Where in the World Wide Web?

Cyberschools Column

First Published in The Herald, January 2000



New Higher Still courses in geography widen horizons by taking students from Scotland to the UK, on into Europe and out into the big wide world. For many, making that journey will mean travelling on the World Wide Web.

The work of "one of the Scottish pioneers of modern geology" is described on one site which could act as a departure point. "Arran possesses such a rich variety of both rocks and landforms squeezed within its confines that it is virtually an exhibition centre for earth scientists," says Mike Lewis on his Web site which outlines the work of James Hutton, one of the first to recognise that, over time, layers of rock could be eroded and then fresh layers deposited over them.

This Web site is accessible and easy to understand. For geography students new to the Web, it would be a good place to start and provides an explanation of the rock types to be found in different parts of the island and how they developed. For those studying glacial features the impact of the ice age on Arran is also clearly described.

There are photographs and graphics designed to make learning easier and it comes as no surprise that Mike Lewis is actually a geography teacher. This is, in fact, the Web site of the geography and geology department at Northamptonshire Grammar School and the Arran section is just one of many. There are extensive notes and illustrations on the geology of the Peak District while the site also provides an historical analysis of urban development.

An investigation into changes which have occurred in Leeds demonstrates the city's rapid growth in the nineteenth century and the ways in which its situation contributed to its importance as a service centre. Recent urban renewal and contemporary problems such as parking are also considered.

Northamptonshire Grammar's Web site provides an illustration of how schools can use the Internet in the curriculum, not only by searching for resources but also by creating them. For students and teachers who are searching, Channel4 Schools provides a gateway to Europe with Italia Online. This is an ideal resource for Intermediate courses, providing maps, tables and statistics as well as links to a host of related Web sites. It is designed to complement the Place and People television series.

Resources related to programme one investigate car production in the south of Italy and allow students to compare Melfi with Derby. Increasing investment in hi-tech companies is considered in the second section, again with a UK comparison. This time "the third Italy" of the country's heartland is contrasted with the M4 Corridor.

Section three moves on to environmental issues by investigating the impact of tourism in the "Alps under stress". As with all of the other topics, as well as Netnotes there are also interactive resources which make use of Shockwave. To use these you may have to download software but full instructions are provided. Initially students are asked to drag and drop particular factual information onto a time-line which plots the development of the ski resort at Livigno. The next activity asks them to consider the impact of the 24-hour winter resort on the local inhabits and presents a range of opinion from various people who live and work in the resort. Finally students are asked to identify activities in Aviemore by studying an Ordinance Survey map and to compare Livigno with the Scottish resort.

Philip Stott is also anxious to encourage debate at his Anti-Ecohype Web site. In considering the tropical rain forest, for example, he calls into question the need for its survival and in discussing global warming he describes the current debate as "flawed". Anti-Ecohype is designed to make students think.

A useful classroom exercise might involve students in comparing Professor Stott's arguments with those which the Greenpeace site presents, before reaching and justifying their own point of view.

Geography students must also consider the links between development and health and now would be a good time to investigate the evidence and arguments presented by Jubilee2000. The features section of the site includes an article entitled "The Human Face of the Struggle Against Debt" which describes Esther and her baby, Joyce, struggling with hardship and insecurity in Tanzania and Angela and her daughters rebuilding their home on a mud slide in Honduras after Hurricane Mitch. A related article explains that by making up 70% of the world's poor, it is very often women who carry the burden of debt.

The Jubilee2000 site advocates a debt free start to the new year for billions of people, a gesture worthy of being a symbol for the millennium and one which could be usefully debated by students.

The Web now provides a wide, wide range of up-to-date resources, crucial for the geography curriculum and the Internet can bring such materials into the classroom whether the topic is tourism - try Virtual Glasgow - or river basin management - the River Resources site provides links to a wealth of materials. Geography teachers across the world are also making their own resources available wherever they're teaching and in the case of Dave Wakefield, although his classroom is now in Thailand, his resources have stayed seamlessly online at GeoNet which provides photographs, projects and reviews as well as links to well-chosen Web sites organised by country and geographical topics.