GIS in the Geography classroom? A personal review of Digimap for Schools

Below is a personal review of Digimap for Schools by Megan Roodt.  Megan is an NQT and has been very generous in sparing some time to write and share this review with us.  Thanks Megan.

 

The Geography National Curriculum for England states that students should be taught to “use Geographical Information Systems (GIS) to view, analyse and interpret places and data,” (DfE, 2013) however, whilst it can be agreed that proficiency in GIS is a valuable skill of Geographers, implementing its effective use in the classroom can be both ambitious and daunting to teachers and students. So firstly, why would the Department for Education signpost the use of GIS in the Geography National Curriculum? GIS has revolutionised the way in which we view land on Earth, (Heywood et al., 2011) and has been noted as one of the 25 most important developments for human impact in the 20th Century due to its powerful analytical abilities, (Fargher, 2013) thus students who are familiar with its uses not only have a better understanding of their environment but are better equipped to enter the technological business world, (Butt, 2002; Demirci, 2008). Traditionally, GIS software was quite complex with time-consuming downloads and processing; indeed, GIS was not initially created for use in the classroom but rather as a decision-making tool to be used by government and business. Unfortunately, such characteristics made the use of GIS unsuitable for the contemporary Geography classroom that is under increasing curriculum and timetabling pressures. So how do we then, as teaching practitioners, effectively implement GIS in our classrooms in a way that both fulfils the criteria of the National Curriculum and acts as a tool to promote learning among our students?

Digimap for Schools may very well offer the solution to this problem. As a collaborative venture between EDINA, JISC Collections and Ordnance Survey, Digimap for Schools offers an online mapping service to both students and teachers, (Digimap for Schools, 2017). The online nature of this service instantly makes it incredibly time-effective to implement in the classroom; there is no need for downloading software or mobile apps, maps can be accessed at any time and on various platforms (e.g. laptops, iPads or mobile phones) and all that students require is internet access. A far cry to the bulky and time-consuming GIS software that I became familiar with at university!

During a GIS club run by the Geography Department at The Mountbatten School, students were asked to create a proposal to identify the best locations for bins and recycling centres on the school grounds. Using Digimap for Schools, students collected raw data which was uploaded to their own maps. Students then used buffers and their personal understanding of various environmental and human factors to analyse and interpret the data to make justified decisions which would then better inform their proposal. Something that soon became apparent was that the way in which Digimap for Schools is set up can allow for a brilliant example of differentiation by outcome in that students had complete control over what went onto their maps and what functions they were going to use to make their decisions. The only premise was that their decision would need to be justified; both an important command word in the new GCSE specification and a skill to be used throughout personal and professional life.

The user-friendly layout of Digimap for Schools meant that students quickly became not only familiar with the functions available but also confident in its uses. As such, students could complete complex GIS functions in a short period of time and view the results instantly which further motivated them to challenge their data by processing alternative solutions which only made for better informed decisions. Other features of Digimap for Schools that students really enjoyed included being able to upload their own images to maps, annotating their choices and using historical maps and aerial images to view their map area in different settings.

From a teacher’s perspective, the service is very simple to use and, as many classrooms and IT suites are now fitted with interactive whiteboards, it is easy to demonstrate to students how to perform functions on Digimap for Schools. Digimap for Schools offers a simple yet effective service that makes the use of GIS both effective and enjoyable in the classroom whilst fulfilling the requirement stated on the National Curriculum.

Overall, I would highly recommend the use of Digimap for Schools in the Geography classroom as I’ve experienced its value as an efficient tool in promoting geographical enquiry and independent decision-making; it has a layout that students quickly become familiar with, the outputs of functions are immediate which allow students time to process and manipulate data as they feel appropriate and it is a service that puts as much emphasis on the process as it does on the output which, in my opinion, provides an authentic learning experience for both students and teachers.

Digimap_MBmap

References:

Butt, G., 2002. “Chapter 10: The Role of ICT in the Teaching and Learning of Geography” in Reflective Teaching of Geography 11 – 18: Meeting standards and applying research. Continuum: London.

