Saturday, 22 November 2014

Improving teachers

Some interesting ideas here from Phil Wood... placed here as a memory jogger for myself more than anything else, but I hope some of you come across this who might not otherwise have seen it...

Saturday, 8 November 2014

GA Webwatch Crowdsourced Issue....

I have been writing the Webwatch Column for the GA Magazine since Issue 3, in the Summer of 2006. Here's a flashback to the first issue that I edited... I haven't changed a bit ...

Each issue since then, I've provided a range of web based ideas and resources.

These have included:
  • website suggestions, along with reviews on their usefulness
  • apps for smartphone and tablets
  • details on GIS software, data and other fieldwork related resources
  • CPD events and associated resources linked to the internet and training
  • links to TV programme and other support material
  • ideas on the use of social media
  • Twitter accounts which are relevant to geography and education
  • details of projects that are of interest (particularly ones I'm interested in)
  • suggestions for blogs to read

The most recent issue featured a review of Illustreets and LondonMapper websites and information on the School on Cloud project, details on ArcGIS Online, StoryMaps and the Internet of Things, a selection of Twitter accounts that are relevant, ideas for teaching about soils, and finally details on a World War One collaborative document.

In the spirit of crowdsourcing, the Summer 2015 issue of Webwatch is going to be thrown open to anyone to suggest some content.

I'm really after suggestions for resources like the ones above. They shouldn't have been featured before in Webwatch, and be of general interest to geography teachers, and ideally have been used in your classroom - perhaps with some pictures showing some student outcomes.
All suggestions that are included in the final piece will be given a full credit to you and your school (plus Twitter link if you have one)

Details of this opportunity will also be included in the Spring 2015 edition of GA Magazine, but because of the lead in time needed for submitting copy to the editors, there won't be very long between the arrival of that issue, and the deadline for suggestions, so I'll be reminding you here a few times between now and then...

All suggestions can be sent to my e-mail - add a comment below or contact me via Twitter...

Over to you ...

Saturday, 1 November 2014

30 000 views

This is not my main blog - that's Living Geography.
I started this blog while working for the GA, which I thought I would still be doing, but sadly haven't done since 2011...
There will continue to be occasional relevant posts here.

Thanks for visiting

Sutton Trust Report on great teaching...

Earlier this week, a report was published by the Sutton Trust which explored some ideas about what makes great teaching (and some things that don't)
The website explained the background and the results. The BBC picked up on the praise issue...

