Episode 12: #EdPins

Google Maps can be used in surprisingly creative ways. An excellent example is #EdPins, an initiative with the motto Putting learning on the map. In this episode we have an interview with Dale Plotzki, the man behind #EdPins – and more.




Jan Van Haver 0:06
Hello and welcome to episode 12 of the LetsGuide Podcast, the ultimate podcast for Google Local Guides. Today we’re trying out something new. It’s not an episode where I am talking for 15 or 20 minutes about one specific topic related to Google Maps, but we’re having an interview. Yes, indeed, I have a guest on the show today. I hope it will be interesting for all of you, but especially the people who have a link to education might be in for a nice surprise with this interview.

Jan Van Haver 0:41
Google Maps can be used in very surprisingly creative ways. An excellent example is #EdPins – that’s the topic for today. #EdPins is an initiative with the motto ‘putting learning on the map’. And in the episode today we have an interview with Dale Plotzki, the man behind #EdPins – and more, as you will find out. As usual, I want to point out, before we get started that I have no affiliation with Google or the Local Guides team. I’m just a local guide like most of you. Anything I say in the program is therefore my personal interpretation. This episode is recorded mid September 2019, and is therefore describing the situation as it is today – might have changed if you’re listening at a later date. And before we go to the interview, I want to point out also that it was the first time I did something like this, and I have noticed only afterwards that I still need to work on my recording skills, especially when it comes to getting the sound volume right. And it seems there was also a small delay on the line, on the connection, so I know what to work on for the next interview episode.

Vanessa P. 2:00
Let’s get started.

Jan Van Haver 2:03
Okay, I’m here today in the podcast together with Dale Plotzki, who is the founder of #EdPins. Hello, Dale.

Dale Plotzki 2:13
Hey, Jan, how you doing today?

Jan Van Haver 2:15
I’m great. I hope the same for you, actually. Where am I calling you?

Dale Plotzki 2:20
So I’m currently located right now in beautiful sunny Lima, Peru. I’m a Canadian expat. I’ve been down here for about seven years, and it’s a wonderful city.

Jan Van Haver 2:32
Okay, yeah. I already suspected that – Plotzki doesn’t really sound very Latin American, but the Canadian background and even probably there’s some European roots given away by that name, I think.

Dale Plotzki 2:46
Yeah, I’m an immigrant down here.

Jan Van Haver 2:48
Yeah. Okay, great. Just to point out that’s the entire Google Local Guides program is very global and has people very active all over the globe. What about you, in the local guides program? Are you active in any way yourself?

Dale Plotzki 3:05
Yeah, I’m some super local, or super active local guide I should say. I’m a level, I’m just about to cross level 8. So I’m only about like, literally 50 points away from becoming level 8. And I’m pretty sure, Jan, that’s the hill I’m gonna die on, because after that, it’s like, you know, it’s exponential, right? So it’s gonna be a long time to move off level 8. I’m going to be pretty happy to probably to plant my flag there.

Jan Van Haver 3:36
Yeah, that’s something to look forward to in the next hours or days, probably.

Dale Plotzki 3:42
Yeah, probably.

Jan Van Haver 3:44
Okay, I invited you on the podcast to talk about #EdPins, which is a creation you made, a very special use of Google Maps. Could you explain the basic idea behind it, please?

Dale Plotzki 3:59
Yeah. #EdPins is driven by our mission statement. And our mission statement is pretty simple. It’s to highlight the beautiful, unique work in every school. And how do we do this? We do that by repurposing a school’s Google Maps reviews card. So it’s my belief that schools are very complex places, and they cannot be rated quite the same way that we would, like, let’s say, a restaurant or a movie theater. There’s just too many, too many things going on inside of the school that either make it a great school to be at or maybe not such a great school. So what #EdPins is trying to do is to use the review card, not as a place to leave that subjective opinion about a school, but rather to turn it into a billboard that celebrates the learning that’s happening inside of the school.

Jan Van Haver 4:51
Yeah, that’s very original approach, I would say, based on Google Maps, of course. And there’s the websites that belongs to its which is edpins.org, I think, and there, I noticed that there are four types of pins on the map for the schools. Can you explain a bit what that is about?

Dale Plotzki 5:17
Yeah, so when people are sharing information about their school, we try and categorize it into one of four different areas to kind of help people sort through it all and to find the information they’re looking for. So the first one is called an innovation pin. That’s for schools or teachers that are doing really innovative or cool new cutting-edge learning practices in their schools that they want to share. So if a school is working with, like, robotics, or if a teacher is experimenting with project based learning, they can share that through innovation. And the second one is called the service pin. So sometimes schools go out into the community and they do wonderful, beautiful work to make their community a better place to be. And so you know, working with senior centers or cleaning up environment or doing peer teaching, that type of school work can be shared as a service pen. The third one is called the collaboration pin. So sometimes schools are looking to make connections in their neighborhood. So they want to have other schools connect with them for, let’s say, forming a team or something like that. Or they want to actually find volunteers in the community that need their services. So when schools are trying to connect with other people, we call that a collaboration. And the last one, yeah, the last one is the alumni pin. So every one of us has gone to school at some point and whether we had a positive experience or not, I’m sure we can all think of one thing that that school experience did to help prepare us for the real world. So oftentimes, I feel like schools only ask for money from their alumni, but by sharing an alumni pin and saying “This is how this school prepared me for life in the real world”, we can kind of get back to our school and our alma mater.

