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A weblog designed to share Geography resources with students and colleagues

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Defining Hazards

Categories: Environmental Hazards

I have created a little poll as a starter for the new topic with s4 tomorrow. Students can make three choices, but I want each choice to be justified and shared with the class through a comment. We are then going to do a little bit of Hazard mapping using Google Squared. Going to ask 3 pairs to work on mapping this list and describing/explaining the pattern for earthquakes. The map link is here and it's embedded below:

I've done the same for Volcanic Eruptions (click here for the table) with the map to edit here by 5 pairs and viewable below:

Finally, the same thing for Tropical Storms (table here ) and again the editable map, also underneath.

Update: Feeling rather daft, as the class I hoped to do this with were sitting a prelim, don't know if it will get used now as I see the class once a week and Mrs Gordon has them for the other two periods. If anybody wants to use the maps, feel free, but tell me first :)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A few reports, I may be gone some time...

Categories: s1 and s2, Other, Rivers, Advanced Higher
I am writing this from school as I will be trying to plough through 120 odd interim reports and 63 full reports at home tonight :( For s1 ICT, we had a chat about digital footprints the other day, and I showed how easy it was to a) write something online, which people could see on the other side of the world. I used twitter to do this, but then we talked about the example of the nurse who was putting photos on facebook of patient operations. It led to some really interesting discussion about what people should and shouldn't put online, and even brought to the fore the example of American employers who are asking for passwords for social newtorking sites before hiring people. Next we looked at b) how easy it is to mine information about someone from their online presence. I used another example from twitter, where I was able to follow a few clicks and find out about someone what they were doing on a Saturday night, where they were going, who they would probably be with and what they looked like. This was very powerful and I think had the desired influence in terms of students protecting themselves online. Tomorrow, we'll be using BBC webwise to work through some more on keeping yourself safe, but I've also asked for a wee web terminology exercsise to be submitted to posterous too.
For s1 Geography, Mrs Graham was pleased with your ideas and is happy to take some of these forward. She thought the assembly presentation was a good idea, and the bebo/facebook page too, which could link to the school site. She also thought the posters and the petition were great too, so tomorrow, I'd like to develop some of these with the class. I'm going to use the facebook template above for ideas about what we should include and ask some people to work on these at home and submit for selection. Thanks to Tony Cassidy for the template. Others can work on poster designs, which we could laminate and decide where best to put these. Another group can work on the assembly, organising speakers, collecting slides and thinking about how they will present.
s3 are on the way to being finished with rivers, I know that the slides are a bit of a slog, but I'll reward you all with jelly babies next week. Tomorrow, we will hopefully work through to the mouth of the river, which means only mapping will remain for us to do.

Monday, January 25, 2010


Categories: s1 and s2, Rivers

The last couple of posts have been heavy going, but it's not all been soul searching. I had a fantastic fun period with two s3 classes today, which came from absolutely nothing. We are pushing hard to get through the rivers content just now, courtesy of death by powerpoint. I really dislike using powerpoint often in class, but they are helping us catch up a little. In the first lesson, I was covering a class for another teacher, and wasn't really sure where they were at, so we abandoned slides and used the random name picker to check on understanding. We fired all the terminology that the class should know into the name picker and then just really went with this. We had explanations of river transportation which would have involved (fictional) injured students being dragged by their heels from the room (!), which sounds silly, but really helped illustrate traction :) We did back to back/quick on the draw activities, thought about aerobics, played a pass-it-on name game and generally got through a load. In my other class, which is my regular s3, we had the slides, but what I love about this class is their constant questions. Some of the class are a great foil for injecting humour into the lessons, but without the learning suffering. I also love the image that students have of teachers. I was asked today if I stop and tell my own kids how waterfalls were formed when we pass one in the car :)
I will probably have Miss Armstrongs s2 tomorrow, and thought we could maybe use 'Cars', erm, borrowed from my son, as a good starter for Hot Deserts, which I think the class are now doing. It would be good to look at the way the film represents the landscape and even the settlements/inhabitants in the desert, and whether this challenges any pre-conceived ideas. I'd also like to teach this class the round of Dubai lessons that we did last year, as I co-op two days a week in here. Right, off to prepare for s1 Computing now- tomorrow, e-safety, and an introduction to the internet. Maybe they should teach me?