Demirci, A., 2008. Evaluating the implementation and effectiveness of GIS-Based application in secondary school geography lessons. American Journal of Applied Sciences. 5(3): 169-178

Department for Education, 2013. The national curriculum in England. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/381754/SECONDARY_national_curriculum.pdf. Accessed: 10/08/2017

Digimap for Schools, 2017. Digimap for Schools: About. Available from: http://digimapforschools.edina.ac.uk/about

Fargher, M (2013) Geographic Information (GI) – how could it be used?’ ch 15 in Lambert, D & Jones, M (Eds) Debates in geography Education. Routledge: Oxon.

Heywood, I., Cornelius, S., Carver, S., 2011. An introduction to Geographical Information Systems. (4th ed.). Pearson Education Limited: Essex.

Aerial Imagery in Digimap for Schools- Users Perspectives

In September 2016, Getmapping contributed their high-resolution aerial imagery data for free inclusion into the Digimap for Schools service.  This imagery has been hugely successful and has quickly attracted lots of attention and usage from our schools.  We asked some of our users to give us a little insight into how they are using this Aerial Imagery in their school activities.

We found that the aerial imagery was being used widely across Primary  schools in conjunction with the native functionality of Digimap for Schools e.g. adding photos and text to the maps and imagery to supplement and personalise it.

“Aerial photographs have been beneficial to compare Ordnance Survey maps with aerial images.  For example, we have used it when looking at river features in Year 5.  In the past, comparisons would have been made using Google maps but they haven’t been able to be annotated like you can on Digimaps.  We have also used it for Year 3 when looking at Stone Age features like Skara Brae Orkney Isles.  The children also enjoyed looking at aerial photos of the Jurassic Coast.”

Helen Kennedy
St. Katharine’s C.E. (V.A.) Primary School

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The Secondary school students have also been finding that collating and overlaying images and text on the aerial imagery to be incredibly beneficial

“We use it for students in year 7 looking at school environments up to year 11 controlled assessments /new field work specs.  The aerial photography is useful for bringing a landscape to life from a map which many students find as a bewildering array of lines and colours.  Seeing the relief from a map takes some skill having an immediate photo makes this easier…same applies to land use. I use the annotation tools to highlight similar features on maps and then on a photos at the same scale. It stops students using google earth where there is too much temptation to go to street view !”

Robert Perry
Geography Teacher Chiltern Edge Community School

Many of those that responded cited it as incredibly beneficial in the delivery of GCSE and A-Level to those students at the higher age ranges, and an integral part of their fieldwork assessments.  We believe this usage can only increase with the new format of GCSE and A-Level Geography which now includes 2 independent field studies as part of the new curriculum.

“The Aerial Imagery function in Digimap for Schools has proved very useful for our GCSE and A-Level students in planning their fieldwork data collection.  Together with the ‘how to guides’ on land-use mapping, we are hoping for some excellent map based presentation this year.”

Mr S. Williams
Borden Grammar School

An example of how to Present data collected through a field study

An example of how to Present data collected through a field study

Below is a really nice testimonial of how teachers and pupils are using Digimap for Schools as a day to day resource in their teaching and learning.  Abingdon School is using the service and all of its features to enhance students understanding of the connections between the human and physical worlds. The service is dynamic enough to cater to all students within the school and unlike many textbooks is accessible to all students in the school.

“We are very pleased with the service and the aerial photography is an important part of how we can use Digimap for Schools in our lessons on a day to day basis.

Aerial Imagery has broadened the topics we can investigate with the students, from historical and modern land use mapping to investigating the course of a river, understanding coastal processes and the processes of glaciation within landscapes. 

The students find the sliding bar easy to use and like the option of choosing aerials with or without labels. They can now digitize and label geographical features from aerial photographs with ease. 

The ability to change transparency of aerial imagery and OS mapping to show both simultaneously, is an important tool, allowing students to better understand the connections between the human world and the physical landscape. 

All in all, Digimap for School is a vital tool for geographical study, we use all three mapping tools OS mapping, Historical Mapping and Aerial Mapping, with all ages from 11 to 17 year olds and they find using the service intuitive. In addition, this year will have our first batch of 6th Form students using the tool, in combination with a variety of other services, to aid and resource their independent investigations.”

