This is one of the questions that drives our work at followthethings.com. We tend to find our answers – yes, no, maybe, depends, etc… – in the user-generated comments on video-sharing websites like YouTube and in the comments on newspaper reviews. We’re currently wading through thousands of comments on a 2015 ‘follow the fashion’ film called The True Cost, and came across this powerful video response. We’re giving a paper about the True Cost and fashion activism at a conference next month. There’s an argument in the literature that work like this makes prescriptive arguments about responsibility that are so infinitely demanding they can generate a sense of powerlessness in consumer audiences. This doesn’t seem to be the case, at least for this viewer. Watching this film was a powerful experience. For us, this kind of response changes the question that’s asked. Now it’s ‘how do ‘follow the things’ documentaries affect their audiences? What vocabulary can we develop to describe this? That’s what we’re working on.
Today, we share two new classroom resources, developed with Alan Parkinson this summer. They have been developed primarily for school teachers in England and Wales (many of who share a new National Curriculum). BUT, they are also written for anyone, anywhere who is keen to teach and learn with followthething.com!
The first is a 9 page Teachers’ Guide to the Follow The Things Website. It’s a .pdf comic ‘guide to using the website in (& out of) the classroom’ with ‘lesson ideas and guidance for Key Stages 1-5’. It will also be of interest to anyone who hasn’t come across our website before and wants a quick tour. Click the button to download. We hope you enjoy it.
The second is a 4 page guide based on a wonderful set of Royal Geographic Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) teaching resources called Where does my stuff come from? These used some of the ‘follow the things’ work that we did before followthethings.com opened. This guide updates these resources, suggesting how our website and other resources can help to answer this question in vivid and up-to-date ways. It’s a Word file, too, for cut-&-pasting…
These resources are part of a larger Classroom Project which – by the end of the summer – will see two new pages for teachers added to our main website, and the documentation of a ‘follow the teachers’ project (see below). We look forward to hearing how these resources work in practice. We welcome comments (on this post), emails (to email@example.com) and tweets (@followthethings).
This summer, we have been working with Alan Parkinson – legendary Geography teacher, ‘Living Geography‘ blogger and GeoBlogs tweeter – to develop some new pages and downloads for school teachers and their students. Our site has been open for almost two years, and we have found that these ‘shoppers’ are (among) our most enthusiastic. But we’ve also had feedback from some saying that it’s difficult to know where to start with our site: guidance and teacher-generated ideas were needed.
Today, we publish the first completed resource from our work together – a guide to how Geography teachers in England and Wales can use our site in the light of changing National Curriculum requirements. This document will, we are sure, be helpful for many other teachers across disciplines, in different kinds of schools, and in many countries.
This is where we’re publishing it first. You can download it by pressing the button below. We’ll update it as the Curriculum develops. [We made up the NC logo].
This, along with many other resources, will be published on followthethings.com later in the summer. As soon as each on is finished, however, we’ll publish it here!
Please send us any feedback and ideas by commenting on this post or emailing us on firstname.lastname@example.org And, if you have already been teaching with followthethings.com, we would love to see how! Please get in touch and join our ﹟followtheteachers project on twitter (see below).
This is the week when the work that we’ve been doing this year with and for school teachers is brought together and made available on our site. We’re bringing together ideas and resources developed with student teachers, undergraduate students, followthethings interns, and educational consultant Alan Parkinson.
We’ll explain more about our longer-term project with teachers – #followtheteachers – in another post. Below, for those who like advance warning, is a screengrab showing roughly what our new classroom page will look like.
If you have any questions or suggestions, please post a comment, tweet us @followthethings or email us at email@example.com.
We have recently started working with the Scottish Development Educational Council (SCOTDEC) who have invited us to run a followthethings.com workshop at a ‘development education’ conference in Krakow this week. This is the first teacher conference in the ‘Changing habits for good’ project which brings together school teachers from Scotland, Poland, Slovenia and Bulgaria (for more, see the project outline below). We’re taking part via a videolink, and this is the blog post that will hopefull organise what happens. We’ve been asked to introduce our website and the wider project, including our ongoing ‘classroom’ project, and then to talk through some of the shopping bag activities we’ve posted on the Guerrilla Geography education website Mission:Explore.
This is followthethings.com
What is followthethings.com?
- It’s an online shopping website, if you understand ‘shopping’ to involve betraying the origins of things, like you might ‘shop’ a person to the police.
- It’s designed to have the look, feel and architecture of familiar online stores.
- It’s stocked with examples of art work, documentary film, journalism, activism, academic, student and other work revealing the lives of everyday things, i.e. the relations between their producers and consumers hidden by commodity fetishism.
