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Maps and mapping

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Maps, at a variety of scales, are used frequently as a matter of routine and are an intrinsic part of learning in geography. This ensures that students have good spatial awareness and are very secure in their ability to locate the places they are studying.

OfSTED (December 2013, as part of their outstanding descriptor for quality of teaching geography)

The use and study of maps is central to geographical learning and understanding. Maps are key to representing the features and layout of the world, from the local to the global. There is a revolution taking place in the way maps are used and accessed, moving away from paper maps to digital data presented on computers and mobile phones. People use maps in a wide variety of ways as part of everyday life, primarily when travelling and finding places (e.g. street maps, road atlases, airline maps), but we also use and encounter maps in lots of other ways (e.g. architects’ plans, maps in news items and as postcard images).

Increasingly companies and governments are using data spatially, plotting information on maps using computers, to identify patterns and deal with issues. What they all have in common is that they show what is where – the ‘what’ being the features, events, etc, chosen and the ‘where’ the spatial locations, relations and patterns portrayed.

This support and guidance area and set of primary and secondary resources has been developed to support the use of maps ‘as a matter of routine’ in geography lessons as ‘an intrinsic part of learning in geography’.

There are many opportunities for building schemes of work that give specific emphasis to developing map-work skills. Map-work can be done in isolation, and this is useful for introducing some of the basic skills. It is better, however, to integrate map-work into other work in order to enhance their skills. Units of work on farming or settlement, for example, lend themselves to using Ordnance Survey maps in this way. David Gardner has written Planning for Pupil Progress in the use of Ordnance Survey Maps to provide guidance in planning for progression at KS3 through the development of map skills.

Teaching students how to read and interpret different types of Ordnance Survey maps is a fundamental aspect of geography teaching.

Students should encounter many types of maps – from oblique aerial views and picture maps to plans of sites, Ordnance Survey maps, symbolic dot distribution maps and atlas maps – maps which can depict a room or the world. What they all have in common is that they show what is where – the what being the features, events, etc, chosen and the where the spatial locations, relations and patterns portrayed.

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