Invisible places?

Categories:s1 and s2
Following on from last night's post, some observations. When the s1 class were asked about the Haiti earthquake, it was quite an eye opener. I questioned first of all what they knew about Haiti as a place, forgetting the events of the last week. The knowledge was extremely limited. A couple of students knew it was in the Caribbean, but were not too sure where this was, another said it was on an island, and one of the girls had heard on the news that the capital was Port-au-Prince. Most of the class, however, had heard of the Dominican Republic, and knew where to find it. From this, I was really struck by how invisible Haiti is and has been to most people, including adults. There are all sorts of reports doing the rounds just now, which give background to Haiti in terms of Voodoo and the Duvaliers, but little else.

In terms of the earthquake, the knowledge stream was quite impressive, with a couple of misgivings. It confirmed to me that, actually, kids do watch the news and absorb a lot of what they hear. However, they also absorb the misinformation, the rumour and are pretty willing to accept what the media presents without questioning it. In terms of whether we should be reaching out to Haiti, I got the sense that, although every single member of the class thought it important that we do, their actions and language suggested that this was because
they thought this was what they were expected to say, rather than really having any connection to the issue. I'm not sure this is developing a sense of right or wrong, fairness, responsibility rather than conditioned response, and I don't get the feeling that anyone in the class was really hard on their conscience with this issue. This isn't a criticism of the students, as I've already talked previously about how and why I disconnected from the same issue, but maybe I am not giving the students enough credit?

Towards the end of the period, and having decided that this was important, we started to talk about three of the questions from last night's blog about raising awareness- who should we target, what should we tell them and how should we communicate that message? I have been trying to temper the 'big' ideas, as some of them are unrealistic (maybe I shouldn't?), but there has already been a lot of talk about charities. This, I found interesting, as Caroline Gibson had mentioned on twitter that it might be a good idea to look at what the different charities were doing, and Neil Winton had mentioned shelterbox. At a glance, they are numerous, there are some which cover similar briefs and others which are entirely questionable and seem like platforms for phishing scams, another issue in itself. Tomorrow, we'll have a look at these, a great way for the students to make reasoned choices and evaluate using the information available on the web. I will blog back on the three questions with a summary of the responses later in the week.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

When every reason is the wrong one

Categories: s1 and s2, Environmental Hazards

I am normally keen to teach events in Geography as they are happening. I think it helps validate the relevance of the subject for the students studying it. I am ashamed about the reasons I have purposefully left Haiti out of lessons in the last week. The first reason is that I immediately started to think about it from a geographical standpoint- plate boundaries, earthquakes, epicentres, aftershocks etc. I was bypassing the human tragedy to get some relevance for a lesson and wasn't comfortable doing that. That brings me to the second and much more personally disappointing reason. I have spent the time since the earthquake avoiding news reports of that same human tragedy, listening with half an ear from a distance, aware that something dreadful might have been happening to thousands of people, but turning the radio off or switching channels on the television, going back to whatever I was doing. Maybe I didn't feel like handling that scale of devastation or perhaps I felt guilty about my own life in contrast, or maybe it was just convenient to ignore it. Whatever the reason, it's inexcusable. I have been catching up tonight and feel even more embarassed by a lack of interest and action.
It's easy to look then turn away, but the reality for people in Haiti is that they can't just turn it all off and go back to eating their dinner. Maybe the students I teach can do a better job as citizens than me. I have several questions for the class tomorrow; Why, if at all, is it important that children in Scotland know about Haiti (is it?)-this could really influence the shape of the lesson. If we assume that it is important, what should people know? Who should know and how should we tell them? If charities are involved, which ones deserve our support (it might be all)? I have some ideas, but would much rather the students provided the answers for themselves. I would also welcome comments that the students might refer to during and after their discussions which may have some bearing on the decisions they might make.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Rivers memory map

We did a mapping from memory activity yesterday with s3.Numbered participants in groups of 4 looked at the first picture by each number leaving the room and having 30 seconds to digest and take back to the group. Each pupil had 2 turns and these are the results. Which one does best?

