by Michelle Eckstein
Through project-based learning, students used 360 cameras, ThingLink 360/VR and a variety of multimedia tools to create virtual reality tours of Colorado. Students built knowledge by actively exploring actual ecosystems and discovering the landforms, animals, and plants that live in the -ecosystem. They then used ThingLink 360/VR to show what they had learned. ThingLink 360/VR was the perfect tool for both delivering content and having students show what they had learned.
Teaching with ThingLink 360/VR
Students had two class periods to explore the ThingLink 360/VR that I created for initial exposure to the different life zones. This also served as an exemplar for the projects students would create later in the unit. Students were highly engaged and excited as they explored each life zone and began to build schema for the remainder of the unit.
Student Projects with ThingLink 360/VR
Students selected one life zone and researched the climate, plants, and animals that are typical in that habitat. Students used Wixie to create introductions to their habitat. Students then began to collect images and animal sounds for their presentation from Pics4Learning and audio from SoundBible. With all of the individual components complete, students began to create their ThingLink 360/VR tour of a Colorado life zone. Our families are active and enjoy getting out in the great outdoors so many students checked out our Ricoh Theta SC cameras and took pictures around Colorado’s parks and trails. Because I wanted students to be able to explore all of the life zones and knew that we’d have many more pictures of the Boulder/Lafayette area and surrounding foothills and ski areas, I reached out to local photographers for pictures of other areas within Colorado. I found a list of Google Street View Photographers and reached out to them for help. Within days, I had many pictures from all over Colorado for students to use. This also allowed me to have a great conversation with students on copyright, asking permission to use someone’s work and giving credit.
Finally, students created their ThingLInk 360/VR by combining pictures, audio, Wixie introductions, and Google Slides of animals. Some learners went the next step to think about how humans impact their life zone. They created short presentations on human impacts and made suggestions on how we can better protect Colorado’s habitats.
Students loved this project. When I asked them to reflect on what they learned and their favorite part of the unit, the students overwhelmingly said getting to learn about Colorado in this way made it way more interesting and fun than just reading a book or website. They truly understand the content and are able to explain what they learned to others. In addition to the content students learned, many digital citizenship and digital literacy skills were practiced.
About the Author
Michelle Eckstein, Elementary Technology Teacher | Peak to Peak Charter School, Lafayette, Colorado
I have been in teaching elementary schools for 10 years, currently as the Elementary Technology Teacher at Peak to Peak Charter School. Prior to joining the staff at Peak to Peak, I was the TAG Educational Advisor at High Peaks Elementary and Lafayette Elementary Schools. I have a Masters in Gifted Education from the University of Connecticut and endorsements in elementary education, gifted education, and instructional technology. I am a ThingLink Certified Educator, Tech4Learning Innovative Educator, and Google Certified Educator. I love seeing students authentically engaged when they are creating with technology. You can connect with me on:
“Thinglink engages students in new ways. I’ve seen a huge leap in engagement and understanding with Thinglink.”