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A weblog designed to share Geography resources with students and colleagues

Monday, November 30, 2009

All singing, all dancing

Categories:s1 and s2, Coasts, Other
Adding a little worksheet to go with the s1 activity tomorrow looking at Carnaval in Rio and what it tells us about the development of Brazilian culture and the historical migration of its people. Just formalising what we have already been doing around this. Pillaging Tony again who has virtually prepared nearly all of my Coasts material for me, with the exception of the one involving the hammer and the flying rocks (probably wise to stay away from that one, Tony!), and also had a look at Wikipedia with Advanced Higher after last weeks hullaballoo. Quite a productive period, where we used the school wikipedia page to critique the accuracy of the information, think about how if we were writing about it, we could support the information it was presenting and lastly, how well we thought it referenced its material. All in all, great prep for the Issues essay, so thanks Ollie!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Random Supported Study generator

Categories: general
Just found out I am on supported study duty tonight, so going to make it quite random. Students indicated last time that they struggled with the physical landscapes part of the course, so I have stripped terms from their text and am going to randomly generate content and vary activities. Will use tasks such as quick on the draw, back to back, 60 second summary etc with the terms as appropriate

Click here for full screen version

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Power of Posterous

Categories: s1 and s2, Limestone

Having a great day using posterous direct from my phone. I was giving my s3 back some work, much of which showed a real creative streak which I felt deserved a wider audience. I photographed Emma's limestory and shared it via twitter (had actually forgotten about the direct post to twitter when I update posterous, but we got a lovely bit of feedback from Alan Parkinson as a result). One of the s3 students, Aileen, does drama, and I had the pleasure of being the cover teacher when her class had been performing. Her written work was really outstanding, but I wondered if she would be willing to narrate her own work to share it, which she did here. Please feel free to give feedback on what I think is an exceptional piece of work. Finally, Miss Armstrong was very proud of the work that her new s1 submitted when they were asked to think about what Geography is all about. One piece, which looked at cultural stereotypes (quite an amazing conclusion from an s1 for a 'what is Geography?' task) presented Scots as people see us and the picture is shown above. This really fits in superbly with work we do later on stereotypes of Brazil. The other pieces of work ranged from 'geography in a bottle' to a full farm landscape. Posterous has allowed me to share this work in a way that gets it out to a large audience instantly and hopefully, gives the students a great deal of pride in their work. Battery done now, so no video of s1 making their geodart games later....

Monday, November 23, 2009

To surf or not to surf?

Categories: Coasts
I'm going to show s3 some clips from Charlestown in Cornwall today. For the first couple of clips, I want students to reason what influences the size and power of the waves, what impact the waves might be having, the colour of the waves at the coast (and a reason for that colour) and how the coastal communities have adapted. I also get to talk about skateboarding here ;)

The other place I want to look at is Bournemouth, a few miles along the coast. I want students to think about the effect of the gentle waves, the reason for the fences at right angles to the beach and the importance of the beach, not just for people but for the landcsape behind it.

Industry mapping

Category: Industry
Trying to embed these boards for s4 to use. Attempted to record the screen, but the school machines don't like screentoaster, and blogger doesn't like iframes, so follow the link to the old and new industry maps at my posterous

Sunday, November 15, 2009

How did the dabble do?

