Thursday, 20 December 2012

Minecraft and Geography

Does this image mean anything to you ?

If not, then you've probably never heard of MINECRAFT: a game that has millions of players worldwide and is finding its way into lots of schools too.

My son LOVES Minecraft and has produced some amazing creations on the Pocket Edition that we have on the two tablets in the house. He and his sister play together in a creative world they have generated.

When I upgrade my computer in the New Year, we will put the full version on, and really start to explore the Minecraft Universe.

Recently, after a Twitter exchange with Claire Rafferty in Australia, I created a Google Doc and started to put together a summary document which could form the basis for Geography teachers to start to think about how they could use Minecraft in the Geography classroom... and also explore where it was being used in other parts of the curriculum, and also as an extra-curricular activity.

I discovered Stephen Reid, who I'd quoted in the document was interested in the project, and he was happy to get involved too. He runs a free Minecraft project for schools to get involved with the game. Check it out.

Finally, there seems to be a movie of the creation of Minecraft that has been produced, and the trailer can be seen here - my son will be interested in this:

I'll open the document up to scrutiny and publish it in various places in the New Year so that I can work on it over the Christmas period 
Get in touch if you have something you want to contribute...

Monday, 17 December 2012

The People's Songs

The People's Songs is a new series, which is due to start on BBC Radio 2 in January 2013.
The idea behind the series is that it will feature 50 songs which reflect the changing issues of importance through the last century.
There is a range of programmes, which will go around the songs, based on themes which tell the story of modern Britain.
There are opportunities for people to suggest which songs relate to particular themes.

This may work better for staff than for young people as they may have a more extensive cultural library of moments that connect with particular music, although I may be doing students a disservice here....

There are several possible connections with the geography curriculum:
- Population change - immigration - arrival and departure
- Cultural changes
- Urban / rural themes and issues 
- Unemployment and economic change...
- Environmental themes

If we take some of the key themes that might feature in the programmes, and ask them to identify a possibly playlist for the programme, or show some videos via YouTube or songs via Spotify and analyse the lyrics.
There are some classic songs of course such as 'Ghost Town' by the Specials...

This would work well as an extended project with a group.
I would also recommend doing something perhaps with 'A' level groups to suggest some items, or record a message. Special bonus points to anyone who is featured on the programme...

Thursday, 13 December 2012

I-USE Statistics in Education - a new EU project

As I write this, I am sat in a meeting to launch a new European project.

The project is called I-USE.

The context is a simple, but important one.
It's about making sense of a world of data...

Statistical literacy is becoming increasingly important. This includes an element of information literacy, but also digital literacy.

Students (and teachers) are now living in a society that demands evidence-based arguments and decisions. While the world is changing rapidly with respect to the prevalence and use of statistics, the curriculum in schools and the approaches teachers adopt tend to be slow to respond to such changes. Therefore creating meaningful, innovative teacher training plays a crucial role in developing statistical thought processes.

Using statistics provides simple yet instant information on the matter it centres on. Modern computer-based visualisations create a vivid presentation of collected and organized data through the use of figures, charts, living and interactive diagrams and graphs, which helps lead to more critical analyses of information. 

Teachers do not always consider new forms of visualising statistical information as part of curriculum courses as they are not explicitly mentioned. As a result, in some secondary schools, many students don’t have an opportunity to learn to work with statistics and computer-based visualisations. 
Therefore, despite the fact that statistics offers powerful tools for information analysis and interpretation, many students are unable to extract meaning from the data and information they are presented with. 

The dilemma is that as more data becomes readily available and the tools for visualising and analysing the data become more sophisticated, the ability to produce useful information from the analyses is outpacing the capacity to use the knowledge productively.

The project will support teachers and learners to explore a world data and create meaning....

It connects with the EU's Digital Agenda 2020 and the INSPIRE directive.

It also links to the release of data which others can use.

One example of this is the ROAD ACCIDENT MAP which has been made available. I feature on that one...
You can follow the progress of the I-USE project on a range of social media strands.
These are now live...

Twitter feed @StatsinEdu
Blog: I use Stats in Edu

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

New GA course for IB Geography

A new course for 2013 - Richard Allaway of Geography all the Way fame amongst (many) other things, will be coming over to London in June to run a course for the Geographical Association.
The course is called 'Developing a Curriculum for IB Diploma Programme Geography'

Course overview

This course will bring International Baccalaureate DP Geography teachers together with the aim of discussing and sharing ideas about structuring, resourcing and delivering the 240 hours of teaching necessary for the higher level course. You will leave with fresh ideas, plans for the new academic year and access to a range of online resources.

