Feb 162009

New on Juicy Geography is the remixed version of Hannah’s Pixton homework, one of the many brilliant outcomes from a recent homework activity.

Go to Hannah's homework

Go to Hannah's homework

The idea was to use Pixton to create a comic strip explaining the Common Agricultural Policy. I guess I could have got Hannah to print her work out, so that I could splatter some red ink comments liberally over the spelling errors but I really wasn’t inclined to do so – it’s a super piece of work; witty, imaginative and explaining the details of the CAP remarkably accurately, at least as well as any GCSE textbook.

Remixing instead of marking:
I loved the homework so much that I wanted to use it as a teaching resource. I remixed it very gently, correcting some of the spelling mistakes and removing a duplicate frame. The finished result should be useful to several students that missed the exciting lesson on farming politics to play in the recent snow; indeed by publishing the cartoon on Juicy Geography, Hannah’s work could possibly benefit a much wider audience.

I think this exercise is a great illustration of the argument proposed by Harold Jarche and George Siemens (who I discovered via Theo Kuechel’s post on re-usability), that the best education content should be hackable (re-mixable and re-useable) The CAP itself is a constantly evolving news story, that rapidly dates textbooks. In the future, Hannah’s work can be remixed by students to reflect changes in the policy.

Link to Hannah’s original work
Link to my re-mix

www.Revisited again

 Teaching resources  Comments Off on www.Revisited again
Feb 152009

Updated: 10/3/09 with new version of list

www.Revisited is my reference list of Web 2.0 tools for Geographers that I’ve used, or am investigating. It’s a personal list, similar to many others. I know that some have found it useful, so here’s the latest update.

www.revisited: Web 2.0 for geographers

The latest version as a web page or if you like, a lovely Word document or the original Inspiration file.

Oct 262007

Introducing Google Apps

Google Apps offers a way for students and teachers to communicate and share ideas easily. Of course you can share documents by email, but the reality is likely to be that students own computers with different platforms and software versions. Wikis are great for collaborative web pages, but a Google Apps community offers more privacy and is easy to set up. ICT managers at school may balk at first – the idea of students having a second email account and possibly access to IM Chat, may raise hackles. But we’re here to encourage students to collaborate, to improve peer assessment and assessment for learning and the tools provided by Google are in many cases superior to those offered by a VLE. They are also free!

Imagine then the possibilities…

It’s a weekend and your class is at home, from where they can access your learning community via a web page. Logging into their personalized area, they find their online documents as well as their email. The teacher has shared a basic revision guide with the whole class. Individual students can modify the guide, adding their own contributions to create a collaborative resource. The teacher can check the revisions to see which student’s have contributed.

Student A is finishing a piece of coursework. She shares it with her teacher who makes some annotations in a different colour. Both teacher and student are working on the document simultaneously even though student A has a PC, and the teacher a Mac.

Student B has lost his homework diary. He receives an SMS text from the online Calendar mentioning the deadline is for the following day. He cancels his engagements and stays up half the night finishing your homework!

Student C has produced a brilliant expose of the limitations of the Hoyt model. With her permission you share it with those students who need a little inspiration.

Student D is working on an assignment. He passes it to student C, his critical friend who provides a little input. He then shares it with the teacher. The teacher notes that student D has worked hard but also takes the time to commend the diligence of the critical friend, whose contributions can be seen on the page revisions history.

Student E loses their folder. However their coursework is safely stored online.

Student F does some brilliant research on Fair Trade. He shares his work with the teacher who publishes it as a web page. Student F notices the teacher is online, so contacts him via IM, and makes some corrections.

Setting up Google Apps

Starting from scratch, the first step is to visit the Google Apps homepage and sign up for a new account. At this point you can opt to register a domain name through Google. It costs £4.70 per year and avoids you having to worry about configuring your existing email accounts. I recommend this option! Once your new domain is ready you can sign into your Google Apps account dashboard and start building your community.

dash The dashboard

I began by creating a single test account. Once you are ready to set up accounts for a class it’s easiest to create a bulk list of user names. This can be simply done using a spreadsheet, saved as a .csv file and uploaded to Google Apps.

