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A weblog designed to share Geography resources with students and colleagues

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The snowfields of Central Scotland

I heard this phrase on the radio and I really liked it. It seemed apt for the journey home across the Eaglesham Moor. The photos don't really capture the view to Loch Lomond and the Trossachs and it was difficult to get good access to the best views in my work shoes! A wonderful stillness and a perfectly appropriate blogging sign off for the season. Merry Christmas :-)

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

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

S2 Survey

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Testing Posterous app: Fin me oot walk

Not sure about the app, as I like simplicity of email, but giving this a try. Went out to hide our first geocaches today. Took my son to an old place that people have forgotten about, Caldervale, or Fin me Oot (find me out), which is tucked away off the Blantyre to Uddingston backroad. There are still the foundations of the houses which used to be here, and a rickety makeshift bench which, according to my father in law, used to be where old guys used to sit for a cigarette and a read at one of the magazines which they used to keep planked under the seat. Not sure where the walk leads to as we went to the bridge and back after my son had spotted the icicles hanging from its underside. By then, we had thought of the perfect cache spot :-)

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

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

For @mark_howell101 headbutts and geographical enquiry

I was working with an s3 class today doing a lesson on enquiry skills. For me, enquiry is all about being out in the field and I find it quite dry and also quite difficult to teach in a classroom setting. It's just all words and theory. So, today I wanted to break it down. What does enquiry mean? What are gathering techniques? What are processing techniques?
I thought about using an example based on an infamous stewards enquiry from my days working as a bookmaker, where one jockey stole anothers whip. Being unable to find this, I remembered the fracas in the summer when cyclist Mark Renshaw took, or gave, one for the team so that his sprinter team mate, Mark Cavendish, could gain an advantage.
We talked about what had happened, and some students said he would have been disqualified. I asked on the back of this when, why and how. We were basically exploring the idea that before disqualification, there would have to be very good proof. Although it was obvious for us with hindsight, we agreed that the race stewards would have to consult rules, check video etc before deciding on his fate. This was to help them FIND OUT about the issue. It was agreed that this was a good definition of enquiry. To do this, they GATHERED information in different ways (video being one), but then had to PROCESS this into a meaningful result- in this case, the race result, standings and the withdrawal of the rider from race listings. What's a results list if not a table?
Afterwards, we went on to discuss this in relation to geographical scenarios where students had to suggest how they would 'find out' about the issue, what techniques they would use to 'gather' the information they needed, and we will later discuss how we would use or 'process' it. Not sure how much of a difference it made, but couldn't see how I could tell Mr Howell this in 140 characters on Twitter :-)

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

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Monday Shorts

Categories: s1 and s2, Environmental Hazards, Glaciation
Tomorrow promises to be quite a busy day outwith teaching commitments, but I also have the opportunity to teach one of the lessons I enjoy the most with S2. We have been studying volcanoes and have learned about the role of plate tectonics in volcanic eruptions, the anatomy of a volcano and are just about to go on to the effects of volcanic eruptions. I thought it might be good to introduce this through Noel Jenkins excellent Montserrat lesson. This means when my colleague, Mr Douglas, picks up with the class on Thursday, they will have been through a simulated eruption scenario, which should help when they look at their case study.
For s3, I want to do a lesson based around enquiry skills for glaciation. I would like the class to do a classification exercise, where I give a number of fieldwork scenarios, possible gathering techniques and reasons for use and see if the students can draw on both their experience from Culzean and common sense. I think, a little like the Montserrat exercise, I might score this. For future reference, I'll draw attention to this link at the close of the lesson. Right, off now as the battery is ready to go...

View from the Livingstone Bridge

This is my favourite local place. The water was running high over the weir and through the Salmon ladder. Great low, but clear light at 2.30pm.

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

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Christmas is coming...

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Using the Learning Event Generator

Categories: Geography General, Glaciation

I have been using the Learning Event Generator from John Davitt with two classes recently. The experience of both classes have been very different but, ultimately, worthwhile. I have used this in the past and completely randomized the activities. Although this works sometimes, it also encounters resistance from students who feel that they are being forced to learn or show their learning in a certain way. I think taking people out of their comfort zone can bring positives, but also thought that by introducing free choice for the students, I would still be able to edit the activities to provide a real challenge.

I set the generator up as a recap on learning for glacial deposition. I had spent a few periods going through the features that students would have to potentially explain, but felt that it had been one way. I had done a lot of talking to fill in some of the textbook blanks. Students had been taking independent notes. I was not sure if students were learning or just on autopilot, and this feeling was reinforced after a discussion with both classes about the ways in which they learn. By giving students a choice of presentation methods to show their understanding, I thought I'd be able to have a better assessment of where we were at.

The activities

To give a flavour of what students chose, here are some examples:

Outwash Plains as a Chinese Whisper

Kames as a flipbook

Drumlins as a nursery rhyme

Drumlins as a pop up book

Kames as a recipe

Outwas Plains as a play by play Sports Commentary

Kames as a nightmare

Glacial Landscape Origami

These were all very diverse and each created its own successes and failures, but even the failures were things that we could learn from. I'll pick a couple of examples and explain how we translated it to an assist for the way in which students will currently be assessed.

