Recently, I've been working with a fourth grade class on a Google Earth project. Students were tasked to find two landmarks in the country that they had just finished researching. They had to gather information about these landmarks and locate them in Google Earth, creating a virtual field trip for their classmates. Despite my preparation and troubleshooting prior to introducing the project to students, we experienced some difficulties along the way. It was difficult for students to locate landmarks in vast areas (i.e. Amazon Rainforest), explore locations in Pakistan and North Korea, and even view locations in Disney World! Overall, we had trouble obtaining and viewing the images we needed to create an enticing virtual field trip. I tried to explain these problems to the fourth graders, but I was unsure myself as to whether or not I was providing the right information. I looked online for video explanations of how Google Earth gathers data and imagery, but I was unsuccessful in finding something that was suitable for fourth graders.
Enter Twitter! I put a call out to my PLN to ask if anyone had enough Google Earth expertise to assist my students. I received a response from John Phillips, asking how he could help. (Note: I had never interacted with John before). After describing our situation, he agreed to join us via Google Hangout to answer our questions about Google Earth. We chatted briefly on Sunday evening and I sent him an email with speaking points that I wanted him to address.
As soon as the Hangout started on Monday afternoon, I knew that we were connected with a passionate educator who wanted to ensure that my students learned from this experience. He interacted with my students as if they were his own, questioning their statements and assessing their knowledge along the way. He prepared over a dozen placemarks in Google Earth and shared his screen so my students could make sense of why they were experiencing trouble. He spent 30 minutes with us...30 minutes of his planning time...and I'm sure he spent just as much time preparing for this session. To top it off...he ended the Hangout by giving hints about his city in Michigan, promising that he would send a souvenir to the first person who guessed correctly. How awesome is this guy?! Can you imagine the excitement of the fourth graders?
Moral of the blog post: Never be afraid to ask for "help" when it comes to educating students on topics outside of your comfort zone. You never know who might respond to the call, and what you might learn through the process! Thank you, @bcgeek, for your dedication to children, both near and far! You went above and beyond to make this a memorable experience for these fourth grade students.