Thursday, July 30, 2009

GTAQ Conference 2009 - Using Spatial Technologies in the Geography Classroom

Spatial technologies have been the buzz word in Geography for a number of years now. We have all tried at some stage to attempt to implement some form of spatial technologies in our classroom with varying degrees of success. The main impediments to the introduction of these technologies have previously been issues with time and cost.

However, this is no longer the case. The importance of spatial information has meant that there are a large number of free, online sites available for use to access and use. The wonderful thing about these sites is that there is minimal preparation needed, and they are generally easy to use (as long as you have the internet!).

This presentation will provide an overview of what spatial technologies are, why you should use them and how they can be used in the Geography classroom. Specific time will be spent on various sites, including Google maps. I will also show you some maps my students have created following a coastal field trip.

So, why are spatial technologies needed in the classroom?

Improving spatial literacy among our students is important. The National Geographic-roper Public Affairs (NG-RPA) 2006 Literacy Study found that six in ten young Americans aged 18 to 24 could not find Iraq on a map of the Middle East; one-third could not find Louisiana on a map of the United States; and most incredibly, when given a hypothetical map and told they could escape an approaching hurricane by evacuating north-west, one-third would travel in the wrong direction.

The image below may provide humorous (but not really!) evidence of this.

Before we start looking at sites, we must understand what spatial technologies are. The slideshow below was one that I have put together and uploaded to slideshare.

Funny Movies about GPS

Google Maps and Streetview

Examples of Online Spatial Technologies

The following link will allow you to view and download a document that contains heaps of online resources that you can use in the classroom. We will look at some in more detail today.

This would have to be the best online GIS site that is available free for students. The activities are clear and engaging, and introduce the students the idea of what GIS is and how it works. The following link - Creating Our Own Digital Landscape - is an example of how I used Mapzone in the classroom.

Sentinel Hotspots
Sentinel is a national bushfire monitoring system that provides timely information about hotspots to emergency services managers across Australia. The mapping system allows users to identify fire locations with a potential risk to communities and properties.

This map and the data behind it were compiled by Dr. Henry Niman, a biomedical researcher in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, using technology provided by Rhiza Labs and Google. The map is compiled using data from official sources, news reports and user-contributions and updated multiple times per day. A great tool to track the outbreak of swine flu.

US Crime
This map provides detailed crime statistic data for cities in the US. A great tool to look at patterns and the prevalence of differing types of crime. A pity Australia hasn't put something like this together.

Google Maps

Google Maps is developing into one of the most amazing and accessible sites for Geography teachers to utilise. Using Google Maps you are able to create your own maps using My Maps, add text and images to a point, and then email this tour to someone else.

The following link will take you to a task I created for my Unit 1 (equivalent to Year 11) Geography class - Bec's Classes - Coastal Fieldwork: Your Assessment Task. Using images and data collected from the fieldtrip, my students created their own map. An example of a student's assessment task can be viewed by clicking here - Coastal Fieldtrip Google Map by Stephanie Kosth.

A new Google Map application is the Scribble Map. This allows the user to draw on a google map, place markers and text, create a custom widget, save the file and then send it to friends. The application of spatial brainstorming and sketching in class, saving the file and then uploading it to a blog or the intranet is real.

Your Task

Create a Google Maps 'My Map' of a trip around your local area. As you will not have any photos, use Flickr and the url of these images to practice linking images to a point. The following You Tube movie provides a step-by-step overview of how to create your map. Thanks to Mick Law from Contour Education for creating this.

As an alternative, you could create your own 'Love Map'. See below.

Google Earth also provides a number of opportunities for your class, including the creation of tours. Any maps you create with Google Maps are interchangeable with Google Earth. Mick Law from Contour Education has also put together resources on how to use Google Earth in the Geography classroom. Google Earth Resources for Geography Teachers provides a multitude of resources for Geography teachers on how to use Google Earth in the classroom. This site was established and maintained by a UK Geography teacher.

Other Resources

Mapping Worlds
This site allows you to view various interesting pieces of data (death penalty, women in parliament, cattle etc) with a slightly different perspective. You will be shown a map that changes the size of each country according to its value of that data.

Twittervision 3d
This site is spatial technologies meets Web 2.0. It displays the real time location of tweets from around the world. Very interesting to use if you are looking at the spread of news on geographical issues.

Other resources can also be found on previous blog posts of this blog.

GTAQ Conference 2009: Using Web 2.0 Technology in the Geography Classroom

Today's workshop will provide an overview of some of the technologies I have discovered and how I use them in the classroom. Following a short presentation on what Web 2.0 is, and some of the online tools available, I will show you some of my examples. Then we will set up our own blog, embed You Tube links and look at some other tools that could come in handy.

