One of the best parts of my job is the opportunity to get into our district’s schools and see what’s going on in the classrooms. I see something really cool nearly every time. Earlier this week I was in a 4th grade class at Glen Lake Elementary watching a teacher do a social studies lesson about the Southwest and its climate using her laptop, an LCD projector, and some of the online resources that our new social studies curriculum provides.
She let me jump in and show her students the new satellite mapping feature of the Google Maps site. I opened a couple browser tabs and loaded a view of the Twin Cities metro area on one and the Phoenix area on the other. After switching to the satellite view and doing some zooming in and out, the differences in landforms were obvious and I think it really made sense for the students. They also really got a kick out of zooming in on a satellite view of their school and finding their homes in the surrounding neighborhoods.
That quick lesson was just the latest example of how “always on” access to technology can change the way teachers and students operate. No one would march their students down to the computer lab for a 10-minute Google Maps experience. Having the technology in the classroom, ready to use at a moment’s notice, makes it possible to blur the line between learning about technology and learning with technology. I get excited when I consider the kinds of questions that these students can ask and answer on their own with the Google Maps site alone.