Saturday, 28 March 2009

Twitter and Data Mining

Flood Contingency map copyright the City of Fargo

Have been following a few stories recently, and using the idea of 'data mining' the 'Twittersphere' as a resource.
On the BBC News this morning, there was a report on the city of FARGO in North Dakota, where people were being evacuated due to record levels on the Red River..

For many people in the UK, 'Fargo' puts them in mind of the classic Coen Brothers film with the woodchipper... For others, it's paired with Wells on the side of stagecoaches in westerns...
For the residents of the city though, the current issue is that of record levels of flooding on the Red River, up to almost 41 feet above normal.
'Trending' on Twitter (i.e. one of the most popular current words or tags that are included in people's 'tweets') is the word FARGO
Using a service like TWITTER SEARCH or TWITTERFALL, the tweets with the word FARGO in them can be seen as they appear: sometimes 20 or 30 a minute... With the latter, they 'cascade' down the screen as they appear.

This is particularly useful because the nature of Twitter means that many users will post links to news reports, background reading, pictures of current events, or their personal thoughts, which means that an event is being 'broadcast' in a number of short inputs, but together these can be assembled to create an 'alternative narrative' for the events.

Reading the tweets is fascinating, as each one has a particular 'angle' or 'message', many offering a perspective on the story which makes one think about the event in a different way, and would provide tremendous material for some high-level descriptive or persuasive writing.

This is the sort of creative work that can act as a useful counterpoint to what we might call more 'traditional' resources and classroom activities. Used occasionally it might provide a useful 'news room' style event which could engage pupils and provide a memorable (even compelling) learning experience.

The city's website also has a great deal of useful information in the form of planning and floodplain maps HERE.

There are also other tags or hashtags e.g. #fargoflood emerging as the event develops.

The nature of these events is that they are ephemeral, and teachers would have difficulty planning a session in advance in many cases. The new KS3 PoS includes a deal more flexibility than in the past, and this means that there is a chance that if an event happens that is relevant to the particular units that are being taught in a longer term scheme, that time can be given to exploring events 'as they happen'... This sort of reactive, immediate work could prove to be valuable in preparing students for the sort of employment that they may well have in the future.

Of course, another issue is that what compels large numbers of people to 'talk' about the same thing is generally (although you can argue with me here) something 'negative', so we reinforce the idea of disaster geography, rather than reflecting on more positive changes and events. One can imagine that the next major earthquake, volcanic eruption etc. will all create a major outpouring of tweets... Are we still to have our first major post-Twitter disaster ?

In the meantime, my thoughts are with the people of Fargo as they watch the waters rise. My best wishes to you all, and of course to other settlements in the area, as although the focus may be on Fargo, other communities are also suffering....

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Gapminder reminder....

Thanks to Ollie Bray, who's in Vienna, for posting this link - if you haven't seen Gapminder before, you need to check it out... This was always fantastic for use with GCSE and 6th form groups. Visualisation is the new rock and roll...

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Monday, 23 March 2009

Exeter Urban Rebranding

Some great work from Jo Blackmore and colleagues /students at Okehampton College on an URBAN REBRANDING fieldtrip to Exeter.
Good to see the EDEXCEL NING turning into a really positive outcome: useful images and an excellent model for a fieldwork booklet. Thanks for sharing...

Friday, 20 March 2009

Photosynth: a possible fieldtrip activity

After the school run today, it was a quick trip up to Hunstanton to take 164 pictures of the famous stripy cliffs: the southern end of the cliffs near the promenade - thanks to my Nikon D40X that took about 5 minutes as I wandered from the carrstone boulders in the tidal zone, to the base of the cliff and zoomed in on some of the individual rocks in the red and white rockfall zones. The light wasn't ideal, but that wasn't really the point in this case.
I then batch-resized the images ready to create a PHOTOSYNTH.
Taking my cue from Ollie Bray's BLOG POST, I installed Microsoft Silverlight, and then PHOTOSYNTH itself (having to keep reminding myself to use Internet Explorer rather than my usual Chrome)
PHOTOSYNTH installs 2 programmes: a web-browser plugin for viewing the 'synths' and an application for creating them.
If you've read this far and are thinking "what's a Photosynth anyway ?", here is a DESCRIPTION.

