Monday, September 5, 2016


About a month ago I attended a Digital Bug Washington Summit featuring Google for Education.  This was not my first time at this event as I attended one earlier in the year up in Seattle the day before NCCE's yearly conference.  This time around, however, it was right in my backyard of Vancouver, Washington.  I was asked to present at both, which is flattering, but the best part of these conferences are the connections that one makes.  I wasn't presenting at this summit until the last session, so I got to really sit back and soak in the other presenters and their amazing information.

Along with me this time, was my teaching colleague, Brad Lehman.  He and I were there to chat, have some fun, and learn some new things.  Sometimes at conferences it becomes very easy to become joined at the hip with the few people you may know.  This can be both good and bad.  It gives you a sense of security, but it also may keep you and your collegue(s) from branching out.  Brad and I did branch out on our own for a couple of the sessions, which was beneficial to us both.  However, we started the day at the same one.  He saw the name of the the session and found it intriguing.  I wasn't sure what it was about, but I had met the presenter, Brandi Snow, on a couple of other occasions and was excited to see her again.

Little did Brad and I know what Brandi had in store for us....

Brandi's session was entitled BreakoutEDU, and this is what the description said. "Have you heard of an Escape Room? This bring that experience into the classroom!! In this session we will beta test a Breakout game! Breakout is a game where a small group of educators will have 45 minutes to complete a series of challenges, reveal clues, and unlock mysteries in order to "win" the game. This can be used with all ages and all content areas!"

As we entered the room I saw some familiar faces.  We said our hellos, chatted about our summers, and talked about some of the things we were working on for this next school year.  Then, Brandi put a single box with several differnt locks on the table at the head of the room.  She said that we had 45 minutes to work together, find all of the clues, and open the locks and eventually the box.  She gave us a couple of "hint," cards and started the timer.

After some brief introduction and some stumbling around, we started to hit our stride.  We found most of the clues, and even got one of the four locks off pretty quick.  We were feeling good...  Then we got stuck.  We eventually found the last clue, and we were able to solve the puzzles to unlock the box.  We were all thoroughly impressed with the thinking, problem-solving, and teamwork that went into this event.  Brad and I immediately began thinking of how we might be able to use this in our classrooms.  Brandi showed us the menu of pre-made BreakoutEDU games and we were blown away.

To me though, my mind went to adapting the ideas to fit our school, Vancouver iTech Prep, and our project-based S.T.E.M. approach.  Needless to say, I have already created two of my own that I will be using for our project lunches for my different classes.  The first one, How It Works for U.S. History, gave clues to students that had to do with the branches of government, the Constitution, and map reading skills.  The students were engaged, collaborative, thoughtful, inquisitive, and did I mention energetic?  The best part of having it be a part of our project launch was that they were dealing with concepts and content that I want them to learn during the project.  As the "prize" for completing the event, each student got a pocket Constitution, that I made for them, and a link to our project launch sheet.

To say that I am a fan of BreakoutEDU is an understatement.

On to the next one!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Google Geo Teacher Institute #CAGTI16

Made it #CAGTI16!
Initial Thoughts

Back on April 30th, I was still beaming from our big website and #VRTour launch.  I was so proud of what our students did, as I shared their project #FVvr on a Ricoh Theta group on Facebook.  Kim Randall, commented on how she loved to see an educational purpose and project that uses the Theta S camera.  She suggested that I apply to the Google Geo Institute, even though there were only a couple of hours left to apply.  I sat down, focused, and typed out my application.  I hit the submit button, and waited...

A couple of weeks later I found out that I was accepted, and I began to plan out my trip after I watched The Internship, of course.

It has now been a week since the wonderful madness has ended, and as I reflect I think about how many Googley individuals I met, how many incredible things I learned, how many Twitter friends I got to finally meet in person, and how many extraordinary ideas that came to mind.  I find myself in refreshed and in complete awe from these two plus days.  I mean where else can you learn about the newest Geo tools, meet like minded people, and become Pegman?

When we began I ended up at the #TeamHEREoes table with the brilliant Jerome Burg who is the godfather of Google Lit Trips.  Also at my table were Richard Anderson, Jordan O'Donnell, Sharon Mumm, Leslie Fagin, and Brooke Whitlow.  We chatted and shared about ourselves, and I quickly became an enormous fan of everyone in attendance.  The differnt things that each of these colleagues, and everyone else, are doing are truly amazing and innovative.  I am extremely humbled and honored to be a part of this cohort as I represent Vancouver iTech Preparatory and Vancouver Public Schools.  I look forward to continuing my relationships with everyone as we learn and share from one another.