Lavish praise for students is among seven popular teaching practices not supported by evidence, according to a new Sutton Trust report which reviews over 200 pieces of research on how to develop great teachers.
What Makes Great Teaching, by Professor Rob Coe and colleagues at Durham University, warns that many common practices can be harmful to learning and have no grounding in research. Examples include using praise lavishly, allowing learners to discover key ideas by themselves, grouping students by ability and presenting information to students based on their “preferred learning style”.
On the other hand, some other teaching approaches are supported by good evidence of their effectiveness. Many of these are obvious and widely practiced, but others are at odds with common assumptions. Examples include: challenging students to identify the reason why an activity is taking place in the lesson; asking a large number of questions and checking the responses of all students; spacing-out study or practice on a given topic, with gaps in between for forgetting; and making students take tests or generate answers, even before they have been taught the material.
Previous Sutton Trust research shows that the quality of teaching is by far the biggest factor within schools that impacts on the achievement of children from poorer backgrounds. It found that over a school year, poorer pupils gain 1.5 years’ worth of learning with very effective teachers, compared with 0.5 years with poorly performing teachers. In other words, a great teacher can produce a whole year’s extra learning.
Today’s report offers a “starter kit” for thinking about what constitutes effective teaching. This is based on behaviours, approaches and classroom practices that are well-defined, easy to implement and show good evidence of improvements in student outcomes. Six key factors that contribute to good teaching are identified. The two factors with the strongest evidence in improving student outcomes are:
  • Content knowledge. Teachers with strong knowledge and understanding of their subject make a greater impact on students’ learning. It is also important for teachers to understand how students think about content and be able to identify common misconceptions on a topic.
  • Quality of instruction. This includes effective questioning and the use of assessment by teachers. Specific practices, like reviewing previous learning, providing model responses for students, giving adequate time for practice to embed skills securely and progressively introducing new learning (scaffolding) are also found to improve attainment.
The other four elements of effective teaching have fair to moderate evidence showing a positive impact on results. They are: classroom climate which includes the quality of interaction between teachers and students as well as teacher expectations; classroom management which includes efficient use of lesson time and managing behaviour with clear rules that are consistently enforced; teachers’ beliefs, the reasons why they adopt particular practices and their theories about learning; and  professional behaviours which relates to professional development, supporting colleagues, and communicating with parents.
As well as summarising what the research says about effective and ineffective practices, today’s report also looks at the different methods of evaluating teaching. These include: using ‘value-added’ results from student test scores;, observing classroom teaching;, and getting students to rate the quality of their teaching. The report finds that when done well and used cautiously, all these methods can be useful, but it warns they are easy to get wrong should not to be used in isolation to assess teaching.
The seven examples of strategies unsupported by evidence are:
  1. Using praise lavishly For low-attaining students praise that is meant to be encouraging and protective can actually convey a message of low expectations. The evidence shows children whose failure generates sympathy are more likely to attribute it to lack of ability than those who are presented with anger.
  2. Allowing learners to discover key ideas for themselves Enthusiasm for ‘discovery learning’ is not supported by research evidence, which broadly favours direct instruction.
  3. Grouping students by ability Evidence on the effects of grouping by ability, either by allocating students to different classes, or to within-class groups, suggests that it makes very little difference to learning outcomes. It can result in teachers failing to accommodate different needs within an ability group and over-playing differences between groups, going too fast with the high-ability groups and too slow with the low.
  4. Encouraging re-reading and highlighting to memorise key ideas Testing yourself, trying to generate answers, and deliberately creating intervals between study to allow forgetting, are all more effective approaches to memorisation than re-reading or highlighting.
  5. Addressing low confidence and aspirations before teaching content Attempts to enhance motivation prior to teaching content are unlikely to succeed and even if they do the impact on subsequent learning is close to zero. If the poor motivation of low attainers is a logical response to repeated failure starting to get them to succeed through learning content will improve motivation and confidence.
  6. Presenting information to students in their preferred learning style Despite a recent survey showing over 90% of teachers believe individuals learn better when they receive information in their preferred learning style, the psychological evidence is clear that there are no benefits to this method.
  7. Being active, rather than listening passively, helps you remember This claim is commonly presented in the form of a ‘learning pyramid’ which shows precise percentages of material that will be retained when different levels of activity are employed. These percentages have no empirical basis and are pure fiction.
I've got a few events coming up where I've been asked to relate what I'm talking about to the issue of teacher development, and also about the idea of student progress...

You'll see my thoughts on the sections in red over the next few weeks, as I develop some connections, and a few additional slides and activities, for example, here's the section on (Pedagogical) Content Knowledge

The most effective teachers have deep knowledge of the subjects they teach, and when teachers’ knowledge falls below a certain level it is a significant impediment to students’ learning. As well as a strong understanding of the material being taught, teachers must also understand the ways students think about the content, be able to evaluate the thinking behind students’ own methods, and identify 
students’ common misconceptions. 

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Thursday, 3 July 2014

'Tijuana' read an article about the US-Mexican border ?

If so, there was one in the Guardian this week.
I'm currently reading the rather excellent 'Walls' by Marcello di Cintio. It explores a number of boundaries around the world. The chapter on the US-Mexican border is particularly powerful with some fresh perspectives on this contested part of the world, and the boundary that reinforces a divide which wasn't as obvious before 9/11, after which the border patrols became part of Homeland security.

My HoD Claire has written an article for a future issue of 'Teaching Geography', which features some ideas developed from this book. Check my TEACHING BLOG for some further materials that we have used.

Worth seeking out.

SAGT Conference 2014

Good to see the conference programme and booking form for October's SAGT Conference is now up on the website.
I've been attending since 2005, and it's one of the highlights of the year.
This year, there are plenty of workshops on the conference theme of MAPS and APPS.

Even if you're not an SAGT member, you should really get yourself up to Perth for the event (it's during the half term holiday) and great value for money.
Download the documents now and take a look.
Here are the details of my seminar:

If you're coming along, you could also choose to see Steve Dunn and Mark Smith from the Grammar School at Leeds talking about their use of ArcGIS Online, or Dan Moncrieff from the FSC, or Jamie Buchanan Dunlop, or several other speakers... all of them leading interesting sessions.
Add in two keynotes, an exhibition and some good food and you have the makings of a great day of CPD...

Monday, 9 June 2014

First Class Fish

A new set of stamps from the Royal Mail features 10 fish, to show some sustainable species, and others that are threatened. Lovely illustrations.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

IB course with Richard Allaway

A rare chance to work with Richard Allaway of Geography all the Way fameon an IB Geography course in the UK takes place in 3 weeks time.
The course is held at Heathrow Airport, and is on a Saturday so no cover needed (probably)

Details and booking information here.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

GA Worldwise Week 2014

Worldwise Week (formerly Geography Awareness Week, is organised by the Geographical Association.
This year's resource pack is available, and would provide some good ideas for those wanting to continue the theme of this year's conference 'Crossing Boundaries' with some end-of-the-school-year extension work.