Jan Van Haver 7:04
Yeah, that’s good – bringing a lot of valuable information for other people using the project, or using the Google Maps entry for that school, of course.

Dale Plotzki 7:15
Yeah. And so of course, when you actually look at the school – that’s for my website, where we categorize it – when you look at the the actual Google Maps entry, they all look the same, but they will say at the start, this is an official #EdPins submission innovation pin. So that’s just written on the review card when the person submits an entry.

Jan Van Haver 7:34
Yeah. Okay. Is Google itself in any way involved in this project? Are you cooperating with people on the Google team?

Dale Plotzki 7:45
Yeah, I’m actually, so this project is actually under the umbrella of something that’s called the ‘Google innovator program for education’. So the innovator program is an idea incubator program, that takes teachers who have ideas to make big impacts in education and helps them develop their idea over time with support of Google. So in 2007, I went to Sweden, actually Stockholm, and that’s where this idea was kind of born and developed at the innovator program that they had there. And over the past two years, I’ve been working on it, refining it, and finally rolled it out about one year ago. And so in one year’s time, we had 100 schools participate in #EdPins, and our metrics, our impact has been incredible. I don’t have the numbers totally 100% off the top of my head right now. But around 40,000 of our reviews had been read, and about 100,000 views of our pictures have been seen. So this is a project that is deeply impactful for schools and really has a big effect on what people think about the learning happening inside of the school.

Jan Van Haver 8:55
By now I think we’ve made some people curious about what What is cool need to do to be part of #EdPins?

Dale Plotzki 9:04
Hmm? Well, basically the most important thing is that that school is on Google Maps. In my experience, living in Latin American, living in the developing world, it is jaw-dropping to know how many schools are on Google Maps, almost all of them are already on Google Maps. So if a school is on Google Maps, then they have the ability to participate in #EdPins because we can leave a submission on their reviews page and share it out across the network, across the platform. That’s a really important feature because, you know, whether it’s a wealthy private school, or just kind of a one room school in a rural area in a developing nation, all schools have the same access and visibility through #EdPins. So by sharing learning on this particular network, every school is on the exact same footing which is really important for equity.

Jan Van Haver 10:00
Yes, obviously. You mentioned before that there’s an alumni pin. And obviously everyone is alumni to some school, everybody had some kind of education, I think. So all of our listeners could also help to contribute, or help in some way to the project. Can you explain a bit how they could be involved?

Dale Plotzki 10:29
Yeah, so the process is pretty simple. All you need to do is head to edpins.org, which you already mentioned. And on our site at the top there’s a button that says ‘Submit’. So you click on the Submit button and there’s a form that gathers the information about your school, like: what is its name? what was its address? Kind of gathers the necessary information. And then we give you a space to say what did this school do – as an alumni – how did the school help prepare you for life in the real world? And you can write two sentences, you can write a paragraph. Usually Google Maps doesn’t let you leave more than about a paragraph for review. So don’t go much longer than that. And then, once you click Submit, I just review the entries, I make sure that people are talking about education, and that they’re talking about learning. I’m not saying you have to say the school is the greatest place that you’ve ever been to in your life, simply that what you’re talking about, is about learning. And then we send you your your review, and you can post it on your school’s Google Maps site.

Jan Van Haver 11:33
Okay, that sounds great. And it’s good to hear that not just anybody can enter anything. All the input is being monitored by yourself to make sure the quality is high and no spamming is going on, because there are obviously often a lot of problems in that area.

Dale Plotzki 11:53
Yeah, but when, I think, it comes to education, people are surprisingly really, really passionate, really, really cool about this. So, you know, school is a complex place and people have different experiences. But through the #EdPins program, I have not seen one person that’s like actively out to try and spam a school or anything like that. In fact, this is another really important topic to discuss: oftentimes school reviews are filled with all sorts of like crazy negative things that usually students are writing about the school. So by submitting an EdPins entry and talking about, you know, the learning that’s happening there, we can move that to the top, through a thumbs up button, and that is what people are going to see about your school first, without seeing all that kind of crazy spamming stuff going on. So it’s a great way to demonstrate positive digital citizenship.

Jan Van Haver 12:43
Yeah, actually, that reminds me of a quite funny thing I came across when reviewing edits made by other local guides. There was a suggested category edit for a secondary school and the suggested you category was ‘Prison’. So that must have been by somebody who was not really happy spending his or her time at that particular school.

