Story Maps

I’m doing a little research on the use of Story Maps, and finding so much great stuff I need a place to document it….

Background

I was introduced to GIS about four years ago, and it changed how I feel we can study and deliver history. I’ve been dabbling in it, slowly learning more and producing a few things. Mostly, I have been teaching others about it — I call myself an expert on entry GIS and introducing its power to others.

Why GIS?

GIS and Story Maps are amazing tools that let us see content and data in new ways. I really can’t write it any better than Allan Carroll, the ESRI Story Maps guru who defines digital humanities as:

  • The creative application of digital technology to humanities questions and data.
  • The use of computational techniques in the humanities that would allow research that is otherwise impossible.
  • The democratization of knowledge through the application of digital technologies to the advancement of discourse in the humanities, broadly defined (and not restricted to the academy!).

 and  make a very compelling argument for Story Maps:

What digital mapping tools like Google Maps or Citymapper generally don’t tell us is how a certain street got its name, or what issues are of critical cultural importance to a community.

But “story maps” – an interactive form of drawing the world around us and an increasingly popular form of mapping – can do all this and more.

This is why I have been doing so many presentations and sessions about Story Maps. I am grateful to have yet another set of good quotes to use when I talk about it.

In my words:

  • Story Maps and GIS completely changes how we can study history. So much of history has a spatial component. Maps have always been used to teach and study history, but using the GIS tools available, we can interpret the data in ways we never could before.
  • GIS visualizes patterns and relationships that let us see something in a quick glance or closer look that would’ve taken much longer in print. For example, I recently showed a group of teachers the two maps of where Japanese Americans lived in 1940 and 1945. Nothing could have gotten the point across about the impact of the internment camps faster than those two maps. It’s one thing to read a sentence about this in a book; it’s quite another to see it on the maps.
     

  • GIS enables analysis of data. If you have the right kind of data (for example, the location of shipwrecks in Lake Superior), simple — yet powerful — geoanalysis tools can show a variety of different ways of looking at the data.
     

  • Story Maps bring content to a broader audience. Instead of just a paper that a professor reads, Story Maps and GIS tools can deliver content to others.
  • Context: Story Maps allow us to provide context, story, background and additional information about a map.

Not Banning the Laptop

Phew. After nearly six months working in a higher ed institution hearing over and over again about banning laptops from classrooms, this article, “The Futile Resistance Against Classroom Tech” by David M. Perry, a history professor from Dominican University, in The Atlantic  is a much needed voice of reason.

Perry argues that,  “The ‘networked world,’  she [danah Boyd] wrote, is here to stay. It’s up to teachers, then, to build networks of learning, solidarity, mutual respect, and even trust.”

It’s unrealistic to think instructors will be able to control the flow of information into the classroom and to students as technology progresses. Instead, Perry argues, there needs to be an understanding of changing of process and learning. Instead of taking verbatim notes, students need to summarize. Instead of calling out the student with a disability who actually does learn better with technology, allow everyone who learns better to use it.

I’d go one step further. I often hear about how students cheat with technology. I go back to one of the first things I learned when working with the K-12 community: if the assessment is one that can easily be completed by cheating, perhaps it isn’t a good assessment.

This is simplistic, I get it. It isn’t always practical. But good assessments that are authentic, real world and student-centered are hard to cheat on. You can’t just Google or copy the answer. Real work has to happen.

And yes, there are times when we all need to put away our technology and connect as humans. But there are times when technology can enhance that communication. Backchannel conversations can be productive, not distracting. They can allow the introverted student who would never speak up to have a voice.

Sometimes we do need to put the technology away. That’s fine. But sometimes, we are better for it. Higher ed has a lot to learn.

Memorizing Maps

GIS and digital mapping is my new obsession. I jump at any opportunity to work on digital mapping and teach others how to use it. Am I good at it yet? Nope, not at all. But I’m learning.

Part of my work involves showing teachers how to use GIS and digital maps in their classes. I don’t teach GIS – there are many others with far greater skills. I consider myself the gateway to GIS: how can you use digital mapping and GIS even if you don’t know how to build maps? You can, and your students will get far more out of it than coloring in basic maps. The incredible beauty of this is that you can use GIS/digital mapping with any subject: geography, history, economics, government, environmental science, biology, music, etc., etc.

Just ran across this recent blog post supporting the use of digital mapping as opposed to memorizing maps. We all remember those map tests: fill in the name of the country on a paper map. You might get to color it in if you were lucky. This post is a wonderful justification of why this is stupid.

It puts kids to sleep. And just so ya know . . . that’s a bad thing. (Plus 18 ways to make it better)

Having recently made the jump to a position in higher ed, I found this post especially relevant. Even college students benefit from active learning! Thanks for the post and ideas, Glenn!

History Tech

Shocker. Lecturing to students puts them to sleep.

Who could have guessed?

Well . . . I should have. But I didn’t. During my first few years as a middle school teacher and later, during some time I spent teaching in a college social science department, I lectured.

