I love using Google tools. Our district is a Google Apps for Education district. We have numerous kinds of devices in student hands from Asus netbooks to Samsung Chromebooks to HP laptops to Lenovo Thinkpads. Each of our 3rd-5th grade has their own device supplied by the district and in 5th grade these devices are predominantly Chromebooks and HP laptops. We mix devices in grade levels for 2 reasons. We don’t have enough of one devices to give one grade level the same device and not all of our programs run on all of the devices. This causes problems for us from time to time, but a big part of my philosophy is that when you come to a barrier you have to build a bridge to get over it. Roadblocks are a nuisance and they slow down productivity, but they aren’t reason for giving up.
Recently, I had a great planning session with Ms. Shelley Olin in 5th grade to plan a Civil War project with her students. She wanted a way for students to remember the many events of the war as well as visualize where all of the events took place. I’ve used Google Tour Builder several times to document virtual connections with classrooms around the world. I love that you automatically have an account if you have a Google account and that you can easily integrate your Youtube videos and Google drive photos into the tour. I used this tool last year to document the 36 connections we made during World Read Aloud week and it is so nice to see all of the connections and play through the summary of where we traveled each day. I thought this would be a perfect tool for Ms. Olin. Students already had an account through their Google apps accounts. Our plan was for Ms. Olin to use this tool in her closing of her lesson each day. Students would visit their Google tour and add new locations to a Civil War tour. They would write summaries of each location or event and search for images on public domain sites such as the National Archives or Library of Congress.
Then, we faced a major road block. Google Tour Builder requires a plugin that can only be installed on IOS or Windows. Why was this a road block? None of our Chromebooks could install the plugin. How ridiculous that a Google computer couldn’t even use a Google tool! Even though we were both frustrated, I didn’t want this one road block to keep us from carrying out our plan. I searched for another tool and stumbled upon Tripline.
Tripline does many of the things that Google Tour Builder can do. You can create a map in a sequence of events, list specific dates and times, add summaries of what took place in each location, upload photos, and add links to other content. It doesn’t integrate into Google apps, but it was the closest match that I could find.
Ms. Olin scheduled each of her classes to come to the library to get started. I did a quick demo on the board and then we got students setup with accounts. Once they had accounts, each student created a tinker map. This was a space for them to just mess around and explore all of the functions of Tripline. Their map could be about anything and they could travel anywhere. They would always have this map to come back to in order to tinker if they needed to during the course of their social studies project.
It was fascinating to see what students decided to do during their tinkering time. One student had moved to our school from Rome, GA. He located his old house and made a map of several important places to him while he lived there. Another student made a dream vacation map and traveled to several countries that she only knew the names of. She then pulled up a Google search to look for cities within those countries and added specific cities to her trip. Each map was different but all students accomplished the same thing. They got familiar with how Tripline functions.
At the close of our time, we opened up a new map and got their Civil War map created and saved. Now, they are ready to begin their study of the Civil War. They will document major locations of the war through pinpoints on the map, pictures, and summaries of what happened at each location. I can’t wait to see what they create.