Hello! Allow me to introduce myself:


And now, on with the show....

1. Unlikely Coordinates: Geocaching Across the Curriculum
2009-Kicking It Up a Notch


This session was a good introduction to the "sport" of Geocaching (GC). As a veteran geocacher, I was interested to see how others would use geocaching in the curriculum. We are given a good intro to what geocaching is, what a geocache is, and how one would go about getting started with geocaching. (The best place to start is www.geocaching.com) While I enjoyed hearing about GC from another standpoint, and was inspired by the projects in which her classes were engaged, I was disappointed that many of the most educationally useful aspects of geocaching were left out!
I did a little poking around on geocaching.com after this session and found several extremely wonderful caches that are little lessons all in themselves! These are the sorts of caches that can do the teaching for you.

This "earthcache" highlights Brasstown Bald, the highest point in Georgia. The introduction to the cache alone is a lesson in itself. The cache is "claimed" by finding the answers to questions along the hike up to the visitor's center. Even for a class that (like mine) is prohibited from taking field trips outside of our county, the cache could be a collaborative effort via email, blogs or phone with someone who could actually go there. What a fun adventure for kids, and an opportunity to teach about collaboration and effective communication!

Along the same lines the the previous cache, this one one is a lesson in glacial effects on the geography. What a challenge to a group of students in, say, Georgia, to figure out how to get the visual clues and information necessary to log this cache!

The possibilities are endless! There are over 200,000 geocaches world-wide, and many of them are placed in hopes of showing you something you didn't already know or someplace you'd never heard of.

Classes could also create a geocache as a class project--imagine the possibilities for writing, data collection, graphing and charting, communication skills, etc, etc, etc!!!! And don't even get me started on "travel bugs"! Think of it as "Flat Stanley" gone electronic! What a way to interact and learn with people from all over the world!!! (One of my travel bugs has been circulating in Europe for months now, and my daughter has been thrilled with the way geocachers speaking other languages have been happy help her with her attempts to practice Spanish and French on them. Oh wow! A new lesson strand is growing in my head for her 5th-year Spanish class......)

I also considered how to use geocaching in other subject areas; math (learning about triangulation, coordinates, and measuring nad converting distances), sciences (satellite technology, not to mention all the many earthcaches and caches that point out or highlight the earth sciences), and language and communication (effective writing, public communication, and publishing). One could almost build a curriculum, in fact a school, just using geocaching as a starting point!!!

2. Remixing History: The Cigar Box Project
2009/Bridging the Divide

Neil Stephenson describes his year-long project with his 7th grade students in Calgary, Alberta as they learn to use images as a starting point to gain a deeper understanding of Canadian history. Using a seemingly innocuous object, cigar boxes, Stephenson's students learned the meaning and emotions evoked by visual images, and how often the most minor element can carry strong meaning. By deconstructing and "remixing" the images, the original meaning of these elements began to come out. His students learned from books and websites, interviews and even interaction with primary sources at a museum, the history preserved by images. They then used those images and graphic art elements to show their understanding of historical events by creating their own cigar boxes. Collaboration with classmates and extensive use of peer review and editing gave students the experience of seeing their work through other people's eyes, and using that feedback for improvement, (and vice versa!)

I was delighted to see a setting where students were able to carry a project across the curriculum; a mix of history,geography, reading, writing, math, art, social skills, even woodworking! These were interwoven with 21st century skills such as Imovies, podcasts, and videocasting to pull together sources and coworkers. Especially interesting was the focus on student voice in the assessment process, both literally and figuratively. Students scripted and produced presentations and reflections along the way. I would love to work more student-driven assessment into my classroom projects. Students need to learn the give and take of collaboration and how to gracefully give and receive constructive criticism!

I can see using this type of project in many different areas; decoding societal change through magazine covers, tracking the evolution of an event through newspaper headlines, even my own father's letters from World War II come to mind as a starting point for learning about the war; not only the dry historical facts, but also the far-reaching effects on people and society!