Delegate reviews of similar courses

'It was fantastic, questions answered and more!'
'Spot on - directly relevant to the course. Excellent communicator!'


Registration fees include all course materials, refreshments and lunch.
GA Personal/Group/Concessionary Member: £180
New Member Package*: £279
Non-member: £300
*Includes course fee and one year's GA membership for your school.

Aims and outcomes

  • Consider the 'perfect' IB DP lesson - does it include links to the syllabus, a bit of Theory of Knowledge, some geographical skills, exam practice and even some enjoyment?
  • Look at the teaching of the IB DP Geography course's higher level content - Global Interactions.
  • Review how we are supporting students throughout the duration of the course by coaching their exam technique, linking the content together, trying to get them to think more like geographers and IB students and discussing where the Internal Assessment fits in.
  • Find out about some of the online tools that can be used to support IB DP Geography students.

Course programme

09.00-09.30  Coffee and registration
09.30-11.00  Session 1 - a lesson
What does a 'perfect' DP lesson look like? Thinking about developing textbook resources into engaging lessons tailored to your students' needs.
11.00-11.15  Refreshment break
11.15-12.45  Session 2 - a unit
Focusing on the Global Interactions higher level content. Case studies, approaches, helping your students to be 'higher level' and coaching their extended response writing skills.
12.45-13.30  Lunch
13.30-15.30  Session 3 - the whole course
Supporting students during their 240 hours of DP Geography. Using online tools to help encourage reading and geographical thinking for these busy students.
15.30  Close

Course presenter

Richard Allaway, Teacher of Humanities and IB DP Geography at the International School of Geneva - Campus des Nations. Author of

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Core Knowledge

Professor David Lambert, my former boss has written an interesting blog post relating to the forthcoming change in the curriculum.

It's on the IoE blog. I tried to get David blogging while working for the GA, and he wrote an occasional blog with John Morgan.
The blog post makes some interesting points about curriculum change and the role of knowledge.
The GA's report on its recent consultation about the curriculum is out shortly.

There's a useful link to a website which has the CORE KNOWLEDGE sequence.

Friday, 30 November 2012

VITAL Teachshare replay available

Last night I hosted a VITAL CPD Teachshare on 'Apps'

Thanks to the colleagues who came along to the session, and in particular to John Sayers who shared some of the many apps that he makes use of in the classroom.

Here's a basic version of the presentation that I used - Slideshare seems to have added a few extra 7pms...

A replay of the session can be seen HERE. The session lasted for around an hour.


VITAL Teachshares are part of the VITAL CPD Portals.

John will be adding some details on the apps that he mentioned to his blog. The link is in the presentation.

The next Teachshare will be on December 18th and features Jamie Buchanan Dunlop.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

VITAL CPD Teachshare on Apps

I shall be hosting another VITAL CPD Teachshare on Thursday this week....

Spread a little 'appiness is the name of the session, which starts at 7pm. It will look at the use of apps in the classroom and beyond. A lot of teachers are making use of these apps in teaching, and also on fieldwork. There are hundreds of thousands of apps, and the chance to get some free software which performs a particular task well is one that a lot of teachers are taking.

There's also the chance to connect with learners using AirPlay mirroring - indeed many teachers are using an iPad instead of an IWB... The cost is a lot less of course and the result is something more adaptable... and you can play Angry Birds on it...

Remember that I have also mentioned previously my experiences at the Enhancing Fieldwork Learning event at Preston Montford Field Centre.

Don't forget that there are hundreds of resources, tips, videos and blogs over on my VITAL Geography portal. Thousands of teachers are already enjoying the benefits of subscription to the portals. Head over there now to find all the details you need on how to subscribe to the portals now (and continuing into 2013)

Image: John Sayers

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Primary Geography Champion

Earlier this week, Paula Owens made me an offer that I couldn't refuse. I was asked if I wanted to become one of the GA's Primary Geography Champions.
The Geography Champions network grew out of the work carried out for the Action Plan for Geography, and I was present at the first meeting of the champions, at the RGS-IBG as I set up the NING to support their work.
There are some amazing colleagues who are Geography Champions, and I've enjoyed working with them on a range of projects over the years, as well as supporting the development of the NING.

