Category Archives: Geography

Be the Fly on the Wall: Mystery Skype

There can never be enough examples from the classroom to share. The benefits are many, from creating a ripple effect  of digitally documenting and sharing to a glimpse in someone else’s classroom by having the opportunity to be a fly on the wall via a video clip.

I have shared the Excitement of Learning that can unfold with a Mystery Skype call before. The following video clip is from David Jorgensen’s 8th grade Humanities class (São Paulo, Brazil), recorded during their first Mystery Skype with a class from rural Iowa, USA.

Take a closer look at the collaboration, roles of each student (based on Alan November’s Digital Learning Farm), and their practice of questioning techniques.

Building Content Knowledge: Collaborate and Curate

Mark Engstrom. 8th grade Geography teacher and Assistant Principal at Graded- The American School of São Paulo, has redesigned his entire course.

Students move through the modules of this blended learning course on Geography at their own pace.  They build out content knowledge using a Personalized Map (through google maps) and the content delivered through this Digital Learning Farm method will be curated so that they can build out multiple pins on their map.  This content is then used as content knowledge to increase their understanding of the region.
He wanted to experiment with a different type of note taking to add to students’ documentation of gaining subject specific content knowledge. 


The class was divided into 3 groups. Each group contained one  person responsible to contribute by :

  • taking  notes on one google doc- each has a column
  • adding raw data (statistics, facts, charts, graphs, etc.)
  • adding images that visualized what was being talked about
  • writing on the backchannel
  • asking questions
  • linking to the course’s Essential Questions


collaborate-curate 3






Take look at the following video summarizing the class.

It is incredibly insightful to be going through and analyzing the backchannel chat after the class is over. It gives you a better understanding of:

  • what students heard
  • what students felt was important to capture
  • the discussion that evolved in the backchannel alone
  • the connections students made and shared








It was now back into each individual student’s court to CURATE their own notes. Students had access to all  documents from each group as well as the backchannel. It was up to them to go trough the information and take the pieces that they deemed important to add to their content knowledge.

Digital curation

 is the selection, preservation, maintenance, collection and archiving of digital assets.Digital curation establishes, maintains and adds value to repositories of digital data for present and future use.This is often accomplished by archivists, librarians, scientists, historians, and scholars. Enterprises are starting to utilize digital curation to improve the quality of information and data within their operational and strategic processes

Curating information has become a critical skills as part of information literacy. The ability of finding, evaluating, analyzing, remixing,  organizing and archiving information is more important than ever in the information overload era. The amount of information we are confronted with and that is being thrown at us is exponentially growing with no sign of stopping nor slowing down. We need to find ways to support students in becoming  curators of information.

One of the students, Ben, observed the following as he was going through the notes from the Backchannel group:

I found these very interesting because Florens and Tibet really try to link what is happening in India to our life in São Paulo which for me is a smarter way to learn things; by comparing them with your everyday life.



Global Students- Global Perspectives Projects

I am pleased to share with you an opportunity for Middle School Students to collaborate on a global perspectives project.

Mark Engstrom, the Assistant Principal and Middle School Geography teacher at my new school  in São Paulo, Brazil,  and his collaboration partner, Laurie Clement, a MS teacher in Windsor, Canada, have put together various projects to connect middle school geography students from around the world and to facilitate collaboration among them. This past school year, our students in Brazil worked together with students from Canada, USA and Sweden. They are expanding this opportunity to more schools and countries.

Take a look at the outline of the project below and get directly in contact with  one of the Program Coordinators:

Mark Engstrom
Graded School
Sao Paulo, Brazil
via Twitter (@markaengstrom)

Laurie Clement
St. Rose Catholic School
Windsor, Canada


Marble earth

Purpose: To facilitate student growth within a global environment.  Students will have the ability to acquire skills in research, critical thinking, teamwork and leadership while fostering partnerships with peers around the globe.

