Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The One About Google Maps

Well hello! By now everyone should have returned to school and should be getting back into the swing of things. How is the new year treating you? I hope all is going well. I've been back for a week today and so far things are good. The 3-day week last week was good. A 3-day week like that after a long vacation is a catch-22. On one hand it's a bummer to return for only 3 days. I mean, you can't really start anything new and the kids are still all wired and hopped up on Christmas. But, on the other hand, it does give you a brief transition time for them, and you, to ease back into routines and schedules. So I guess it's all in how you look at it. I'm a glass half full kind of person so I'll go with the latter. By the time this Monday rolled around we were fully ready to begin everything and didn't need many reminders or reviews. Anywho.

So, this week I started a new unit in Social Studies. You know the one. regardless of your curriculum or what you teach, it's all pretty similar at this level. Fun and exciting, but similar. This is the unit where we study where we live. You know, like neighborhoods, communities, cities, states, country. You get the drift. Well, I decided to try something new this year. Keeping it fresh and all. In addition to learning the general information and definitions, I decided to have the kids work with Google maps. Oh my.
Now, I am by no means claiming to be the first to have this idea or try it out. I know that is far from the truth. But if you have not done so yet, I highly suggest you try it. Today, after reviewing the terms and defining them again, I introduced Google maps via the SMART Board. I showed them how they can type in the name of our state and see it from a satellite view. Then, how you can do the same with a city and neighborhood. Then it was time to totally wow them and type in an address. I did mine as the example and they were stunned. Clearly they had never used Google maps at all. That or they had no clue of its capabilities.

We zoomed into my house and looked at it from the street view. The kids were thrilled. Having Braeden in my class only made it even more hilarious as he was over the moon about seeing his house on the SMART Board. They quickly jumped ahead and guessed at the next part of the lesson - finding their own house.

We have what we call a COW (Computer On Wheels) that has 24 MacBooks. They each got their computer from the COW and were given the instructions to: log on, open Safari, go to Google, and find Google maps. While they were doing this I wrote their addresses on index cards and gave everyone theirs. The next part of the assignment included typing in their address, finding their house, zooming in, and printing the picture. I blew their little First Grade minds. It was amazing to watch them. Out of 17 kids there wasn't one who wasn't fully engaged and enthralled in the lesson. A few needed some assistance along the way, but most were fully independent. I had a blast watching them and seeing the pure joy on their faces. It was one of those teaching moments. You know the one. You're strutting around and proud of yourself. Best. Teacher. Ever. All 17 finished the assignment. Lucky me, it doubles as a Social Studies grade and a Technology grade! Bonus!

Possibly the best part of this all was that Braeden immediately told Amy about it when we got home and cited it as the "best part" of his day. Later he even insisted Amy sit down so he could show her what he learned. What up!

So, maybe you've used Google maps in the classroom before or maybe you haven't. If you have, do you have any suggestions/hints/secrets to share? If you haven't then what are you waiting for? Do it tomorrow or now if you're reading this at school! I don't know why I waited this long to try it. It is definitely something I will be using in the future. I'm already brainstorming ways in which I can use it more! I think it will be the hot topic in the classroom for a while. I foresee the kids spending a lot of time on Google maps on our classroom computers! What fun!

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