There are now over 1400 members of the Geography Champions NING.
It has a search function which will allow you to find existing materials and resources.

I've set up my group on the Ning, and have called it Mid-Norfolk and Surrounding Area.

I'd like to make an offer to any Primary schools that are in the area within 30 miles of Litcham in Norfolk. Let me know if I can support the development of geography within your school, or come and speak at an assembly about my book 'The Ice Man'... 
Also happy to head across the border into Suffolk or Cambridgeshire if appropriate...

If you live close to the North Norfolk coast, please contact my other Champion colleague Nell Seal.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

GA Google Earth courses repeated...

The Google Earth and beyond courses that I have been running for the GA are to be repeated next year.
For full details visit the GA website.

The dates are:

Birmingham - Thursday 23 May 2013
London - Thursday 20 June 2013

They will feature a larger dollop of ArcGIS Explorer Online as I am going to be doing some work with ESRI UK in the next few months.

There is also going to be more integration with GE Graph as I've had a chance to develop that a little further since the first iteration of the courses....

Book now to secure a place...

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

World GIS Day

It's tomorrow... what are you planning to do in your school or workplace ?
I'm going to be creating some new GIS resources for GIS Day.
In the past I've attended various events around the country, while working at the GA, and there's a wealth of activity out there.

Here's a video about the day, and why GIS matters:

I'm going to be using the day to continue working on some materials for the OS MapStream service. These will add to the materials that I already produced, with Paula Owens, for the Digimap for Schools service earlier in the year.

Find out more about OS MapStream HERE.

Whatever you get up to on World GIS Day, keep mapping !

Monday, 12 November 2012

Discover the World with Mission:Explore

Over the last few months, we've been working hard to put together a deal which will connect The Geography Collective, creators of Mission:Explore with Discover the World, the leading school travel company to destinations such as Iceland.
We're going to be writing missions which will be available for students and teachers who book a tour with Discover the World...

The first place that we've visited is one of the great places in the world: ICELAND.

I'm working with geography teacher John Sayers, and our editor and illustrator Helen and Tom, along with other Geography Collective colleagues, to put together a booklet which will available to all those schools that book a trip with Discover the World. It will contain missions, and ideas for linking the experience of visiting Iceland and completing the missions with the curriculum, and exam specifications.

We've created a whole load of missions which we're now editing down and preparing to be released into the wild in early 2013.

I'll let you know more about how things are developing with the project over the next couple of months, and look forward to seeing some of you soon on a windswept sandur, or cramponing over a crevasse-strewn glacier...

Alan Hubertsson (my special Iceland-Explorer name...)

Friday, 9 November 2012

Breaking the mould...

One of the companies that I'm currently working with is ESRI UK.
It's good to see more cross-overs with projects as Mission Explore is featured in ESRI's Fall newsletter, with a nice article written by Daniel Edelson of the National Geographic Education team.

Some nice quotes:

There are a small number of people out there, however, who summon up very different images when they think about geography learning. Maybe they never experienced traditional geography education, or maybe they experienced it and have completely rejected it as a model for learning. They envision activities that feel both relevant and enjoyable. These are the people we need to find and listen to, because they don't think about improving geography education by incrementally improving traditional approaches. They think about completely new approaches to geography teaching and learning.
One place where you can find people like that is in the Geography Collective, a group of innovative thinkers in the United Kingdom. They describe themselves in the following way: "We are a collective of geography activists, teachers, therapists, academics, artists, and guerrillas. We've come together to encourage [young] people to see our world in new ways."
The Geography Collective is one of the most creative groups in geography education today, and every time I learn more about its work, I get more excited about it.....
I can't help feeling that truly creative approaches to geography learning are discouragingly few and far between right now. Too few people are even thinking about geography education, and those who are still focus too much on incremental improvements rather than entirely new approaches. We should take the Geography Collective members and others like them as inspiration. We must challenge ourselves to think more creatively and seek out and promote the creative ideas of others.

Thanks Daniel :)

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Sustainable Fishing Resources - new on Digital Explorer

Some resources which I wrote for the most excellent DIGITAL EXPLORER site have been posted on the site. They are looking really rather nice. 

Sustainable Fishing is the theme of the resource.

It goes along with the report that nef produced recently on sustainable fishing and fish dependence.
You can see the nef report here.

