Friday, August 26, 2016

Students creating Atlas Tours (aka Story Map, Google Earth Tour)

screenshots from student produced ATs I found on the web
Screenshots from student produced ATs I've found on the web
What is an Atlas Tour? So I’ve been writing some papers over the summer about ‘Atlas Tours’ (ATs) by which I mean a series of maps that tell a narrative.  An example well known in the UK residents is the BBC TV weather forecast

which is made up of animated time maps, camera motions through virtual space and a narrative delivered by a presenter.   In UK outreach events I used to run teaching geography, this was the ‘map’ that people said they looked at most often.

ATs encourage users to watch: A great example of how useful ATs are is from National Geographic who produced this site about tracking the illegal trade in ivory across Africa .  The web logs of this resource show that atlas tours encourage people to engage more with content than other non-narrative, interactive maps (Kaitlin Yarnall Presentation at 18.40 minutes).  

Easy enough for students to do:  The cool thing is that the technology (and I'm thinking Esri Story Maps and Google Earth Tour Builder here) has made it easier for students and other non-specialists to produce ATs almost as sophisticated as the Ivory trade example.  As a result a number of assignments have been set asking students to produce ATs, a good example is the PSU and Esri MOOC which asked students to produce a map based story as a final project, many chose to produce ATs via Esri Story Maps (Anthony Robinson and Colleagues paper (2015) )

Other Examples of students’ ATs on the web include: 
One of the papers promotes ATs as a good assignment to set students, watch this space for more!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Thoughts on Expeditions following CAGTI16

Expeditions as Purple Cow: Expeditions is Google’s project where you use a viewer (such as cardboard) with your smart phone.  The system gives you 360 vision with wrap around visuals so you can turn and look at things above, below, left and right.  There was a great sense of excitement around this project at CAGTI16 with teachers interested in how they could use it and I heard very positive reports from teachers who had been involved in the pilot scheme.  Google have been very active capturing imagery from polar regions, coral reefs even other planets.  I think its certainly something to grab attention, it would be excellent at a Geography University open day or outreach event to pull people in.  It reminds me of Seth Godwin’s Purple Cow concept.  Well done Google, its worth paying attention to as a project just for this.

Hardware: Currently to use expeditions you need an Android tablet for the teacher and Android smart phones and cardboards for the students.  A comment I heard a lot of was 'when will it be available for iOS?' only being on Android is obviously a limiting factor because I doubt many schools are going to shell out on buying multiple Android phones just to use expeditions.  I imagine this will come soon.

Cooks Tour:  However I think educationally it needs more development.  The expeditions I saw at CAGTI expeditions are a ‘Cooks’ tour (see this paper ) - students get a wonderful immersive experience (hear the squeals in this video)

but they are being essentially passive because the lesson is structured around the teacher guiding students' view to interesting points and talking to the students.  The students themselves are not doing very much.  A Cook's tour approach can be a good introductory exercise at the start of a field trip (again, see the above paper), but to learn properly students need to do more, things like:
  • Collecting and analyzing data, 
  • Coming up with and testing hypotheses 
  • or even making their own expeditions
Early days: But its early days in the world of Google expeditions.  I discussed all of this with Jamie of Digital Explorer at CATGI16 who has been involved in recording expeditions for Google and persuaded me there was more to it than I believed.  He pointed out that his recent abseil into a glacier 360 degree video

uses a neat little trick:  The film has been annotated with bits of text that students have to hunt for, it becomes a challenge to see if they can ‘collect’ all the text before the video ends.  This is getting the student to be more active than the Cook's tour which is good.  We both agreed that a lovely educational activity would be to get students to create their own expeditions.

History of VR in virtual field trips: Expeditions are getting attention elsewhere, Audrey Watters has an interesting post about the history of VR relevant to expeditions - she points out that people have been claiming that technology can replace the field trip since the 1920s with technology like the stereoscope.  However, Martin Weller's post about Pokamon Go  is a good counter point.  He makes the argument that just because you've seen an educational technology appear before is not an excuse to refuse to engage when it resurfaces elsewhere and gets a lot of attention.

So I look forward to seeing how expeditions develop and I'm aching to get my hands on an 'ExpeditionsBuilder': GoogleEarthTourBuilder for expeditions that I can get students to use.

Edit 11.07pm:  Noodling around some more, I find much more detailed advice from Google on how to integrate expeditions into lessons:
"To get the most of an Expedition, it should be preceded and followed with connected learning activities. The Expedition itself is one powerful piece of the instructional puzzle. So as you’re planning for the experience consider the following learning activities for before, during and after the Expedition."
so accusing them of pushing Cook's tours is a bit unfair, they're advising teachers to use expeditions mixed in with activities as but why have they hidden it away off on another 'semi Google' ( website? 

Monday, August 1, 2016

Thoughts after CAGTI16 (Geo Teachers Institute) part 1

So this time last week I was helping lead the Californian Geo Teachers Institute.  John Bailey had filled his hall to capacity with some amazing teachers (example blog post), educational technologists, librarians...  I thought I'd jot down some thoughts.

Maps are for everyone:  Firstly, its interesting to note the difference between Geo in the USA and in the UK - here, geography is a core school subject so if you put on a GTI you'd mostly attract geography teachers.  STEM teachers would mostly stay away - I predict they'd say 'maps are for geographers'.  In the States, geography is far less strong at school level so a range of teachers from many subjects showed up to learn what Google Geo tools could do for them.  Geo tools are now so easy to use that they can be used across subjects and it would be good if this could done in the UK too.

What Google Earth is for:

So true...
Map Design:  I did a session on map design for teachers.  As part of this I produced a worksheet that takes you through creating some of the basics of good map design via Google My Maps.   Important design points worth making about my maps:
  • Google My Maps now allows you to select the base map.  Subtle and pale is good as the worksheet example illustrates.
  • I find My Maps to be simpler to use than ArcGIS online
  • You can choose a rainbow range to style your data.  I can't think of a reason you would EVER want to use this and, each time you do, a puppy dies - Kenneth Field rants about rainbow maps as well.  

I'll save discussion of tour tips, my thoughts on expeditions and the future of Google's Geo tools for a second post.