Jan 242009

By an extraordinary Twitter related twist of events, I have discovered an application that I’ve been hoping to see for a while. Here’s my Thursday 22nd Jan tweet:

Urgently looking for an Open Source interactive blank world map similar to http://is.gd/gOPs 

By the end of the day I’d been contacted by Mike from Aneki.com with news of exactly such an application (disappointingly not as a result of the tweet though!) and discovered a whole collection of really useful resources based around world rankings.

The custom map generator is utterly simple to use – select a country from a table, choose from 5 pre-set and customizable colours, and build your map. The result is easily saved.


Map generator

Here’s a map showing my limited direct experience of the world:


Where I've been

This is a super-helpful application for geography teachers. I must confess to spending a little time with the Google Maps API trying to create something similar, and then giving up. I’d like the option to have the results pop-up in a larger window, complete with the usual Google Map tools and view options. Perhaps one day My Maps will allow countries to be highlighted using this method. 

I am delighted to report that the content on the rest of the site is equally useful to geography teachers needing a quick list of superlatives. Visit the lists page to jump right in. I picked up on the list of top 10 tsunami-prone countries as a resource for a GCSE class next week. Albania is in the top 10 – who’d have thought it?

Update: Valery 35 also reports on the map generator, and points out that there are customizable maps for Europe Africa, Asia, Middle East and South America as well.

Sep 302008

“Can we do neo-geography this lesson?” asked a student today. Well no because it was supposed to be History. Nevertheless I’ve decided that I’d like my Year 7 students to be able to create an original map by the end of the term using Google Earth/Maps. The kind of map I envisage could include for example:

Hazards on way to school
Land-use in a rural area
Micro-climate study
Affective mapping of local area
Geo-located poems photos or artwork
Geo-located story
Guide for local visitors
A parkour / BMX / skate map
A “know-where” hang out map
A best dog walking route

For example:

map link

Thinking about the skill progression required to elevate younger students into fully qualified neo-geographers would go something like this: (some of the steps require just a few minutes to consolidate, others would need a lesson or two) Google Earth / Maps required!

  1. Find a place / use postcode look-up / search box
  2. Create a placemark / select appropriate icon
  3. Measure distance using ruler – e.g from home to school
  4. Create a path e.g from home to school
  5. Collaborate with others e.g. save placemarks / paths to a shared folder / collaboration tool in My Maps
  6. Organise the Places folder
  7. Use layers to add information to the map e.g roads / Wikipedia / Panoramio / 3d buildings / real-time data e.g weather / earthquakes
  8. Be able to turn terrain on and off and adjust exaggeration
  9. Take a photo with a phone / digital camera and upload to Flickr (issues in some schools – need for parent’s permission?)
  10. Add photos to a place mark (from Flickr  etc) using img tag (from Flickr)  <img src=” replace this text with the link to the photo “>  and use You Tube embed code to add video
  11. Create multimedia tours / be able to adjust tour settings
  12. Add polygons to represent land use / data etc. Be able to adjust colour and opacity
  13. Be able to import data from GPS (optional)
  14. Create simple geo-located graphs using Google Spreadsheets or even easier, Rich Chart Live (see this post)
  15. Complete a decision-making exercise using multiple data sources e.g my San Francisco lesson
  16. Understand relative advantages / disadvantages of different mapping systems for example by using Where’s The Path?
  17. Create a Google account (with parent’s permission) and be familiar with My Maps
  18. Create an original map as a final assignment. More able students could create Sketch Up models / use GE Graph / create overlays to demonstrate advanced neo-geography skills.

The core geographical concepts are based on location, scale and place. Students should be able to collect field data and create a map for a real audience. The learning sequence offers the opportunity for some highly personalised, participatory geography. The best outcomes would see students sharing their work on a blog or some other public community. Any thoughts?

Sep 182008

I’m exploring some ideas for a Neo-geography element to the geographical curriculum and created a new category for blog posts on the topic as I share my experiences from the classroom over the forthcoming months.

Neogeography at school

Neogeography at school

This week I deliberately used the term Neo-geography with my Year 7 class (11 years old). Over the course of two lessons we compared the merits of Google Earth/Maps and traditional Ordnance Survey paper maps.