Categories: s1 and s2, Limestone, Advanced Higher

This post is mostly a follow up to the dabbleboard one the other day. I am looking at a collection of thoughts from my s3 who have been collaborating on a board since Thursday. I set some homework around conflicts in an upland limestone landscape. I am not sharing the link as it can be edited by anyone I share it with, but hopefully the picture above is a fair indicator of the potential in this resource. This is a fantastic way to let a class or a smaller group work around a topic. I like as a teacher seeing a variation in the depth of the information presented by the students, and I suppose in a way this kind of activity gives people an opportunity for extension, while being inclusive of the range of abilities in the class. I can also see some great discussion points for tomorrows lesson where we can address some issues of understanding or simply tease a bit more out of the points. Finally, I wonder how the class would fare if I presented a question or a series of questions where this was the 'textbook'? Would the information be sufficient, for instance, to provide a well exemplified response? This is a nice way to self assess the work that has been done and give students a bit of responsibility for their own learning. Overall, despite one individual trying to initiate the chat (no takers), I am very pleased with the output, particularly as this was a class who struggled to properly engage with the social aspect of etherpad last year. I suppose that in itself is a small triumph for the class too.
New s1 rotation tomorrow, I am handing the reins to Miss Lamont for a few weeks, which should allow me to sort a potential project with another school involving this class, while Advanced Higher are revisiting critical evaluation. I feel I handled the feedback from the last exercise quite poorly in retrospect, thinking that by holding it back I would allow individuals to focus on a piece of work due for Friday. I was reminded of Neil Winton's assertion that we should let students experience failure, and I think that by presenting the students with the gaps in their work, I would probably have served them better for Friday's hand in. Even though I think I did what I did for the right reasons, it had the wrong desired impact, so I feel a lot of responsibility to help the class get this right tomorrow.
Lastly, I am now on google wave. I haven't even started to consider the pros and cons of student use, but I have been very impressed with the way in which during a very short time period today, some colleagues and I managed to make some real headway in a collaborative project around Pixar movies. If you are a geography colleague and are interested in this, please contact me here or through twitter

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Interactive Whiteboards for the school bag?

Categories: Limestone, Other

I don't know how other Geography teachers feel, but I think there is a lot of repetition in the Intermediate course when teaching landscapes. The land use conflicts which occur in one are just as likely to occur in another, and for students, the devil is in the detail-using appropriate examples from case study material and so on. For the teacher, the challenge is to determine where time needs to be spent to avoid treading water, and vary learning actvities to liven up similar content. In an attempt to do that, I am going to try using dabbleboard as a kind of interactive whiteboard for homework. This is an online tool which probably lends itself best to mindmapping. Students can add text, connectors, images, files and more to a constantly evolving piece of work. The best thing about this for me is that students will be able to see each others changes in real time. My hope and expectation is that between them, the students will be able to succesfully map out all of the conflicts which affect limestone landscapes without having to construct the whole thing themselves. Another example of crowd sourcing a solution.
This leads me on to a discussion I had with a colleague who asked me how would I know that students were not just concentrating on what they were adding at the expense of the other information. I think there are a couple of ways round that. First, the teacher could assess knowledge using this as the 'text' with a group of students, the students could assess each other, or the students could 'teach' a part of the topic to the class on which they had not made a contribution. I also think that the biggest issue with using this tool is trust. There is a chat function and as changes are in real time, there is scope for abuse. I have used etherpad several times, which is similar, but have had complete control over this as it has been a classroom based activity. I will be sharing the link via edmodo
, which allows me to keep it relatively private, but part of me also thinks how can we teach responsible use without giving the responsibility in the first place? I hope to be able to post the result here, and regardless of the outcome, will likely feed back on how the learning was affected by the use of this tool.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Blowin in the wind

Categories: s1 and s2
As often seems to be the case when we are studying natural disasters of some sort, one finds its way into the news. We have been looking at Hurricane Katrina in the last week with s1 and a hurricane is working its way towards the same area, Louisiana, even as we speak. Hurricane Ida is currently crossing the Gulf of Mexico and is expected to make landfall by November 10th. This graphic from MSNBC is excellent for emphasising some of the learning points we have been looking at. Watch how the hurricane speed changes as it moves out into the open water and what is expected to happen when it hits Louisiana and moves across Florida. Would you be able to account for the changes? The track also roughly follows the one our wiki map traces- why are hurricanes so common around here? Leading on to tomorrow's lesson, I've embedded a clip. 44 seconds of news footage which refers to Nicaragua being 'slammed' by the storm. I wonder how many students could point out Nicaragua? I am also acutely aware that the only reason I am hearing about Nicaragua is because the USA is next in line. Why do we hear less about storms in Developing countries when they are most likely to be badly affected by them? Finally, if you stayed in one of these countries who, like Nicaragua, were prone to storms, how would you prepare for its arrival. A couple of resources here might help us. Lots of great questions from a very short news article I spotted when my browser opened tonight.