Chinese Whispers

The outcome of this activity (four pairs were involved) was very significant. First of all, some students showed really excellent summary skills to make the whisper one that could be easily passed around the class. Their summary was clear, well structured and contained a lot of knowledge in two to three lines of text. The clearest summary was also the one which most succesfully made its way around the class - not quite unaltered, but pretty much spot on by the time it reached the last pupil. Other students really struggled with this. Students were compelled to write verbatim what was in their notes and, unsurprisingly, the longest whisper disintegrated on the way. We related this back to exam practice. You can learn something word for word, but if you don't really understand it, your response soon falters and, in an exam, it's easy to fluff your lines trying total recall. The ability to be concise was discussed too, as I find lots of students run out of time in exams as they try to cram in everything they remember, often duplicating things they have written. A good summary allows better time management without sacrificing marks. I suggested that in prep for exams, students try this in fours as a way to support their revision.


I liked the outcome of this as it highlighted a common problem that students struggle to break in real exam situations. Both flipbook examples that I looked at, to my eye, showed a process. I could make out in one glacial advance, then retreat, resulting in a terminal moraine. I could make out in the other, a glacier retreating to leave a moraine dammed lake and a Kame. However, I only knew this by guessing. There was nothing to tell me this. We related this back to exam technique. How many times do people offer a supporting diagram which really doesn't tell the examiner anything, or anything new? This highlighted the importance of labelling a process properly. In one of the classes, we then illustrated this perfectly by taking a five minute window to do a question in pairs, back to back. One student was writing a response and the other showing the same process by diagram. In a couple of cases, the diagram included information which wasn't in the other person's response, and which would have gained marks in an exam. So, even with the flipbook having parts missing, there was a lesson in this.


Only one group was 'brave' enough to try a recipe. I say 'brave' as I thought this might be one of the easiest ways to represent landscape formation. I asked a very reluctant Cameron to share some of his, Scott's and Benjamins recipe for Kames. They started off with ' Add sand and gravel (any amount you like), use meltwater to mix all the ingredients, and spread unevenly' or words to those effect. We discussed the response and reasoned that Kames will be different sizes according to the size of glacier, hence the first statement. The boys picked up on the composition of Kames, the fact they were fluvioglacial and that deposition could be uneven. After they had shared the start of their recipe, I suggested to the class that all the boys were doing was representing a stage by stage process, something which students do formulaically all the time in exam questions, but this had shown a real understanding of what was going on rather than just memorising lines. So, does this not prepare a student better for a question wuith an unfamiliar look or wording?

In summary, I think the hardest thing about this lesson is having the will to do it and persevere with it. I mean that both for student and teacher. If it's not managed properly, the fun part becomes frustration, boredom or idleness as students don't see the purpose. I think it's important as a teacher not only to take the risk and allow the room for this, but it's vitally important that either beforehand or in recap, the students see the benefit to themselves of thinking out of the box. I think I managed this succesfully with one of the classes, but not so well with the other, but it was worth taking the risk and worth taking again for the outcomes, even the ones that might initially have been viewed as a negative.

Monday, December 06, 2010

A thank you note for #s2erupts

Categories: s1 and s2, environmental hazards
Late last night, I sent out a request for help with a lesson today. It was late (despite having thought about it for a while), and I made contingencies in case I hadn't given enough time for a response from people in my twitter network or who read the blog. All in all, between 11ish last night and 10am this morning, I had around 30 replies, with lots of really great questions for the students to start researching.
On arriving at work, I then encountered an unforeseen problem. The class had half the time usually afforded to us, as an extra assembly had been convened to launch the school's mission statement. This meant that, not only might we be struggling for time to do the research, but we probably wouldn't get all the responses posted back. It's with great credit to the class that in the short time we had, they got stuck in to the task. This meant that the bulk, but not all, of the questions were answered and in the period following, I was able to post the students responses, although the students were very aware of who they were writing for. It would have been preferable if they could have done this themselves and also that they could have seen the whole picture, because together, their work represents an impressive display of collective knowledge. I will be able to revisit during the next visit of the class, and also plan to fill the gaps with a couple of twitdocs from one of my other classes (to save other people's twitter streams getting filled).

I was also very pleased and so grateful to see those who took time to thank the students for the answers they provided, and I will be sure to share this with them. The main point of the lesson, though, is that the students should treat every resource as something useful. Only the questions about volcanic plugs and pyroclastic flows needed the internet to help answer them. All of the other responses were either from personal knowledge or, more particularly, from the textbook rersources that students had in class (that are easily dismissed in a pursuit of active learning activities).The pupils had to skim and scan these resources, work to a tight timescale, work with others and present a precise response (developing summary skills) as I had told them of the 140 character chunks we had to reply in. Overall, an excellent effort in so many ways which would not have been nearly as succesful without the help of all the contributors. On behalf of the class, I'd like to convey our thanks for assisting in a fast paced lesson where the students were engaged with their learning throughout.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

#s2erupts with a little help from my friends...

OK, so this is a blatant steal of a David Rogers idea, but perhaps I could give the rationale. I have been talking to some of my classes about their learning experiences recently. One of the themes that keeps recurring is a deep dislike of textbooks. The students associate them with sterile classroom experiences where little interaction is encouraged.
When I look at a textbook, I see a great resource for information, but it's the way the students are being encouraged to process the information that perhaps leads to the prevalent attitude. So, tomorrow, I'd like to show one of my class's that a textbook can be a useful tool.
This is a big ask, but I'd be very grateful if readers of this blog and/or people in my Twitter network took just a couple of minutes to post either in the comments or via Twitter itself something which you would like the class to find out about Volcanoes. We could use #s2erupts as a tag to collect responses by. During the period, the class could use a mixture of textbook and Internet to try to source answers, then respond. I thought about simply doing this myself, but I think it has far greater impact, as David has shown, as a one off concentrated experience for a wider audience. So, in the spirit of Christmas, could you please (pretty please) spare a few moments to give the class a task? Many thanks in advance

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