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BuzzEd 2011: Enhancing ecological understanding with a compass, paper maps and Google Maps

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The map prac: Enhancing ecological understanding with a compass, paper maps and Google MapsStudents are quite unfamiliar with the local and regional physical landscape which significantly hampers their understanding of ecology. A rudimentary two-hour laboratory session was conjured up to address this gap in a new second year ecology module in 2009/10, reaching 200 students over two semesters. The session introduced the use of Singapore topographical paper maps, the magnetic compass and Google Maps. NLB's provided a critical 1935 Singapore map but otherwise online resources were unavailable. The "map prac" guidelines were written and tweaked on Google Docs during the session in response to student's reactions and learning speed.For a take home test, students plotted a variety of named placemarks including all of Singapore's rivers and islands which they had little if any familiarity with and submitted this as a link via Google Forms which allowed me to collect reactions to the practical. The large scale perspective introduced by the integrated approach was surprisingly informative to students. They realised the interconnectedness of the landscape, thus enhancing their grasp of ecology. With increasing enrolment in this module, an abridged version of the "map prac" is planned for adoption as an independent exercise which will include existing e-tutorials. Students will present their printed map of relevant annotated placemarks to their project group-mates in the first practical and identify their study sites in the process.This original "map prac" tutorial is available here and can be used, abridged or added to: Sivasothi, a.k.a. 'Otterman' is a lecturer with the Department of Biological Sciences who teaches whose large classes include first-year biodiversity and second-year ecology. With his undergraduate research students he is exploring species ecology of a wide variety of animals including freshwater and mangrove crabs, mudskippers, civets, otters and other mammals. An avid cyclist and Macintosh user, he is also the national coordinator of the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore. Over the past decade, he has been variously an evangelist for blogging, Firefox and now Google Docs, all of which he integrates into his modules.

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