A detailed GEOLOGICAL GUIDE of the cliffs can be viewed here (PDF download)


Also embedded below: needs SILVERLIGHT TO VIEW, and to be viewed in IE or Firefox

Let's try to collect together a GEOGRAPHICAL library of Photosynths...
If you've made one, please let me know....

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Google Street View UK launched

GA HQ on Street View - Image copyright Google and associated imaging partners...

Today is the launch of the widely anticipated Google Street View. I had an invitation to attend, and would like to have been there, but had another appointment today pre-booked.
Just following the LIVE LAUNCH on Sky News, which is also going out on TWITTER. People on TWITTER noticed it last night before the official launch.

UK cities covered so far

- Birmingham
- Bristol
- Cambridge
- Coventry
- Derby
- Leeds
- Liverpool
- London
- Manchester
- Newcastle
- Norwich,
- Nottingham,
- Oxford
- Scunthorpe
- Sheffield
- Southampton
- York
Northern Ireland
- Belfast
- Aberdeen
- Dundee
- Edinburgh
- Glasgow
- Cardiff
- Swansea

Friday, 13 March 2009

Results are in...

January module results are now in for the AS Units.

Also celebrating the first 100 posts on the blog.
Thanks for reading...

BBC Box Update

It's been a few weeks since my article on the BBC Box was featured in the GA Magazine.
A recent e-mail from James Woolven, who teaches in one of the GA's CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE reminded me to check on the box, and it has recently arrived in BRAZIL.
The BBC website follows some of the goods that arrived in the USA from China into the stores where they were sold.
The box was then loaded with a cargo of 'household goods'.
The box is now in Santos in Brazil, and there is another very useful BBC ARTICLE describing the changing economic circumstances facing Brazil. This would be very useful for 'A' level GLOBALISATION topics.

Thanks to James for also telling me about the AIS Ship Tracker website. It has a map which shows the current position of container shipping vessels around the coast of the UK. Click on a ship to find out more details of what the ship is carrying and where it is heading...

Red Nose Day

Don't forget to donate to Red Nose Day

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Billy Connolly in Canada and Nunavut

Bought a cheap copy of Billy Connolly's 'Journey to the Edge of the World' in a well known supermarket yesterday...Visit the ITV website for more details on the series, which would be good viewing for those people studying Extreme Environments and Cold Environments
There are some good descriptions of the changing landscape of areas like Nunavut, the majesty of icebergs and glaciers, and the experience of climbing one of the Tuktoyaktuk (also known locally as 'Tuk') pingos.
The ITV website has an interactive map and video footage, and you can catch up with episodes on the ITV PLAYER for the time being. There's also a GALLERY OF IMAGES.

Plenty of associated press and blog posts as well to flesh out the content.
The DVD is available from next monday, and features Billy's travelogue, which may provide an engaging classroom resource, although it has a 15 certificate, so there could be some 'fruity' language - your 6th formers will probably have heard it before though, maybe even from you ;)

Here's a taster...

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

DFID Consultation - Global Poverty

The Fight Against World Poverty
Where next for the UK?
Your chance to shape the debate...
CONSULTATION MEETINGS at venues around the country....

Register and have your say and find out the latest information so that your teaching is up to date...

“The Global community faces enormous challenges. The economic crisis, food security, climate change, energy insecurity, conflict, rising population – these are challenges of unprecedented magnitude which affect us all, and in particular the world’s poorest and most vulnerable. The nature of this interdependence means that it has never been so important to invest in our common future.” Douglas Alexander, Secretary of State for International Development (10 Feb 2009)

In response to the challenges currently being faced the Department for International Development (DFID) is working on a new narrative for international development that will culminate in a White Paper that will be published in July 2009.

At these events you’ll hear from a DFID Minister, a speaker from one of the many organisations that work hard to help eliminate global poverty e.g. Oxfam and inspiring stories from volunteers who have worked on an international development project. You’ll have the chance to ask the speakers any questions you have and to take part in debating a particular topic at your table that will be fed back and inform the direction of DFID’s work.