Ed Parsons has commented on a recent BBC story highlighting the fears of the British Cartographic Society over “damage to future generations of map readers because this skill is not being taught in schools and people are simply handling geographical data” (err pardon – National Curriculum anyone?) Ed’s point that “one could argue for the need of a “new” cartography which adopts rather than ignores the capabilities of screen based maps to portray information dynamically” is a theme that is reinforced by the inspiring Richard Treves who I recently met at the Geo Education Summit at Google (and who drew my attention to Ed’s post)

Rising to the BCS’s bait, the students had little difficulty in identifying the merits of the two different approaches to mapping, indeed they showed rather more consideration of the issue than the Ordnance Survey reporting of the debate.  With no prompting at all, the students identified the principal advantages of Google Earth/Maps as:

1) Finding places quickly

2) Zooming in and out!

3) Display of geotagged photos (with GMaps Street View being a particular delight!) and 3D buildings

4) Display of real time information such as the weather

5) Free to use (though requiring a computer and the internet)

The Ordnance Survey map on the other hand offered the merits of reliability, light weight, plenty of detail, a key and cheaper running costs. The students were perfectly able to identify the user groups for the two different approaches to mapping. Ironically the Ordnance Survey advert featuring the mountain biker unintentionally reinforces the advantages of a Google Map – at least in one respect!

The students were delighted to learn that they were present on possibly the first outing of the  neo-geography word in a school classroom, and had little difficulty in appreciating the need for a term that describes the extraordinary potential of tools such as Google Earth to find out about, map and describe their world. The resolution of my school in Google Earth is sufficiently good that I can sit a student under a skylight in my room and locate them with a placemark accurate to centimeters. They gasped when they measured the distance from school to home – in centimetres, and enthusiastically collaborated on a map of their routes to school:

Routes to school

Routes to school

I’m not entirely sure that this activity was “damaging the future map readers”. Indeed they are really looking forward to recieving their Free Maps for School, thanks to the generosity of the OS. It would be great if we could have a copy of the local area as a KML overlay as well. In the meantime this site will have to do.

Google Geo Education Summit

 Asides, Google Earth, Google Earth lessons, Google Maps  Comments Off on Google Geo Education Summit
Sep 132008

I spent a day with Google in London yesterday. Ollie Bray has already blogged the meeting which saves me the effort, as the sun is out and I’m off to the beach.

The Google education team are committed to supporting and encouraging teachers to make better use of their software. One of the the most exciting proposals was to extend the Google Teacher Academy to the UK. The Geo Education site will also grow in the future, possibly emulating the Earth Gallery?  Jamie Buchan Dunlop of Digital Explorer described his brilliant efforts to train UK teachers in practical applications of Google Earth to fieldwork, and imagined some exiting futures for the software. Richard Treves from Southampton University contributed a really thought-provoking presentation that reinforced the need for a basic set of teaching principles and finished with his manifesto for a New Cartography, quoting Ed Parsons who was present. Unfortunately my Mac refused to connect to the projector, somewhat reducing the impact of my  presentation, which basically covered the Juicy Geography agenda.

Some exciting times ahead as Google explore how best to support teachers. The new API for Google Earth that Frank Taylor mentions here, extends the possibility of a range of  educational web-based Google Earth applications.

Milk Truck

I can’t imagine the geography classroom without the Milk Truck!

Forthcoming Google Earth Course

 Google Earth, Google Maps, INSET  Comments Off on Forthcoming Google Earth Course
Feb 032008

A plug for a course that Dave Holmes and I are running in London on the 28th Feb. I believe that there are still a couple of places left. The venue is New Horizons in Old Street, and the day is entirely hands on.
There’s also the opportunity to try the Space Navigator
space navigator
The course outline consists of:

Google Earth basics
Creating placemarks, overlays and GE tours
More advanced options including multimedia placemarks, custom and image icons, and tips for Google Maps
Using the Space Navigator

Sample Lessons Part 1
General advice on integrating GE into lessons and what to watch out for.
San Francisco decision-making exercise using GE.

Tasty lunch

Sample Lessons Part 2
Montserrat eruption role-play.
Other lesson ideas that can be adapted for the new National Curriculum Schemes of work

Book by calling Philip Allan Updates: 01706 831002