Update: The track for Hurricane Ida is now available in Google Earth, thanks to Google Earth Blog for this.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Time to scribble

Categories: Industry
Very quick post before the s4 lesson today, you will need to use scribble maps. Find Belfast or Glasgow. Use the scribble and text tool to annotate an area which you think is an old industrial site as well as one which you think is a new one. Best to use the satelite view for this. Label things which you think show that this is typical of either of these areas. Once you have completed that, save your map, copy the link and submit your map as a comment here. I'll tell you about the password.
After you have completed this, find the same area using wheres the path. You will see the satelite photo side by side with the OS map. In your work jotter, list the features on the map which allow you to recognise this as an old or new industrial area (refer back to your text in the original scribble map to help).

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Homework wiki mapping

Categories: s1 and s2

Here is the s1 homework activity. We are trying to create a wiki map of hurricane events to see if there is any pattern to where they occur. Pin your place to the map using the white markers, tell us the hurricane name and when it occured (actual dates if possible). If the map is not allowing you to do it, go to this link here. Thanks

Hurricane squares

Categories: s1 and s2
Using another Ollie Bray idea, I've stuck hurricane events into a name picker from a google squared table and I'm using it with the register to assign a homework task

Click here for full screen version

Monday, November 02, 2009

Assessing the future

Categories: Other
This is one of those posts where I think it probably shouldn't be on my class blog, but seeing as it stems from my class responses, I am housing it here. I have been asked along to a meeting about assessment by a colleague from the SQA. It's really made me question what I do and how I approach assessment in the classroom and at home. I have always felt that I have tried to vary the type of assessment I use in my teaching, using peer assessment regularly further up the school where there is pressure to teach to the exam. Here are a couple of examples of this- a collaborative wiki and videoing students talking about their work while inviting their peers to comment on the final result. In a discussion with my headteacher and one of our depute heads recently, I argued that this allowed me to teach the topics in a way that hopefully engaged students but also deepened their understanding. I also pointed out that creating time had not had an adverse impact on exam results and would suggest that it was one of the things that had facilitated a good performance. I'm now questioning whether students would agree with that, and whether they really recognise they were being assessed at all in instances like that.

My reason for this is on the back of a bit of preparation for the forthcoming meeting I mentioned. I decided to do a formal and anonymous survey of one of my s1 classes to see first of all what they thought assessment was all about, secondly when they felt their work was valued and finally how they would like to be assessed in future. I based this on one completed unit where children had taken a traditional end of unit test, but had also been assessed by each other and themselves (creating and playing games to develop map knowledge, self assessment of skills and knowledge in favela building, peer assessment of the final buildings, using etherpad to collaborate and debate, sharing and answering each others questions about a topic as homework, peer feedback on carnival songs etc). I wordled the main questions and the results are below:

How my students defined assessment

Wordle: s1 view on assessment

Where they felt their work was valued and by whom

Wordle: Where my s1 felt their work was valued

and finally, how they would like to be assessed in future

Wordle: How my s1 would like to be assessed in future

I wasn't totally surprised but was a little disappointed that tests and testing was so prevalent in what kids thought assessment was about and also how they would like to be assessed. I think there are a lot of reasons for that. I think that tests are the known, children are comfortable with them and also, many have that competitive edge. Marks make it easy to compare performance, even if it's usually testing knowledge over skills. From broadening the discussion to my s6, what also came through was that this is really what students value over everything else. It's what the unis and, most importantly, their parents expect and many don't mind alternative methods but don't really see an overall value in them. When we got deeper into that discussion, however, the Advanced Higher students started to really contradict their own assertions. Where are the skills development? We are spoon fed. Too much value is given to the results. And so on and son on... I had to actually remind some of the students that they were the same ones who complained when I refused to give them a written note on work last year and asked them to think for themselves. I am not blaming the students for that confusion or that attitude to assessment, I know there is a huge cultural change which needs to take place involving teachers, students, parents, further ed and employers before people change their minds about exam results and their absolute importance. I also think from a personal point of view I have failed in being completely clear to students when and how they are being assessed. I am pretty certain that because I have not made that explicit, my s1 don't really recognise when they are involved in self or peer assessment, they just see it as another learning activity. I am also pretty sure that had we not had the discussion we did today, my Advanced Higher would be the same about the opportunities they had to peer assess.
One of the other things that came through from both the survey and the discussions is that absolute trust that the teacher is always the authority. When I put this to my s6 that sometimes constructive criticism of a piece of work from a peer would be something more easily accepted, only one student agreed and the rest had no faith in themselves to be a critical friend for others. 73% of my s1 felt that observations by a teacher were the most important feedback that they would receive. I felt that this was at odds with comments that the most critical person of a students work was the student themselves.
The survey had more surprises and some reassuring elements, but to sum up, I still feel that the variety of assessment offered is in the correct interests of the students. The majority of students I questioned and the survey support the fact that students felt most valued when they were involved in team activities, were praised by their peers or by the teacher. When looking at future assessment, students still wanted testing but the dominant theme was recognition for work, and on further questioning, students stated that review of work should be a continuous one. My own role has to be clearer in letting students know they have been assessed, and students must see their progress in terms other than that end of unit test. Finally, my survey has made me realise that changing established views about assessment is going to be a long process, but one which I think can be done. It's up to educators to convince others that new forms of assessment have the rigour and validity of tests while helping develop the whole child rather than just a child with a decent memory.

