Barriers to Bridges: Using Tripline to Document the Civil War

Tripline

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

Flipgrid Book Talks with 5th Grade

Flipgrid. Relax and discuss.A few weeks ago 5th grade reading teacher, Melissa Freeman, asked if her students could have some time in the library reading picture books and informational books related to the Civil War and Civil Rights Movement.  I quickly began pulling a big stack of books for them to read.  We wanted some way of capturing this experience to refer back to during Social Studies time, so I’m so glad that I discovered Flipgrid!

flipgrid civil war & rights (11)Each 5th grade class came to the library today.  I had the books spread out on tables.  We started in the floor for an overview.  I shared our purpose of reading books connected with our social studies content.  The teacher and I both stressed that our main goal was to spend quality time reading the books and preparing to do a book talk.  Flipgrid was going to be our tool to capture these book talks, but Flipgrid was not our focus.  We also talked about why Flipgrid was the chosen tool.  We brainstormed ideas such as the ability to go back to these book talks during social studies to find books that matched standards.  Students also thought that others in the school could visit the grid to learn about some books that they might not check out on their on.

With our purpose established, I showed students an example of what a book talk video might look like.  I also quickly walked through the Flipgrid screens to show what each one looked like in order to record a video.  This overview took us about 15-20 minutes.

Students each went to the tables, chose their book, and found a cozy spot to read.  As students finished their reading, they got index cards and pencils to write down a few notes to help them with their book talks.  Finally, they got an iPad, typed in the flipgrid code, and found a quiet spot to record.

flipgrid civil war & rights (8)The student response to this tool in 5th grade was very positive, but they did have some suggestions for improvement:

  • When they held the books up to show them on the video, the words on the books were flipped backward.  We did not figure out how to fix this in the recording screens.
  • When students submitted their video, sometimes it put the video up to 8 times on the grid.  I had to manually go in and delete the extras.  We are not sure why this happened to some students and not others.
  • Some students received a timeout error message when uploading their videos.  They had to repeatedly submit the video until they got the successful upload message.

I typed all of these comments in an email and sent it to Flipgrid support.  We hope that we hear some answers to these issues or see Flipgrid continue to improve.  Even with the technical problems, the students all hope that their teacher and I will continue to use this tool.

Listen to their book talks here.  Students will continue to add videos to grid during their reading class with Mrs. Freeman.