Sunday, October 2, 2016

Engaging Learners in Virtual Tours with ClassFlow

I am not sure why I am so enamored with virtual tours, but I have been hooked since Google's visit last year when they came to share Google Expeditions with our 5th and 6th grade students. Maybe it is because it is so easy to get the students engaged in a virtual tour...maybe it is because the students can explore places they have never been...maybe it is because virtual tours not only provide learners with a visual experience, but also an auditory and kinesthetic one, as well.  Based upon my one day experience with Google Expeditions, I can tell you that I am so excited about their recent release for iOS devices.  With their teaching notes, question prompts, and gyroscope compatible pictures for students, it is so easy to integrate Expeditions into the curriculum.  In fact, I invested in 25 ViewMasters and an equal number of iPods in early summer, because I am convinced that this type of learning activity is a game changer for our student population who have limited experiences outside of their own neighborhoods. I feel that if I can take students around the world through interactive pictures, a wealth of opportunities will be unlocked for our students to associate mental pictures with words they read and hear, thus expanding their background knowledge, but not every location is available through Expeditions.

Enter ClassFlow.  About a month ago, I started using ClassFlow, a free online presentation system kind of like an interactive whiteboard, but with built-in assessments, assignment creator, badging, and interactivity tools.  In ClassFlow, there are 2 slide decks available, one on the teacher side (the things that will show up in the front of the room through the projector) and one on the student side (the things that will show up on the students' devices). The 2 slide decks do not have to match and therefore allow for the creation of the customized virtual tour complete with teacher notes and talking points!!!  By embedding links to 360 degree videos and photos on the student side, virtual tours can be built with images with which students can interact.  By including teacher notes or questions on the teacher side of the slide deck, lessons aligned to content standards can be developed with questions or facts designed to keep class discussions on topic.


I shared my first tour, Regions of Texas, with 4th grade students last week.  It was so rewarding as a teacher to hear the students oohs and aahs as they saw the different pictures appear on their devices and honestly, in my 16 years of teaching, I have never introduced something to students that resulted in a similar response.  They were so excited to share what they were seeing with classmates as they moved the images around on their screen that on more than one occasion the teacher turned to apologize to me for the noise.  I assured her, no apologies were needed.  I love to hear engaged students excitedly talking about content!  Next stop...the White House.


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