Thursday, December 13, 2012

1,2 or 3 Map Dimensions?

The question of how many dimensions to use on a map has been knocking around my head since going to the excellent W3G conference in October (thanks to all the organizers).

Screen shot of Recce with items turned on to show
visual clutter

3D is too much:  The last Keynote of the day was by Rian Liebenberg about Recce (reviewed here).  It's an iPhone/iPad app that shows cities in cartoonlike 3D but also adds moving planes/trains/cars.  I think this a fun app to play around with on the iPad and the rendering and speed of delivery is to die for.  However, I was surprised to hear it has real time tube data added and is also designed to  to be a navigation tool for cities.

Cartography 101 defines map making as the 'art of taking away' and that principle applies here.  I just can't imagine users' having a great experience trying to navigate using a 3D map on the small iPhone screen with planes buzzing across the screen.  I've discussed the problem of map 3D in earlier posts in more detail.

1 Dimension Anyone?  Which brings me to 1D maps.  One of the speakers (can't find the name, comment anyone?) talked about 1D 'strip maps' which happen to have a long history.

Old Stip Map of Directions to Bury St Edmunds

The basic idea is that if you are following a route and you want to know where you are, 1D is fine.  A  key point he made was that strip maps have great potential on smart phones as you don't have to bother doing pinch zoom and drag to find your way around, you can just scroll up and down which allows you to operate your phone map one handed.  This relates back to 'taking out the right things' idea.

The immediate problem with this idea is that a 1D map assumes you don't get lost, it's not much use if you miss that turning as you'll disappear off the screen.  However, I think a nice compromise would be a location aware strip map.  If your smart phone noticed you had wandered off route it would revert to a traditional 2D map until you had found your way back to the path.

Tom Steinberg Sums it Up:  The best keynote of the W3G day IMHO was from Tom Steinberg on open data. I checked out his blog later and discovered that by chance he's recently blogged on the 1, 2 or 3 dimensions idea .  The link takes you to a post where he discusses the advantages of strip maps for a journey across London (from rather than using the tube map.  He also comments that most digital map visualisations look 'hot' but concentrate on 'whooshing' animations which actually get in the way of understanding.

I'll give him the last word:
 The paper Tube map is still more fundamentally useful than 99% of hot web visualisations, even though it was crafted on an infinitely more limited technology. Why aren't more visualisations simply better, given the power at our fingertips? 
amen to that.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Simple Mapping tools: Google Earth, Gemma and Digimap

I'm giving a lecture on Thursday to first year geographers on tools for simple mapping suitable for geography assignments.  My choices?
If you step through this prezi presentation to the end you can see:
  • My bullet points for the lecture
  • To the right of the bullet points for each one I've added some commentary that you have to zoom into to read
  • below the bullet points is a YouTube video walkthrough (links GemmaDigimap) for each one except Google Earth which has a link to an earlier tutorial of mine.  Note that the digimap one assumes you're a Southampton Uni student so can sign into the service.
Prezi maps: You might also like to follow the prezi through, I link to some of my favourite maps and there's commentary on most of them (in the form of the same small scale writing to the right) too.  

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Eye-Tracking Zoomable Maps

This post was joint authored by Paolo Battino and Rich Treves.

One of the evaluation techniques we said we would employ in our Google Research Project (links to search query) is eye-tracking.  Eye-tracking software is usually designed to record the position of your gaze on the screen, assuming the content of the screen only changes in a predictable manner. This means that current eye-tracking software is good for understanding actions on a web page e.g. did the user spend more time looking at side menu, header or main content?  This is because the screen is divided into static areas and the time spent looking at each area can be easily calculated.

Problem with Eye-Tracking: Unfortunately, this does not work with a map (or a virtual globe) and you want to keep track of the geographic location observed by the user.  In this situation, XY coordinates on screen recorded by the eye-tracker do not directly map onto Lat Long coordinates because the user can zoom, pan and tilt the map ‘camera’. 

Solution:  We have developed a solution entirely based on software developed for this project.  See example below:  
Heat maps showing density of eye fixations on a Google Earth map.  
Reading down, the screen shots represent zooming in.  
Red = High density, Blue = Low

Subjects were tested in a mock up of an educational situation.  They were shown (in a Google Earth tour) how to identify a special type of valley and then asked to find one in a given area.  The heat-maps show where on the surface of Google Earth the user was looking at during the experiment independent of zoom level/tilt/pan position. 

