He says, “Learning should be:
- Assessed Authentically
- Have a narrative structure
From there he dives into the heart of his presentation: taking advantage of digital maps to explore our world. Clearly enthusiastic, he makes a strong case for power of interactive mapping to transform learning.
One part product sell, one part knowledge sharing, Dr. Willis certainly has his finger on the core of his message — utilizing resources to do nothing less than save the world. It is an exciting ambition — preparing teachers/educators to empower students to tackle big questions in a cross-disciplinary digital methodology.
The journey begins with a look at Perthes World Atlas (see link just above), a product that has over 70 thematic maps that can be layered and compared. The great benefit is that students are able to investigate comparisons and relationships that fascinate them.
Google Earth, on the flip side, is less of a product, and more of a community, as in this Google Earth Blog. It is here, that Dr. Willis begins to dive into depths of his world and begins to leave a few participants behind. With his Google Earth program well tricked out, he plunges into the “power of Google Earth” without setting the context for doing so. Some who thought this would be a basic “get to know Google Earth” were in for a surprise.
After a whirlwind tour of tricks, he launches into a curriculum on Colonial Regions that is far beyond the technological capacity of many practitioners to create themselves. When a teacher asks if the kmz file is located somewhere on-line, he shows his hand: “We’re creating these that you can buy, starting at $16.95 per unit.”
While I’m disappointed to hear this, I did hear a sigh of relief. For many, when he talked about “inserting simple HTML,” the tension in the room increased. Knowing that teachers could purchase these files shovel ready (so to speak), is a comfort for many. (I’d like them too, but I’m not likely to spend any money. Sorry, Dr. Willis.)
From there, with 10 minutes left, he arrives at the heart of his title: using of Google Earth to identify, map, and solve a problem–either global or local. He shows a couple simple examples of ways students can use Google Earth for a service learning inquiry project. He provided a digital walking tour of a water drainage project (no public link I could find) and the culminating (and lasting) outcome, “30 minute beach clean up.”
“What is best way to get familiar?” one participant asks.
While the presentation was a veritable feast of wonder, it may have been a bit overwhelming for some. Fortunately, for those with a pocketbook, there are opportunities to buy. For the curious and those unafraid to get their digital paws dirty, he presented enough tricks and tips (along with enough of a digital footprint) to help them get going.
Without a doubt, Google Earth can be a powerful cartographic tool for the classroom. Trouble is, you may need a map to figure it all out. Or a classroom of eager students.