A while back I posted ‘A Game-based Journey Through History with Google Earth‘ about a challenge to help my students address the essential question ‘How does WHERE we live affect HOW we live?’ I developed this project after reading some excellent stuff from Andrew Miller and Judy Willis on using the video game model as a learning tool.
The Grade 6 students have completed the project and there are now some excellent tours of Neolithic sites available. Check out an excellent sample here. Students can use these tours to compare and contrast how the first agriculturalists developed in different regions of the world. The final stage will be for students to demonstrate their understandings of our essential question.
The students really enjoyed the project. The first levels were content-based and required a good deal of research and writing. These were demanding but the students eagerly pressed on because they loved the challenge of moving from level to level. When the students reached level 5 and began adding their content to Google Earth, the excitement reached a fever pitch and things really got crazy! As expected the students really got into using Google Earth, but they now had the content to create a meaningful tour.
As the teacher I enjoyed the project because it helped my students to create content-rich digital work using an amazing tool. Throughout the process we examined the difference between content (the ideas) and form (how we present ideas), and I am satisfied that my students have a clear understanding of the difference. It will be easier in the future for them to see the difference between projects that look great but say little and those that express great ideas in meaningful ways.
This project created a wonderful opportunity for me to differentiate my instruction. Students worked on levels at their own pace, levels were adapted for different abilities, and those students who excelled had the chance to become experts and guides for others. I even had a team of students who served as ‘gatekeepers’ and checked work to see if students were ready to move onto the next level. All this gave me the opportunity to spend more time with individual students throughout the research, writing, and game creation.
These Google Earth tours are now a digital record that can be shared with classes across space and time. Students in schools around the globe can use these tours as a resource in their own studies, and next year my own students can tweak and improve upon them as we explore different questions about the first human revolution.
There are a few things I’ll do differently next time. The biggest change I will make is to have the students work in teams to complete the tours. I’m not sure why I didn’t go this route this time, but teams will certainly help to complete the tours more efficiently so we can spend more time using the tours to explore our essential question.
I had prewritten instructions for each level ready to be emailed to each student once they finished a level. The constant mailings often interrupted my work with students. Early on I’ll identify a couple of keen kids and put them in charge of emailing the levels as students progress. I will also add deadlines. Initially there were no deadlines as students worked at their own pace, but I think that even flexible deadlines will encourage the more ‘methodical’ students to work more efficiently. Finally, I’ll figure out a way for students to include their answers to the essential question into their tours to add depth to our journey through time to the sites of the Neolithic Revolution.