Dale Plotzki 13:12
That sounds like it might have been a teacher as well.

Jan Van Haver 13:16
I leave that up to you, Dale – I always want to call you ‘Ed’ because of this #EdPin, but your Dale, of course, so… bit funny here. Okay. Yeah, sounds like a great project and I think everybody should at least check out edpins.org. But as I have you on the podcast here, I’d also like to briefly discuss another topic that you mentioned in the first talk we had and that’s another creative use of Google Maps – has to do with surf sites, right?

Dale Plotzki 13:53
Exactly. So this is in the same kind of ideology as #EdPins. So, how can we use these map cards to share different types of information about places? So, living down in Lima, Peru, this city is absolutely blessed with its access to the sea; there’s no other capital city on earth that has access to waves like Lima does. So, surfing is a huge part of our community here. And one of the things we do, is we leave reviews of the surf beaches on Google Maps that explain things like: what are the conditions for this place to work? So sometimes if, like, the tide is too high or the wind is not right, then the wave just will not work at all. So we try and leave surf tips about conditions, about hazards, about things to know about that site. And then we share those out over social media with a hashtag #localguidessurf as well. So it’s very similar in concept to #EdPins, but talking about surfing: when should you try and access a particular spot?

Jan Van Haver 15:00
Okay, is your day job working for the tourist office of Lima, or…?

Dale Plotzki 15:08
It could be. It could be – it’s quite the place: anywhere from 8 to 12 million, depending on what you consider Lima to be and a whole lot of things to do check out. So I love to talk about the city where I live.

Jan Van Haver 15:21
I can imagine only that. Okay, Dale Plotzki, thank you very much for joining me today on the podcast. It was a pleasure having you here and I hope a lot of people get to know #EdPins by listening to this. Do let us know where can people find you if they want to get in touch with you?

Dale Plotzki 15:40
Yeah, so through edpins.org. You can contact me through that website or you can find me on Twitter @Dale_Rickardo – Ricardo with a CK in it.

Jan Van Haver 15:53
Okay – special Rickardo. Thank you very much.

Dale Plotzki 15:56
Thanks a ton, Jan

Jan Van Haver 15:57
Talk to you later. Bye bye.

Dale Plotzki 15:59
Yeah, bye bye.

Jan Van Haver 16:01
And that was it’s the interview. please do check the shownotes for the podcast where I will of course be mentioning the interesting links that Dale provided. It’s one to the #EdPins project website, then his personal blog, and of course also that list of surf sites for those who of you who would like to visit him in lovely Lima, Peru. As I said, at the top of the episode: quite an amazing use of Google Maps. If you know of other surprising ways of using Google Maps, don’t hesitate to let me know – perhaps there’s future episode material there. By the way – before I forget – Dale mentioned in the interview, which was recorded a couple of days ago, that he was close to level 8. Well, there’s excellent news there by now. He has reached level 8 as he tweeted a couple of days ago. Congratulations on that achievements once again, Dale Plotzki. And with that it’s time for a special section we have in every episode of the LetsGuide Podcast.

Vanessa P. 17:15
What a great idea.

Jan Van Haver 17:18
What a great idea refers to Idea Exchange, a section of Local Guides Connect, the official platform that Google provides for local guides. If you have not seen that platform, by the way, or if you have no clue what it is about, listen back to episode 7 of the podcast – was entirely about Local Guides Connect. Anyway, in that Idea Exchange section, you can submit suggestions to improve either Google Maps or Local Guides Connect itself. Other local guides can then vote for your idea if they like it.

Jan Van Haver 17:56
This time it’s quite a recent one that I picked out, by a local guide called @Sebaas – I hope I’m pronouncing the name right. His idea is titled ‘Opportunity to flag irrelevant pics’. You might have seen this, that in answering questions, you often get shown two different pictures with a question which of the two is most relevant? And most of the time, you can clearly say, okay, the left one or the right one. But sometimes really what you would like to click is, none of them is relevant, both are irrelevant. Well, this is the idea where you can vote if you want to have something like a button to mark them both as irrelevant. Of course there will be a link in the show notes where you can just go to Connect and vote for the idea.

Jan Van Haver 18:50
And that’s all I have for this episode. Do let me know if you like the interview formats as I already have a few candidates in mind for future episodes. You can get on touch by email by sending an email to letsguidepodcast@gmail.com; reach out on Twitter – you can find me there under LocalGuidesGguru, or of course on LocalGuidesConnect under my real name @JanVanHaver. I also have a personal blog: janvanhaver.com where you can find interesting articles, if I may say so, about a lot of thingd. The shownotes for the podcast can be found on letsguidepodcast.com – the homepage. The next episode will be a regular one again on a specific Maps-related topic. It should be out in a week or two.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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