Action Research Project: Written Component
By Christopher Marshall


Project Title
“Mapping a Student’s Personal Journey Using Google Earth”

Description of Project
Using one of the premiere tools in geographical navigation, Google Earth, my project involves using this technology to create a short, personal history for each student in a High School level Social Studies class. Each student will be asked to list five locations on the planet that mean something to them, whether it be their place of birth, their family origins, their school, etc. Google Earth allows the user to access satellite photos of any location on earth, zooming in to provide a bird’s-eye view of a given locale. For the purposes of this project, the students will be introduced to the “Tour” feature within Google Earth that allows the user to plot multiple locations across the globe and then take a virtual tour that moves from location to location. Ideally, the students will choose five locations that are important to them in their own personal journey, and then to display those locations for the class using the tour feature.

I am primarily interested in studying whether the Google Earth technology will allow students to acquire a more complete understanding of their own world and how they see themselves within it. My hope is that students will be invigorated by not only their own exploration, but by being exposed to the world as their fellow students see it.

The ideal implementation for this project would be in a high school level social studies course. For the purposes of my own research, I have to leverage the resources available to me, and that would be the room I currently I work within at Aloha High School, a Behavioral Learning Center. I will be implementing this project in a course entitled Personal Development, and the participants will be high school students who are all on IEP’s relating to behavioral disabilities that hinder their academic progress.

Rationale
T - I have chosen to use Google Earth because I believe it is a resource that gives students unparalleled access to the world around them in such a way as to produce a greater appreciation for their own relationship to it.

P- I believe this activity would serve as pedagogical “Guided Discovery.” Having provided the model, the students would be released to discover the technology and the purposes for it on their own.

CK- I feel that at the start of any course on the social sciences students should be challenged to embrace their own relationship to the relevance of the content, whether political, social, economical, or geographical. This activity would establish a community atmosphere within the classroom where each students personal journey is given equal status among a network of peers.

NETS – I believe this project fulfills the NETS standard for “planning & designing learning environements & experiences supported by IT.” Most importantly, I believe this project would cultivate a genuine learning experience that would also introduce a new level of technological discovery.

Data Collection
The first piece of data that I collected was a visual organizer that asked the students to list five places anywhere in the world that are important to them. The students were asked to list the location and to provide a reason for why that location mattered to them. This would eventually serve as their road map for inputting the locations into Google Earth.

I should note at this point that the initial attempt to implement this project failed miserably due to technical difficulties unforeseen by me. At the second attempt, I was forced due to the previous experience to research the project using only one student. I felt the results were still conclusive enough to warrant a sufficient analysis of its effectiveness.

The last piece of data was a second graphic organizer that allowed the student to reflect upon his experience. Ideally, this would be used to generate a group or classroom discussion regarding the ultimate purpose of the assignment.

Data Analysis
In both attempts, the easiest part was getting the students to think of places that are important to them. It’s no secret that people love talking about themselves, and students are no exception. The only obstacle for the students was in narrowing their choices to only five, and in the future I might consider increasing the number of places the students have to choose from.

I modeled the technology for the student in question and he was able to successfully apply what he had learned to the use of the software. When the student had completed the tour on Google Earth, he was then able to demonstrate the tour for other students in the class and explain the locations he had chosen.

For the reflection piece the student was relatively forthright about his experience and gave some useful insight into what this might look like in a classroom setting.

Findings, Conclusions and Recommendations
My general finding, based on the data collected, was that this assignment could really invigorate a social studies classroom. Based on the reflection piece provided by the student, it is apparent that there is obvious opportunity here to produce a real communal learning experience between peers. The Google Earth technology is so engaging as to be a worthy learning experience in and of itself. To couple it with the potential to provide students with a greater understanding of their own and their fellow students’ personal journeys is ultimately the ideal precursor to a successful high school social studies course.

I feel the project has conclusively shown that the Google Earth technology is a highly useful educational tool that has a diverse set of uses for the social studies classroom. I would recommend this activity to any teacher at essentially any level. The implications here are useful for creating a mutually respectful classroom, one that is globally aware as well as locally attuned, and that is essential to any quality learning environment.

Plan of Action
First of all, having experienced the initial failure in implementing the technology on a classroom, I know now the need to have those aspects of the project entirely fleshed out, so to speak, before implementing them on a larger scale. I believe this project has encouraged me to explore this technology further and to ultimately introduce this project into a live social studies classroom where I am the lead teacher.

Second, I would like to smooth out the parameters of this assignment so that other teachers might be led to implement it into their own courses. I believe it would be a useful strategy for any teacher to use in trying to create a closer bond between the students in their classroom.