Last year middle school students from Brazil, the U.S., Sweden, and Canada connected to work on projects that require many Modern Learning Skills:

Creativity and Innovation
Students generate and extend ideas, suggest hypotheses, use their imagination and look for innovative ways to present their ideas.  In the Utopia Project, students create what they believe a Utopian country would look like.  They work together to determine the history of their country, the physical characteristics of their land and how that would impact their economic security.   In their groups, they also collaborate on social and political issues such as the education system as well as what type of government will run their country.

Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

Students are encouraged to use knowledge, facts and data to effectively problem solve.  They learn that thinking through an issue, assessing problems and looking for multiple solutions is more important than identifying an immediate answer to a problem. While studying land disputes, students will investigate the land in question, the causes of the dispute as well as what negotiation strategies have been used to attempt to solve this conflict.  As a group they will also evaluate the current geopolitical situation and discuss possible resolutions.  Groups will then select images and visual representations to accurately portray the struggles that have occurred as a result of that particular piece of land.

Communication and Collaboration

Technology has transformed the way we communicate in the classroom.  It has allowed us to step beyond our classroom walls and collaborate with students across the globe.  In these projects students communicate and collaborate with their international peers throughout the learning process.  For example, in the Five Most Pressing Problems on the Planet project, the first task is for students to survey people in their lives/community in order to determine which global issues they think are the most “pressing”. After this communication, students collaborate around which issues their group will focus on.

Empathy and Global Stewardship

The Internet along with the various forms of social media used on a consistent basis by our students has provided them with instant and consistent access to global issues.  As a result, it is more important than ever to educate our students on what it means to become a global citizen. Our projects have been designed to provide students the opportunity to explore global issues and increase their awareness of social, environmental, political and health concerns that are present in our world today.

Curiosity and Imagination

Students will have the freedom to explore, negotiate and make choices.  They will be empowered to take ownership of their learning and become active participants within their groups.  Each of the projects have been designed to provide a significant amount of choice within a well structured environment.

Information/Media/ICT Literacy

Students will analyze and evaluate a wide variety of sources in order to determine what information is valuable.  In addition, students determine the best platform with which to share out their final product.

We now have complete links and almost all of the dates.  Is there any chance you could edit it so that it looks like this:

The 2013-2014 projects will be:


Side note: These are probably best done not as whole class projects, but rather for those students who could use enrichment or a non-traditional learning experience.  Each project runs for two weeks and there is a rubric for the grading of each one.

Parent testimonial

“This project is excellent. Children are collaboration each other and try to learn more. Also this project is also helping to bring children from different country different society and discuss the issues.” – Sujit Biswas

“I think this was a great experience for my daughter. She has never done anything like this before where you work with people from another country. She really seemed interested in it and was happy to be a part of it. However with all the projects and tests, piling up at the end of the quarter, she did at times get a little frustrated, but overall I think she really enjoyed it and would be glad if she can do it again!” -Hiroko Kawahara

Student testimonial

“The Five Most Pressing Problems project was my favourite project this year.  I liked working in groups with students around the world and getting to talk about real life problems.  I learned a lot from my partners by talking about which problems we thought were the most important. To help my group in ranking the issues, I created a survey that was completed through multiple forms of social media.  I received responses from over 600 people in over 20 countries.  I think that I’m more aware of global issues now that I have learned so much from the project”. – Carly Jacobs

* Read more about Carly’s experience in this article featured in her local newspaper,  The Windsor Star.

Partners in 2012-2013



Houston, U.S.A.

Nehemiah Middle School

Windsor, Canada

St. Rose

Sao Paulo, Brazil

Graded School- The American School of Sao Paulo

Karlstad, Sweden

Internationella Engelska Skolan

Partners in 2013-2014

Atlanta, U.S.A.

Atlanta International School

Esigodini, Zimbabwe

Falcon College

New York, U.S.A.

Avenues School

Belgrade, Serbia

International School of Belgrade

Campinas, Brazil

Escola Americana de Campinas

Astana, Kazakhstan

International School of Astana

Chicago, U.S.A.

