I managed to get a block of two lessons in the ICT rooms with two of my year 8 classes before half term, which enabled me to do further work with GoogleMaps. I set up a blank map and asked them to research the individual battles of the English Civil War. They needed to create a placemarker for each one of the battles.
I was a bit uncertain how this project would work. Ideally students would have their own Google accounts and I would invite them to collaborate. This had two main issues, however – firstly, they don’t all have their own Google accounts and setting them up would have been time-consming; secondly I think they would also have had editing rights to the map from home, which I didn’t want.
Instead of this, then, I set up a generic school Google account and changed the password for the lesson, changing it to something else at the end. All the students collaborated on the map together via this same login. I was nervous that it wouldn’t work, and had a back up plan that they would email me the information for me to add, in case multiple logins were not accepted. However, it did work and the products were as follows:
8-4 – who had three lessons to work on their map
8-7 – who had two lessons.
As always, ratings and comments on the maps would be much appreciated.
Here are some student comments on the project:
- I think it was really good. Firstly it helped us with our Geography, and secondly the lesson might have been really boring otherwise, like just copying from a book, but instead it improved our ICT skills and made the lesson more fun.
- It was good because it wasn’t a complicated lesson but you still learned a lot about a certain battle.
- I think it was really good and it helped us with our research homework (an individual battle of the Civil War).
- I didn’t know you could use Google Maps for interesting things like that.
- We learned the Wonderwheel function in Google search. We also learned how to Google for things more easily.
- I think it might have worked well as a starter lesson for a unit, where we have to find out facts about it before we learn anything else.
Something new I learned: copying a placemark.
If I search for a place in Google Maps, it will drop a placemark to show me where this is. I can then choose to save this to any of my user-created maps and it will copy the placemark over, and I can then edit it to include facts about the Battle that took place there (or whatever).
Things to bear in mind:
Allowing students to log in to a generic Google account gives them access to a lot of things. When my colleague Jonty and I were discussing this project we tried to think of the possible negatives: they could change the password; they could send emails from the address. With these students I did not think this was a significant risk.
There is nothing to stop them deleting/moving each other’s placemarkers. I found this out the hard way.
There was a high level of pupil engagement throughout the task and it was, as always, very interesting to see that those who struggle with text books and writing were among the most adept when it came to internet searching. I was able to show them Wonderwheel and give them some tips on searching.
They all grasped the technical elements of creating the placemarkers immediately: actually, this was the easiest bit of the lesson. The hardest was helping them to find suitable information about each battle, rather than copying something they did not understand from a website aimed at a more academic audience. This wasn’t a surprise. After all, selecting appropriate information is a key element among the National Curriculum levels. If I had had a little more time, we would have looked at searching by reading age, under the Advanced Search tab on Google.
I found this to be a very successful exercise. I have been thinking for some minutes about how I would change it for next time but I don’t know that I would. This was the benefit of doing it with two classes, one of which was treated to a third session on it: I was able to edit the task for the second group. Other than spending a little more time thinking about how to search, there’s little I would change.
Next steps? I’d like to embed videos in the placemarkers. We’ve got an extra-curricular heritage project in the works which lends itself to this.