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On the map

Dorothy Walker explores a package that helps young geographers build a detailed picture of where they live

Take an antique map, feed it into a 21st-century geographical information system (GIS) and it can make a world of difference for students studying how their neighbourhood has developed. Maps from the turn of the last century join modern-day satellite images in the latest collection of information to be added to the Digital Worlds GIS package.

GIS systems may not provide much scope for shading in maps with coloured pencils - something teachers confessed to as being a stumbling block with the technology - but they do help young geographers build a picture of their area.

Digital Worlds includes maps, aerial photos, satellite images and census data, as well as GIS software. These allow students to mix, match and analyse the information to come up with new findings.

With the latest additions, there is even more room for discovery. Explorers can make a start by zooming in on the UK from space.

Kris Bater, of Digital Worlds, says: "The satellite imagery now covers the whole country, rather than just the school's county, and we have also added a 1:250,000 Ordnance Survey map of the UK. Younger pupils might begin a lesson by trying to identify features such as urban areas on the satellite view, then gradually fade in an OS map to reveal the names of towns and cities. It helps them put both the map and their own area into context."

Census data has been broken down in more detail.

Statistics are now provided not only for local wards, but for smaller "super-output areas". That means a student studying crime levels could come close to being able to identify crime figures for individual streets.

Factors such as ethnicity and deprivation are now profiled in more detail.

For example, it's now possible to distinguish between different types of economic inactivity. And air-quality figures have been added, providing a break-down of air pollutants in every area of the UK.

Digital Worlds includes an historical map from 1860 (schools receive their local version) and this has now been joined by an OS map from the early 1900s. Together, the two span an era that changed the face of Britain's cities.

The maps and images are for both primaries and secondaries, but the new census detail is not provided for primary pupils, to avoid overwhelming them with geographical information.

Digital Worlds GIS, pound;495 (primary), pound;695 (secondary)

* Digital Worlds Stand SW-N33

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