Round Lake Middle School

Other Potential Partners for 2013-2014:

  • Delaware, U.S.A.
  • Lusaka
  • Singapore
  • The Hague
  • Sydney
  • Cairo
  • Zagreb
  • Melbourne
  • Hanoi
  • Hong Kong
  • Meknes, Morocco
  • Settat, Morocco
  • Karachi
  • Teaneck, New Jersey
  • Kuwait
  • Zurich
  • Managua
  • Caracas
  • Brussels
  • Piedmont, OK, U.S.A.
  • Jakarta
  • Macao
  • Prague
  • Doha
  • Dubai
  • Lisbon


Amplification of a Transportation Unit & a Survey

In a unit on Transportation, our Kindergarteners read a large picture book “On the Move!” by Donna Latham

Students got so interested into learning about different ways people around the globe got around. They were even ready to take a trip to Venice, Italy to ride in a Vaporetto.

Since our 5 & 6 year olds have gotten pretty good at using PicCollage on the iPads, their teacher Arlene Yegelwel, wanted to personalize another collaborative classroom eBook.

She took the time to find over 20 public domain images of transportation methods they had discussed in class on Wikimedia Commons and sent them in one email to each iPad.

Student’s workflow fluency looked like this:

  • opened the PicCollage app
  • chose one image of the different transportation methods
  • decided how they could best place an image of themselves onto the picture
  • asked a buddy to take an image of them acting out a particular position on the iPad
  • edited the image by clipping the background
  • resized the image to make it fit the ration of the transportation image
  • rotated the image
  • saved the image
  • emailed the image to their teacher


Mrs. Yegelwel, downloaded the images from the e-mail and then  imported them into the BookCreator App. She sat with each students to document their comment for the image.



As a class, they also reviewed all the different parts of a book, such as title page, dedication page and credit page. We also had a short, age appropriate discussion about copyright and how we cannot just TAKE (steal) any images we find on the web. We talked to them about some photographers who release their images into public domain, which meant we could use them. So there was a special Thank You crafted to thank these photographers 🙂


We could have stopped here, but the global component (transportation AROUND THE WORLD) begged to amplify what had largely taken place in the classroom only.

We decided to involve students in crafting their own survey. Below you will find our collaborative efforts in formulating the title, description, questions and different checkboxes.

Please take a moment to fill out the form for them. We will continue to accept responses until next Friday (May 24, 2013) to then tabulate and interpret the results.

We also discussed how would we let people know about our survey? What if we stood in our school’s parking lot and shouted it out? How many people would hear us? Where would these people be geographically be from?

I showed them my Twitter account and demonstrated how I was going to give a “shout out” for our survey.


We then sat back and literally watched the first responses to our survey “fall into” the spread sheet.  Please imagine the wows, the oohs and the aahhs for each one, especially when the first ones from Europe started falling in. Mrs. Yegelwel pulled in the globe and showed location. We also explained why most of our responses seemed to come from the US and Canada. We quickly looked up what time it was in Australia and they “shockingly” realized that Australians were deep asleep while they were in school.


I am asking myself the following questions.

What are students learning BEYOND the reading of the original book in their classroom? How did we amplify skills and literacies, because we took “the extra step” of connecting the students to a global network? What transformative (not possible without the amplification) teaching & learning took place?

  • Geography skills (We are looking up each location  on a globe. We are learning about states, countries, continents, urban, suburban, etc.)
  • Math skills (We are using real authentic data. The results will be counted, sorted, organized and graphed)
  • Thinking skills (Why are most people in the US using a car/van to get to work? Why do most people in Japan use scooters?)
  • Global skills (They realize that we can talk TO the world, not just ABOUT the world)
  • Network skills (What are networks? How does Twitter work?)


Where the Hell is Matt- Evolution

I have been following the “Where the Hell is Matt” videos since 2006. I always thought the video is a great hook for students into geography. There are three versions available with a clear evolution of Matt growing as he travels around the world.

From dancing in isolation in different locations around the world in 2006. Matt is doing “his thing”.

In 2008, he starts our dancing “his way” alone to then be joined by locals who are imitating his dance moves.

Finally in 2012, Matt is embracing the locals, by dancing WITH them, learning their cultural dances and being part of the World.