This year I began teaching at Coburg Senior High School. The school has a unique open plan design which incorporates learning commons rather than classrooms. Student and staff learning is enhanced by an IT rich environment. We do not use textbooks and there are no whiteboards. Teachers therefore need to find ways of teaching that both enhance student learning and use the technology that is provided. So, my challenge this year was to find a way to use some of the Web 2.0 Technology so that is effective in the classroom. My experience is quite limited, and I have learnt by watching other teachers at school, trial and error and using teacher blogs from other schools.

What is Web 2.0?

The following You Tube provides an overview of how Web 2.0 has changed the internet.

The presentation above was something that I created. You can then embed this in your blog using a program called Slideshare. Become a member and then upload your powerpoints. This then allows you to clearly display the content on your blog.

There are new Web 2.0 Tools and Applications popping up everyday. It does become quite daunting trying to keep up with what could be useful to use in applying Web 2.0 tools in the classroom. One site, GO2Web2.0 provides a link to all types of tools and applications. You can search these via category or purpose.

Your Task

Following the You Tube movie and presentation, what do you understand about Web 2.0 and the applications it has in the classroom? Using a wordle, brainstorm your ideas.

A wordle is a toy that allows you to create word clouds from the text that you provide. Instructions on how to create a wordle
can be found by clicking on here.

An example of a lesson where I used a wordle can be found here.


I have found blogging to be one of the best Web 2.0 tools available to me in the classroom. As a beginner, this was the easiest way to embed and link files, as well as provide instant access for my students. A blog also allows students to comment. There are a number of options available if you are interested in creating a blog for you class. Possible sites that I know teachers use are Edublogs or Global Teacher.

The following is a link to my class blog - Bec's Classes. This is my main teaching tool and I usually put together a new post for each lesson.

Video Tutorials for Edublogs are found here

Embedding a Video in Your Blog

The ability to embed movies into a blog is one of the main reasons that blogging is so useful. In my experience You Tube does have the best videos available. I suggest that you subscribe to You Tube, so that you can save favourite videos, as well as upload your own videos to embed on your blog. One issue is that many schools do block access to You Tube. One option is to see if teachers only have access to You Tube so that you can show the video files on your blog. There are also other options available. These include:

The other issue is finding a video and only taking out the useful sections to embed on your blog. The following application - TubeChop - allows you to chop a funny or interesting section of a You Tube movie and embed it on your blog.

Your Task

Sign up and create a blog using a site of your choice. Once you have created your account, you will need to write your first post. You are to design a Geography lesson on Natural Hazards. This is the introductory lesson, and will need to provide a number of tasks and links. The minimum requirements of this task include:
  • embed a movie
  • upload a picture
  • create a number of links to various sites

I have to admit that I am still not an expert on the use of the wiki. It is a wonderful collaboration tool for students when they are working on a project. It is also particularly useful as we do not have a textbook, and over time it allows both the students and myself to create the content and knowledge needed for senior subjects. The settings on a wiki can also be changed so that they are more private than a blog. This allows the only selected students from selected classes to add to them. Wikis are also great tools to use for professional learning teams. Some wiki platforms that you could use are PB Wiki or Wikispaces.

The following powerpoint provides an overview on how to create your wiki.


Podcasts are gradually becoming replaced by videos or vodcasts. However, there are still opportunities for you to subscribe to podcasts or vodcasts via an RSS feed. It is best to link to a Feed such as Google Reader so that you can subscribe to various podcasts and vodcasts. A lesson showing students how to subscribe to RSS Feeds can be found here - Getting Your News Online by Jess McCulloch.

Podcasts can also be recorded by you and uploaded to your blog. This can be done using programs such as Garageband and recorded on your computer. You can also use other applications that link recordings from your mobile phone directly to your blog. One example of this is a application called Utterli.

Other Resources and Tools

The following resources may be useful when putting together your blogs or wikis, or discovering new Web 2.0 technologies for the classroom.

Web2.0 for the Classroom Teacher

Kathy Schrock's Guide for Educators - Web 2.0 Tools
Directory of Educational Resources on the Web

Ning - An online social network that could work like a blog in your classroom. Some examples to have a look at in the education context include:
Ning in Education - Using Ning for Educational Social Networks
The Global Education Collaborative
David Rayner's Page Key Stage 3 Geography Ning

Great Teacher Blogs

Jess McCulloch - Notes to Self

Mr Robbo - The P.E Geek