Heat Map Script: The heat-map script, developed by Patrick Wied, is particularly efficient in showing “the big picture” (top) but also shows dynamic rendering when the user zooms in.  The screen shots themselves are from a Google Map mashup with all the usual zoom and pan controls.

HowTo:  The solution we describe here only works with Google Earth as it requires the Google Earth API.  

Summary of the Process:
1)   During the experiment, the eye-tracker records each fixation in terms of X,Y tuple together with a very accurate timestamp (this is important).
2)   During the experiment, a custom script records the position of the Google Earth ‘camera’ which is producing the view  on screen.  It polls the Google Earth API every 200 milliseconds or so and every entry is timestamped.
3)   After the experiment, on a webpage using the Google Earth API we reproduce exactly the same view displayed during the exercise by feeding Google Earth the logs from  [2].
4)   Using the timestamp of each log entry, we look up the eye-tracking logs to find out if there was a fixation recorded at exactly that time.
5)   We then use the X,Y screen coordinates to poll Google Earth and transform those coordinates into latlongs. In effect we ‘cast’ a ray from a specific location on screen onto the virtual globe.
6)   Using the API we record the lat long from the end of the cast ray and put it into a database (see diagram below)
7)   This data is processed to render the heat-map.

There are obvious far more technical details that this but for the moment we thought we'd just get the idea out.

Problems with Eye-Tracking Maps:  There are a couple of inherent issues to do with eye-tracking virtual globe maps that have already occurred to us:

  • High Altitude Zooms:  At both high and low altitude the fixation is captured as a point, at a high zoom the user may be looking at a larger feature.  A circle polygon would better represent the fixation at altitude.
  • Tilt inaccuracy: In a situation where the user is highly tilted, the inherent inaccuracies of the eye-tracking kit get amplified - a small change in eye position can represent a large variation in distance on the ground. 
In the particular case study we've discussed today we don't think either of these are a particular issue but they need to borne in mind in other situations.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Cross Section Generator for Google Earth

Today I report on a nifty new tool from Mladen Dordevic of Declan de Paor's team at Old Dominion University for creating cross sections in Google Earth.  Cross sections have many applications from geology, geomorphology, archaeology and even meteorology.  However, putting them in Google Earth has always been a hassle requiring the messy creation of a sketchup model (if, like me, you're not well practiced using that tool) and export into Google Earth.

Screen shot of the tool in action in Hawaii
cross section image taken from here 

The tool:  What Mlarden has created is a tool for taking two images (one for the front, one for the back of a virtual billboard) and putting them back to back.  You get the ability to control yaw, pitch, orientation, height and width of your model (yaw and pitch are really difficult with a sketchup model).  The great thing about putting a cross section in Google Earth is that its in context - users can get a sense of location and scale of the cross section without even having to think about it.  The final step of creation is to generate a .kmz file that can be loaded into Google Earth outside of the API.

But there's more!  That would be more than enough but Mlarden's also cooked in a 'rising block' slider.  This allows for the cross section to be conjoured out of the ground by use of the tour controller once you've published your creation to .kmz.  It's my guess that a significant number of student users never quite grasp that a cross section is from below the ground, by providing a animation slider bottom left of the screen users get reminded of this.

Technical Info and the cloud:  This tool is produced by using the Google Earth API embedded into a web page.  Its a nice example of the power of the API to enable functionality not already in the Google Earth client but it's also 'in the cloud' in the sense that you upload your images and these can be shared with other users.

Bigger Teaching Picture  We could really do with more of these little tools making it easy to create sophisticated, often used elements in Google Earth.  Declan's team has been plugging away at this and when I get some time, I'll be reviewing some more of their work.

UPDATE 4 Nov 2012:  Apologies to both Declan and Mladen for not spelling their names right, now corrected.  

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Power of Street View in Teaching

Streetview is one of the Jewels in the Crown of Google Geo and its a fantastic resource for teaching.  I've just delivered a 'Google Earth as GIS in teaching' session to PGCE students at Southampton University and took the opportunity to polish up my teaching materials, including having another look at what Streetview can do.  I thought I'd share some thoughts on it with you.

Views Beyond the Street: Firstly, it used to just be roads, now they've gone off piste with the streetview trike

and backpack

producing a range of resources including panoramas from the South pole, inside museums and on footpaths.  See the full Gallery.

