Training of Geography Teachers (2005-2007)
Nikos Lambrinós, associate professor of Geography Education at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.
This training, conducted in the 2005-07 period, aimed at familiarizing the teachers with the digital material produced by PEM and the interactivity that this material provides. The teachers were shown the advantages of a digital material for geography over the regular (analog) one. The main goal is to help teachers understand how the pupils can use this material interactively, making comparisons between maps, and drawing useful conclusions. Usually such conclusions are either not mentioned in geography books, or, when they are mentioned, they are given as knowledge without showing the process through which they emerge. Moreover, by presenting the digital interactive “lesson plans” that are on the CD and include some typical units of the Geography textbooks for the 7th and 8th grades, the training intended not only to show the teachers new connections between the natural and human-made features, but also to familiarize them with the way to utilize the rest of the CD’s material, so they themselves could come up with new lesson plans.
During the school year 2006-2007 training seminars took place in Xanthi and in Komotini, at schools that were equipped with computer labs. The presentation by the trainer was done through a computer projector on a screen on the wall. Each trainee, at the same time, worked on his/her "own" computer and with his/her own CD.
The topics of the training seminars were:
(1) "Presentation, analysis, and a teaching approach of Geography through the digital material included in the Geography CD-ROM."
In these seminars, the trainer presented the reasons why this material was produced in the form that it was produced. The presentations were divided into two parts. The first one was about the material for the seventh grade, and the second one about the material for the eighth grade. At the end of the seminar, the trainees were shown "virtual flights" over Greece and over Thrace.
(2) "Digital lesson plans about the geography of Greece: Presentation and recommendations on how to use them in class."
This training was about the geography of Greece and, especially, of Thrace. From the CD, the trainer chose and presented three lesson plans: 1 – Comparing Maps, 2- Mountainous Areas and Flat Areas, and 6 – Thrace.
Lesson Plan 1 (Comparing Maps) can be used for both grades (7th and 8th), in classes exclusively attended by minority pupils, as well as in mixed classes.
In Lesson Plan 2 (Mountainous and Flat Areas), the trainer and the trainees discussed the differences and similarities that the pupils can notice in the relief map, which could then lead them to think on how the mountains and plains of the terrain can affect the social and cultural environment of an area.
Lesson Plan 6 (Thrace) is for a lesson that cannot be completed in one teaching hour, but the teachers can return to it if and when the topics studied in class give them a chance to do so. This lesson's inclusion was considered essential, because it is about the region in which the teachers and pupils live. It is about the region where the teachers teach and the pupils are taught.
(3) "Digital lesson plans on rivers: Presentation and recommendations on how to use them in class."
Four lesson plans were chosen and presented: 11 – the rivers, 5 – the Nile, 7- the Amazon, and 3 – the rivers and lakes of Greece.
Lesson plan 11 was chosen in order to provide a general description of the parts of a river, the different flow types, and they ways rivers are ranked.
Lesson plan 3 was chosen in order to talk about the rivers in Greece and to help pupils compare the features of a river to those of a lake. Furthermore, the plan can help them understand how a lake can be formed.
Lesson plans 5 and 7 were chosen because these two rivers, the Nile and the Amazon, are examined in the official Geography textbook for the seventh grade.
In all seminars, the trainers emphasized that the digital material for this course can help pupils develop their critical, analytical, and synthesizing thinking skills.