16th April 1999 at 01:00
Geography involves a lot of information collection and analysis - processes that technology is well suited for. Dave Hassell, head of curriculum and institutional development at the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (BECTA), says: "ICT can enhance the enquiry process. Geography is about asking questions and ICT makes it easier to, say, manipulate the results of 200 questionnaires."

But where do you start? Helen Warner, geography spokesperson for Naace, the ICT advisers' organisation, says: "There is a tendency for some people to focus on the whizzy ICT and forget the geography. Good geography must come first. At the heart of good geography is the enquiry process. My own approach is to focus on using generic software and I think data-handling is a good place to start."

Warner says this could be based around a local field enquiry or perhaps using a prepared datafile that pupils need to interrogate, for example on weather or population data.

Hassell says the Internet can be a rich resource for the geographer, eg for downloading satellite images or using Geographic Image Systems (GIS) to look at a particular crop around the country. "ICT allows kids to use real data rather than something that is secondhand," he says. Email can be used to communicate with other schools and experts from across the world.

Portable ICT equipment can also transform field work. A digital camera for example, can be used to capture images that can be put into a computer. Portable computers or palmtop machines can be used for data-logging. Whether you are inside or outside the classroom, ICT can make a useful contribution to the teaching and learning of geography.


1 The Virtual Teachers Centre 2 The Teem (Teachers Evaluating Educational Multimedia) site 3 Staffordshire Learning Net includes a good rain forest section 4 Becta has published many free booklets. Send SAE to Becta, Milburn Hill Road, Science Park, Coventry CV4 7JJ 5 Using IT to Enhance Geography (pound;7.50 from Becta, order number 80705, tel: 01203 416 994.

6 Changing Environments (pound;94 from Granada Learning, tel: 0161 827 2887) 7 The BBC's Bitesize website is useful for revision 8 Interactive Atlas of GB (pound;25.52 from Ordnance Survey, tel: 0845 050505) 9 Rivers CD-Rom and pack for key stages 2-3 (pound;19.99 inc VAT, from Ransom Publishing, tel: 01491 613711) 10 Microsoft Encarta 99 World Atlas - British Edition CD-Rom, (pound;42.54 from TAG tel: 0800 591262)

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