HowTo:  But before I get carried away with the fun stuff, here's some basic instructions on how to use it in Google Earth looking at a classic Physical Geography field site:  Lulworth Cove.

1] Using the search panel, find Lulworth Cove, UK.

2] Zoom out so you can see the town immediately to the West and the cove in the same view. 

Rollover the controls in the top right of the screen > Click and drag the orange man > Drop him close to the cliff on the blue path between town and cove.   You will be transported into ‘streetview mode’.

3] Look all the way around you and vertically down at the ground by click and dragging the screen

Now ‘walk’ along the road/path by rolling the mouse wheel up and down.  Note that your view stays in one direction

4]  Select a good view, Create a placemark and call it ‘Street View’, click OK.

5]  Now exit streetview by clicking ‘exit streetview’ button, top right.

6]  Double click your new streetview placemark in the places column to fly back into streetview.  

This is handy as you don't have to do all the dragging and dropping of the orange man. 

Teaching Tips - the Cove:  If you're due to go to Lulworth cove, using streetview has obvious uses - you can introduce the site to students and explain where they'll go on the day.  After the trip you can use it to revise what they did and saw, helping them to link the parts of the day to the geography of the site.

The 'constant view' direction that you get with rolling the mouse wheel is particularly useful as you can show them what they will see on the walk out to the edge of the cove.  The direction should be set towards the cove - they shouldn't really be looking elsewhere!

Other Teaching Tips:  I think streetview is very useful not only for physical geography but also for human geography.  I've used it for schools outreach when looking at different neighborhoods, judging income levels depending on how smart the cars and the front doors look.  

You can use it in Google Maps without bothering to use it in Google Earth but I think the advantage of being able to 'tag' locations in streetview with a placemark and return to them at the double click of a mouse is highly useful.

Monday, September 10, 2012

San Francisco Earthquake Teaching Exercise

I've just come across an excellent teaching activity by Noel Jenkins of Juicy Geography about earthquakes in San Francisco using Google Earth.  It uses ground overlays to illustrate areas of liquification danger and earthquake amplification danger. Noel says he's tested the activity in class and that it could be used to cover GIS teaching too.

Opacity Slider:  One of the functions that is used in the activity is the 'opacity slider', this changes the transparancy of a ground overlay.  I thought it worth exactly how to use the opacity slider as its useful in lots of teaching situations:

1] Open the file that goes with the lesson plan

2] Expand the folders in the Places column until you have the data overlays folder open (click the plus buttons on the left of the folders to do this)

3] The elements showing in this folder are all ground overlays, basically images that lie over the Google Earth topography like a table cloth.  You can tell this by looking at their icons in the places column - a sheet overlying another sheet.

4] Tick one so it shows on screen.  Notice that it also goes blue, this means it's selected.

5] Click the square icon at the bottom of the Places column to the right of the magnifying glass.  A slider appears, moving the circle changes the transparency (or opacity) of the overlay.

Adjusting the opacity allows you to see the true image of the ground below and or see another ground overlay more clearly.

Useful Supporting Videos:

the above clip shows someone lecturing at the time of an earthquake (I think in California).  If you replay it and watch carefully you can see that most of the students run for the door and only one student does what they've been taught and dives under the desk.

The clip below shows an illustration of liquefaction, when shaken, the sand behaves like a liquid and more dense items (the building model) will sink into it.  You can easily do something similar with a box of rice which you shake by hand, you don't need the motor shaker.  

and this is what it looks like in real life.  The water coming out is a more complicated effect to explain but is related to liquefaction occurring.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

London Olympics Time Tour Teaching Idea

Despite being no fan of athletics normally the London Olympics running in my city hooked me in over the last couple of weeks so I thought I'd do a teaching HowTo as my way of honoring the whole event.

Part of the Olympic Park in London with 3D buildings turned on

Teaching Idea:  In the tour below you can see that you can use a tour to fly back in time as well as flying place to place.  One of the interesting parts of these games has been the regeneration it promises to bring the east end of London so my idea is a little sequence to see the history of the site in 1945 and in the present.

Open the following file in Google Earth and double click the tour in the places column to play it.

     Olympics Time Tour.kmz

Obviously this 'time tour' idea can be applied elsewhere but its very dependent on what historical imagery exists for any place - you have to go and look to see what historical imagery is available for any location (howto video on using historical imagery)

How To:
1]  Fly to London and pick a  high altitude view.  This is used to remind students the location of the site, its all too easy to have students confused about what country/city they are in.