An enquiry-based scheme of work investigating the seas around the UK and EU. The lesson plans and activities cover why fish stocks are decreasing, the issues and impacts associated with overfishing, and marine ecosystems and sustainability.

The activities examine different stakeholder views and use current data from the UN FAO, MMO and the new economics foundation.
Particularly suited for use with the Edexcel B ‘Oceans on the Edge’ unit.

Includes the lesson booklet and all accompanying slideshows and activities.

You need to register to download the resources.
Thanks to the Digital Explorer team for their work on the resources...

Somerset Geography Conference 2012

In a month's time I'm going to be heading down to the Somerset Geography Conference.
As it happens I'm going to be taking the Geography Collective Spaceship as my mode of transport as Dan Raven Ellison and I are involved in the afternoon session. I shall also be talking about teaching about landscapes. This is based on my KS3 Toolkit book, which is still available to purchase from the GA shop of course.

Noel Jenkins has put together a cracking line-up for the event.
Head to the Somerset Geography Posterous page for more details.

Hope to see some of you there...

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Follow the Things bags... what did you do with yours ?

At the GA Conference in April 2012 at the University of Manchester, all delegates were given the chance to pick up a Follow the Things bag.
Follow the Things is a project involving Ian Cook and colleagues at the University of Exeter.

The site explores the connections between consumers in the UK and elsewhere and the unseen others who manufacture their products. It looks at supply chains, transportation and globalisation.

As part of some proposed work that is going to take place in 2013, we'd like to know what you did with your bag.

In the most recent GA NEWSLETTER (be sure to subscribe to make sure that you received yours) there is a request for further information.

What did you do with your bag ? 
How are you using it ? 
Have you followed the weblink on the bag to visit the site ?
Please let me know by commenting here, tweeting me @GeoBlogs, or e-mailing me....

We'll let you know the results in a few months...

That's quality

I had the honour of spending several days earlier in the year on the team moderating the Secondary Geography Quality Mark that is awarded by the Geographical Association to those schools who meet the criteria.

I had been part way through putting together an application for my department when I joined the GA, so I appreciate the time that it takes to put together a good application portfolio of evidence.
This year was up to the same high standard as the previous years, in fact we probably saw the most impressive applications we have ever had. I was particularly impressed with a Minecraft video made by one of the schools from Hong Kong who applied (you don't have to be a UK school to apply for the mark)
It was also good to see that there were some schools that I'd had previous contact with applying for the award, and that plenty of schools were also applying for Centre of Excellence status...

You can see the details of the schools who were successful on the GA website.

Why not send off for further details and register your department.
It could be the start of a new educational journey for you.

I look forward to seeing your application in August 2013

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

TWIG free for Scottish schools

At the end of last year, and start of this year, I worked on a major writing project to create resources / teacher notes and activities to accompany TWIG Geography films. These films won a BETT Award at the start of the year

TWIG is now free on GLOW: the Scottish intranet.

Twig is an award winning multi-media comprehensive learning resource mapped to Curriculum for Excellence.
If you know a Scottish teacher let them know, and if you are a Scottish teacher... you now know....

Friday, 28 September 2012

Learning outside the Classroom

We are delighted to announce that the Geography Collective has been shortlisted for a Learning outside the Classroom award.

We would be even more delighted if you would consider voting for us, especially if you have been enthused by our Mission:Explore books, app or website, or perhaps been visited by us, seen us at Glastonbury, Latitude or the Hay Festival, ridden on buses in Suffolk, cycled along Sustrans routes in many cities, explored the Great Glen with Discover Explore or in some other geographical context...

We're going to be on the road in the next few months, and also will be running our Geography Camp in December, of which more later...

Please click the link and give us your vote. Thanks :)

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

ICT toolkit books...

Preparing some resources for the course on Geomedia in Salzburg that I am leading next week.

You still have chance to get funding to join me for a repeat of the course in February 2013, and the course is likely to run several times during 2013 - I'd love to see lots of you there... you can get your fees, accommodation and travel paid for.

I'm going to be using several activities from two books which I edited, and were published in April this year.