A lot.

Early on, I didn’t know better. I was taught that way in both K-12 and in my college content courses. There were no real alternatives provided in my ed classes. And I started teaching long before established mentor programs. It was just the way things were done.

By the time I had moved on to higher ed, I had figured out – with some occasional PD and lots of help from some great educators – that there are other alternatives to constant direct instruction. But I was subtly and then very overtly encouraged to lecture rather than use some of the methods that…

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Listening to Teachers

Quick follow up to previous post about the NYT article about Google in classrooms. I talked about how Google is exceptional at listening to teacher needs and empowering teachers to let Google know what works.

Alice Keeler is an active blogger and edtech voice.  She is a tireless advocate for using tech to empower learners. (I’ve never met her, but have had some fun Twitter conversations with her. Perhaps I can meet her this year at ISTE!) Alice posted about a new feature in Google Classroom

I love it when I am in the middle of giving a training and stumble on a new feature. GIGGLES! More evidence that the Google Classroom team listens to teacher requests! Now when you go to get the class code there is an option to COPY the code! This is a feature I have personally requested several times.

Alice works closely with Google, so I’m sure she can easily give them feedback. But I’ve seen how quickly Google can make changes specifically to meet teacher requests. I’ve been testing Google Classroom since it launched. We’ve been using it for internal PD (until just a few weeks ago, Classroom was only useable to people inside your organization, no outside email addresses could be added), and at every training we mentioned how quickly it changes. Literally, new features would be there one day that were not there the day before.

While this can get a bit distracting and annoying, it is mostly fabulous. It’s always something you’d been wanting — or something that just made things better that you never knew you needed. I know these changes were in response to teacher requests. At ISTE last year, there were more Google Classroom sessions than just about anything else. Google was there, they were listening, watching and asking for feedback and input. They obviously valued the teacher input — something that not all companies do — and made teachers feel valued and important. And Google even follow through – they make the changes teachers want. Good for them.

Education or Business?

Why is the New York Times so opposed to education in technology? The article, “How Google Took Over the Classroom” is another criticism of education working with any commercial company to provide better learning for students.

The first Times article I saw critical of ed tech was critical of Apple’s business practices of getting technology into schools.

This article criticizes Google for its business practices of circumventing administrators by going right to teachers and using teachers to convince other teachers of Google products. Let’s look a little closer.

Google was the first tool that allowed collaborative editing and such easy sharing of materials. This was a game changer in schools from a pedagogical perspective. It had a profound impact on how teachers could deepen learning for students, pushing further up the SAMR model by allowing for learning experiences that were not possible before technology.

Perhaps teachers embraced and promoted Google and Google tools because these tools led to better learning? It was not, as the article implies, a bad thing that teachers were involved in deciding on the technology to be used. This is a good thing.

Google listened to teachers. Google worked with teachers to create tools that teachers wanted for themselves and for their students. I have a hard time seeing why this is not a good thing…..

As for students being steeped in Google by the time they graduate, why is that worse than being steeped in Microsoft or Apple products? If it wasn’t Google, it would be Pages and Numbers from Apple, or Word and Powerpoint. Schools are going to have some sort of office software, and students will be more comfortable with whatever they use.

Apple and Microsoft

Apple was first out of the gate, and appears to be losing ground recently. The iPads jumped into education right after it was introduced, even to Apple’s surprise. Microsoft just this year (many years after Google) introduced a series of products that are created specifically for the K12 education market. Seriously, this is almost 7 years later – an eon in technology time. Microsoft made some huge errors early on — I still have one of the first Surface tablets Microsoft gave away at a big teacher conference trying to convince teachers to use their stuff. Needless to say, that early version of the Surface was a bust – I haven’t turned that thing on in years.

Microsoft, Apple and Google have really different ways of interacting with teachers. Honestly, they all watch each other closely and will likely really keep building on each others mistakes and successes. Criticizing Google for how it works with teachers is just crazy.

Privacy

I do fully acknowledge the privacy concerns. However, I’m not sure why this article focuses so much on the transition of a student’s school Google account to a personal account. I’m not so sure students will actually want to take all of their high school email and papers over to a personal account. Is this a common practice? There is not evidence in the article beyond one school example.

Positive Impact of Tech

Sometime, I’d love to see a Times article that addresses the positive impact of edtech.

 

Chrome Accessibility Tools

Posting this for my reference…. saw an article, “21 Chrome Extensions for Struggling Students and Special Needs.”  I’ll be testing a few of these, including the Text-to-Speech extensions and the ones that pull the ads/sidebars off the page.

I would like to clarify that personally, I struggle with calling these tools for “struggling students and special needs.” Many people benefit from these types of tools. I understand why they say this, but it really limits who will use these. It’s a basic UDL concept that building for the “margins” benefits everyone, and this is a perfect example.

I, for one, occasionally use extensions that take off the the ads and sidebars of really cluttered sites. Sometimes I use a text-to-speech extension.

In addition, there is a webinar going through all of these options.