2] Create a placemark (howto if you don't know).  I've used the text   L O N D O N as putting it in capitals with spaces puts over the idea that we're not marking a place here, more a whole area.  Your placemark automatically captures the view on screen at the moment of its creation.

3] Fly in to the Olympic park area (search top left,  may help here).  Pick a view that captures most of the park, then create another placemark.  Call it 'Olympic Park - 2012'.

4]  Now turn on the history feature.  Its a button on the top bar of the screen with a clock and a backwards arrow.  Move the slider that appears top left of your screen to the far right, you should see that you can go back as far as 1945 and that your screen shows a black and white image from this time.

5] Create another placemark and call it 'Olympic Park - 1945'.  Google Earth automatically captures the time if you've used it.

You now have 3 placemarks with 3 associated views.  We want to move between the three views, to do this, find the placemarks in the places column (left of the screen).

Each placemark is made up of a tick box (turns the point on and off), followed by an icon which is then followed by the name.

6] Double click the icon associated with the L O N D O N placemark to be flown to its view.

7]  Now try it with the London 1945 placemark.  If you are not at that location already you will be flown there but Google Earth will also change the imagery so that you see the view at that time.

8]  If you are presenting this to a class you could just double click from high view, to current park view to 1945 view but thats a lot of double clicking.  Better to pre-record it as a tour which we'll do next

9] Create a folder in the Temporary places folder by:
   Click 'Temporary places' in the places column > right click > Add > Folder

Call it 'Time tour'

10] One by one, drag your three placemarks into the folder.

11] Now click the video camera button top of the screen, this will start the tour record bar in the bottom left of your screen.  Click the red dot button and Google Earth will record what you do.

12] Tick your three placemarks so they are visible if they are not turned on already.  Double click London, 2012 and 1945 placemarks icons in turn so you are flown between them.

13]  Click the red dot button again to stop recording.  Google Earth will immediately play your tour back to you again, if you are happy with it, click the disk icon and it will save in your places column.

14]  Make sure your new tour is in the 'Time tour' folder.  This folder now contains all the elements you need for your tour to play.  Right click the folder > save as and save it somewhere.  You can now send that file to others who can play your tour.

Its important to put all the placemarks in a folder and save the folder as otherwise they won't show in the tour if someone else opens it.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Simple or Complex Map Icons

Over at my other blog I've just posted a response to a Google IO talk.  In the second half of the post I discuss whether you should use simple symbol icons (e.g. circles) vs picture icons (a simplified icon showing a wolf) which is relevant to Google Earth.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Google Research Update & Elevation Profiler

See Labels > Google Research Project in the right column to see earlier posts about this project.

Work on our Google Project is going well:

- On the content front, after feedback from team members and talk aloud 'hallway' testing, the final version of the Google Earth tours needed for the tests have been produced.  
- On the testing software front Paolo has got the system working where we record both eye-tracking of subjects using our tours and events in the Google Earth API (e.g. tracking camera movements by the subject).  We are exploring the idea of combining the results from both but at the moment we cannot combine them directly for analysis.  

Google Earth tour Sound: We have identified that there is incompatibility between playing sound on Macs and PCs from tours.   When he has some time, Paolo has promised to write up a HowTo post here on a work around.

Elevation Profile in Google Earth:  As part of the work I've been thinking about how to use cross sections or elevation profiles to visualize topography.  I thought I'd write up some features of the elevation profiler I've explored that are quick and easy to use for showing elevation.   

Problem:  I want to show the user the topography of a river valley.  In areas of dramatic topography such as the Grand Canyon you can just tilt the Google Earth camera and the user gets the idea of what the valley is like.  However, in our study area the valley landscape I want to show is much more subtle, the slopes need to be exaggerated to show up.  Also, when you are considering topography across a large distance (say the elevation of the Amazon) topography will naturally be subtle compared to the long length of the feature.

Solution:  Use an elevation profile feature of lines to exaggerate the topography.


1] Find the area you want to draw a cross section across.  Use the path tool (its a button on the top line of Google Earth with a line with blobs icon) draw a simple line across part of the feature, you should use a click ONLY at the start and the end. 

2] Once you have named and saved your line, find it in the places column to the left.  Right click it and select 'Show elevation profile'.  An elevation cross section will appear at the bottom of the screen.  You can click within the profile and a red arrow will appear on screen to show the elevation at any point on your line.