You really need to have a copy of these books in your departmental library.
They have been selling well, and getting good feedback from users.
You can order them from the GA shop - click to follow the link, and remember that GA members get a discount on purchases, and free P&P

Multimedia made Easy by Paul Cornish

GIS made Easy by Bob Lang

Monday, 17 September 2012

New VITAL portals

Work has been going on over the summer to provide a new 'look' for the VITAL Subject-specific portals, ready for the new academic year.
They have now been launched, and a whole new tranche of content will be added to the VITAL Geography portal over the next few weeks. There is a new interface, twitter feeds, app recommendations, and more multimedia content..

Don't forget that I manage the Geography portal, so you can find the same sort of useful guidance that you get here on LivingGeography, but specially selected for its CPD value.

A reminder that special subscription rates are in place for schools subscribing to a range of portals for staff use.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

GA Curriculum Consultation

Head over to the GA website now and read the latest update on the ongoing preparations for the new National Curriculum.
The GA has been working to put together some suggestions for what a new curriculum could look like.
It's a cautious document, given the various agendas that underlie it, and the Government's known penchant for core knowledge. The documents build on the earlier work of the manifesto 'a different view', which was a major influence on much of the GA's work over the last few years.

It recognises that there are many different departments, teachers, favoured topics, non-specialists etc. It will not please everyone all the time, or even some of the time. Most people will question the placement of particular topics. The problem is that as soon as one item is moved, it has consequences elsewhere. If  you feel that there is something missing, the only way that it has a chance of being in the amended document which may well influence the people who make the final decisions is to add it to the GA page. So it is important to participate in the consultation on the GA website.

Please note that the table below is for illustration only and shows the questions that you are invited to respond to having read the supporting documents.....
You will not be able to type into the table and submit your comments, for that you need to go to the GA website....

1. The aims and outcomes statements for each key stage support planning and make the rationale for geography clear.
Any additional comments:
2. The content and guiding questions for each key stage provide coverage appropriate for the core of a student's geographical education.
Any additional comments:
3. The level of detail of the curriculum proposals is appropriate for a national curriculum.
Any additional comments:
4. The paper on 'Thinking Geographically' shows how essential content can be used to develop students’ conceptual understanding of geography.
Any additional comments:
5. The assessment descriptors for each content exemplar provide appropriate standards and outcomes in a way which will support assessment.
Any additional comments:
6. In general, and all things considered, I support the GA's proposals for the national curriculum.
Any additional comments:

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Fancy a CPD course in Salzburg ?

Salzburg - February 2013

DigitalEarth: GeoMedia and Citizenship

You can get your expenses (travel, accommodation etc. but not cover) for this course covered by COMENIUS funding.

I shall be leading several days of the course - which lasts for a week. It will be a repeat of a course which I am leading at the end of September (the deadline for getting funding for that course has passed)

You'll need to apply promptly and the links to the relevant forms are available from the EuroGeography webpage linked to above. Look forward to seeing some of you there...

Image: Alan Parkinson - taken on previous visit

I believe this course will also run several other times next year... I shall keep you posted...

Monday, 20 August 2012

New GA CPD Courses for 2012-13

The latest GA courses for the new academic year have now been published and are on the GA WEBSITE.

The courses in red are the ones I am leading. Look forward to seeing some of you there...

You can download further information and a course flyer from the links. Feel free to use these with colleagues.

Leading urban fieldwork

For primary teachers and geography subject leaders
London - Tuesday 16 October 2012
Manchester - Monday 22 October 2012
Price: From £150

Primary geography for the non-specialist

For non-specialist primary teachers, including those who may be taking on the subject responsibility within their school
Birmingham - Wednesday 17 October 2012
London - Wednesday 7 November 2012
Price: From £150

Leading a successful geography department

For current and aspiring secondary geography subject leaders
Birmingham - Thursday 18 October 2012
London - Friday 19 October 2012
Price: From £160

Google Earth and beyond: free online GIS

For secondary geography teachers
Leeds - Thursday 18 October 2012
London - Thursday 25 October 2012
Price: From £160

Planning for Ofsted with the Quality Mark Self Evaluation Form

For secondary and post-16 geography teachers and subject leaders
London - Tuesday 23 October 2012
Birmingham - Friday 30 November 2012
Price: From £160

NQT Conference: Making a difference in the classroom

For secondary geography NQTs
York - Thursday 8 November 2012
London - Thursday 15 November 2012
Price: From £160

Outstanding teaching and learning in primary geography

For primary teachers and subject co-ordinators
Manchester - Monday 28 January 2013
York - Monday 4 March 2013
London - Friday 15 March 2013
Price: From £150

