I made a New Year promise to include a regular slot in my blog for 2014, called my ‘monthly WARP’. This is based on an acronym where the ‘W’ stands for a web resource, the ‘A’ for an app, the ‘R’ for a reading resource, and the ‘P’ for a photograph or image.
My third WARP – for March – consists of the following:
This site is run by an international team of developers, and researchers, and aims to make global statistics available in a thought-provoking and easily accessible way. It is a great reference point for geographers, providing real-time data for lessons. It works really well as a starter stimulus, and I quite like to have it running on the whiteboard as students enter the room. Often, they will form their own questions to answer in the lesson from the data changing in front of their eyes. The site contains data on world population growth, birth rates, death rates, cars produced, computers sold, cellular phones sold, Google searches, forest loss, CO2 emissions, world hunger, water consumption – and a whole lot more. Give it a try!
I was alerted to this site by the excellent Sonny Sharma (@sanjeshsharma) from ‘New Ways To Learn’ – the company who helped us set up our I Pad programme. This free site (formerly known as ‘Edcanvas’) is a great user-friendly tool that can be used to gather resources and plan lessons, and share with just one link. It also has the capacity to measure progress through in-built quizzes. The schools version offers unlimited space for classes, students and lessons. This site has proved useful when setting cover work, resourcing ‘flipped’ lessons, project-based learning and differentiating resources. Students can also use the platform themselves to create ‘canvases’ where they can search for and pull in videos, URLs and text which they can then annotate and share. Search for it on You Tube to see it in action, or explore the site yourself!
Thinglink is a web-based tool (and IOS app) that allows students and teachers to create exciting interactive images that come alive with music, video, text, and images. It is a simple tool to operate, and students can demonstrate their understanding of a topic by researching, selecting and quickly adding their own resources to an image through symbols that act as hyperlink hot spots. Thinglink works really well to add further information to maps.
This unique web based tool (also available as an Android or IOS app) allows the user to make engaging animated videos that bring real impact to a message or offer a really creative opportunity to explain an aspect of learning. If you have been impressed by the RSA Animate series of films – for example, Ken Robinson’s excellent film on creativity – then this app is made for you. A free seven day trial will get you hooked, and the pro account (costing £119 a year) then opens up a range of extra gadgets and gizmos. A site-wide licence is available for use in schools.
My chosen book this month is “When a Billion Chinese Jump”, by The Guardian’s Asia correspondent, Jonathan Watts. He examines China’s modern development, and how this has the capacity to affect us all in terms of climate change, resource use, energy security, and so on. The book is sub-titled ‘How China Will Save Mankind – Or Destroy It’, and is not just a bleak journey through China’s environmental disasters but also offers some hope for the future by examining some of China’s success stories in its bid for sustainable development.
Some brief extracts:
“On one hand, the country is taking bigger strides to develop renewable energy than any other nation. But on the other, the benefits are being outweighed by an energy demand that is growing even faster. Like Gulliver, a handful of huge, high profile, low carbon projects are being swamped by millions of tiny, barely registered, high-carbon habits. To overcome this, it will not be enough to throw up buildings; lifestyles will also have to be redesigned.”
“Despite its reputation as an agricultural civilisation, for most of the last 2,000 years China has been by far the biggest producer of coal and iron in the world, a status lost only temporarily in the early 19th century when Britain began industrialising. It is no coincidence that the country’s recent return to great power status has come at a time when it is once again number one in these basic industries and when large numbers of peasants are working below rather than on the surface.”
“For 3,000 years China has been a country of farmers. Suddenly, it was a land of city dwellers. Britain has five urban centres of more than a million people; China has more than 120. A few – Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Nanjing – are well known around the world. The names of many others – Suqian, Suining, Xiantao, and Xinghua – are unfamiliar even to many Chinese. Building them required cement, steel, and timber. Once complete, homes required electricity for fridges, microwave ovens, TVs and air conditioners.”
A couple of photographs this month from a recent British Council visit to Saudi Arabia. I was overwhelmed by the welcome received from the schools visited, and enjoyed the delights of a modern city – Riyadh – as well as a visit to the desert. Amazing to see petrol priced at only 10p per litre! In school, teaching plate tectonics can cross all language barriers! I am currently working on a report from the trip, and will publish this in a later blog.