- It shows how their makers tried to make these relations apparent, visible, tangible in ways that might move their audiences to act by trying to make them feel guilty, shocked, appreciative, awkward and/or involved in other people’s lives and work.
- It researches what its makers and viewers have said online about each example: what it aimed to do, how it was made, what discussions it provoked, and what impacts it had.
- It’s full of quotations that are arranged so that they read like a conversation, a conversation that can move from the computer screen into the classroom as teachers create lesson plans and schemes of work with its contents.
- It aims to inform and inspire new ‘follow the things’ work (by teachers, their students, as well as artists, filmmakers, journalists and others), which we hope to publish on the site too. Some examples of new work have already been published.
- It has become a popular website for teachers looking to engage their students in North-South relations via the geographies of commodities. So, we’re working on a new ‘classroom page’ to bright together materials and ideas already developed for this purpose.
First: let’s browse!
Click the homepage image above and you’ll get to the store. Get a sense of what’s available by browsing its departments. Where do you want to look? I’ll talk about any page you choose!
Second: a preview of our classroom page
Our site isn’t intended for any particular group of people.But we know that school teachers and their students are keen to use it. This is a page whose contents we’ve been working on for the past couple of months, with a teacher trainer, student teachers, an educational consultant, and undergraduate students. It’s not published yet, but will be by the end of this month.
Third: workshop activities
To get a sense of the educational materials and activities on this page that could imaginatively engage students in ‘development’ issues, we were hoping to give out some of our shopping bags (they didn’t arrive on time, unfortunately). We had these made in a factory in China that makes them for UK supermarkets. They are made by the same people, in the same way, to the same specifications. And we have produced a series of missions based on their lives and travels on the Guerrilla Geography education site Mission:Explore.
To get a vivid sense of Guerrilla Geography and Mission:Explore are all about, this video is excellent ( you don’t have to be a geographer to find this interesting!)
There are six shopping bag missions, starting with ‘get the bag’, and ending with ‘go ladybugging’! You can complete the series to win the ‘followthethings.com champion shopper’ badge, and you can borrow and adapt these missions for classroom, fieldwork or homework activities for your students.
We’ll go through the missions this afternoon, and then try one or two now (perhaps even setting one as homework). These aren’t impossible if you don’t have the bags. We will have to improvise! And feed back tomorrow morning…?
If you want to find out more, please comment on this post or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org . Thanks!
PS: ‘Changing habits for good’
This is a 3 year project funded through the European Commission’s programme for ‘Raising public awareness of development issues and promoting development education in the European Union’ (details here). It brings together a organizations in Scotland (SCOTDEC), Poland (Polish Green Network), Bulgaria (Creative Effective Grassroots Alternatives) and Slovenia (Institute for African Studies).
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.
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.
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…
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.
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):
These are the postcards that one trainee teacher asked her students to write based on Mission 3:
— followthethings.com (@followthethings) April 3, 2013
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).
5. get in touch!
It’s International Women’s Day today. We’re asking smartphone owners to dedicate their homescreen to ‘iPhone Girl’. She was a quality control worker checking iPhones in Foxconn’s Shenzhen factory. Her workmate is said to have taken her photo to check the camera, and then failed to delete it.
It was found by a UK iPhone buyer. It appeared on his new phone’s homescreen the first time he switched it on. He posted his experience and the photos on his camera on the macrumors forum. The rest, as they say, is history…[read our ftt page that tracks this story here).
Young women (and men) like her assembled your smartphone, so let’s acknowledge this today (and every day).
I hope she doesn’t get fired, she looks so bloody happy! I will dedicate my iPhone homescreen to her for the rest of this week (Source: vegasdodger 2008)
To mark Mike Daisey’s publication of the transcript for ‘The Agony & Ecstasy of Steve Jobs’, we are publishing a draft followthethings.com page on the ‘iPhone Girl’ phenomenon which inspired his work.
In it, we research the origins of the story in a macrumors.com posting, its travels worldwide, and the conversations that it provoked. … This is now published on site here.
See Mike Daisey talking about how the ‘iPhone Girl’ photos inspired his work in this TV interview:
Check out our other pages on how the ‘Foxconn suicides’ newspaper stories coincided with the 2010 launch of the iPad in the UK (here and here) and the spoof ‘iPhone CF’ web page and action by the YesMen et al (here). In the summer of 2012, more pages researching Apple/Foxconn cultural activism will be added to followthethings.com, including Molleindustria’s PhoneStory app (see here) and Mike Daisey’s ‘The Agony and ecstasy of Steve Jobs’ (listen here).