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Class Clips

I have never really used class clips with a whole group accessing the material before, and depending on students ability to see the clips, I still might not, but I want s3 to find out a little about rivers for yourselves rather than me talking at you today. I'm going to place a few links to clips here. I've linked to the full page rather than the clip, so that there are options for viewing. Under each clip, I am going to put a few guidelines as to what I'd like you to know from each video. We are going to be looking mainly at the upper course of a river today.

Start with the clip here and use this as a comparison

1) Describe the river and its valley in the upper course. You should refer to named landscape features, the size and shape of the river channel, relief of the surrounding landscape, speed of flow etc

2) List processes which are mentioned which influence the rivers appearance (erosional processess, ways in which the river transports material and when and where rivers may deposit material- if it is mentioned at all in the clip)

Next, use this clip and this to explain some of the processes at work in the upper course of rivers

Finally, looking at the formation of a waterfall,

1) Explain the formation of a waterfall in the upper course. There are clips here , here and here. Be sure to talk about the influence of those processes you have just talked about, but also the underlying rock type

2) From the animations, attempt a diagram showing the formation of a waterfall

Monday, January 18, 2010


A couple of the examples from Thursday. The first effort is sturdy, but also has some excellent interior design, including a tiled floor. There is a sneak peak at one of the sleepy residents. I liked the dome roof on the next example and you might just be able to see a couch inside the door. A good period with lots of teamwork
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Sunday, January 17, 2010

SInging in the rain

Categories: Rivers, s1 and s2, Advanced Higher
There seems to be a cottage industry around water cycle songs if you visit youtube. I don't normally dwell too long on this with Intermediate for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is not very prominent in course arrangements, secondly, most of the students know a simple version from science and thirdly, if they go on to take Higher, it's done as part of the hydrosphere and I already feel there is too much repetition between the two courses. So instead of this, I'm going to show some snippets of the youtube clips like the one above and ask students for other ways in which they could remember it easily. Then, as a home activity, I'll ask for their versions to be submitted as a poem, mnemonic etc. I was going to ask for a sonnet, but that might have been a bit cruel ;) I'm going to use up most of the period ampping a drainage basin from memory. Watches at the ready!
Favelas with s1 went generally very well on Thursday. I moved the goalposts a bit. One of the things we try to do with this activity is remove any element of fairness by making the resources the class have brought in part of a communal dump. Students then draw lots for numbers to forage at the dump.I think this is important, as it illustrates differences in the access some people might have to materials which could improve their living conditions. I felt with my current class, however, that some of the boys in particular were quite happy to rely on others bringing in enough, as it was clear that some girls had brought in enough for almost the entire class! So, I let them keep it...this made trading interesting and crime was rife. I'll try to photograph some of the favela efforts tomorrow and publish via posterous to here. There is also a self assessment of the activity to see what the students have learned which could be transferable to the real life example. Then, the durability testing....
Advanced Higher should have remembered that a draft of the Study is due in at the end of the month. I am getting a little depressed at the lack of fieldwork, but this is very much the onus of the author, and I can only help with the written side if there's something to write about ;0) Maybe the weekend will have seen a blizzard of activity? Tomorrow will tell...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Bring the Noise

