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Teaching History and Geography with digital technologies: some useful resources

At the 2020 Bett Show we had the opportunity to attend a speech by Caitlin McMillan and Rowan Roberts, who introduced some very useful digital resources for teaching History and Geography.

DFI International 
08 aprile 2020 di: Redazione

At the 2020 Bett Show we had the pleasure of attending a session organized by the London Connected Learning Center. This center, which is part of UK's Education Development Trust, supports schools in using digital technologies creatively and critically and provides curriculum support, technical services and professional development.They aim to embed technology use into all areas of the curriculum, based on the principle that every young person needs to acquire digital skills and critical mindset to prepare them for life.

One of the most interesting speeches was the one by Caitlin McMillan and Rowan Roberts. Roberts is an expert in primary computing, especially in the areas of games design, programming and computational thinking, while McMillan, who has been working at CLC since 2014, has a particular focus on creative digital content.

Their speech, designed for primary schools, was called Enhancing primary history and geography with digital technologies. Here's what we've learned.

Primary school teachers spend a long time producing curriculum materials for their classes. When asked how long they spend each day in creating worksheets, PowerPoints or other resources, 38% of them replied that it takes between 10 and 30 minutes, 25% more than 30 minutes but less than an hour and 14% more than an hour. Technology can help teachers to find resources.

The first suggested tool is Britain On Film, an endless collection of geolocated historical video footage showing 120 years of English history. These resources could act as source material for historical research, a prompt for a creative writing task or even a stimulus for a filmmaking project in which students are asked to record on video their present and make a comparison with the past.

Another interesting resource suggested by Roberts and McMillan is the London History Schools Day Teachers' Guide, published by the London administration in May 2019. This guide is interesting because it suggests a series of activities designed to pay tribute to famous Londoners. The idea is to ask children to dress up as their favorite Londoner and has suggestions on how to create simple costumes.

Moving from History to Geography, the two speakers talked about Google Earth, a rich and versatile tool that they believe can help making geography tangible for children.

There are several ways to use the resources provided by Google Earth. One of the most interesting is the "Feeling lucky" button, which transports the user to an interesting spot on the planet chosen by the program's algorithm. Once you've discovered the place, you can learn more about it on an information card. The Voyager mode allows you to virtually visit a series of places connected by a thematic link. Many of these relate to aspects of human geography - the different houses in the world, the most colorful neighborhoods on the planet - while others pertain to physical geography: rivers, lakes, glaciers or forests.

Another useful educational feature in Google Earth, Street View mode, is the possibility to "travel back in time". When doing a search sometimes a clock icon appears at the top right. When you click on it, you’ll see a timeline that includes all of the historic street view imagery taken in the location you’re looking at. Obviously, this only works in places that have been photographed multiple times and won’t take you back much further than 10 years, but for younger children it is a significant time lapse.

Finally, for multidisciplinary activities (for example geography and science), McMillan and Roberts have recommended using trackers that identify the positions and movements of animals. WWF, for example, using radio devices that transmit data via satellite, allows you to follow different animal species (narwhals, whales, polar bears, turtles) to learn more about their habitats and their migrations.

You can read the article in Italian here.

Image: School photo by freepik /freepik.com