Comp-Lab-ETS-#50By Gary Bass.

As a teacher of science, with an interest in geophysics, I have been fascinated with the availability of real time data about the earth. Geography is the school subject where students can take the opportunity to investigate and observe human interactions with the function and features of the earth. For example, by examining terrain, the availability of water, weather and geo-physical events, one can begin to explain why human settlement such as cities are located where they are, and predict where future settlements might be established.

The recent Australian curriculum draft, released by ACARA for consultation during 2011, highlighted three main components. While these may change in the final draft’s scope and sequence, the following comments are made within the context of place, spatial and environmental perspectives. The final curriculum documents from ACARA will be available online in October 2012 at:

APPs For Education

There are thousands! The best one is the one that works for you. However, that said, where would anyone begin to find the really good ones? Articles such as this give indications of where to find a few APP downloads and, when looking at what may be available from the likes of iTunes, have a look at what others are downloading as well.  Apple also maintains a range of educational APPs, including an Australian collection.

Many passionate geography teachers publish blogs of their opinion of what works for them, as does the various subject associations, though they may not always be up to date. LinkedIn has a geography teachers’ group which publishes discussions about various approaches, including the use of various electronic media. The Flipped Classroom online platform, Ning, has
a geography forum, as well as a DOWNUNDER group for Australian and New Zealand teachers.

Those running such websites watch for the latest products available from the APPstore, identify trends and highlight price drops and special offers. APPshopper is one such website which has an IOS APP that can alert you by email or RSS when the price drops on a wish-list item.

Using APPs In The Classroom

If you are fortunate to have several iPads in your classroom, or one for each student, a situation quickly develops where your requirements of the students must be made perfectly clear. Every screen will be different. The idea of every student viewing the same thing, at the same time, may be a faint hope. Diversity and student control is a strength of the iPad, so your learning requirements must be specific. I suggest a simple direction with clear criteria for assessment, and a simple, open-ended task is all that is required. Students must create evidence to show they have achieved or mastered the learning requirement. In its simplest form, the student would email evidence to show that they have completed the task.

In an effort to reduce the several hundred emails you will receive each day, a blog post, or e-portfolio is an equivalent system which does not rely on email. Several commercial products have a Learning Management System (LMS) which allows students to post their evidence, and work in progress to a secure, cloud location.

Screenshot Recording

A useful recording technique allows students to record their iPad screen by pressing the home and sleep buttons at the same time. A screenshot is taken and placed in the camera roll album under photos. The recorded image is simply edited and emailed to a blog post or inserted into a report document. Screen recorder APPs, which make a video of the iPad screen, are promised to arrive ‘soon’. They are available in the US APP store already.


  • Panoramio — pictures taken at ground level, are posted to Panoramio and tagged to their location. Images recorded at different times of the year allow for observation and analysis.
  • Travel Guide — Australia, France, US, Ireland, UK world travel guides.
  • TourWrist —360-degree panoramas listed in several categories.
  • Timelapser — Still-picture recording at set intervals. Movies are compiled and saved automatically, and pictures and movies
  • can be streamed to an IP address by wireless transmission.
  • Wikitude — category links with Wikipedia. Local features are found and displayed, and augmented-reality pictures are possible.
  • Wikiloc — geography information is extracted from Wikipedia


The study of geography provides observations and explanations for why things are where they are. Satellite images with overlaid layers provide all manner of visual evidence for co-location of settlements, water supply, protection
and transport.

There is a multitude of map APPs and some of the best are fast to load and re-draw on the screen. Simple key explanations of icons allow for layers to be switched on and off, and allow multiple layers to be viewed simultaneously.

GOOGLE EARTH for iPad is a great example because:

  • It has less features than the computer version
  • It has excellent render speed
  • It has a simple colour scheme, with good contrast
  • It uses layers for roads, terrain and satellite imagery
  • Its resolution varies with population centres. Cities are shown as high resolution (one km per screen width), with desert land forms as low resolution (10 km per screen width).
  • ARCGIS -ESRI mapping technology and geographic information system:
  • Shows that diverse information can be mapped to indicate land use
  • Has xQuake — real-time updates of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions;
  • Has NASA App — satellite images of the earth.


  • Sceptical Science — Combines climate-science facts with evidence and discussion; Compares with the Our Climate APP
  • RAIN — Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) radar images of cloud formations with predicted rain events
  • Wind speed — Measure wind speed directly using a microphone connected to an iPad/iPhone
  • The Weather Channel — Local and world forecasts and current weather reports
  • Virtual water — calculated water footprint associated with production. This APP lists the volume of fresh water used to make the product
  • RainradarAU — BOM radar and satellite images recording temperature, wind speed, direction and rainfall
  • Pocket weather AU — Local weather conditions described for any monitoring station.

