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A weblog designed to share Geography resources with students and colleagues

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Peer assessing with umapper?

Categories: s1 and s2
We had a go at using umapper with s1 over the last couple of days. There were some problems of access which were mostly to do with our classroom in a box system, but some students managed to complete their geodart games which we were using to improve our knowledge of Brazil and its neighbours. I have another s1 class who are working on this just now and we have decided to register the users- it gives much more flexibility if students go back to the map later. Looking at one or two of the examples, it strikes me that this would be a great way to use peer assessment, perhaps through a closed system such as edmodo. The first map for some reason does not show a score, but has quite concise questions, while the second map clearly shows that the students have been improving their own knowledge of Brazil, but their questions make it difficult for others to answer- a good example of how a bit of feedback could improve the students own understanding.
Please feel free to leave a comment for the students :)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Smashing Darts

Categories: s1 and s2, Advanced Higher, Glaciation
Have just spent the evening making massive balls of playdough for landscape recognition exercise with s3 tomorrow. Now that I've finally managed to clean it from my hands, my thoughts have went to s1. I normally do a paper based exercise looking at Brazil and South America. This revolves around the following:
Physical Geography

Identify Brazilian Highlands and Andes

Identify Atlantic ocean for coastline

Identify Amazon Rainforest and River

Highest Mountain in Brazil

Political Geography

Identify Brazil's neighbours

Urban Geography

Some major cities including Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Belo Horizonte, Recife, Belem, Manaus and Salvador

Lines of Latitude and Longitude

Tropic of Capricorn


I feel as if the students sometimes get too engrossed in colouring in or do the opposite and rush the exercise and I want a bit more thought about the map. I am going to have a try at using umapper and the geodart game maker. We will have to think about the same places and themes but will have to pose this as a question, meaning that the person creating the game has to find out a bit about the region too. Also, as it's scores based, the more accurate the answer, the better the score, so I'm hoping that we can share games and get a bit of competition going. If this works, I'll share some of the results here. There's a little tutorial at the top of the page for how to create your games, but I'll do a quick example in class.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Categories: s1 and s2, Advanced Higher
Had fun with s1 this morning using voicethread, music and mind mapping and both classes seem really nice. I was very impressed with some of the topics that Advanced Higher are considering for their folio work too. Here is a sample for the Issues essay:

Outdoor Access Code: Has the right to roam affected Conservation efforts in (area)?

Genocide in Rwanda: Never again?

India and Globalisation: Boon or burden?

Is American Industry right to lobby for loose environmental legislation?

and again with the personal study:

Is there a need for a flood prevention scheme on the White Cart Water?

Swine Flu: A local case study of containment v a Pandemic

Is Glasgow's transport strategy reducing congestion issues?

Is the CBD of Glasgow losing its status?

Some other students have rough topics which are being worked on for the weekend. One student in particular would like to do a study involving the lithosphere element of the Higher course he has just completed. All of the studies that we have submitted before have either been human geography based or have used hydrosphere/biosphere physical topics. Without significant travel, I am struggling to think of a topic which this student could undertake. Does anyone have ideas that they would be willing to share with him? We are in a school in an urban area. Please leave a comment, or contact me through twitter at @Kenny73. I know your help will be most appreciated.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Old tools for the new term

Photo from flickr user Indiamos
Categories: Other

I have been spending a little time in the last week or two of the holidays thinking about what I could use with classes to make it easy to share work, submit and mark. The obvious place to start is Edmodo. I have been speaking to Mr Ross about Glow, which seems a natural solution to this, but until such times as we are fully up and running with this, and probably beyond, I'm going to keep using this brilliant web application. We trialled this with second year last term and without using to anywhere near it's full potential the benefits are obvious. All homeworks are in one place, all the marks recorded, space for meaningful comments, the option to keep examples of work public or private and the security of the platform all impressed me, and I felt that students responded well too- the quality of work submitted was very pleasing and feedback revolved around the ease of use for the class. I have created a group for every class that I'll be teaching now and I'll introduce this tomorrow.

