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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

ASCD 2010 in San Antonio, TX

If you can't meet me at GeoTech in Dallas next week, then mosey on down to San Antonio, TX for the ASCD Conference March 6-8! I'll be there with my colleagues, Dr. Shannon White from the University of Missouri and Randy Kilian-Smith of Region 20 and Northeast ISD. We'll be presenting on Monday morning on "Transforming Curriculum Using Geospatial Technologies." Come see us for a spatially good time!

GeoTech 2010 in Dallas, TX

Don't miss a great opportunity to connect with other educators interested in technology integration! Join me at GeoTech hosted by Bishop Dunne Catholic High School in Dallas. I'll be presenting workshops and presentations on using geospatial technology across the curricular boundaries. Check it out at!

See you in Dallas!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sketch-A-Map in the Classroom-Part 3: Math in English Class?

I love surprising my students with facts and trivia that will make curricular elements stick with them.  Previously, I discussed using place as proof and analyzing water resources.  What about breaking the stereotype that if you're good at English then you can't do math!  The students I tutor in Algebra are always surprised that I "can do math."  

A great way to incorporate a little math is a journey book or story.  A great example is 
Journey to Jo'burg by Beverly Naidoo.  A 13-year old boy and his sister must make a journey 300 kilometers from their small village to Johannesburg, South Africa to get medical help.  How far is that...really?  For you sharp GIS folks, it's a quick little buffer activity in ArcGIS or AEJEE.  You could use ArcGIS Explorer and measure that distance; however, if you only have the internet available to your classroom, our trusty tool Sketch-A-Map can give us some assistance here.  As the teacher you will have to do some homework here to discover real distance.  In the case of our story, Pietersburg, South Africa is approximately 300 kilometers from Johannesburg.  

With the street map in view, students can draw a line on the map of that distance and more lines to discover where the children's small village is.  For some perspective, then we could zoom over to the USA and draw a similar line from Washington, D.C. to Newark, NJ.  It's about the same distance.  Most students would realize quickly, "Hey!  That's pretty far!"  Most of my students wouldn't have considered such a journey!  

Now that we can see that journey on the map, let's appreciate what Tiro and Naledi in the story did to get help.  Time to do a little math!
1 mile = 1.609344 kilometers. How many miles is 300 kilometers?  What city is that distance from your town?
A person could walk about 2.5 miles per hour.  If you made the journey, how long would it take you to get there?

If you're just a little creative, you can continue to cover your required content and give students important connections to their curriculum! As an added bonus, the math teacher will be happy too!

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Sketch-A-Map in the Classroom Part 2: Social Studies and English are Friends

This is a continuation of a discussion on a simple but powerful, free online resource, Sketch-A-Map (  In my previous blog post, I shared one possible use in English Language Arts (ELA) class (

Cross-curricular collaboration is a powerful tool as well.  Students see connections to their studies and see teamwork modeled for them among the teachers.  Middle school students say, “You mean you talk to Mrs. Smith…about school stuff!?!”  Collaborative work is a part of our professional world.  It makes sense to show our students some best practices.  Not to mention, as my mother always said, “It’s nice to share with others.”  While my students in English class were working on a writing assignment that was part research, part creative on Indian culture, my team Social Studies Teacher wanted to show the impact of the Ganges River, one of the most polluted rivers.  How important is water in this region? 

A quick zoom over to India and a look at the world topo maps, students can explain why this river is significant, not only for its religious importance.  What other water sources are available to this region?  If you were creating cities, where would you place them based on the landscape?  Now, change the base map to streets and compare where the real cities are.  How well did you place cities?  Could some cities’ water resources be strained?  Why?

Once we examine these items in Sketch-A-Map, we have opened our students’ curious minds to “why”!  Now we can make an easy transition to GIS analysis to examine world population and trends in cities to offer proof for our hypotheses.  Not only do my students know where India, the Ganges River and major cities are located, but they also have some grounded knowledge of their significance…information that they are less-likely to forget when assessed.  Give students the connections they need to imprint content and increase their analytical skills!