questions as them on a regular basis so I don’t have to rely on the same 2 or 3 students to respond to my questions…now everyone has to answer.  A questions this week to start the class was “What is Web 2.0?”. Our Spiral response quickly showed me that almost no one in the class knew the answer. This surprised me, but I then knew I needed to go into more detail in my description.  Spiral can thus lead to great lesson customization!

“Discuss” is the second mode available. I tried this for the first time 2 weeks ago in a different lesson with my EdTech class.  Students basically write/create a written response to a pre-planned question. (In this case, I had students briefly describe their experience in their first-ever Twitter chat).  So far, no big deal…but then I get to press the “shuffle” button!  Each student receives the anonymous response from someone else in the class and is able to respond. And then we can shuffle again… I can “star” exemplary responses to examine merits, or just discuss orally as a class. I can’t wait to use this for peer feedback in one of my English classes! Responding to each others written ideas is a process that we have done in different ways through Kidblog and even Google Slides in this course, but Spiral made it very quick and efficient and the anonymous component has some advantages (although I can always identify a student -publicly or privately– if need be).

Those 2 very versatile features are very exciting. I would be using this product at my high school if our internet was reliable.  When I tried it on two separate occasions with one of my English classes, only about 2/3 of students were able to log in.  When internet reliability is restored, this will quickly become a very useful tool in my classroom to increase student engagement.

Because I’ve been using Spiral, they’ve sent me a third Beta tool to try out called “Team Up”. According to their website, “Team Up improves the process and outcomes of group work. Students work in teams during one or more lessons – contributing ideas and building shared presentations in the form of slide shows or posters. Teams can work from individual or shared devices to create high quality outcomes that the whole class can learn from. ”  Again, this tool seems similar to outcomes that can be achieved in other platforms like Thinglink, Glogster, Padlet, etc, but the collaboration piece does seem intriguing.  And maybe this is what the “team” function is for when I create a class of students???  If not, it’s another feature of Spiral that I have yet to discover.

I’d love your comments if you’ve experience Spiral as a teacher or student!


Why Illiterate Educators?

A great challenge for Alberta administrators and teachers as we move toward am era influenced by ‘Inspiring Education’.  Consider this blog:

My Island View

When it comes to an understanding of the term “literacy” most people understand it as the ability to read and write in an effort to communicate, understand and learn. That has been the accepted understanding of literacy for centuries. Of course with the advancement of technology in our world today that simple understanding of literacy has rapidly expanded. It has probably expanded so much, and so fast that most people have yet to grasp all of the new literacies that have come about in this technology-driven society in which we live. There is actually a growing list of new literacies.

The very tools that we used for centuries in support of literacy have disappeared under this wave of technology. The typewriter is no longer with us. Photographic cameras using film are becoming scarce. The print media itself no longer relies on huge printing presses. VCR’s, although state of the art…

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