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A weblog designed to share Geography resources with students and colleagues

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Arctic Roll-Ice cream at the Arctic circle and other tales

Categories: s1 and s2
Today, as planned, we had a live text chat via twitter with Alastair Humphreys of the Catlin Arctic Survey. Despite this originally being scheduled for 20 minutes, we managed to have a discussion which lasted the entire period. Alastair had sent a nice period starter video, which introduced the class to him personally, the base that we would be talking to him from and the ferocious Arctic weather (although to be fair, that was probably mild). I was really pleased at the high quality of questions that the class had provided, and we managed to have a fair chunk of these answered over the time we had, something which Alastair very obligingly got up at 2.30am in the morning to do. His tweet about the time actually set the scene very well. Although it was so early in the morning, it was light and a positively tropical minus 7 ;) Many of the exchanges afterwards were equally at odds with what the class were expecting to find. The title actually refers to the fact that parts of the expedition have their own cook who makes bread and ice cream (stored outside)! The exchange gave a valuable insight into the work of the expedition, the lifestyle and drive of those on the team and the scientific importance of their presence on the ice. It provided a nice medium to not only bring an organisation/individual into the class that might otherwise be difficult to do, but also bring a little bit of the Arctic with them. I have used twitter in a similar way before, and the potential across the curriculum is huge for this type of communication. Many thanks to Alastair and the Catlin Arctic Survey for providing the opportunity to do this amidst their own schedule. I've included images of the twitter feed which the class followed throughout the lesson below. the tweets are best read from the bottom up to follow the thread of questions (no tweetdeck in school).

Monday, April 26, 2010

Ice Cold in Giffnock

Categories: s1 and s2
I'm really delighted and excited that we are having the opportunity tomorrow to hopefully have a live text link up via twitter with the Catlin Arctic Survey team in class. It's just incredible to think that it's possible for someone to be sitting on top of the world in one of the most inhospitable environments on earth (and just before the sea ice starts to split) talking to a class of 13 and 14 year olds in Giffnock. Most of the class are doing biology as well as geography, so there are a range of questions from the scientific to those about the personal experiences of the arctic explorers themselves. We have been sent a personal message from Alistair Humphreys to introduce himself and the work of the survey to the class, which is a real bonus, and takes the 'virtual' element out of the meeting a little, Please feel free to follow our chat on both @ArcticSurvey and @stninianshigh from just after 9.35am tomorrow if you are around. I'm hopeful that the satelite link holds for us to allow the conversation to take place (communications, understandably, are fragile and Alistair's video was against the background of a howling wind). The class were having a look around the website of the survey team on Friday, and I'm particularly keen to find out the answer to one observant students question- how do they get a copy of 'The Sun' delivered to the Arctic sea ice? ;) Providing the web access is ok, I'll blog on this afterwards. Many thanks to Jamie Buchanan Dunlop for tipping us off about the possibility.

Accidental psychogeography

Categories: Urban
We were talking about La Defense in Paris today in the s3 class and I had a flickr slideshow playing in the background , which I've embedded here. We were just having a general chat about the place and the group picked up on things like the iconic architecture, the lack of greenery (but yet the extraordinary feeling of space), the fact that the buildings were taller than those in the CBD- illustrated well by the panorama shots, and also, what appeared to be a lack of people. It's the first time I've really thought about this. So many of the images make the centrepiece of the picture the style or the built environment, and although people are in many of the pictures, they are almost invisible. The more I thought about it and discussed it with the class, the more I thought what an enormous feat of planning to create the illusion of emptiness this was, particularly when you consider that this is one of Paris' main office districts and houses close to 30, 000 people and during the day, 150,000 workers. This coincided with one of the images of an office worker lying on the ground reading his paper going completely unnoticed. As a result of this, the discussion moved on to 'Georgie', which, surprisingly, some of the group had already seen:

Georgie is a Gorilla (Guerilla?) who went around London performing randomly selected acts. If you watch the video closely, there are a large number of people who either do not see or choose to ignore Georgie. I then asked the class if it was possible to be invisible in a city, following this thread? Most laughed, but were quite animated at the idea of trying it, which duly became their homework-plucked straight from Georgie's Mission:Explore, to time how long they can move in the environment of their choice without being noticed. Lots of discussion followed about environments and actions which were likely to break their guise. I think we accidentally had a lesson in psychogeography, but it was fantastic the way that the lesson evolved in a not entirely planned way, and a fun way to learn about a place which isn't always easy to learn about in a dynamic and interactive way.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Walk into history- Saturday on the Clyde

