My 7th graders finished a unit on Europe last week and we used a lot of different tools along the way. The unit was built around a mock trip to Europe. After some preliminary map work and a few lessons on general history, the students got to work on researching their trip.
For their research I had the students focus on two sites (beyond book research): LonelyPlanet.com and AndySteves.com. Rick Steves does travel shows about Europe on PBS and Andy is his son (currently a college senior). His site is focused on trips for college students, but is highly accessible to middle school students. He has a variety of easy to use itineraries for cities all over Europe. This made it a lot easier for my students to find straightforward information about things to do in their cities without having to sift through pages of details.
I contacted Andy and he was nice enough to do a video chat with our class, which was great. He has an excellent presentation he uses for college students, which he edited for our class. We’d planned on using google docs so he could control the presentation while video chatting with us, but a few technical snafus led to a different arrangement. In the end, I just rotated students in and out of the “control” seat during the presentation so he always had someone to look at and that student advanced the presentation slides for the class. The rest of the students sat around the main computer to answer/ask questions or went to computer stations around the room where we’d set up a room on tinychat. Andy hooked into the tinychat room on his end and was able to respond to student questions at different points in the presentation.
After the presentation, the students continued their research and ended up writing ten journal entries about cities they visited in Europe.Â Using zeemaps.com, they put their journal entries into a labeled map.Â It always takes a lot longer than I anticipate to drop markers, add pictures, and paste in their journal entries, so not everyone got totally done.Â (With the hope of getting through the rest of the world before the year is out, I told them they could finish if we had extra time and computers were open).