Managing safe and effective fieldwork for IGCSE geography

For secondary geography teachers involved in delivering the new IGCSE
Leeds - Monday 4 February 2013
London - Tuesday 5 February 2013
Price: From £160

Being Ofsted ready with the PGQM

For primary geography subject leaders, middle leaders and head teachers
London - Tuesday 5 March 2013
Nottingham - Monday 11 March 2013
Price: From £150

Fieldwork and new technologies

For post-16 geography teachers
Birmingham - Thursday 7 March 2013
London - Thursday 14 March 2013
Price: From £160

    Leading through primary geography

    For primary teachers and geography subject leaders
    Birmingham - Friday 3 May 2013
    London - Wednesday 15 May 2013
    Price: From £150

    Wednesday, 15 August 2012

    Partly Cloudy...

    That's not the current weather, but it's the name of my current weather app of choice...

    Turns the weather data into a nice visualisation...
    Local weather earlier in the first image, plus the details on what is displayed in the second image.
    69p from the App Store.

    The designer also created the cool VirtualWater app...

    Other weather apps I own:

    • Weather - standard app
    • Met Office
    • Living Earth HD
    • Weather Doodle
    • The North Face Snow Report

    Tuesday, 14 August 2012

    SAGT Conference - book early...

    SAGT Conference this year will be held at Hutcheson's School, Glasgow.

    My good friend Val Vannet is President of the SAGT for the next three years.
    I will be presenting a workshop in association with EDINA on the work that I did for Digimap for Schools.
    Here's the description in the programme.

    Writing on the Map Alan Parkinson 
    Using OS Digimap for Schools to help guide global citizens.
    This hands-on session will make use of materials produced in 2012 for subscribers to the Ordnance Survey’s map service, operated by EDINA at the University of Edinburgh. Digimap for Schools won the Geographical Association’s Gold Award in 2011.Alan was the author of a major Secondary resource pack for Digimap for Schools, and will investigate ways to use OS mapping of Scotland to encourage an enquiry approach to teaching about the landscape, and students’ place within it. Understanding the earth starts by understanding our own place. There will also be an opportunity to learn about other GIS-style activities to bring maps to life.
    If Geography means ‘writing the earth’ then a lot of that writing should be done on maps…Delegates will leave with a pack of ready-to-use materials and plenty of ideas and tools to take this type of work further.

    Download the programme and booking form from the SAGT website. It's only £60 for non-SAGT members and £35 for members (membership for a year costs £35)

    Will also be good to catch up with Bob Digby (President of the GA from September), Steve Brace (RGS), Jamie Buchanan Dunlop (Digital Explorer) and Iain Stewart (off the telly) who are among the presenters, and of course plenty of Scottish teacher friends...

    I will then be moving up via Dundee to Aberdeen to lead a day's CPD the following Monday...

    Monday, 30 July 2012

    Urban Geography Fieldwork

    The day of the Olympics opening was also the date when a new website was launched offering opportunities for fieldwork in the East end of London, associated with the Olympics Park and the associated regeneration....
    A number of familiar names offer a range of options for visiting teachers and students, and at reasonable prices too...
    Having accompanied John Widdowson with a full day visit by a school group a few months before the start of the games, I can vouch for the quality of the experience, and the associated materials...

    Visit the website HERE for more details on how to book a session.

    Friday, 20 July 2012

    Have a great summer...

    With apologies to Scottish etc. colleagues...

    Taking a bit of a blog break for a while....
    Hope the sun shines next week as forecast...

    Tuesday, 17 July 2012

    Join me at 7pm tonight...

    ...for the last TEACHSHARE of this academic year...
    On the VITAL Geography PORTAL....

    Monday, 16 July 2012

    End of year debrief...

    Don't forget to join me at 7pm tomorrow night for a VITAL CPD Teachshare to look back on the academic year, and ahead to the next one....

    Sunday, 8 July 2012

    Geography Network meetings: when was your last one ?

    Over to a local school on Thursday this week for a network meeting organised by Rob Lodge. Rob has been organising these meetings for Norfolk teachers for many years, and they are always useful, so it was good to be able to go along and share some of my recent work, and also have a 20 minute journey to an event rather than one of three or four hours.

    There was plenty of interest in the meeting, some of which may form a separate blog post. It was good to meet colleagues new and old, and also have the chance to wish a happy retirement to John, who I've known for many years.