Head to the GA website to download the pack and join in from the 23rd to the 27th of June.

Sunday, 11 May 2014


“Our aim is to provide unbiased information about London's social, environmental and economic issues.
“These maps are like fancy pie charts, and if something is twice the size of something else it is obvious. We just want to spark a debate about the differences in one big city.”
Professor Danny Dorling

London called me on Thursday this week, and I went down to the RGS to meet with Ben Hennig.

Ben and I are working on some educational materials for a project called LondonMapper - a website which officially launched today, funded by the Trust for London.
The educational materials are being funded by an Innovative Geography Teaching grant that we have been awarded by the Royal Geographical Society.

Ben's maps will be familiar to many from his work on WorldMapper with Danny Dorling and others from Sheffield University.
Ben now works at the University of Oxford, still with Danny Dorling, and LondonMapper is one of several exciting projects that he is working on.

The site got a lot of early publicity and was featured in quite a few of the newspapers today.
- the Guardian
- Daily Mail
- the Independent
for example...

Explore the data on this Guardian Datablog page, which includes the hedgehog map and peregrine falcon map created along with Daniel Raven Ellison as part of the Greater London National Park project

The site will be expanded in the next few weeks with a whole tranche of new maps.

By the end of the summer term, there will also be a teaching resource which I will have created. The bones of the resources already exist, and I will be working on that over half term.

Also keep an eye out for further London Mapping resources that I'll be creating in the Summer term.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Teaching Geography in a Digital World

I had a sneak preview of Paul Turner's new iBook a few days ago, and it's now out, and available on iTunes at 'my favourite price'.
This is a really nice summary of some of the best tools out there for teachers wanting to find out about technology that can help.

I particularly like p.54 :)

Well done Mr. Turner !

Saturday, 26 April 2014

TES Geography Week

I've been spending a bit of time this week doing some writing for next week's TES Geography Week.

I'll be checking in next Monday to see what Matt Foulds has to say about the new Geography curriculum - get your questions ready for him....

Here's the full timetable for the week...

Monday 28 April

Join us for a live chat at 6pm with an expert from the Department for Education to discuss the changes. Send us your questions here.

Paula Owens, primary curriculum development manager at the Geographical Association, will be blogging about the changes to the primary geography curriculum:
1. Key changes, essential messages and how we ought to interpret them

2. How geography can contribute to school improvement

3. How to evaluate geography provision

4. Thinking geographically: Enquiry, mapping and fieldwork

5. Global Learning: How do we teach about the wider world?

Dr John Hopkin, head of accreditation for the Geographical Association, will be blogging about the changes to the Key Stage 3 geography curriculum:

1. What’s changed, with some first thoughts on getting started

2. Some of the key challenges

3. Curriculum making, key concepts, and going beyond

4. Geographical enquiry

5. Progression: Despite the government’s decision to abolish level descriptions, many practices which support progress in the classroom will still be useful

Tuesday 29 April
The Royal Geographical Society has produced a resource pack to help you unpick the new geography curriculum. This will focus on: i) how the curriculum has changed; ii) teaching about the UK; iii) teaching about development issues. We will be launching this here on Tuesday.

We will also have podcasts from Paula Owens and Dr John Hopkin on a range of issues relating to the new curriculum.

Wednesday 30 April
Dr Rita Gardner, director of the Royal Geographical Society, who has been particularly influential in shaping the new curriculum, will be blogging about the major changes and explaining why the curriculum is as it is.

Thursday 1 May
The Department for Education will be releasing a video about the changes to the geography curriculum.
Alan Kinder, CEO of the Geographical Association, will be blogging about the changes to the curriculum for the Department for Education.

Friday 2 May
My favourite resources: Teachers will be recommending their favourite resources. Tell us about yours in the TES Geography forums or by tweeting @tesResources.

We will have a range of blogs from practising teachers bringing you the best of the Geographical Association’s 2014 conference.

Monday, 31 March 2014

London: the next National Park ?

A campaign is launched today which suggests an obvious move forward for our capital city: a designation as the country's newest National Park.

We see no reason why London shouldn't join the Peak District, Snowdonia and the Norfolk Broads as having a designation as a National Park.
The city has a breadth of habitats, and a diversity of wildlife that rival some of the existing parks. Check out the new WEBSITE to find out more.

