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.

 

Talk Like a Pirate Day 2014

Our pirate map of connections

Our pirate map of connections

September 19th is Talk Like a Pirate Day.  There are so many fun pirate stories out there, and each year we seem to discover a few more thanks to the connections we make around the globe through Google Hangouts and Skype.  Planning a day of connections like this definitely takes some time but students love talking with people around the globe, sharing a story, and learning a bit about one another.  It always seems to reinforce the idea that we aren’t alone in our bubble of routines of day to day life.  There are other people out there doing the same things that we are and quite possibly they are doing those things in different ways.  I love the spontaneous conversations that take place on days like this that you could never plan through a standard or a lesson plan.  Students always bring up a question or a comment that makes the day special.

This year, 8 classes came to the library for Talk Like a Pirate Day and we connected with 6 different schools in 5 different states.

  • We connected with Edie Crook in Gastonia North Carolina to read the book No Pirates Allowed Said Library Lou.  We had a great conversation about “treasure” and students took turns stepping up to say what treasure meant to them.  We were delighted with words such as being kind, family, friends, Skylanders, and baseball.
  • We connected with Jan Pelias through Google Hangouts in Frisco Texas to read the book How I Became a Pirate.  It was fun to connect with someone in another time zone because we could talk about how time is different at the same moment around the world.
  • We connected with Melanie Thompson in Jefferson City, Missouri to read the book How I Became a Pirate.  Melanie’s students had researched pirates and they took time to share all of their facts.  This made our students very curious about pirates as well.  I have a feeling all of our nonfiction pirate books will be checked out for a long time.  I also love how Melanie embraced her inner pirate as we chatted with each other through Skype chat prior to our connection!

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  • We connected with Okle Miller in Tampa, Florida to read the book No Pirates Allowed Said Library Lou.  Tampa has a pirate festival called Gasparilla .  Students loved hearing how pirates take over Tampa during this festival and kidnap the mayor (all for fun).  The class we connected with even called themselves pirates and used the word “pirate” as an acronym for their classroom expectations and beliefs.
  • Both of our PreK classes came to the library for their first visit of the year.  In class, they made pirate hats and hooks as well as added some pirate mustaches to their faces.  We read the book Pirates Go to School and made a class video chanting the pirate chant at the end of the book.
  • We connected with Carol Scrimgeour in Essex Town, Vermont to read the book No Pirates Allowed Said Library Lou.  We noticed that all of the kids were wearing warm clothes, so we had a great conversation about how cold it had been in the northeast.  It was sunny in both places but with a very different temperature.
  • Finally, we connected with Shawna Ford in Texas and she read a new pirate book we had not heard before: No Bath No Cake Polly’s Pirate Party.  Now the students want to get it for our library.

Before each connection, we looked at a map from our school to the school we were connecting with.  We talked about distance, travel time, and also all of the decisions that go into choosing your route for a trip.  We also created a Google tour of our trip using Google Tour Builder.  After each connection, we wrote a summary together.

We also created a Padlet to write pirate sentences.  This was shared with our friends around the country and became a place to crowdsource our words.

Finally, we spent a lot of time creating pirate sentences, phrases, and even conversations and practicing them aloud.  Students had access to a list of pirate vocabulary words as well as multiple pirate stories to get ideas.

We used Flipgrid as a place to record our favorite pirate expressions.  Students also had a great time trying to imitate a pirate voice and pirate faces and gestures.  Take a moment to listen to them because they are quite entertaining!  I loved how this evolved from a sentence writing activity into a practice of fluency, oral speaking, and performance.  Again, Flipgrid became a place for us to crowdsource our voices with the voices of our connecting schools.

I love how these events connect us with new people around the world.  This year we connected with some old friends, but we also met some new teachers, librarians, and students we hope to connect with again.  I also want to continue to think about days like this to build long term collaborative relationships.

A Virtual Google Earth Field Trip with 1st Grade

virtual field trip (1)1st grade is getting ready to go on a walking field trip.  They have been learning about community helpers, so they will walk from our school to 5 Points to visit several businesses.  I met with the team early in the year and we brainstormed how we might bring technology in to support the trip.  I suggested having the students walk the actual trip in a Google Earth tour before they go.  Of course, at the time, I had no idea how to even create a tour, but I knew it could be done.  They were eager to try this, so I got to work.

virtual field trip (4)I watched an online tutorial of how to make a tour.  There were a couple of options, but I chose the one that was simple.  You basically create a folder in your places on Google Earth, start searching for the places that you want to visit, add pins with any info you want to include at each place, and then you click the play button to start the tour.  You save the tour as a kmz file that Google Earth can read.

I put our file on my website so that students could click the link and download the kmz file.  To make the process even smoother, I used LanSchool, our monitoring software, to push the file out to computers.  It created a folder on each student desktop.  They opened the folder and clicked on the link.  Google Earth automatically opened and they clicked play to begin.  I showed students how they could pause the tour at any time and drag the little person out of the toolbar in order to switch to streetview.  This was really helpful because students could actually see the place that they were about to visit.  To continue the tour, students pressed play again and it went out of streetview and moved to the next location.  Students had fun seeing familiar places and also took a few detours to look for their house or other Athens landmarks.  I could tell they were engaged when they didn’t want to get up to checkout a book.virtual field trip (2)

On the actual field trip, teachers are going to let the students tweet about their experiences.  They will use the hashtag #barrowbuddies so that classrooms at school can follow along with the field trip, ask questions, and feel a part of the trip while here at school.  We hope to do this on several of our trips this year.