3] move the mouse within the elevation and a vertical line and red arrow show the height at any point.  

4] A nice trick is to draw a deliberately short line section and lengthen it.  To do this, right click the line in places column > properties.  Now find the end of the line you marked (a blue or red square) and click and drag it.  As the line lengthens the profile dynamically grows.  This allows for all kinds of teaching questions, e.g. in my case I could start with the line going down just one slope and ask students to predict the rest of the profile on paper.  You then complete the profile dragging the line out and the true cross section is revealed and have a competition on who drew the best profile.

Teaching Point:  Its important to remind the students that what they're looking at is an exaggerated section otherwise they may get the idea that the topography is as dramatic as it looks.  I would do this by tilting down to view the line in Google Earth and asking the students why the topography doesn't look the same as the profile.  You could also ask them to calculate what the exaggeration is by reading off values from the vertical and horizontal axes.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Google Earth Tours Sound Work Around

In our Google Earth Tours (GET) project we've come across a problem with sound files playing in GETs:

  • If you record the tour in sections and then try and marry them together using the KML, the sound in zipped in the KMZ fails to play
  • We've had difficulty playing audio tours generally.
A work around Paolo has come up with today is that if you put the .aac file (or .mp3) on the web and reference it with a full URL in the KML file, it will work. It makes for some fiddling around but at least we're not stuck not being able to play tours.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Google Earth Tours Research Update

Along Muki Haklay and Paolo Battino of UCL I’ve been researching how we can integrate Google Earth tours and activities (Funded by Google Research).  We recently agreed that we would post about our progress as a group on this blog so here is an update about our first steps in developing the project (more detail of the project).

The basic idea is that a Google Earth tour (GET) has lots of uses in geography/earth science education but, as with TV and Youtube, it tends to be a passive 'sit back' medium.  In education, getting students to 'do' stuff is where most of the learning takes place so we've set out to investigate how best to introduce activities into GETs.

We've decided on a simple structure to test:

  • Students watch an educational GET  (for example, we show them what a 'U' shaped glacial valley looks like)
  • The GET is paused and they then practice what they have just learnt by then completing a task in Google Earth (for example, we get them to find an example in a certain area)

Having completed one GET and related activity they move onto the next GET in the sequence.  If you are interested, there is a deeper discussion of why we think this is a good structure.

Progress so Far:  We've made progress on a number of fronts since the start of the project:

  • Tracking Users:  Paolo is in post at UCL and is busy working with the Google Earth API to get an interface where we can play GETs and then track users as they complete tasks.
  • Literature Review:  Paolo is also getting together a literature review of virtual globes in teaching geographical concepts.
  • Teaching Topic:  We agreed (in a group discussion involving other UCL staff) that an interesting  topic to look at is paleo lake landscape analysis (one I've previously used) because it involves the integration of landscape evidence across large and small scales and we felt that GETs are a good medium to teach across multiple scales (see best practice #1 here).

Problems:  There is currently a problem with Google Earth 6.2 when recording audio GETs using polygons and lines (bug report) which has been an issue but we've found the bug isn’t in Google Earth v5.1 so we're using that until it gets fixed.

Next Steps:  After producing draft GETs for the project and integrating them into Paolo’s GE API interface we will be running preliminary testing before starting testing proper on undergraduate students.

I'll post more about the project when we have some materials worth showing.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Teacher Training Events and Tours Problems [GE v6.1}

This blog has been very quiet as I've been concentrating on teaching this winter and spring.  I'm finding some more time though so keep watching.

Geo Teacher's Institutes:  I'll be involved in the London presentation of these face to face training days, not sure which of the 2 days yet.  For the moment, save the date.

Education on Air Conference:  I'm also presenting a session for this conference via Google+ hangouts on Google Earth Tours for education.  If you want to be part of the 8 invitees follow the link and impress me with a comment that makes me think you'll be useful/interesting in the session.  Don't worry though, if you can't be part of the session actively, you can watch as a webcast or catch up with the whole session on YouTube later.