From the press release...

The Greater London National Park* was launched today, celebrating the importance and diversity of London’s urban habitat. It may sound like an April fools joke, but it is not.

It is only a “notional park” for now, but geographer Daniel Raven-Ellison is calling for the public to back the idea.“There is this idea that a National Park has to be remote and rural, but cities are incredibly important habitats too. An amazing 13,000 species of wildlife can be found in London’s open spaces which together make up 60% of the Greater London National Park*. In London we have peregrine falcons, 13 species of amphibian and reptile, pigeons, over 8 million people and countless dogs and cats too. The Greater London National Park* celebrates all life.

”National Parks are currently funded by central government to conserve and enhance natural beauty, wildlife and their cultural heritage; and promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of National Parks by the public. These objectives could be applied to a city like London as well the countryside.
Raven-Ellison makes clear that he is not proposing any changes to planning policy in the capital, or that the Greater London National Park* would have the planning powers that so many residents in current National Parks dislike.
“I am proposing a new kind of National Park – an ‘urban’ National Park that would aim to conserve and promote London’s awesome ability to be dynamic, innovate and evolve. The Park’s role would be to inform and inspire best practice, while helping to better co-ordinate and promote London’s biodiversity and recreational opportunities, especially those in outer London.”
Raven-Ellison, a geographer and National Geographic Emerging Explorer, argues that the park would create a new way to see and think about London.
“How would being a National Park change the way we live, work and play in the city? How would we educate children, design buildings, plan health services or create new leisure activities differently if we started thinking of London as a National Park?”
“It’s a bit of an outside-of-the box curve ball, but sleep on it and you will realise what a great idea it is. Being the world’s first National Park city would celebrate and consolidate London’s position in the world as a leading, green world city that invests in the health and wellbeing of its people, which is great for both new and mature business and employees. Besides, wouldn’t you like to live in London and a National Park at the same time? I know I would!”
Raven-Ellison is asking the public to support his idea by adding their name to (GLNP).
*Officially just a Notional Park.

Click to enlarge

You can HELP SPREAD THE WORD in a number of ways.

The project has already featured on the National Geographic website.

Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London

I'll show you something to make you change your mind

Ralph McTell

Global Learning Programme CPD

The Global Learning Programme has been underway for many months now, and there has been lots of activity across the UK.

The next stage of the programme involves a range of CPD events. Angus Willson is leading one on School Improvement through Global Learning.
I am developing a new course, which will run in June and July.
It will involve a range of web tools to support learning about places, and involve the development of a new unit called 'Global Village'

Details are on the GA website, where you can also book a place.
I hope to see some of you there...

Supporting Geography teacher mentors

At the GTE Conference in January 2013, I heard about the work that was underway on a new area of the Geographical Association's website.

This was being led by Andrea Tapsfield and colleagues on the GA's Teacher Education Special Interest Group.

The background was that with an increasing number of teachers being mentored within schools as part of their training, alongside the needs of NQTs who would need continuing support. There has been considerable effort to prepare a range of materials on all aspects of the task of MENTORING colleagues since then.

The area of the website is now live.

You will find that it is useful for any teacher, not just those who are mentoring others, or being mentored. This is a wonderful addition to the GA website.

There are resources for FIELDWORK for example - dig deeply and you will find some really important resources here.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Extreme Environments

One of the things about being a prolific blogger is that things you write disappear off the main section of the blog quite quickly.
I thought it was worth reminding you of something that I created a while back with the guy on the left here...

A couple of years ago, Richard Allaway and I created an eBook on Extreme Environments.

It is perfect for revision, and as we come closer to REVISION SEASON you may want to download it, as thousands of other people have already done.

Now available in over 50 countries...

Sunday, 9 March 2014

DISTANCE.... we've come a long way...

Distance stands for:
Demonstrating the Internet of School Things: a National collaborative experience

It's a project that I've been involved with along with a group of partners including INTEL, Sciencescope, CASA at UCL and the Open University.
Helen and Tom from Explorer HQ have worked with me to produce some exciting ideas, supported by Mark, Dan, Paul and other colleagues from Explorer HQ on the technical side.

We've been working to create educational materials for the schools involved in the Pilot, and ultimately schools all over the country.
Click the Resources tab on the website, and you will find that you can see some of these...
They would be useful to adapt even without access to the kit that the schools had.

The website has developed tremendously since the start of the project...

Follow Apps > Dashboard to see some of the live data feeds from the project.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Young Geographer of the Year 2014

The theme for this year's competition, run by the Royal Geographical Society, in association with 'Geographical' magazine is now available:

How can Geography help you ?