Your users will need to be able to access the learning community. I used Google Pages to create a web site for my new domain. The homepage contains links to other pages and learning resources as well as a Google Calendar for homework deadlines. It also contains the link to the individual user’s start page.

home A web page for a learning community

The start page is where the individual user can log into the community and can be wholly or partly customizable by the students. Here is the start page for my community. I have opted to create a lockable section with a link to their email and Google Docs as well as a small section for announcements and news.

start The start page for the community

The final stage would be to apply for an upgrade to the Education Edition of Google Apps, which will increase the opportunities for support, though you don’t get any extra features over the standard version. (Compare versions here)

Working with the learning community

The community is now up and running. Students have their own email address and Google account. They can create and share Google documents presentations and spreadsheets and communicate via email and IM chat (although this feature is suspended at the moment.) I can keep a copy of documents sent to me for assessment and share examples of particularly good work, or resources produced collaboratively by other members of the class. I can enter homework deadlines into my own Google Calendar which then appear immediately on the calendar on my home page. (Students can subscribe to this calendar and can even opt to receive emails or SMS alerts for homework deadlines!) I find it easier to give written feedback by typing directly into their documents and I think the students prefer this method of marking. The Google Apps community doesn’t provide full access to the many other useful Google tools, for example My Maps and Picasa. To access these resources a separate Google account is required, however students could easily sign up using their community email address. At this point, vast horizons of possibility open up, which extend of course, far beyond the realms of Google. I’ve always preferred Flickr over Picasa for example, and it would be good to see students exploring and selecting web 2.0 tools on their own.

What about the VLE?

At some point in the next few months our school will adopt a VLE. I don’t want to set up a system that will work in direct opposition, though I’m mindful of the limitations of the VLE implementations I’ve seen. I’m concerned that many VLEs seem to be little more than electronic filing cabinets linked to robotic assessment practices. Few commercial VLEs seem to truly promote a constructivist approach to learning, and I’m hopeful that teachers at my school will be able to use the best online tools for the purpose rather than being required to use less effective tools that are part of the VLE. Shared calendars and blogging tools are key examples. I see my learning community working alongside the VLE, neither replacing nor competing with it. The VLE will host the school website, user and assessment data and shared documents. The Google Apps community serves to encourage effective communication, assessment and collaborative practices while avoiding platform and software incompatibilities.


 GPS, ICT  Comments Off on OpenStreetMap
Oct 062007

I was reminded earlier this week about Open StreetMap.

osm logoThis is a wiki-style project that aims to create free geographic data for everyone to use. I took a look at the area around my school and was delighted to discover that the coverage is very patchy, raising the prospects of a nice school project based on my favourite maxim, Chris Durbin’s ‘Real Geography, Real Outcomes’

To get going requires a little more than a GPS and a web browser. The Open StreetMap wiki provides a very good Beginners Guide. Start by creating an account and locating your home area. You then go out and collect data with a GPS. This as straightforward as walking, cycling or driving around an area while recording a tracklog. The next stage is to extract data from your GPS, save it as a GPX file, (I use Easy GPS for this) and upload it to the OSM server. Don’t forget that GPS Visualizer offers a range of options for viewing your GPX data in the classroom.
The next stage is to edit the GPX file to create OSM data. There are a few options for this, the simplest by far is to use the online Flash editor provided, that allows you to edit map data in your web browser. Finally the map is rendered and changes can be seen in OSM, (although this doesn’t happen immediately.)

I started contributing data for my local area this morning.
When I’ve done a little more experimenting, I think that this could be a really excellent way of teaching mapping to quite young students.

May 062007

Another demonstration of the usefulness of the Google Map Embedder tool.
The original Earth As Art Google Map was created by Jonathan Perkins. I’ve taken his KML overlay of images from the NASA/USGS website Our Earth As Art and displayed them on the map below, using the satellite view instead.

Our Earth As Art

Here’s a great classroom example from a UK geography teacher who has created a map of a local fieldwork enquiry:

Apr 272007

I’ve created a wikispace for a new project on Personal Geographies. The idea is that Year 8 students will plan, discuss and write up their local fieldwork projects on the wiki. All the projects are based on the student’s perceptions of the local area and they have come up with some very interesting ideas. I’m able to use the wiki to add suitable guidance materials and comments on the work in progress; hopefully other teachers and parents will be able to discuss the work as it develops.

wikispace Go to the wiki

The project is an attempt at teaching with a co-constructivist approach. I’m hoping that the use of the wiki and web 2.0 tools such as Flickr and Google My Maps will mean that students collaborate with each other and work on the project out of school hours. They are being encouraged to use their mobile phones to take pictures and video, and hopefully they’ll learn some valuable new ICT skills that they can apply to a real world context. I’m using wikispaces because of the level of support they offer teachers.

There is a little risk involved, partly in terms of how colleagues might percieve the “geography” of the work. I could not have predicted that a group of students would have chosen to investigate locations for a fashion photoshoot or that others would be identifying the site for a new theatre space. One group of boys are creating a Parkour map of the town. There are a few stipulations, the students have to produce a map and collect and process some primary data as part of the outcome.

Let me know if you’d like to join the wiki.