The Hidden Park (iPhone only) — GPS virtual-reality adventure which uses the camera to record parts of the story. The story is constructed and posted to a server where the adventurer signs in to decipher the clues.

  • SCVNGR — A scavenger activity where participants submit answers, and the administrator provides comments and the next clue. There is no cost for schools and not-for-profit organisations.
  • Maps+ — Google maps can be tagged by the user for later reference. Custom tags can be added.
  • Mapmyride — Walk, run or ride while recording using GPS (iPhone).
  • Map Draw — Extract a section of Google maps, and mark up a route. Distances are calculated and results can be saved.
  • iTunesU — many schools and universities regularly publish podcasts and there are several geography multi-media podcasts.
  • iSeismometer — iPad/iPhone seismograph. The graph can be exported by email.
  • iGIS for iPad — Extracts geographical data and overlays it on a Google map.
  • Historypin — Old photographs are located on a Google map, and you can compare the current location and how things have changed.
  • GPS tracker — InstaMapper tracks your location in real time, and can also share that data (iPhone).
  • GPS Chaser — Records a location using GPS and emails notification of that location (iPhone).
  • Globe for iPad — Linked to Wikipedia, it provides a country’s information, such as its flag, capital, language, anthem, population, GDP and geography.
  • Geocaching — Part of a worldwide activity with local caches that are indicated on GPS, and you are invited to sign the book and add a ‘treat’.
  • GeoWalkHD — 3D world fact book.
  • Geo photo explorer — Uses Panoramio images to place on Google maps with searchable categories.
  • Europe offline map — Detailed maps of Europe.
  • eQuakeMap — Real time details for earthquakes, their location and magnitude.
  • EarthObserver — Details of natural events such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and  floods.
  • Earthalbum — Picture stories of different locations.
  • Earth3D — Earth in space with moon showing motion during day and night.

Other APPs

Some APPs are difficult to place in a single category. Many will improve general productivity, just by using them, and include Prezi, EdModo, Pages, Keynote, iDocs and Gmail.

The following, general purpose APPs are directly applicable to geography, or are useful for finding other geography APPs:

  • Aurasma — Augmented reality APP location and images are recorded for viewing online.
  • APPshopper — APP rating service, providing wish list notifications of price drops, top 200 listings and searchable categories.
  • APPminer — updated daily and rates the contents of the APPstore categories which can be searched.
  • Animoto — Presentation APP with still images that are assembled into a highly-animated movie.
  • Al Gore Our Choice (cost) — Persuasive argument about the issue of climate change.
  • ABC iView — Free viewer of ABC free-to-air programs available for up to two weeks after time of broadcast.
  • Doc Scan — Record any document ready to send or save.
  • Display Recorder — Records video of the iPad screen.
  • Creative Book Builder — ePub author tool. Multimedia packaging APP which creates an interactive book format suitable for iBooks.
  • Field Counter** — Simple method of counting large numbers from an image (**Co-author Gary Bass with Advaita Software).
  • Flipboard — Simple way of organising web pages for regular monitoring.
  • Evernote — File sharing service for notes, documents and images.
  • Dropbox — File sharing service.
  • NearPod Student/Teacher — Presentation system that feeds teacher slides to students. iPad — all multimedia can be included in the teacher demonstration, or hand over to students to make the presentation. Consider this a replacement for a data projector.
  • Skitch — Annotate screenshots on the iPadtalking TOM which is useful to record avatar voices for student instructions.
  • Survey Pro — Simple survey-construction APP.
  • Student Clicker Socrative – Student response system — immediate feedback from questions posed by teachers.
  • TED -TEDtalks — Have many illustrated presentations by researchers and others, relevant to geography.
  • TiltShift generator — Alter the focus and depth of field of an image or picture. It is useful for defining the aspect of an image.

In Conclusion

Most of the APPs listed in this article are free. There are also more than 200  geography-related APPs at the iTunes Store ranging in price from 99 cents to as much as $2.49.

When you do find a good one, perhaps publish a comment on a related subject, association webpage, or contribute to a geography blog to spread the word. Crowd-sourcing, where many people contribute towards a common goal, is perhaps one of the most under-developed skills in teaching. Now we have low-cost communication technology, perhaps we can find a way to encourage teachers to join a professional, learning network and make a contribution.

Gary Bass teaches physics and mathematics at Macleod P-12 College in Melbourne. He is a current Apple Distinguished Educator and SmartPen Ambassador. His website at has some examples of innovative uses of IOS and data collection technologies.


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Education Technology Solutions has been created to inspire and encourage the use of technology in education. Through its content, Education Technology Solutions seeks to showcase cutting edge products and practices with a view to expanding the boundaries and raising the standards of education curricula. It introduces teachers and IT staff to the latest products, services and developments in education technology with a view to providing practical how-to guidance designed to facilitate the integration of those products and services into the school environment in the most productive and beneficial manner possible.

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