Kimberly Briscoe
GIS Teaching Support Coordinator
Abingdon School

 

 

Aerial Imagery Update for Digimap for Schools

We have recently updated our aerial imagery in the Digimap for Schools service.  This has been quite a major event in our calendar with a huge amount of data being updated.  The update consisted of approximately 80,000 individual 1km tiles, all of which were captured in 2015, which is approximately 30% of the country.

Prior to this update just over 50% of the data was from 2013 or later, this now has increased to 77% of the data now being from 2013 or later.

This means that more up to date imagery is now available in Digimap for Schools for a significant part of the country.  The map below shows the approximate distribution of the updated data.  http://digimap.blogs.edina.ac.uk/files/2017/03/2015_aerial_update.png

2015_aerial_update

Click on the map to view a larger version

This is the first update we have received from Getmapping, and we are expecting another update later this year containing data captured in 2016.  This data will obviously be introduced as quickly as possible into the service, ensuring that the most up to date data is always available to Digimap for Schools users.

We’ve included a couple of nice images we happened to stumble upon whilst playing around with the new aerial imagery.  The first is an image of a Cruise liner in the Firth of Forth.  This is particularly nice as it illustrates the quality of the imagery where you can literally measure the basketball court.  

cruiseliner

Cruise Liner on the Firth of Forth

We also found another fantastic example, one which surprised the entire Digimap for Schools team as it has been built with such precision it looks somewhat other worldy…

Solar FarmCanworthy Solar Farm: Canworthy Solar Farm, which became operational in 2014 and covers approximately 55 hectares (~67 football fields)

NOTE: If you want to find it yourself, search for Canworthy in Digimap for Schools,  then use buffer tool to measure 1 mile from the T-junction at Canworthy Water, slide to Aerial or AerialX and you’ll see it to the NE of Canworthy Water just beyond the buffer circle.

Please feel free to have a good dig around as there are undoubtedly plenty of other hidden gems out there.  Do let us know if you do find anything of interest, we like to let our users know about these little gems.

 

New Updated User Guide.

Darren Bailey from the Ordnance Survey recently contacted us with an updated Digimap for Schools User Guide (thank you Darren!).  This User Guide is incredibly comprehensive and covers every element of the service.  This updated version does a fantastic job of instructing users on how to use some of our newly released features i.e. the Map Manager and Geograph functionality.

This User Guide is a fantastic resource and gives clear and simple instructions on how to use the full functionality of the service.  We recommend that all users refer to this document if they have any issues or problems when using the service.

 

To download this resource follow this link: http://digimapforschools.edina.ac.uk/schools/Resources/allstages/userguide.pdf

 

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Ofsted 3&4 Ordnance Survey Training with Darren Bailey

Are you an Ofsted rated 3 or 4 schools in the Birmingham area?

Ordnance Survey will be running a Free training session, showing you how to make best use of the Digimap for Schools service.  This is taking place on Wednesday 24th May, starting at 2pm, at Birmingham City University North Campus (B42 2SU),   If you would like to come along or send a colleague, then email Darren Bailey to reserve a place – darren.bailey@os.uk

To find out more and register to attend, please email darren.bailey@os.uk

Digimap for Schools and GCSE Geography

This week one of our users posted a tweet which gave a brief overview of the Edexcel Geography GCSE curriculum (Edexcel GCSE Geography Curriculum).  We immediately noted how valuable a resource Digimap for Schools could potentially be in this curriculum.  We noted that in particular, Component 2: “UK Geographical Issues” and Component 3: “People and the Environment Issues -Making Geographical Decisions” cited the use of OS maps at 1:25000 and 1:50000 numerous times.

