Cool mapping

10th March 2006 at 00:00
As teachers we don't expect students to declare our subject "cool", but it does happen; in geography, one of the latest developments to stimulate this reaction is digital mapping. In my mind, the landscape on the traditional paper map is there to see and interpret, but for many children it's a jumble of coloured lines.

What, then, is the impact if you load some digital map data onto the computer, press a key and suddenly there it is - the 3D digital landscape.

There is always an audible "wow!", inevitably followed by "that's cool", as we rotate the landscape, plot a route and then fly across it in our virtual helicopter. Below, pupils can see the contours that form the valleys and the hills - suddenly it all makes more sense.

I have been using software from Memory-Map (pictured below), a company that licenses digital data direct from the Ordnance Survey. The program is user-friendly and can be used most productively on an interactive whiteboard. We can now do instant cross-sections to show our glaciated valleys and river long profiles. We can bring digital photos back from fieldwork, plot our route and add hotspots on the digital map with photo text links and thus create "virtual fieldwork" examples to use for follow-up work and revision. The possibilities for developing good teaching and learning ideas are endless and with the advent of cheaper GPS systems, there is huge scope for more and more "wow!" in the geography classroom.

David Rayner Part-time teacher and geography consultant, the Grammar School for Girls, Wilmington, Kent

* A teacher's resource pack (pound;14.99) is available to accompany the software. The cost depends on how many regions it covers and whether it includes aerial photography (prices range from pound;49.95 - Pounds 299.95).

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