Categories: s1 and s2, Geography General
This is just a short review of a lesson with s1 today, and the idea was very much inspired by Richard Byrne. I sometimes think that when a class watches a video, it can either be on for too long and some individuals lose their interest and focus, or else too stop start- I know that I am probably guilty of stopping video and talking too much at times. I also feel that when I do that, I set the agenda for the discussion too much. I wanted to try something which would give the group more ownership over the direction of the lesson and its content, while removing the video dilemma. After much frustration at the hands of inadequate browsers and websense, I finally came across BackNoise, a very simple little web tool, which allows students to have a discussion in tandem with the lesson. It integrates with twitter, but this can easily be taken out of the discussion. I think it also requires a high degree of trust between the teachers and the students, and clear guidelines of use are essential.
We were watching a video looking at Rocinha favela, and after the video started, students watched with BackNoise open on their computer screen. It didn't take long for students to start commenting, and I was pleased that the first stream of comments referred to how the favela was different from expectations - the class did not expect to see TV, schools, market stalls, satelites etc. When they started asking questions, they were confident and relevant, even from those in the class who are normally reluctant to volunteer. Some of the comments are shown above. The experience had some negatives. I would have preferred that the option was to turn the twitter feed on rather than off for school purposes. There is also a buzzkill button. Don't touch it, it wipes all of the previous conversation. Unfortunately, when someone tried to refresh the page, we lost some of the conversation due to accidentally hitting this. It would be nice if the platform allowed a controller for the conversation, but I can also see why it doesn't.
This is a refreshing way to let students learn what they want to learn within the boundaries of the topic you are studying in class. I think it's best used sparingly for impact, but I'll definitely use this or a similar tool in the future.

Testing posterous for multiple media types in a single post for @markw29

Mark Warner asked on twitter if posterous could handle multiple types of media in a single post. Realised I had not tried this, so just a test which I will probably delete
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Clyde ice.3GP (769 KB)

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Back to work and backchanneling

Categories: Coasts, s1 and s2, Advanced Higher

My Friday sick day has thrown my plans for tomorrow a little. I wanted to look at the s1 jotter work and put together something from the responses to the 'City of Men' clip. I can't do that now as the pile of jotters I had intended to take home over the weekend is still lying in class. The plan tomorrow is therefore to introduce the favela building team task, probably for Thursday. I'd like to show the students another side of living in the favela before we do this, and would love to try a bit of backchanneling if possible. Richard Byrne has suggested five sites where students can provide a constant stream of questions/comments while a classroom activity is ongoing. This really appeals to me because, as a teacher, it's sometimes easy to play off certain students all the time. This should give an open forum to the class and will hopefully keep students focused on the clip. The option I like best, todaysmeet, is unfortunately blocked in school, and edmodo is useable, but not on the browser that the class student laptops have (I'm thinking as its a period 1 class, I'd struggle to change accomodation at this stage). I'll need to see which ones bypass the hammer of websense before we can move with this one.
Advanced Higher has suffered from the not so unexpected spate of Christmas leavers. It was a blessing and a curse that several of the students who chose the option where high achievers in s5- a blessing because I was very intrigued by some of their folio topics, but a curse due to the lack of need for the qualification. Looks like I am losing three or four of my students. I will be sad to see them go- most of them, I have taught for 6 years- but also appreciate that some real life work experience is probably a better option for some of them. The one advantage I suppose this gives me is that I can devote more time to the other individuals and their folio, starting tomorrow.
s3 are revising for a NAB at the moment and we have been doing this through primary pad. I have spent the last hour looking over the pads. Some are more detailed than others and there is a noticeable difference in the level of contribution by some individuals. This is all part of the feedback I will give through edmodo, but tomorrow I plan to sit in the pad groups and give face to face feedback on how to improve the responses. NAB on Thursday, remember...