I love walking on both sides of the Clyde near where I live. On the overgrown side, there are old coal runners and ruins of Monasteries. On the side we walked today, there are all sorts of wee reminders that this used to be a very different place. We found a 200 year old grave by the overgrown remains of an old house, passed sandstone cliffs full of fossils and high water marks from the 1780s, oak trees with faces that could probably tell stories of their own before arriving at the ruins of Bothwell Castle, former sanctuary of Mary Queen of Scots. All this started from the bridge at the Millhouse where David Livingstone was raised. I wonder how many people know what's on their doorstep? Go a walk and see where it takes you

Posted via email from Mr O'D's class posterous

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A book of things

Categories: Geography General

I am now the proud owner of mission:explore, a little book of offbeat activities aimed at encouraging kids to get out into their own environment, become more spatially aware and, mainly, have a bit of fun in the process. The first time I saw these missions, from a traditional fieldwork perspective, I have to admit to being unsure of their place in lessons, but have gradually come to two conclusions. Firstly, from 102 missions, there is a huge chunk of the book which is highly relevant and gives local opportunities for supporting fieldwork. Secondly, anything which students might find engaging is worth finding a place for anyway.
Over the last week, we have experimented with a few of the missions in the book. Firstly, on Monday, a class got out into the sunshine and, it has to be said, the bitter cold to do a rubbish map, mission 47. I don't mean that the quality of the students maps were poor, we were literally doing a rubbish sweep in the school grounds. Students were finding litter and trying to discover its origins. This was very timely, as the class are currently examining environmental issues and it fits perfectly with both local issues, in terms of environmental quality, and the wider global issues-for example, associated food miles, mass waste production, pollution etc. Furthermore, the exercise was absolutely painless to organise. No permission slips needed, just a nice day and a group of s2's happy to be out of a classroom.
With the same class later in the week, we used mission 61, picture talk, but adapted it slightly. Instead of communicating by pictures for a day, I wanted the class to communicate with each other what they had been learning in the unit, but only through the medium of drawing. We had sketches in complete silence representing everything from sustainability to the prospect of a mini ice age. Very few students were able to communicate all of their ideas purely through the drawings, although most did fairly well. We moved on to discuss this idea of 'losing' things, in this case the power to communicate by spoken or written word. It was generally agreed that it was much more difficult, though not impossible to do. We linked this to our topic work and the idea of climate change. What would we risk 'losing' as a result of climate change? Lots of answers, from fuels such as oil becoming depleted to the point of no recovery, to species, arctic ice, fresh water and land which was prone to flooding. We talked about how difficult this might make our own lives, whether anyone else in other parts of the world would be affected more by the changes, but also thought that in our own comfy existence, we might have the money/technology to adapt; In short, a really simple lesson, but one that carried a powerful learning experience.
These are two of the more 'standard' missions, and I hope to use some of the more creative ones in lessons over the summer term and beyond. If you are a geography teacher, this is an easy way to guarantee cost free fieldwork is a regular part of your course. Buy it, It's the best eight quid you will spend in the term.

Monday, April 19, 2010

On a mission. Well, one...well, if it's not raining...

Categories: s1 and s2, Geography General
Trying to get outside tomorrow, won't be able to do this yet until I have permissions (unless I ask each student to bring 5 responses in as a home activity). Been pillaging ideas from elsewhere to save time with the ash disruptions and cover lessons, so here is the bill: s2 are doing environmental issues at the moment. I have no idea where Miss Armstrong was with the work, but I like the look of Mission 47 in the free sample of Mission Explore on the GA website. I am waiting on my book coming for more of these :) I am almost finished Brazil with my s1, but again, if possible, I'd like to get this class outside while the weather holds. I'd probably want to use this, as it's a good general introduction to fieldwork and can all be done in the school grounds. I also like this, and might do a lucky dip for groups to choose a handful of the ideas together. Some of these could be mapped, which is a nice way to introduce the Ordnance Survey/ Google etc.
Of course, the weather might decide different. If it does, then it's over to Eyjafjallajokull, which is still causing all sorts of problems. I blogged about this yesterday and will use the ideas from this lesson, although tempted to use Rich Allaway's far more in depth lesson. Other odds and ends- s3 continuing to focus on central Paris (while some poetry readings are conducted) and some revision for s4 of the Physical Environments, starting with Mission Impossible.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Schools political map of Britain?

