Walk With Us (WWU) is a digital storytelling and mapping project based in the city of Timmins in northeastern Ontario. WWU is a pilot project partnered with Digital Human Library, Google Earth Outreach, Canadian Geographic, WalkInto and CreativeXistence 360. We are working together to provide educators and students with a powerful means of producing their own virtual tours, with their own content and curriculum in mind.
During the 2015-16 school year at Northeastern Catholic DSB, Melissa Lavoie (Educational Technology Special Assignment Teacher) visited Bishop Belleau School in Moosonee, Ontario to teach about Google Maps, My Maps and Street View, and their applications in the classroom. Before long, students figured out that their communities were not represented on Street View. They wanted to show where they lived, played and went to school. However, since 360′ imagery is needed for Pegman to “see” in Street View, a discussion began about why there were no pictures, how pictures could be taken, and what would be required.
Fast forward to later in the school year, where a group of high school students created a presentation about the suicide crisis in the Attawapiskat First Nation, Ontario. Attawapiskat declared a state of emergency after 11 young people tried to commit suicide in one day. Since last September, over 100 people in the community of 2,000 have attempted suicide. These students bravely stood in front of their school and spoke passionately about their own experiences grappling with issues they have faced, and how they came to overcome these obstacles. The underlying message was one of hope for a brighter future, and to never give up. They wanted to tell their stories, and we wanted to help. The majority of this group of students are now Walk With Us club members.
One of our members, Neebin, created our club logo. She explains her thinking behind her colour choices:
“The world will be green and blue and the eagle will have original eagle colours, the teepee will be beige and black with the footprints representing the medicine wheel with the colours red, yellow, black, and white.”
WWU is run as a club at O’Gorman High School (NeCDSB) in Timmins, Ontario. We meet every Tuesday during lunch hour and currently document our journey via Twitter, Teach Ontario, and Miss Lavoie’s blog. The students also have ideas about how to capture footage and share with the world, including a vlog, and we will host these on our Google Site.
Our project involves using free virtual tour building software called WalkInto, 360′ cameras (Ricoh Theta S) and Google Street View as a storytelling platform for youth. Our students will share stories of their upbringing, culture, and traditions, and to discuss the issues that affect them. We hope to increase awareness of some of the challenges Indigenous communities face, and foster hope in the connections we create in order to spread positive messaging and resilience. This project will teach skills that actively prepare learners for the 21st century, one of our board’s improvement planning priorities, including (but not limited to): critical thinking, communicating ideas, understanding media, working with various technologies, and collaborating in teams.
Image Captures: Out in the Field
WWU endeavors to complete 360’ image captures in the Indigenous communities along the James Bay coast / Treaty 9 territory to, quite literally, put the students’ communities on the map. These communities include, but are not limited to: Peawanuck, Fort Albany, Kashechewan, Attawapiskat, Constance Lake, Moosonee, Moose Factory, and finally Mattagami First Nation, where students have captured their first 360’ images. These images will be the backdrop for their stories – inviting viewers to immerse themselves in the sights, sounds, and knowledge of these communities by walking with them. The students lead the way.
The students received 360′ photography training via Google Hangout from Neil Cariani, a Google Trusted Photographer in Clarksville, Tennessee and owner of CreativeXistence 360. Neil is also volunteering his time to edit the students’ 360′ photos to adhere to Street View quality guidelines, and advises the educators involved in the project.
As well, students have participated in virtual tour building training courtesy of Boni Gopalan, founder of WalkInto, also via Google Hangout. Boni also advises the educators involved in the project.
Teacher Guide (in development)
A teacher guide is currently in development to assist educators and students in using these tools in their classrooms.
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