Tours Problems, Google Earth v6.1 and v6.2:  I have a class of students producing tours for meand I'm building some tours myself.  I've noticed a number of problems recording tours in the new versions of GE namely:

  • Layers not appearing within tours as they should
  • Audio not syncing with elements turning on and off (bug tracker report)
  • Audio not replaying (especially when recording on macs and moving to PCs or visa versa)

so if you're thinking of producing complex tours at the moment, be wary (I think you maybe OK with simple tours).  You may want to wait for Google to fix these issues.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Problems with 'Coding is the new Latin'

I train geography teachers how to use Google Earth software to enhance their teaching, give me 2 hours with anyone who can operate a browser and I can have them recording virtual flights zooming down from a space shuttle view of the earth to a street view outside Big Ben in all its glory.  Not only is this attention grabbing and fun, it gets over a central problem of Geography - understanding scale.  So I've been interested in a recent discussion about teaching ICT in UK schools.

The Problems: The government is consulting on a change to the ICT syllabus based on discussion that has been going on in the circles of digerati (e.g. John NaughtonRory Cellan-Jones).  Some key points of this discussion:
  • ICT teaching in UK schools is boring and not creative 
  • It focuses on teaching kids to use Microsoft office programs in an unimaginative manner.
  • The number of students taking ICT in the UK is falling  
  • The UK games industry is successful in the UK but it is finding it difficult to get UK recruits with knowledge of programming and the STEM subjects (report).
The Solution: A particular solution to this problem is offered:  We need to encouraging coding in ICT teaching, it would deal with all the above problems because coding is creative, students will then be inspired to study computing at higher levels and the games industry will have the programmers it needs.

My problem with this is that it is the only solution being offered.  The government’s consultation document sensibly talks about 'digital literacy still being important' but careful reading of the blogs and listening to the sound bites reveals the emphasis is elsewhere:
'Children should be not just using Apps but making Apps'
Michael Gove At BETT this January.  
‘Coding is the new Latin, we need to give kids a proper understanding of computers if they’re to compete for all kinds of jobs’
Alex Hope, co-author of the Next Gen report

An Alternative:  What no one appears to be talking about are the advantages of getting school students to use software.  Just because Microsoft Word exercises aren't lighting up the creative juices in our schools doesn't mean that ALL teaching about how to use software is boring.  At the top of this post I discussed some of my work with Google Earth as an example but that isn't the only one.  

Photoshop Tennis: The most impressive TEL (Technology Enhanced Learning) example in schools I ever heard about was 'Photoshop tennis', students were given an image in a forum, one by one they then customized it using Photoshop (it could have been any image processing software of course)  posting their new customized image to the forum so another student could build on it.  The humour and skill the students showed in this software based exercise was excellent.

The advantage of classroom activities using software creatively rather than programming activities is that in many cases, programming for a beginner is abstract and complex.  It’s difficult to get students to produce code that can do something useful within the tight schedule of a school lesson because of this.  That’s not to say it’s impossible but it is difficult.  In addition to the abstract complexity of coding, debugging is an enthusiasm killing activity for school children in my experience.  That isn't to say that programming doesn't have its advantages, using software you are necessarily limited and have to accept a certain loss of freedom.  Certainly for the cleverest school students, I can imagine that programming is an excellent way to give them worthwhile educational challenges.  

Discussion:   This hasn't been an argument against the use of programming in schools, I think that, used carefully, programming has a lot of value.  I’m also convinced that school students should understand what programming is and what it does.  My point is that there is no discussion amongst the digerati of how to best to use software in the school room, the discussion has become anchored around how much better programming activities will be than learning boring Microsoft spreadsheets.  

 John Naughton makes a good point, ICT has now become so common place that separating it out from other school subjects is as flawed as saying that ‘books’ should form a school topic.  I’ve heard many teachers say that they would love to use Google Earth in their Geography teaching but that they can’t access the school computer room because ICT teachers block book them out.  Creative use of software would be much easier if ICT links were made between computers and the other school subjects, my examples in this post emphasize the use of ICT in Geography and Art teaching. 

Trials and Evidence: There is a final, bigger point to be made.  You may have noticed I haven’t cited any empirical evidence for my argument that software can be used creatively in ICT teaching, I’ve just used ‘IMHO’.  I’m not the only one, in the blogs and reports I’ve read if empirical evidence* is mentioned at all, it’s given a low priority.  An example is the Next Gen report, although it says deep in the text that further study is necessary, none of its 19 recommendations mention the need to test teaching techniques in schools 

What we really need to do is to come up with a number of ways of to teach ICT in schools and then test the ideas rigorously in classroom trials.  If we fail to do this we run the risk of swapping one deeply flawed curriculum for something that is no better.   

*and I’m specifically talking about evidence about what works for ICT teaching rather than testing how to teach coding or how video games can be used to promote STEM teaching.