Day 1:  

Google Arts & Culture formerly Google Cultural Institute


Visit it online HERE!

Get the iOS app HERE!

Get the Android app HERE!

I have been a big fan of the Google Cultural Institute for awhile now.  I have used it from time to time in my class, including this past year.  This past year we used it as a jumping off point for our project on the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.  Our goal was to create a an interactive tour of the site that can be used to tour the site and learn about its history through its artifacts.  The Google Arts & Culture program helped our students see what is out there already along with conducting some research.  It was an extremely valuable tool.

During the session, we learned about the gigapixel technology so that users can zoom in on many artworks with extreme detail.  We also explored a couple of differnt art galleries using virtual reality and Google Cardboard.  Part of the session we explored the user interface and talked about how to navigate through the site so that we can show our students.  There are so many possibilities with the site that every teacher should be able to go on there and find something to use and tie in with.  I like the World Wonder Project, and will be trying to integrate it into my World Studies class this next year.  Using the app and a Google Cardboard device you can now virtually tour some of these amazing museums right in your classroom.  The new app is truly exciting and I believe transformational for education.

An Hour(ish) of KML Coding

I was very excited for my second session on the first day.  With Google Earth Pro being free, it opens the door to many new possibilities for many educators around the globe.  KML coding is something that I know a little bit about, and something that I really wanted to dive into to better understand some more intense applications.  This session was fantastic as we learned how to edit some placemarks to change the image along with the size.  I can definitely see myself teaching this to my students so that they can create and edit their own maps and Google Earth tours.

The second part of the session revolved around collecting images and information from GIS data.  We were shown how to take images from different months and then put them together to create a timelapse using the time slider.  This is so valuable for the classroom.  As a teacher you can create some to show in your classroom, or you can teach your students how to do it.  This is what I view as powerful, because we can show students where and how to get the data then they can make their own animations to run and then explain.  As a teacher I plan on using this with water rights and access, climate change data, and census data.

The other tool that we learned about is Josh Williams' site  This site allows you to place different map data onto two differnt maps so that you and your students can compare the same area under differnt conditions.  It is super easy to use and as I see it very valuable to use in the classroom.  Being able to have students analyze population density data to a topographic of physical map allows students to see where people live which then opens up the larger discussion of why and how.  You can then look at climate change data to show how the earth and its population is changing.

Day 2:  


As day two began I was a bit overwhelmed from all of the incredible things that I experienced on the first day.  I wasn't sure what Timelapse was going to be about, but I was intrigued so I decided to attend.  This is definitely a tool that I was not aware of that I will be integrating into my classrooms.  What I love about this is the ease of use.  The data is already there from satellite imagery, the only downside is that it only runs from 1984 - 2012.  While this is limiting, there are still so many applications that can be done with this tool.  There is a built in editor right from the bottom of the home page.  You can zoom in and out easily and then add in the differnt views, change the speed of the timelapse, and even get embed code for your timelapse "recording."  Learn more about how to use it here.

One of the other exciting things we discussed is how we could have students use the tool to show change in a science class to showing economic growth and environmental changes made by humans and nature.  There are so many different applications for this, that any classroom should be able to find a use for this tool.

Oh the Places We'll Go with Google Street View

 Visit Street View online HERE!

 Get the Street View iOS app HERE!

 Get the Street View Android app HERE!

  Visit Cardboard online HERE!   

  Get the Cardboard iOS app HERE!   

  Get the Cardboard Android app HERE!   


To say that I am a fan of Google Street View would be an understatement.  I believe that this is one of the most important tools to come out of Google.  Street view allows the student to go and visit any place in the world, both above and below the oceans.  I have used this app many times in my class.  You don't have to have the phones with viewers to use Street View either.  I am a big proponent of using it on a student laptop or on an iPad.  For a bit more on my thoughts on this visit my earlier post on using 360º cameras and VR in the classroom.

The other tool that is now out for teachers to leverage is Google Expeditions.  If this program is unfamiliar to you you, you should really check it out.  Expeditions allows the teacher to take their students on a virtual field trip to many differnt and far off places across the globe.  The nice part of Expeditions is that the teacher has control over the image/scene that the students look at, and the teacher device has extra info and questions built into it to help guide the lesson.  Right now, the app is only available for Android devices, but we were told that an iOS app is on the way.   Google has also partnered with Best Buy to offer Expedition classroom kits for schools to purchase.  I am also excited to see some of the other enhancements coming soon.  Teachers and students should be able to begin to create their own Expeditions to share with one another.  This is the thing I am most excited about.

