Sunday, May 16, 2010

Navigate Your World

When I wrote the Manatee Education Foundation Grant to receive the funds to purchase handheld Global Positioning Systems a year ago I am not sure I understood completely where this Navigate Your World Project would be going. All I knew for sure was that we would be learn about and participating in Geocaching on campus. To be honest with you, it has turned into something that is multifaceted and one in which the learn curve for me has been huge. Lucky for me, I have some wonderful colleagues helping me.

First there is Elizabeth Smith, who is Social Studies Curriculum Specialist for District of Manatee County. She has done a ton of work with Geocaching, Earthcaching and GIS/ Global Informational Systems in the past. In fact, she was a contributor for EarthCaching and Educator’s Guide put out by The Geological Society of America and sponsored by National Geographic Education Foundation.
Ms. Smith and I have been working on planning activities that teach basic geography and getting the students ready to use the GPS systems. For instance, one thing we worked on was taking The Six Essentials of Geography and creating Blooms Taxonomy activities for each. Geocaching/Earthcaching is a ton of fun and my students have been excited about getting out there. However, we felt it was important for the kids to understand some geography concepts before just turning them loose. Ms. Smith has been amazing and in the couple of meetings we have had she has brought so much to the table. It seems like each time we meet I am stretched just a bit further through new materials, resource or a concept she has introduced. During our last meeting, she brought me a ton of information on GIS/Global Informational Systems and an activity that we are planning to do with my students in May. This stuff blew my mind and I can’t wait to do some more reading on the subject. Honestly, I am ashamed to admit this, but I was unaware how vast the field of geography really is. The working out the balance of students learning what they need to know and leaving room for a few caches and challenges. This is truly a factor when we consider I only see these students once a week.

Mac Aldrich is a Boy Scout Leader, an Instructional Technology Specialist for the District of Manatee County and a geocaher. One of the first things Mr. Aldrich helped out with was in the selections of the GPS units themselves. Some of the concerns, I had about which unit to select were: durability and unit that would be compatible with our Apple Computers. Also we are excited about the plans for Mr. Aldrich to come and work with my students and compasses in early December. I believe it is an activity he has done with the Boy Scouts.

Then towards the end of September Dawn Howard the Instructional Technology SpecialistOneco Elementary offered (with permission) to allow me to pilot the Moodle for this project and possibly another. I was so excited about this since for the past two years I have been asking (maybe it has been more like begging) for a space that would allow students to interact and with the Moodle we are moving that direction. With that said, there has been a ton to learn here as well. The Moodle can truly do so many different things and much of it I have yet to explore. I have used the Moodle site and Dawn has been a big support. It has been really nice when I have needed help on a few things Dawn has sent me short how to videos she has made in Connect Ed Pro. I am so looking forward to seeing the many elements of the Moodle and learning to use them effectively.

I truly believe that for my students the real learning takes place in the process and I guess the same can be true for their teacher.
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