    There was some good sharing at the event, which had a range of activities. Some of you may be thinking of organising a local network meeting at your school ? This could be themed around a particular issue, or perhaps based on the Teachmeet style of event with short inputs from everyone. This could be cheap twilight CPD, or a more organised city-wide event. Over the last few years I've been fortunate to be invited to work with a number of events where all the geography teachers from a particular area were gathered in one place for a day.

    I think it's vital that teachers meet face to face around a table where possible. In this age of competition and league tables, collaboration is more important than ever, particularly given the slow removal of advisory support.
    Here's what we did at the network meeting so that you might get some ideas for organising your own.

    Tea and coffee and biscuits on arrival. I put out a display of GA publications and other bits, and there were some freebies for everyone: a Digital Explorer mug, GeographyalltheWay pen, Mission:Explore bookmark etc.

    We started by pairing up with somebody we didn't know and sharing something geographical that had happened to us that week, and I shared a picture of my daughter holding the Olympic torch, and the geographical connections that the Olympics has, as exemplified in my Londinium MMXII document, for those who haven't yet seen it.
    We then told the other delegates about the person we'd just been talking to, and what their geographical connection was.

    We then did a speed-dating activity where each person got to meet the other delegates and swap an idea that they'd been working on recently.
    I showed what I'd been doing with Rory's Story Cubes and the idea of story cubes generally....

    I picked up ideas on: a unit on researching using the Internet which looked really useful and came complete with a worked example and peer-marking sheet, some work on the 'mantle of the expert' (as featured in the Oops book I blogged about recently), a set of cards with key words and connectives to encourage sentence construction (a manual version of David Riley's Triptico 'Word Magnets' resource), an activity with slides which had limits on slides/words etc, an idea of dialogue between two pupils where one of them has to knock on a door and persuade the other to support their campaign (this came with an activity based on the Malaria no more campaign), a memory challenge with associated card sort, and one colleague had posted a series of videos of geography songs and I then realised I was in the presence of Mr. Sims ! (see  earlier blogpost)

    One of the ideas I liked best was to go to a sports shop and buy some Captain's Armbands. They're currently £1.50 at Sports Direct. If you're teaching in a school with sport's mad boys in particular, there is a great sense of the need to perform if pulling on the armband, and leading others...

    Rob then talked through the new OFSTED framework from September. We were split into groups to discuss the 'geographical implications' of the new judgements. What would 'Good geography' look like and how could it contribute to a whole school judgement ?
    Schools that had recently had OFSTED inspections (of which there were three) shared their experiences and observations. There was mention of the need for multicultural developments, better use of LSAs, an appreciation that 'behaviour' didn't just refer to disruption, the need for marking to become a dialogue with an appreciation that students had responded to comments, and the importance of developing independent learning.

    There was also mention of the importance of data, with Rob's old classic that it's like underwear: 'what it shows is interesting, what it hides is vital'.

    We then had an input from a guest speaker, and someone who was a real expert in what she was talking about. The session was on Literacy and the Global Dimension, and was led by Fran Nantongwe, Outreach Co-ordinator from NEAD, Norwich.

    I have blogged about NEAD before, having done some work for them in my time. In fact I wrote a supporting letter for the Paul Hamlyn funded project that Fran is currently working on, while working at the GA.

    What was particularly good was that Fran was not a geographer, but was discussing issues which are relevant to all geographers. As Graham Butt has said before in his work on literacy in geography, all geography teachers are also literacy teachers.
    Fran provided some really useful suggestions on tackling poor literacy.
    She took us through an activity with a geographical focus, on the Sichuan Earthquake of 2010, and provided a range of nice ways to target literacy while keeping the geography angle.

    We were then joined by Katy Jones from the Norfolk branch of CPRE, to tell us of an excellent opportunity for Norfolk schools to take part in a photographic competition with the theme of 'Norfolk: a changing landscape'.

    I then did a quick update on the work of the GA's National Curriculum Review group, and talked about the use of apps to support fieldwork.
    Colleagues then continued to discuss ideas for the coming year, and do some planning. 
    I had to leave at this point to collect my son from school, but it was a really useful day, and nice to be involved from a different perspective.

    I am grateful to Rob for the organisation, Tom and colleagues at Neatherd for hosting and all colleagues who attended.

    So, when is your next network meeting ?
    Why not organise one ready to kickstart the new academic year ?