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Too horrific for the geography classroom?

We’re looking to bring the issue of rhino conservation in South Africa to classrooms and schools across the UK in the coming months. At the moment we are looking at some of the imagery available and some of it is truly horrific.

Rhino horns are often cut off when the rhino is still alive, leaving them to die, suffering terribly. Images like the one below are all too common.

In the Far East, ground rhino horn is worth more than gold and is marketed as a remedy to a range of illnesses from hangovers to cancer. There is no clinical evidence behind these claims.

This increased demand led to 448 rhinos being poached in 2011 alone.

We want to make an impact with these images for your classroom to bring this home, but is it a step too far or justifiable?

What level of taxonomic detail is best?

Creating resources about field science is always difficult. What bits do you include? What do you leave out? Will some of the information distract from the point you are trying to make.

The past couple of days have been spent thinking about how to described zooxanthellae-coral symbiosis for younger teens, without getting all caught up in issues like, ‘Well they’re plant-like, but not a plant…’

Today is all about taxonomic detail and the difficulty of getting it right for a broad age range, say 10-16.

The above image is of the mantle of a giant clam. As a science teacher, which of the following levels would you want including in a resource sheet about the coral ecosystem:

  • Kingdom
  • Phylum
  • Class
  • Order
  • Family
  • Genus
  • Species

Is there a ‘right’ level of detail?

Google Earth and the iPad

Lagging behind the curve slightly, we have recently been playing with Google Earth on the new Digital Explorer iPad and it’s a great tool and fun to use.

Of course, some things don’t work. Most of the nice styling that we put into the description balloons gets wiped and some of the formatting goes. YouTube videos that are formatted for HTML5 work but if they’re old and flash-based, then they don’t. We haven’t been able to get screen overlays to work either.

Quick note… if you are looking to download kml files from the web, then you need to do this using the Safari browser rather than any other browser you have installed e.g. Chrome. You’ll then be given the option to open the kml file in Google Earth.

We’ll be looking to develop desktop and mobile/tablet versions of our new sets of Google Earth resources for the coming academic year and hope to find time to spruce up some of the old ones as well.

School Grounds Projects using Google tools

If you want to do this for your own school all the resources are below:

Download manual (pdf, 2.6MB)
Download practice kmz file (kmz, 0.6MB)
Download lesson plans, slideshows, etc (zip, 21.4MB)

Google Geo Teacher Institute Dublin

Here are my slides for the presentation in Dublin this morning and the kmz file is downloadable as well!

Sea level rise and Google Earth / Maps

A great day with Priory School yesterday, examining the issue of sea level rise  in the Portsmouth area. We trialled a number of hands-on sessions, which were great fun and will write about these when we have media releases completed to use the photos of students working on the beach.

For now, here are some ideas that were jogged by looking at how ipads might be used to inform a walking tour of a coastal area.

The image below is of a map overlay created in Google Earth, showing the flood cells and sub-cells delineated by the council. Image overlays are fairly easy to create.

The Google Earth file was then saved and uploaded online. Pasting the url of the online file into the search box of Google Maps, allows you to see it as above. Note that you can use Google Maps in Earth mode so that 3D buildings show up and you can tilt the map.

We also created some polygons in Google Earth, again an easy thing to do. The different polygons were given colours and made opaque so that you could see the layers and the underlying imagery. You can see the key to the left below as well.

The ordnance datum in Google Earth and the altitude of the different layers is not quite nuanced enough to show localised flooding predictions on a 25, 50, 100 year timeline and looking to finesse these techniques before sharing more fully, but hope you get the idea.

Google Geo Teachers Institutes announced for London and Dublin, June 2012

Great news that the Google Geo Teachers Institute will be coming to England and Ireland this summer. The two day professional development events are free and are designed to help teachers get the most out of Google’s suite of Geo tools including Google Earth, Google Maps and SketchUp.

Dates for the events are June 13-14 in Dublin and June 20-21 in London. Both events will be held at the Google offices in those cities.

Teachers can apply online (closing date for applications is 30 April) and find out more in the recent Google Lat Long blog post.

At Digital Explorer, we’ve loved using Google Earth on our expeditions from the Antarctic to Morocco. Also have a look at our blog post 40+ ideas on using Google Earth and Maps in the classroom and our range of manuals to support the use of Google Earth and Maps in the classroom and beyond.

Look forward to seeing you at the events this summer.

Digital Explorer shortlisted for two ERA Awards

Very exciting that Digital Explorer has been shortlisted in two categories for 2012 ERA Awards. The winners will be announced at a gala event to be held at the National Mororcyle Museum in Birmingham on the second evening of The Education Show 2012.

The Frozen Oceans resources have been shortlisted in the Best Secondary Resource (using ICT) category.

The Frozen Oceans resources are the first set of classroom materials developed as part of [de] Oceans, a programme created to bring oceans learning to the secondary geography and science classroom. [de] Oceans is supported by Catlin Group and the Frozen Oceans resources are based on the work and research of the Catlin Arctic Surveys 2009-2011.

Jamie Buchanan-Dunlop was also shortlisted in the Leadership in Education category. Fingers crossed for March 16th.

Gove’s yacht idea, a good one…

This isn’t likely to be the most popular blog post I’ve written, but I believe that in amongst Gove’s idea to buy the Queen a yacht are some genuinely good ideas.

Here’s what happens in my mind…

Before the much scorned memo is circulated, someone at the Department for Education gets hold of it and makes a few minor amendments.

1. The ship is named RV QE2 – yep that’s right, it’s a research vessel

2. The cost of the vessel – proposed £60 million is split between the cost of a research vessel (£30 million) and a national endowment of the other half to run the good ship RV QE2

3. The RV QE2 circumnavigates Britain on an ongoing basis with a rotating crew of scientists, teachers and pupils learning about the oceans

4. The UK becomes the most-aware nation on this blue planet – spinning out great research, ideas and technologies for more sustainable seas

5. HM Queen Elizabeth II launches the ship on behalf of the country for her Diamond Jubilee and calls for a renewed sense of ourselves as an island nation and the value of our marine resources and the importance of the oceans to humanity

In terms of funding, reckon we could get a good lot of private money behind this – not a bad PR opportunity.

But that’s just in my mind. Not a bad idea in itself, just not quite the right focus. Who knows, this idea could have made this country the first in the world to have a floating academy.

Great video on marine plastics

Chris Jordan: Polluting Plastics from PopTech on Vimeo.

A very moving account of the issue of marine plastics by the photographer Chris Jordan. If you haven’t seen his work, take a look at the Running the Numbers series, a emotive take on our attitude to ‘stuff’.

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