Categories Geography General
Every time there is a general election or Scottish Parliament elections, the Modern Studies department hold mock elections where candidates hold a debate for a live audience (sound familiar?). I am a political person and studied the discipline to honours level at University. One of the things that always fascinated me was Peter Snow on election night looking at the changing political map of Britain, bringing out the 'swingometer' to show the level of shift. I thought, from our departments perspective, a way to engage in the process would be to show the power of data. Imagine our Geography students had surveyed locals to see where the vote was going? They could ask all sorts of questions- gender, age, party voting for (and was it a change from last time), issues voting on etc. There is a huge potential for Maths involvement, depending on the volume/type of data collected. At the mock elections, the 'constituency' trends could be shared with the audience and used by the candidates in their arguments. I think it's also important that we don't just think of it as Modern Studies job to highlight the relevance of elections and democracy, and this is just another way of raising young peoples awareness.

From this, I started to think that it would be really valuable for my students to see how their collated results compared to other parts of the country. Imagine the argument you could create for the value of using social tools in schools if there was an entire political map of Britain before the election which had been sourced and edited by students? So, this is just an idea, but... Here is a wiki map. A map which anybody can edit. A small number of simple questions asked by students via face to face survey ro, if fieldwork opportunities are limited, a free online survey such as survey monkey. The detail that schools included could be as much or as little as they liked. Simple rules. every contributor must:
1) Clearly mark their school/the survey location on the map with a marker
2) In the marker, the minimum data included should be party support as a percentage of the surveyed group
3) It would be much easier to stop manipulations of the map if school name/teacher name or some other identifying labels were included in the marker too. Otherwise, I might have a lot of editing to do :)
I know this might come to nothing, but I would really appreciate anyone's help in filling this. Please share it with the relevant departments/people in your school and edit away! If you need help with the map, just leave me a comment, or contact me via twitter at @Kenny73

Mapping reaction to an unpronounceable natural disaster

Categories: Environmental Hazards
Having a look at the Eyjafjallajokull volcanic eruption in Iceland that's been all over the news of late. I don't know what opportunities I'll get to use this tomorrow, but hopefully at some point this week, I'll be able to spend some time looking at it in a little detail with a class. My first awareness of the chaos caused was through updates on twitter from the people I follow, so I thought it would be worth having a look at who was tweeting, what they were saying and where they were. Here is a map that I created on umapper to show responses. It's a bit fiddly as you can't see clusters unless you zoom, which is what I was looking for. It would have showed the pattern of a huge concentration in Western Europe, petering out the further east you go, along with quite a high volume in North America.

I thought it would be interesting to show these tweets in relation to active volcanoes using the layers in Google Earth and think about why so many of them are occurring away from the disaster zone. I then had a look at the ash cloud on a visual from NASA via Google Earth blog. I thought this could overlay the tweet map, which I've saved as a kml file. The worst of the cloud looks like this:
I'm sure that quite a lot of discussion about these three sources could be prompted- why we are in the path of the ash, who has been affected most, how it has affected individuals in the class, some of whom may be absent etc? This ties in to an idea from Alan Parkinson expressed earlier today. The one thing that seems to be missing in our coverage or exposure to events is a local perspective. There is an excellent narrative on here from Ian Hardie via Val Vannet about four posts down in the forum. This shows the event to be neither new, nor all about ash on cars, surreal sunsets, plane-free skies and people stranded in airports. So much information could be gained from this about the natural phenomena of volcanoes and the impact on people and landscape (although I would not use the piece in its entirety). Great way to bring literacy across learning into the lesson too e.g. x pieces of evidence/ language used to suggest that the author felt in danger.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Retrospectively looking back through last weeks photos. Although the weather was, well, Argyll for much of the time we were away, it was a great, relaxing break with plenty of time outdoors. It doesn't matter how many times I go to the same place, I never tire of what's around me here. For those who want history, its everywhere, including some living history with Inverary castle, still the seat of the Duke of Argyll. For me, its the hills and sea lochs, although the local produce isn't bad either!
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Exploring with the kids

We took our chances with the volcanic cloud and lucked upon a sunny day in the woods. Found an old ruin which we've visited before, but never seen from the front. Also found a way in through a hole in the wall, but looked like some recreational drinkers had beaten us to it, judging by the glass. A lovely clearing in the woods with rays of sunlight attracted the kids, the eldest distracted from climbing trees, while the youngest taken from her mini beasts quest (stripping bark). Days like this make you appreciate the holidays.
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Posted via email from Mr O'D's class posterous