Weekly Update Bulletin – Update 70

A very busy week at school this week, hence the lack of posts here on igeog, but I am currently planning some blog training for school which will take place over the next couple of weeks, so I will be adding materials to the pages and to the front blog as and when they are completed.

This weeks ICT update bulletin includes a hazards special with a large number of links to support case study work on this weeks floods in the UK. There are a variety of news reports from the BBC and Guardian looking both at cause and effect as well as a selection of links to both pictures and video.

Severe floods have also affected both Pakistan and Texas over the last week, whilst parts of Europe have experienced a heatwave!


Weekly Update Bulletin – Update 69

I have just published Update 69 on Geobytes and it can be downloaded in pdf format here. It includes news of a new photo competition for young geographers with some excellent prizes. There are also some very interesting news stories this week, including the case of the disappearing lake in Chile! I hope people find something of use – thanks as always to anyone from SLN who has contributed links to the forum.

VOKI – new approaches – Geography Vodcasts?

Having read this post on Joe Dale’s excellent blog for MFL teachers I was immediately enthused by the possibilites for using this excellent new (and free!) tool in the geography classroom and in online resources. Voki enables users to create an animated avator for expressing themselves online, either in their own voice or using text-speech recognition to bring their avator to life in order to deliver a message. The Avator can be completely customised with choices of ‘realistic’ people through to anime characters and speaking animals! You can alter their characteristics from hair through to clothing and even set your own chosen background from a large selection! The avators are purposefully designed for personal, non-commercial use and are intended to be embedded in blogs or social network profiles such as MySpace.

There are a number of potential fun, educational uses for such a tool. Voki has been created by Oddcast who are also responsible for SitePal. Whereas Voki is free, SitePal is designed for corporate use and is therefore a pay for use tool. Just like Voki, SitePal allows you to design speaking, animated characters for embedding in websites but with greater flexibility and choice (as would be expected) than the free version, Voki.

Rich Allaway on his superb website GeographyAlltheWay, has been making excellent use of SitePal characters for a while in producing excellent online resources for his Geography students such as this Niagara Falls activity and The Spiny Cactus Bar Murder. As you can see, these animated characters can really help to bring the tasks to life and add another dimension.

Having a free version of this which could therefore be made use of by both staff and students seems to me to have great potential! Potential educational uses are already being discussed on the internet and include amongst others reminders for students, recapping at the end of lessons , and the potential for putting a face to podcasts.

Having a real interest at the moment in the use of podcasts I thought I’d see if I could transform one of my Coasts revision podcasts into a simple ‘vodcast’ using Voki. Unfortunately a drawback of Voki at the moment, seems that like a number of other free gadgets it is difficult to embed in wordpress. I have however successfully embedded it in blogger and my example of a simple Coasts Vodcast can be seen here. Another limitation of Voki is that at the moment (I don’t know if this is likely to change?) there is a restriction on the length of audio that can be uploaded which seems to be about 60 seconds. There is however flexibility as to how audio is added, either by phone, directly by microphone, uploading an existing mp3 or even making use of text-speech recognition (this in particular makes it very quick to create).

Uses in the Geography Classroom?

  • a fun way of providing feedback to students?
  • making announcements / deadline reminders on websites?
  • use in the creation of online resources, using animated characters to introduce tasks and to lead students through an activity (such as that already carried out by Rich Allaway with his SitePal characters)
  • animating podcasts / use for creation of revision activities (although time limits use to some extent)

Of course as well as staff using the tool to create more media rich online resources and activities – surely this would be great for use by students, just as Joe Dale suggests for the MFL classroom. In Geography students could be given the task of creating a 60 second precis of a particular topic or concept for revision which could then be shared through a department website or blog. Students could also use these as a presentation tool for homework activities, particularly as more and more students start to create media rich outcomes. Can anyone think of anything else? It would be interesting to share any ideas people have (please use the comment facility)

ICT Updates

The GeoBytes/ICT Update is produced weekly with the aim of promoting the use of ICT in teaching and learning in our department. As well as providing an overview of updates to our Geography website (www.geobytes.org.uk) it includes an overview of Geography in the News, new geography related opportunities, subject specific weblinks, and professional development in the use of ICT as a teaching and learning tool. It is also used to highlight new ICT based resources for sharing in the department. Many of the links have been suggested by geographers through the ever flourishing SLN forum and the update also includes new ideas and articles collated from some key geography / education blogs. The bulletin is always posted on the GeoBytes website and an archive of bulletins can be found here. Although in places this is quite department specific there are many links which are useful to all geography teachers. This weeks bulletin, Update 68, can now be downloaded.

