My Google Earth tour of South America turned out really well! It turned out that the school's projectors were broken/unavailable, so I adapted my lesson by showing the tour to small groups of students on the classroom computer. In groups of 4 or 5, students gathered around the computer to watch the tour and learn about some of the awesome places in South America. The kids LOVED it! The groups who had to wait their turn to watch the tour couldn't wait for me to call their groups back. They were so excited to see it. Some of the students had used Google Earth before, but others had not. All of them were fascinated with the idea of typing in any place (especially their own houses) and being able to see real pictures of that place. As an assessment activity, I created a "postcard" template for students to color a picture of their favorite landmark that we visited on one side, and write a note to someone about it on the other side. The kids loved the postcard activity and I was able to see that they learned so much about the places in South America from my tour! They loved it.
Right now I am planning to teach a lesson on South America to a second grade class. The class is currently studying South America as their "Continent of the Month". I think this lesson could really be enhanced with technology, and I am excited to use Google Earth to create a tour of some of the awesome places in South America. A geography lesson is a perfect content fit for Google Earth technology, and as I am beginning to create my tour, I am finding that there are several places in South America that my class would love to see real pictures of. For example, the class has been learning about the Amazon Rainforest, which is one of the most famous features of South America. It is awesome to look at the Amazon Rainforest from the sky. Last week I also taught a lesson about "the Pampas" in Argentina, which are basically farmlands with lots of cattle. On Google Earth, this area shows lots of square pastures that would be fun to show in contrast with the green, thick rainforest. I also plan to include the Andes Mountains in Chile, and near those mountains is a desert that has not had rain in over 400 years! It is said to be the driest place on earth, and when I searched this location it showed some great sand dunes. I will also include rivers and Cape Horn, the tip of South America, which is the closest place in the world to Antarctica. I think Google Earth will be great to show the diversity of geography in South America.
The main thing I realized by doing this technology inventory was that there is plenty of technology available to use at the elementary school, but teachers rarely take advantage of it. While most of the technology is not in every classroom, it is usually shared by the grade level teams and available for each teacher to reserve and use. Asking my teacher some of the questions on the inventory list, most of her answers were something like, "Yeah, I'm sure we have that if I ever wanted to use it". This tells me that she is confident in her school for supplying good technology, but that she has little personal experience with actually using it. It also tells me that she feels comfortable in the fact that the school does have technology, but she does not have a strong desire to look into exactly what resources the school has to offer. This reinforced to me the importance of educating teachers on how and when to use technology in the classroom. There are many more resources available to teachers than what are actually used in the classroom. I was also interested to discover that many teachers consider something as simple as an overhead projector to be using technology in schools. Last week I was observed for one of the lessons I taught the second grade class, and one of the positive comments my instructors made to me after observing my lesson was my effective use of "technology"- and that technology being the overhead projector. This makes me realize that using technology to teach does not have to be an elaborate, over-the-top lesson. Technology should make teaching easier, not harder. If more teachers believed this and educated themselves about technology to make this true, I think more teachers would be eager to take advantage of the technological resources that are available to them through their schools.