The other thing that I have been playing around with is posterous, being very impressed with the way that John Johnston has used his posterous to share photos, audio, screenshots, video and more, all at the click of an e-mail. If I am teaching a lesson and something is going on which I think might be worth an audience, I can get this from my phone to the web as soon as the class ends. Posterous also allows cross-posting which means I will be able to blog here through this too, so students only really need one address to find everything. Also significantly declutters the process of blog posting- no need to worry about putting video into vimeo or finding an audio host and so on. Last year I used Posterous with a class, but don't think I really 'got' it until recently, and I am really looking forward to using it in a more constructive way.

Modernising Map Skills

Categories:s1 and s2, Geography General
In preparing for the return to the trade tomorrow, we had quite an interesting discussion in department about where we saw the teaching of Map Skills for s1 pupils going. After looking at the Curriculum for Excellence outcomes, map skills are certainly not overly represented and, in fact, there is probably no need to teach a map skills unit. I carried this discussion on to twitter, where I was interested to note that most people were still teaching traditional map skills and throwing in a little bit of neogeography, maybe using GPS or Google Earth to supplement what they are doing. I feel in a quandary about this. I have always been a lover of maps, and I think the OS map has a level of detail that is unsurpassed in many of the other newer maps that are available online. However, in student surveys, map skills never fares well. We tried to make the material more accessible by making much of it games based- battleships for grid references, taboo and bingo games, using some of the games on the OS site for homework and so on. Still, the feedback was less than positive. In contrast to this, things like 'Using Google Earth' were commonly commented on as one of the students most positive experiences in class. Either students don't recognise that they are using a level of skill in interpreting the landscape that is essentially map skills or my teaching of map skills through this medium has not been explicit enough. So should we leave traditional maps behind, let the two battle it out like Noel Jenkins did, or stick to the old?

From this thread, I gained some good ideas from colleagues about how to take this into the classroom- How to use traditional maps in a more engaging way, and how to use newer mapping techniques. For that I am very thankful. But the key thing for me was that other teachers were having the same conundrum. I will put the links and ideas at the bottom of this post, but thought it might be useful to share the most valuable mapping resources that I have used in the last year or two, which might allow others to find something which they can use in their own teaching, or might trigger comments about other available applications which I am not aware of.


GoogleMapsMania - my favourite place for a variety of useful mashups, including a swine flu map which I posted about before. Also links to a directory, latest addition, real time maps.

Mapperz- I have recently been subscribing to this blog which shares a lot of the features that I like in the above site, and had a great post recently about the met site, really useful for teachers of Geography

Google Earth Blog- A host of info about how to get the best out of Google Earth, including imagery updates, overlays etc

Google Earth Hacks - lots of files which can be opened within Google Earth, always something within this vault which can be of use

Digital Geography- As a teacher, it's staggering to read about the ways in which Noel Jenkins uses new technology, particularly Google Earth, in his classroom. Much of what I have tried in class with regards to this has been inspired by things I have read about here.

Strange Maps- I have used the maps I've sourced here to emphasise that maps come in many shapes and forms!

Where's the Path- Great side by side satelite and OS tiles
Walking Papers- Download a map for any area and let students put their mark on OpenStreetMap

Google Earth Files

There are so many great ones which some of the sites above will flag up, and google earth has so much in the layers as well, but my current favourites are:

Gavin Brock's OS overlay - Absolutely brilliant, the OS in 3D. There were some licence issues with this for a while, but the file is back up now

360cities- StreetView is phenomenal, 360 cities is like an extension of this, but often includes areas where the streetview cameras have not been-immersive panoramas which allow students to fly into locations and explore the landscape. No need to link to the file here, as this now has it's own layer in GE
GPS and trails

Everytrail - I have been able to use this in school grounds fieldwork from my phone, record the trail and attach geotagged photos

Instamapper- We used this in the Alps to let parents track our field excursions in real time, and this could be used in a number of creative ways

Suggestions by Colleagues

Mapping News - Includes Val Vannet's 'My Patch', thanks to Victoria Ellis. Loads of good stuff here.

Also, some other suggestions included


Many thanks to Victoria Ellis, Rob Marchetto, Tom Biebrach, Mary Cooch, Val Adam, and Alan Parkinson for their input, and I look forward to seeing Alan's storytelling idea when it comes out.There are so many useful resources and ideas, feel free to leave a comment if you can think of any more.