Taking Geography Forward

Ollie Bray, geographer and deputy headteacher at Musselburgh Grammar School writes an excellent blog exploring both his responsibilities at Musselburgh Grammar as well as his role as East Lothian Subject Support Co-ordinator for Geography.

Earlier this week Ollie spent a day working with Brighton and Hove Geography Teachers looking at “Taking Geography Forward”. As well as looking at the basics (such as internet, video, images etc.), Ollie spent time looking at new tools for teachers (such as web 2.0, blogs, podcasts etc.) as well as giving consideration to how to access and manage online information as a 21st century teacher and Geography futures.

Ollie has produced an excellent online handout which supports his presentation – this includes his powerpoints, written notes and embedded YouTube videos. There is a wealth of information here for all geography teachers and many inspirational ideas to enthuse geographers and get them used to using new technologies to enhance teaching and learning in the geography classroom.

As well as introducing new technologies Ollie’s handout contains lost of valuable tips for use of old favourites such as search engines, powerpoints etc. and is well worth taking the time to read. It is also worth keeping up with the rest of Ollie’s blog which never fails to inspire!

Collaborating with Slideshare

Slideshare is an excellent site which allows you to both host and share powerpoints. With the growth of online learning technologies, slideshare has great potential, not only for providing materials online for students but also for collaborative work and sharing of resources between staff. One of the great benefits of slideshare is the ability to embed powerpoints in blogs and websites without the necessity for the viewer to have powerpoint software on their PC, for example this revision powerpoint aimed at our Year 9 geographers.

As well as the ability to post powerpoints used in class to support students and facilitate follow up work / revision, communities can be set up on slideshare to enable the sharing of powerpoints with a particular theme. Tony Cassidy of Radical Geography has set up a Geography Presentations group on slideshare for geographers to be able to contribute powerpoints to a central point. This has already become a fantastic collaborative effort with at the last count 78 powerpoints already having been contributed and 36 members signed up to the group. This could also be used for collaboration within a department as communities are easy to set up on slideshare. If each member of the department had a slideshare account, powerpoints could be uploaded to individual accounts and then simply shared with the relevant community.

Powerpoints can be shared with a number of communities facilitating collaboration between, as well as within departments! Copyright issues do however need to be considered carefully – I always ensure that I source / reference any photographs etc. that I use. Remember also that there are many sources of photographs that can be freely used for presentations as long as the appropriate credit is given. Geography Photos is a very reasonably priced subscription site, e-learning credits can be used and a wide selection of photographs are available for educational use without copyright worries for those that subscribe. Flickr also contains many photographs which have been made available under Creative Commons Licences – the criteria of the different licences vary and need to be read before making use of photographs, however often it is simple criteria that need to be met, e.g. non-commerical use, as long as credit is given etc.

Social Bookmarking – de.icio.us (a must!)

I first heard about del.icio.us (a social bookmarking) site through a friend last year who recommended it to me. Due to lack of time and not really understanding what it was about and how it would benefit me I filed the link in my virtual ‘to do’ folder and promptly forgot about it. Big mistake! I finally decided to explore it at the weekend whilst being away from my main PC, carrying out extensive research and wanting the best way to log all my finds. Now I have a del.icio.us account I can access my favourite links wherever I am and regardless of which computer I am using – I no longer have to rely simply on my ‘favourites’ list stored on my main PC – particularly useful when you often end up planning and working both at home and in school.

So how does del.icio.us work? It is simply a social book marking system which stores bookmarks online, allowing users to create an online list of sites they find most useful. It is incredibly simple and easy to use and once registered you simply install the del.icio.us buttons to your browser toolbar. Once these are installed, each time you find a site you want to save you simply hit the tag button, type in keywords which describe the site / content and your site is stored. By using key words (tags) to bookmark you end up with a user friendly list of keywords handily categorising your links!

Your favourite lists and those of all other members of the site are accessible publicly and therefore you and others can benefit greatly from the sharing of bookmarks. You have the option to see how many and who has bookmarked the same sites that you have tagged; you can then visit their del.icio.us list to find other sites of relevance to your topic of interest.

I am in the very early stages of using this, but within only a matter of days I have already begun to build up a favourites list which is easy to search, user friendly, clearly categorised for easy searching, and accessible anywhere!. I can see my list growing quickly, particularly as I begin to make use of others ‘finds’ by searching relevant links that others have identified and tagged.

If you have never heard of del.icio.us before, or if like me it remains ‘one of those things to do’, stop what you are doing and register now! It takes 5 mins and you are off! Finally, a way to access your favourite links on any PC – anywhere! Now why haven’t I looked at this before!

To see how the whole thing works you can access my del.icio.us links here.