Clyde Ice

On a car trip down the Clyde Valley today, I stopped to take these. It was a bright, sunny day with the definite feeling of a thaw at 2 degrees. I wonder what this looked like during the minus 11 that we had last week?
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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

King of the Hill

Categories: s1 and s2
I was shown this fantastic youtube video by Mrs Gordon the other day and used it with class on Tuesday. I think it's an excellent introduction to favelas. It shows the typical steep hillside location of many, illustrates the lack of space and the claustrophobia , the shadow of danger, the sheer volume of people who are literally living on top of each other, the mess, the squalor, the vibrancy , change and joy which make favelas such an intriguing and confusing place to study.
An excellent introduction to our 'City of Men' clip which I'll be using tomorrow

No Comfort

Categories: Other
I wasn't sure where to put this post as its not Geography and it's not CPD, but I've decided to put this on here seeing as its my class blog and I find myself in the uncharted waters of now teaching an s1 computing class as well as my subject timetable. I have to say that some of the content is taking me right out of my comfort zone, but I'm in the happy position of teaching part of a class that I've already had on rotation in Geography, students I know well. I was talking to the class the other day about how they used computers themselves in our first lesson. We used primarypad to collate group responses and it allowed us to collect a lot of information in one place quickly. Below is a wordle of the results

Wordle: What my s1 use computers for

I was surprised that homework was so prominent, but not so much when they openly admitted to copying and pasting directly from the web. I was less surprised to see Bebo and Facebook, even although I think (?) there is an age restriction on both sites (my class are 11-12 years old). There were so many uses involving social interactions that it made me think about the vital importance of internet safety guidance and the absolute requirement to start using more social media as part of the school experience. Like me, the students were much more interested in what they could do with a computer once they had logged on. Hardware has never really interested me as long as its working :)
I therefore asked 'How much do you know about the computer hardware you are using?'. The results showed a more limited knowledge in most cases:

Wordle: What my s1 know about computer hardware

Part of me wondered why it was important to know so much about the computer so early, but I'm aware that someone with a computing background would probably ask why kids need to know about corries or volcanoes! I'm also not sure how many jobs would be around today that didn't require some knowledge of hardware/software. Tomorrow, I'm going to be talking about parts of the computer system and might use some parts of this until such times as I have the booklets for my class. I think I'll also ask the class to do an advert for someone assembling their own system as a homework, maybe using some of the 100 glogster accounts I've still got to use if I can remember my login! I'll leave the really technical stuff to Mr Alexander on Friday ;)

Tuesday, January 05, 2010


Categories: Advanced Higher
Just a very short post to remind myself and Advanced Higher about the Highland Learning advanced geography section, which has a number of resources which are helpful for revision purposes and a couple which I have used for teaching purposes in class. I will be looking at Pearsons Product tomorrow, the second last stats test that the group need to be aware of and one that is easily comparable with Spearmans Rank. I'll probably at some point in the week go on to glow meet for a session on the various pros and cons of using the techniques which we have covered to date. Oh, and Happy New Year :)

Monday, January 04, 2010

PrimaryPad for assessing groups of students

Categories: Coasts, Geography General, Writing and Assessment

I have used etherpad for some time now and was very disappointed that Google had bought it with the intention of closing it (mainly because it's a rival to Google Wave). However, since the reaction to that anouncement, Google have reneged and etherpad will continue in the short term, while several clones have sprouted up using the code for the site. One of my favourites is PrimaryPad. I like this because I am able to run a free account which gives me control over pads via passwords/names etc and allows me with a little bit of code to embed these within another place on the web. I'm using the pad which I have screenshot above, plus three more to do a little bit of assessment with my s3 class. I'll put these onto the edmodo that the class have been using, so that all of the evidence of how the students have fared is in the one place for my use and future use with the group. It's time to move on and I reckon we won't have the opportunity to do much in the way of past paper preparation for the upcoming NAB assessment in class, so I'm going to ask the students to work in assessment groups of 6 or 7 for homework. We'll probably prepare via a walkabout talkabout activity tomorrow to refresh the memory, as I'm sure Christmas and the snow will have erased any thoughts of a NAB :) The pad can be found at this location, but is password protected to avoid abuse from other visitors (the reason I haven't embedded it).

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Snow at the in laws

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Lovely thick flakes of snow in the gloaming
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