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We spent some time going through the full GCSE Edexcel Geography B specifications and noted the large number of topics and assessments where Digimap for Schools was applicable. Two areas in particular: Topic 4: “The UK’s evolving physical landscape” and Topic 6: “Geographical investigation” cited the use of Ordnance Survey maps several times in the ‘Integrated Skills” sections.    See below:

Screen Shot 2017-02-09 at 12.49.05

We also noted that this GCSE also required 2 fieldwork investigations, one for physical geography (coasts or rivers) and one for human geography (dynamic urban areas or changing rural areas).  We already provide some guidance on how Digimap for Schools can be used directly for fieldwork in two videos on our youtube channel: Fieldwork Webinar and Using FieldTrip GB with Digimap for Schools

We believe that Digimap for Schools is the perfect tool for providing this OS mapping, but also has the added functionality of providing GIS elements such as the ability to add point files which would cover some of the assessment criteria within this particular exam specification.

We believe Digimap for Schools is the perfect resource allowing pupils to access all the relevant OS maps required within the GCSE curriculum (we think it’s also the GB mapping used within the most exam papers), it also provides the tools to undertake all the assessment objectives in a simple, no fuss way.  We also believe it facilitates the GIS components of the curriculum (please someone tell us if it doesn’t, but we genuinely believe it does :-) ).

I did a quick look through some of the other examination boards and can report that it’s a similar story with the OS 1:25000 and 1:50000 maps being persistently cited for usage, so Digimap for Schools is applicable for these examination boards also.

Anyhow, I did a quick video which identifies the areas of the Edexcel specifications and some of the AQA specifications where I think we Digimap for Schools can help.

Click here to view the embedded video.

New Training Sessions!

We have four exciting new dates where the fabulous Darren Bailey, Ordnance Survey Schools Delivery Programme Manager, will deliver superb Digimap for Schools training sessions.  If the sessions are in your area, you really should attend, even if you’re not subscribed, come along and have a taster session or if you are subscribed and you feel you’re not making the most of what the service could offer, please come along too. Session dates are:

  • 5th December-  Blackburn

  • 6th December- Oldham

  • 7th December- Hull

To find out more and register to attend, please email darren.bailey@os.uk

Upcoming Ordnance Survey Training with Darren Bailey

We have four exciting new dates where the fabulous Darren Bailey, Ordnance Survey Schools Delivery Programme Manager, will deliver superb Digimap for Schools training sessions.  If the sessions are in your area, you really should attend, even if you’re not subscribed, come along and have a taster session or if you are subscribed and you feel you’re not making the most of what the service could offer, please come along too. Session dates are:

  • 1st November-  West Byfleet

  • 2nd November- Stockport

  • 3rd November- Sheffield

  • 4th November- Sheffield

  • 15th November- Wolverhampton

  • 21st November- Exeter

  • 28th November- London

To find out more and register to attend, please email darren.bailey@os.uk

Helping you deliver the national curriculum for geography – aerial photography

The top improvement requested for Digimap for Schools was the addition of Aerial photography so we were delighted to make this available earlier this term. Why do schools need this?

  • Key Stage 1 and 2 require pupils to interpret a range of sources of geographical information, including aerial photographs
  • Key Stage 1 specifically requires schools to ‘use aerial photographs and plan perspectives to recognise landmarks and basic human and physical features’

In Digimap for Schools you can use the transparency slider to view the aerial imagery and the present day map together, helping to introduce pupils to the concept of maps and how they differ from photographs.

We have some step by step teaching resources that feature aerial photography:

All sorts of exciting things can be found in the photographs. If you spot anything unusual that you think pupils will particularly enjoy please do tweet it to us at @Digimap4Schools and we will compile a list of the best for a future blog post?

 

concorde

Concorde 216 – the last one to be built will move indoors into a new museum at Filton in 2017

Digimap for Schools Upcoming Webinars

Hi folks, we have come up with a schedule of webinars we intend to run before Christmas.  Users will be emailed in advance with details and joining instructions closer to the dates.

September 15th (Thursday) 16.15.16.45- Introduction to our new features (Aerial Imagery) –Link coming Monday 12th September
October 6th (Thursday) 16.15.16.45- Getting Started with Digimap for Schools
November 15th (Tuesday) 16.15.16.45- Customising Maps with Annotations
December 11th (Tuesday) 16.15.16.45- Getting Started with Digimap for Schools

Peter