My partner David Midkiff and I had our students at iTech Prep worked on creating their own Street View Tour / Expedition with the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site this past year.  The process of creating an Expedition is extremely educational, informative, and promotes higher order thinking.  We called it #FVvr for Fort Vancouver Virtual Reality.  It allows users from all over the world to visit the fort and learn and differnt artifacts throughout the park.  Check out our finished project here at  Soon you, or your students, will be able to create your own Expedition tours, and THAT is something to get excited about!

Final Thoughts

These two plus days were truly extraordinary.  I left so energized with so many new ideas and thoughts.  Sometimes this can be a bad thing though, since I might not be able to pick a place to start.  You may be feeling the same way after reading this, but don't fret.  The biggest and best thing you can do is to pick ONE thing to try.  If you have questions of how to implement any of these things in your class, feel free to email me or check out Twitter with some of the other amazing educators like Beth Still, Jackie WhitingSylvia Duckworth, or my friends listed above.

Geography can be taught and integrated into any classroom, and doesn't have to be relegated to the social studies class.

Monday, July 4, 2016

360º of Loowit Falls

The payoff from the hike I did with my father in-law to Loowit Falls at the base of the Mount St. Helens crater. This is a 360º video that you can use your cursor to move around the entire screen. If you are using a mobile device you can just move your device around, and even put it into Google Cardboard mode and use a VR viewer to see the video in 3D.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

#FVvr Filming Field Trip

While record rainfall has been occurring in the Pacific Northwest this winter, the sun has shown on our iTech students and #FVvr.  As we made our way to Fort Vancouver National Historic Site we had one element to deal with, the wind.  Sometimes you forget to account for certain things during projects, and this was one of those things.  When we practiced taking footage for the VR tour we accounted for many different things.  We made sure that our students weren't going to be in the images, every student knew how to operate the Theta S camera and app, and made sure to limit the footprint of our tripods.

Unfortunately, it was this last piece that led to a broken camera.  To make sure the photospheres had a minimal footprint to cover up we didn't extend the tripod's legs all the way.  This worked extremely well with the cameras that were inside away from the wind.  However, the wind blew over the camera that was capturing and we lost footage.  This could have been detrimental and really set us back, but the other teams of students worked extremely efficiently.  Since we planned out the shooting locations of the images, the other teams were ahead of schedule.  This allowed us to go back and get the footage needed to complete our tour.

The students did a remarkable job.  Everyone, including the park rangers and chaperones, were thrilled with how the students worked.  Now we have the footage that we need to make the virtual reality tour.  When we returned to the classroom, we spent our time finishing the artifact analysis scripts, sent the writing to be reviewed by rangers Tessa and Bob, and began to create the building tours using .

Now, for a little relaxation during spring break...

Sunday, March 20, 2016

#FVvr Scouting Field Trip & Research

Since the visit from Park Rangers Tessa Langford and Bob Cromwell of the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site came to our school, Vancouver iTech Preparatory, our students have been busy.  They have been broken down into different teams to research the different buildings and areas of the park.  To do this, we allowed students select three possible locations that they were interested in, then we were able to divide the students into teams based on research interest.  This gives the students voice and choice in the project.  Once that occurred we went on our scouting field trip.  On that trip, the students toured the entire park and then got to spend some time in the buildings that they are researching.  When they were in their buildings, they needed to select at least one artifact that they found interesting to conduct research on.

After the first trip to the park, students began their research and work.  Each team of students began looking through the resources on the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site's webpage, several publications ,such as Exploring Fort Vancouver, the Google Cultural Institute, and even emailing with Park Rangers Tessa and Bob to conduct their research.  Each student is writing a script for a narration on their artifact, and building.  This process allows the students to build their research, analysis, and summarization skills along with enhancing their speaking and collaboration skills.  

During the days before the filming field trip, the students got to work in their teams to play and practice with the technology needed to capture the 360º images for the tour.  We went over the basic operations of using the Theta S camera and how to use the iPad app to take the images so that they don't appear in the final product.  This is done not only for student privacy reasons, but also so the user gets a more authentic visual experience.  This allows the students the chance to make some mistakes and have some failure and success with the new technology before we get to the fort for the real photo shoot. 

