Thinking geographically: with followthethings.com

In this post, I want to briefly set out ways in which High School Geography teachers in the USA (and elsewhere) could use our site with their students. Why? Totally by coincidence. We’re visiting the Watson Institute at Brown University this week.  Across the hall, a conference for High School Geography teachers is taking place that’s organised via Brown’s Choices program. When they found out that we were here and have been working this year on our classroom project – creating resources for UK school Geography teachers – I was asked to talk about this just before dinner today (for 10 minutes). This is the blog post that I’ll be showing on screen, combining what we’ve already done and what’s coming next in the followthethings.com project.

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1. the main idea

This is explained in the short paper circulated at the conference. This was published in a journal produced by the Geographical Association – the professional association of Geography teachers in the UK – for High School Geography students and their teachers. The paper begins:

Many of us pay little or no attention to where the things in our lives come from. We may be concerned about factory conditions in other parts of the world, but not feel any direct sense of connec- tion with the people working there. ‘Made in…’ labels and ingredient infor- mation don’t tell us much about these connections and relationships. But they can be starting points for ‘geographi- cal detective work’ (Hartwick, 2000). This can allow teachers and students to piece together their understanding of commodities and their complex geographies, and provoke classroom discussion about the impacts of con- sumers’ decisions, which inevitably draw upon the key geographical concepts including:

globalisation – uneven development – interdependence – scale and connection – 

proximity and distance – relational thinking – identity responsibility

This paper includes examples of student ‘follow it yourself’ research on socks, chewing gum and an iPod. You can download it here.

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2. the website

This is the spoof online shopping site that opened in 2011. It contains over 60 examples of films, art work, and activism that aims to show consumers who makes our stuff, and to encourage us to discuss the rights and wrongs of globalisation and international trade. Each example has been thoroughly researched, and that research is showcased here. There are also examples of original student work, including the 3 examples in the paper quoted above. Please click the image to get to the site and browse…

ftt homepage 27 June 2013

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3. the missions

The site isn’t made for teachers and their students. It’s made for anyone and everyone who makes this kind of work, or wants to teach with this kind of work. But its core ideas and content fits into the UK High School Geography curriculum in many ways. So we’re now working with Geography teachers and teacher-educators to develop and publish ideas and teaching resources for schools. The first of these was a series of missions on the Guerilla Geography site Mission:Explore. Its Explorers do missions, earn points and can win badges.

Our 2013 GA conference postcard pic

We have a series of six missions focused on the reusable followthethings.com shopping bags that we had made in China and are now giving away free to anyone who wants one (see our site’s Shopping Bag page here). The links for the missions are here (you don’t have to do the missions, some teachers just borrow and adapt the ideas):

1. get the bag – 2.where was it made? – 3. who made it?

4. where has it been? – 5. go secret shopping – 6. go ladybugging.

These are the postcards that one trainee teacher asked her students to write based on Mission 3:

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4. our classroom page

This is what we’re working in at the moment with educational consultant and soon-to-be-a-Geography-Teacher-again Alan Parkinson (see his excellent Living Geography blog here). We’re pooling resources in a soon-to-be published ‘classroom page’, which includes this searchable map (draft copy below).

Each icon represents the examples available in a different department on the website. Each location pinned is a location mentioned in an example.
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5. get in touch!

We’re developing these and other resources through discussions with Geography teachers and the experiments of Geography teachers. We’d love to hear your thoughts and would be more than happy to answer any questions that you may have. Please submit them in a comment on this post, or email us at followthethings@yahoo.com
Thanks!
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