Assessment survey

Categories: s1 and s2
As part of my ongoing thoughts about assessment, which woke me up at half past 5 this morning (sad, I know), if you are in s1 and have completed the Brazil topic, could you please take some time to fill in this survey

Click Here to take survey

Many thanks

Mr O'D

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Starting with starters...

Categories: Geography General

I don't know where to start tonight, have got so many things I want to blog about and probably won't manage them all. First of all, it was my annual trip to the Scottish Association of Geography Teachers conference in Edinburgh on Saturday, and as usual have learned a lot and want to try a lot of what I've seen. On top of that, I have been drawn to a couple of really nice resources which I'm trying to find a way to bring into lessons, so here goes...


I attended Ollie Bray's seminar as well as enjoying his keynote and picked up some useful things to think about as lesson starters. Ollie spoke about the search engine Bing having an image every day which is mostly to do with landscapes- to illustrate that, today's was the Yorkshire Dales, a location my s3 are studying right now. The picture has 3 hidden clues to the location and it's a great and simple way to introduce place. He also spoke about some great ways to get place into lessons through google maps. From something like smoke signal lesson objectives from the place you are studying to geogreetings spelling out children's names (suggested as a good home learning activity where students indentified countries where the letters come from, pick one country and create a profile), all the ideas were appealing as they were easily reconstructed to suit the needs of your own class. Something that Ollie used as a lesson ender to develop a knowledge of place was using google squared as a search tool, selecting cities from, for example, Europe and then sticking these into the classtools random name picker. Whichever name came out, he then opened (or let the students open?) it up in Google Earth and turn the layers on bit by bit to explore the place.
I am already thinking of using the smoke signals from the New Orleans superdome with lesson objectives for s1 tomorrow. We are about to start looking at the impact of hurricanes on people and landscapes, and will be using one of Tony Cassidy's activities again, this time around the BBC special from the time. I thought it would be good to start the lesson by showing the dome satelite photo showing before and after, so beginning at this location makes perfect sense.
Two other things outwith SAGT that I particularly liked were flickr's five card story and one word, both from a Tom Barrett presentation via Mark Warner's ideas to inspire site. I have created a 5 card story with no narrative (pictures above) which I'd like a class to try for homework to see if they can use geography as the theme to link all 5. I'm also going to warm up my s3 class for their limestory by using one word and asking them to write for 60 seconds in geographical terms about it. This is a great activity for any subject to encourage students to write. Finally, back to Ollie, I am really going to make a conscienscious effort to start using the news at the beginning of lessons, particularly with the new s1 rotations later this month
Right, that's it for tonight. I have a whole post to write about David Rogers session on citizenship through Geography, as I see loads of spaces in our present schemes of work which would benefit from the ideas he presented, and I am also hoping to write up something about assessment too, as I have really been challenged by something I've been asked about future assessment. I can think of lots of ways that either the students or myself as the teacher assess during lessons, but I wonder if the kids know they are being assessed? I wonder what they understand by that term?Would they feel the same or a greater sense of achievement if they were assessed in less traditional ways? I also wonder if my assessment of students carries enough rigour. I hope to talk to some classes about this in the coming week as I gather my thoughts on it.