Because time was limited to just over two hours for our second trip, we wanted to make sure we were efficient getting the footage that we needed.  The student teams used several different tools to make a map of their building and mark out their filming locations.  Some teams, like the one researching the Garden and outside grounds, used a screenshot of Google Maps as their base before putting the image Google Drawings to add in their filming locations.  Many teams used Google Drawings to sketch out the different rooms and artifact locations.  A couple of teams decided to build a 3D model of their building using SketchUp, while some drew theirs out by hand on graph paper.  Regardless of which medium and tools they used, they developed critical thinking skills alongside their collaboration and communication skills.

Stay tuned for more, including the photo shoot field trip and script narrations...

Thursday, March 10, 2016

#FVvr (Fort Vancouver Virtual Reality)

A couple of weeks ago my students, colleague, and I embarked on a new project at our S.T.E.M. and PBL based school, Vancouver iTech Preparatory.  FVvr (pronounced fever) is a project in which our Washington State History studnets work as historians, curators, and archaeologists to create a virtual reality tour of the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.  This is an ambitious project that has been in the works for well over a year.

To make this project a [virtual] reality (pun intended), we had to work with the fort and the National Parks Service.  We meet several times trying to figure out what we might do.  And, while we have some ideas, the fun part is not knowing exactly how it will turn out.  We have a deadline, have had the curators and park rangers visit our school, and have had a scouting field trip already.

Right now students are selecting the artifacts that they want to research and collaborating in their teams to map out the building and other locations that they will need to photograph next week.  Some teams are emailing the park rangers and asking them questions in preparation, other are sending them pictures of items that they want to know more about.  It is amazing to watch the students step up and craft well written professional emails as they communicate with the rangers.  This is part of the PBL experience that I am passionate about.  I facilitate, but they are doing the work.  They are getting the experiences.

Next week, we head back to use our special Theta S cameras to take 360º photospheres throughout the park.  I can't wait to see how they deal with the sharing and utilization of the technology.  The goal is to provide our students with the experience of creating something not just for themselves, but for our community, and the world.  It is important to learn and explore our local history.  It'll be even more fun to share it beyond our borders.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

360º Cameras & VR in the Classroom

     I have always been a fan of technology.  I believe that technology can and must be integrated into the classroom for our students.  During my 2014-2015 winter break I was preparing for IMPACT! a project that would look at Mount St. Helens and its impact on people and society in Washington state.  As I was playing around on Google Maps, I saw that it was possible to put 360º images up onto Google.  I was EXCITED!  I had taken one from the summit when I climbed it the previous year and wanted to put that out for the world to see.  I had used the iOS app 360 Panorama, and was not able to load it.  I needed to see how I can load 360º images to Google.

      That is when I came across the Google Photosphere program, which has since been updated to the Street View program.  I saw that you could take a 360º image using the Street View app, for either iOS or Android, and then upload to Google Views and Google Maps.  Then I came across a section that showed a new camera that allowed a user to take a 360º image with the click of a button.  I showed the Ricoh Theta camera to my principal and she was blown away.  I purchased one and began to think about the possibilities of using the camera in my social studies classrooms.  

      As I played with the camera and took pictures and videos on my travels.  I began to load images (Mount St. Helens, Vancouver Art Museum, Evergreen Air and Space Museum, and New Orleans) to Google Maps and was thinking of ways to link them together.  I began to think about how I could have my students take these pictures and create a tour for other students and people to experience.   

      I immediately thought of taking my studnets to the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.  I began scouting the site on my own, and then made contact with the the park historian and museum curator.  We met and began our collaboration.  We tried to make the project fit into the the end of last school year, but that was unreasonable.  We decided to push the project back to this school year (2015-2016).  Pushing back the project allowed for other applications to be developed that will help us create our final product.  During the time, the web application Holobuilder came out and now we have our way to connect the different images and create our tour.  The fantastic thing about Holobuilder is that not only is it easy to use, but the tours can be embedded on a website and be viewed using VR devices like Google Cardboard and the View-Master.  

A sample tour I made using footage from the climb of Mount St. Helens some colleagues and I did over the summer.  

I am getting excited about this upcoming project and the possibilities that these cameras and viewers will allow us to do in our classrooms.  With the Google Expeditions program traveling across the country, and the world, we are starting to see the power that this type of experience can have for our students. No longer to they have to just look at a still image in a book or a print out.  They can see first hand the places that they are investigating.  They can analyze and compare the architecture of Canterbury Cathedral versus the Golden Pavilion-Kinkaku. No longer does the classroom have to be static. This technology allows our classrooms to become engaging, energetic, and dynamic. I encourage everyone to take their students on a virtual field trip, whether it is through a computer, a mobile device, or a Cardboard viewer. I encourage you to visit the Google Street View Gallery, or app, and take your students to places you never thought possible.