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Friday, April 02, 2010

This is one of those "let's have a go at this..." moments.
It's a 'development' of some of the excellent QR code work that Noel Jenkins has done. I read this week that some graffiti artists are now using QR codes to 'tag' their work...

The idea of tagging is spreading (apparently there is no # tag on an Apple keyboard, although hashtags are now becoming very common...)

It's obviously important to tag resources so that people can find them, photos are tagged on Flickr so they can be searched, and an extension of that is geotagging, which is now built in to some digital cameras, and is added to photos taken with my iPhone for example.

So TOUCHATAG was introduced to me by John Davitt via some tweets and details from a conference that I followed remotely. John is also planning an event called Learning on the Beach #lob10 in Ireland which I would have attended as 'this year's Islay 2020' style CPD, but instead I will be at Glastonbury with the Geography Collective.

Touchatag uses RFID tags: these are Radio Frequency Identification tags (more later)

I bought a tag reader, and a starter pack of 10 tags from the Touchatag shop.

The phrase that drew me in was the chance to create an "internet of things"....

The tags can be linked to actions or resources, and it's this aspect that I will be exploring further...

Image Alan Parkinson

The reader and software are now installed, so the next thing is to come up with some activities.

A TOUR is available to introduce the idea of what can be done.

For example, a cube with a series of tags could be created and by placing the appropriate side of the cube on the reader, an action is triggered, which could be related to e-mails, music, videos, Twitter or some other application - the tag could be hidden inside an object or stuck to it e.g. the bottom of a coffee mug, or a DVD case. The objects could be related to the lesson activity that is planned, or provide instructions or guidance for students, or perhaps bring up clues as to the nature of the activity that has been planned... This is the next stage...

Just considering what stories I can attach to objects, and how I can use that for geographical learning....
From what you've read on this post - does anyone have any thoughts on how it could be used ?
Would be interested in developing some collaborative resources on the use of these tags, and will share some of the outcomes later in the year at a few planned sessions....

Also been looking at the existing uses of RFID tags, and there are quite a few 'geographical' contexts that could be used with students to introduce the idea of what they are, and let the students create the ideas in the classroom...
  • Tags in the ears of farm animals, such as cows, so productivity can be mapped as the animal comes in for milking, and each animal can be identified... - could be mentioned when looking at agriculture or food production - also useful for tracking spread of infections
  • Tags inside library books, so they can be scanned rather than physically stamping library cards and books etc. These systems may well be in lots of school resource centres / libraries
  • They can be placed in vehicles so that they can be tracked for congestion charging purposes or road tolls
  • My Barclaycard is able to use contactless technology to pay for things, not that I've ever had the opportunity yet...
  • My Oyster Card does something similar, and these are used by thousands of London travellers every hour...
  • Some schools are tagging pupils: RFID can be placed in uniforms or school bags and used to track attendance, or students leaving the school site during the school day
A useful document hosted on SCRIBD gives a summary of the technology:

RFID Technology

Not everyone is happy about their use. There are campaigns against their use to track activities and movements of people.

A lengthy post, but an idea I shall return to...

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Thursday, April 01, 2010

Over to Aylesbury yesterday to Millennium House for the first meeting in connection with the new strategic partnership between ESRI (UK) and the Geographical Association. ESRI (UK) are also the first GA corporate member.

This has been quite a long time in the planning, and was announced over the weekend, but there will be more on this to come at the GA Conference next week.

GIS is now part of all key stages, and is specifically mentioned in the KS3 Programme of Study.

From the press release:

This new partnership brings together ESRI (UK)’s expertise in GIS (Geographical Information Systems) and the GA’s understanding of the learning and teaching of geography.
With GIS now a compulsory part of the national curriculum, the organisations will combine forces to help teachers respond to the curriculum changes and introduce GIS into geography lessons.
The signing of this first partnership agreement is a new departure for the GA. With funding in place for the next three years the GA can plan ahead, working with ESRI (UK) to introduce the power of GIS technology to schools as part of its mission of furthering the study, learning and teaching of geography. Last summer ESRI (UK) responded to the curriculum changes, launching its GIS for Schools Programme which offers GIS software specially designed for schools and a wealth of resources. In an online resource centre teachers can watch video tutorials and download step by step lesson plans on topics ranging from tracking hurricanes to the spread of swine flu.
“We are delighted and honoured to be working with the GA in this ground-breaking partnership,” said Dr Richard Waite, Managing Director, ESRI (UK). “We believe passionately that GIS brings a new dimension to the teaching of geography, giving students both a deeper understanding of their subject and skills they can take into the workplace. More than 120 schools have now signed up to our GIS for Schools Programme.
Working with the GA and its members we can build on this success over the next three years, encouraging more schools to use GIS and creating a community of teachers who will share their knowledge of GIS, their enthusiasm and their resources.”

As part of the partnership, I will be spending some time working on resources, training and the GIS for Schools Programme. This already contains a growing range of resources.

There are 2 key packages from ESRI.
Digital Worlds (was HIGHLY COMMENDED in the GA awards 2009)
ArcView 9.3 (industry compatible GIS which has tremendous potential...)

There is also the MY GIS support area for teachers....

As part of the day, John Lyon and I were shown the ENTERPRISE LAB. This is a purpose-built room at ESRI UK HQ, which has the ability to be used in a variety of scenarios.

Digital Worlds costs £250+VAT per year, which gives access to the full range of teaching and learning materials as well as training materials, such as a series of podcasts which work through the key skills that are needed to make the most of the software. The key element of this, as with ArcView is the access to a huge range of DATA.

ArcView costs £350+VAT per year, which gives access to further materials

At the GA Conference next week, Dr. Richard Waite of ESRI (UK) will deliver the Public Lecture on Thursday the 8th of April.
Dr Waite will explore what GIS means for teachers and students, explaining why GI skills are becoming increasingly important in the workplace, how GIS can enhance the teaching of a broad range of subjects, and how geography teachers can lead the way.