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Moving images

“For the teacher of geography the world can be brought into the classroom by using visual images, which can be employed to create a ‘sense of place’ as well as conveying perceptions of different peoples and environments.”

Graham Butt, 2002

Topics on this page:

  • Planning the use of video in a lesson
  • Predicting with video
  • Further approaches to using video in geography teaching
  • Resources to explore
  • Reading

Film, TV and video are an excellent resource to help students to explore distant places to the classroom and developing a sense of place. Digital technologies mean that excellent material is available today to bring the world into your classroom.

Also, the combination of images, graphics and the spoken word can be very effective in helping students to understand difficult concepts and geographical processes. Today’s digital devices make movie making possible even by young children which adds an extra dimension to the possibilities of using moving images in the classroom.


  • Biddulph, M., Lambert, D. and Balderstone, D. (2021) Learning to Teach Geography in the Secondary School: A Companion to School Experience, 4th edition. Abingdon: Routledge, pp 170-3.
  • Ferretti, J. (2009) ‘Effective use of visual resources in the classroom’, Teaching Geography Autumn.
  • Rayner, D. (2017) ‘Resources’ in Jones, M. (ed) Secondary Geography Handbook, Sheffield: Geographical Association. Pages 160-2.

Planning the use of video in a lesson

As with all resources, the use of video clips must be carefully selected and planned with the lesson objectives in mind. Bear in mind what Biddulph et al (2021) says that video does well and not so well. Review the video carefully in advance and get it ready to start at the right place so you can use it, without fuss, when it is needed in the lesson.

From Jane Ferretti’s article you will see that when students or teachers are asked to make notes from geography video material they get more information from the commentary than from the images. Think carefully about how you can encourage them to pay attention to the images. Consider these points when you plan teaching with video:

  • The lead in – make it inspiring and give students a clear idea of what they are watching and why.
  • The classroom environment – big screen, dark room.
  • An active watching strategy – so students look as well as listen.
  • Using the pause button judiciously for personal reflection or paired discussion.
  • The questions you will use to encourage student to reflect on what they have seen.
  • A follow-up activity that builds on the visual material.

From your reading you will be aware that for effective learning students need to do more than watch and see. They need to use and analyse the visual material provided. A good way to think about the use of video in a lesson is to consider the four points: watch, pause, reflect and write.

Take particular note of the ‘lead in’ and the questions used by the teacher:

  • How the video was managed
    • Were the students asked to make notes?
    • Did they fully watch the video, or just listen to the commentary?
    • What were the follow-up activities?
  • Identify some lessons where you could make good use of moving images that encourage students to focus on the images in the video. You could:
    • Try out one of the strategies recommended by Jane Ferretti.

Predicting with video

This type of activity is based on the idea of ‘What happened next…’. It helps students to focus on the information given in a video, to look and listen critically and to make connections with what they see and hear to what they know. Then they use this information to predict.

Refer to Predicting with video for some hints on using this technique.

Refer to Robert (2023) p 48, who discusses and example of using this approach in ‘Speculating on what comes next’.

  • Choose a video about a place and start the video AFTER the opening sequence so students do not see the title. Turn off the sound.
  • Ask students to watch the video and ask one simple question – where is this place? They will need to watch actively for visual clues. Afterwards discuss: 
    • Where was it?
    • When did you guess the country?
    • What surprised you?
    • What confirmed your perceptions? 
  • If they have not guessed it, you should tell them the name of the country.

Further approaches to using video in geography teaching

  • An enquiry approach to evaluate critically the making of the video (particularly effective with older students). Ask questions such as:
    • Who made the video – does this show in what it conveys?
    • What generalisations does it make? – discuss these and make a list.
    • What evidence (visual, data, text?) is there for and against each of these?
    • What evidence do you need from other sources to check out the accuracy of these generalisations and where can you find it?
  • Students making videos: smartphones and hand-held video devices mean that students can create their own video. For examples of imaginative ways to do this refer to Kitchen, B. (2010) ‘A different view: using video cameras to investigate students’ personal geographies’, Teaching Geography, Autumn.
  • Videocams: These are live images broadcast across the internet (webcams). For teaching opportunities and activities for using live video read Bustin, R. (2016) ‘Bringing the outside in’, Teaching Geography, Summer.
  • Films: If you are a film buff (or even if you are not) you could develop a scheme of work for Y9 students on the geography of film. Coulson and Mattley (2015) used films to explore several themes; landscape, culture, the film industry, changing cities, imagined and future places. The provide many ideas to spark your imagination!
    • Read Coulson, S. and Mattley, C. (2013) ‘The geography of film: the director’s cut’, Teaching Geography, Spring.
    • Refer to film ideas from James Riley.
  • Video and fieldwork: Use video captured by students to support and record fieldwork. This is now feasible with wider access to technologies such as digital cameras and smartphones. This article provides useful practical advice on undertaking such a project with Y7 students.
    • Read Fox, P. (2008) ‘Location, location, location: the next step’, Teaching Geography, Spring.

For strategies involving teaching students media literacy skills see the webpage Media literacy.

Resources to explore

  • The Time for Geography Video Library: this is an open-access, dedicated video platform for geography and geoscience education.
  • YouTube: see Rayner (2017) provides good advice on using this as a classroom resource. While YouTube is a great tool for sourcing videos, you need to be wary of comments and other content that often appears alongside them.
  • Journeys to schools around the world – UNESCO.
  • EarthCam which is a global network of internet cameras provides images of the world’s most interesting views.


  • Roberts, M. (2023) Geography through Enquiry: Approaches to teaching and learning in the secondary school, Second edition, Sheffield: Geographical Association, Chapter 4.
  • Taylor, E. (2004) Re-Presenting Geography, London: Chris Kington Publishing. This includes: an enquiry sequence – what do films tell us about people’s hopes and fears for the city (pp. 23-30); a useful list of films for use when studying cities (p 25); working with moving images (pp. 31-5).