A group work activity on development indicators

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Mar 082014

It’s been a number of years since I was indoctrinated by Professor Hans Rosling to no longer refer to LEDCs and MEDCs when referring to the development status of a country. Here’s why…

The AQA GCSE syllabus A requires that students are familiar with the correlation and analysis of development indicators and of course the Gapminder website is a crucial teaching aid. Students have to be mindful of the dangers of using a single statistical measure of development and aware that countries have different development priorities and  perceptions of quality of life. I devised the following activity as a group work task to sum up this aspect of the syllabus.

Five groups were established and the activity introduced via the first slide of the presentation embedded below. (Needs to be downloaded from Slideshare to work as intended)

Each individual was given a table of 2012 development statistics and a commentary. The examples were carefully chosen to represent nations with very different development priorities. Each group was tasked with creating a rank order of the countries based on the statistics, the commentary and their own opinions.

Once the initial task was complete, the groups passed their rankings clockwise around the room, spending a couple of minutes perusing and commenting on each others thoughts. Once the circuit had been completed, each group had to construct a final ranking, taking into account the all the information and their newly acquired understanding of development priorities.

As part of ensuring that everyone was fully involved, certain students were randomly selected to describe and justify their final rank order. Much debate took place, though there was 100% agreement in terms of the top and bottom placed countries. Conveniently, since they all chose Norway as the most developed nation, I was able to introduce the Human Development Index data for 2013 which confirms their finding and illustrates the usefulness of this measure of development.

This is a nice little activity which requires very little planning and develops really interesting interaction between group members. Groups become accountable to each other and nobody can opt out of the final task. Originally it was intended as an “expert groups” activity and the passing on of their work was actually suggested by the students themselves. To my mind it fits nicely with Dylan William’s assertion that group goals and individual accountability can double the speed of learning.

The Darfur Wall

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Feb 112007

Combining an interesting visualization of the 400,000 victims of the Darfur conflict, with an original approach to fund raising, the Darfur Wall is a great way of impressing the seriousness of this humanitarian disaster on your students.


While researching a lesson I came across a superb case study example of appropriate technology in the region from the Practial Action NGO.

Play the Darfur is Dying game for a glimpse of the daily struggle for many refugees. [Via Tony Cassidy]


Humanitarian crises in Google Earth

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Feb 032007

Ogle Earth has discovered an incredibly useful resource for teaching around the issues of conflict and migration and human rights violations. The Geospatial Technologies and Human Rights project is published by Lars Bromley at the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Stefan points to Google Earth technology holding future world leaders to account for the humanitarian outcomes of their actions. For the first time carefully sourced and researched satellite imagery can be used to support lessons about forced migration and similar topics. The images below show the impact of recent attacks on villages in Madoua, Chad.

Chad March March 2006 Chad Dec November 2006

icon Google Earth file for above images

The Human Rights Google Earth layers cover Chad, Sudan, Lebanon and Israel and Zimbabwe. They take a long time to load in some cases; worth remembering before using them in a class situation. Find the layers here

This post has also been published at Juicy Geography’s Google Earth blog

Jan 312007

Updated 4/2/07
Gapminder is a BRILLIANT way to analyse development indicators. A range of development data can be plotted on a map or chart and animated over time. Gapminder website

Here are some suggested activites to introduce the Gapminder site to students

Download an illustrated guide to Gapminder (Word doc) Thanks very much to Val Vannet who produced the first version of this document. This could be printed off and laminated. Thanks also to Alan Parkinson for mentioning the Trails feature in his recent comment. Gapminder also provide an excellent tutorial on the application here.

Mapping development indicators
Start by selecting Map, and looking for patterns by selecting different development indicators for the countries.
gap map

Correlating development data
Select Chart and compare different indicators, for example Life Expectancy and Income. What correlations can be found?
gap chart
Students could be asked to try and identify data that gives a positive correlation on comparison (e.g. carbon dioxide emisions and income) or negative correlation (e.g. fertility rate and phone use)

Analysing trends
Try choosing Life Expectancy and analysing changes over time (select Time for the x axis.) Track selected countries by selecting them, clicking the Trails box and playing the animation.
gap time

In the screenshot I coloured the countries by income , but why has Botswana, a middle income country, seen a dramatic decline in life expectancy in recent years? Students really should know why!

Exploring urbanization trends
Compare Urban Population and Time, and track countries from different income groups. In the screenshot example I changed the circle size to one size and the colour to Income Group.
gap urban

In a recent lesson, these activities proved sufficient to turn the students into fairly competent Gapminder users.

I recommend watching Hans Roslings’ entertaining presentation at the TED Talks and visiting the Gapminder.org site for more resources and downloads.

Happy Places

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Jan 142007

The theme of happiness was investigated by a group of UK teachers last year, see Geography Pages for more. The Map Room now reports the publication of a map of well being.

happy map

The map was published in an article by Adrian G White of the University of Leicester. The accompanying text is well worth reading for such gems as:

A recent survey (Easton, 2006) found that 81% of the UK population agreed that the Government’s primary objective should be the creation of happiness not wealth. Earlier this year David Cameron, HM Leader of the Opposition, put happiness firmly on the political agenda by arguing that “It’s time we admitted that there’s more to life than money, and it’s time we focused not just on GDP, but on GWB – general well-being” (BBC, 2006).

I never thought I’d hear that from a Tory!