Details of how to enter are HERE

Pupils are asked to relate the value of geography to a number of different settings. The significance of both human and physical geography could be considered at a variety of different levels.  Pupils should demonstrate how geography can support their everyday lives, improve their understanding of the world’s people, places and environments and help to prepare them for life beyond school.
We want to hear how geography, be it the knowledge young people learn, the understanding they gain, or skills they develop, helps them in different aspects of their lives. This help might be at many different levels:
  • At school
  • At home with your family
  • When you travel and go on holidays
  • When you think about current events at home or abroad
  • Whether it will help you with further study, perhaps at university
  • Or lead to a particular career you would like to do
We are interested in answers which might look at both the serious and the fun sides of geography and particularly want to see how entrants can relate the value of geography to a number of different settings.  We welcome applications which, as appropriate for the age range, recognise the value of both human and physical geography. 
For the all categories appropriate and accurate geographical vocabulary should be used and we will provide additional credit for entries which use primary data collected by the student, alongside
secondary data.
The competition has four categories: 9-11(Key Stage Two), 11-14 (Key Stage Three), 14-16 (GCSE) and 16-18 (A Level students).

If you're a new teacher, you can also submit some resources on the same theme for the Rex Walford Award.
Download guidelines here (PDF)

Thursday, 27 February 2014

First hand experience...

I've been reading quite a bit about a man called Hugh Miller in the last few weeks.
He was a geologist and storyteller and had a fascinating life.
Now you have a chance to sail through the Scottish Highlands on a voyage of discovery...

The voyage is being organised by the Royal Scottish Geographical Society.

The Geological Societies of Glasgow and Edinburgh are offering unique opportunity for young Earth scientists to follow the journey of Hugh Miller in "The Cruise of the Betsey".

On 6 September 2014 Leader, a wonderful old Brixham Trawler built in 1892 (, will set sail from Oban heading north for the Small Isles in a one-week voyage in homage to Hugh Miller and his Hebridean tours, described in his classic book "The Cruise of the Betsey". The boat sleeps 19 people including 4 crew members, and will be filled with an inter-generational mix of geologists, geographers, artists, writers, ecologists, storytellers and historians (including a Gaelic speaker). The voyage will take the form of a mobile conference during which each participant will apply their own talents and interests in celebration of the achievements of Hugh Miller, and the landscapes, seascapes and cultural history of the Hebrides. The reward for the successful applicants will be to broaden and deepen their appreciation of Hebridean geodiversity, but also to gain new and probably unexpected perspectives on the geology, landscape and people of this beautiful sea-bound realm.

The Geological Societies of Glasgow and Edinburgh will fund up to four berths on the boat for young people (aged 16-30) studying Earth science, who have a research interest in the area or in a subject related to Hugh Miller, and a passion for sharing and communicating geology, landscape and/or Hebridean culture to a diverse audience.

Dates: Saturday 6 to Friday 12 September 2014; you will need to be in Oban ready for embarkation on the morning of Saturday 6th.

Costs: £500 per berth (including all food during the voyage) plus travel costs to/from Oban.

Grants from the two Geological Societies will meet most of these costs but you may be expected to make a modest contribution.

How to apply: Email Simon Cuthbert, Honorary Secretary, Geological Society of Glasgow for more details at by 31 March 2014.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014


OK - a challenge to teachers - how would you use this video in your lessons ?
I love it !

Thanks to Ben King for the tipoff..

WIND from robert loebel on Vimeo.

New book now published...

Why not write a book to support your schemes of work.
Here's my latest...

Author copies of my new book for Collins have just arrived.
Aimed at KS2/3 boys to get them reading, but also readable by all age groups and girls too...

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Friday, 31 January 2014

New GA Poster for Primary Classroom

A new poster suitable for Primary Classroom...
Available from the GA Shop

Monday, 27 January 2014

New resources for Polar environments

Over the Christmas holiday, the Pole of Cold team were making their way towards Oymyakon: the Pole of Cold (coldest inhabited place in the Northern Hemisphere)

I've blogged about the project before, which has its Twitter feed and Facebook page.

Meanwhile I was a little closer to home... in fact I was at home, working on a resource for the From the Field section of the Royal Geographical Society website.

These resources are now live on the KS4 From the Field section of the RGS website.

Check them out here: 3 lesson plans with all the materials, plus plenty of extension ideas and other materials, with more to come...
Thanks to Matt Podbury for some kind words already. Let me know if you use them or take a look.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Secret Spy

A really nice idea from Beaumont School in St. Albans@BeaumontTL on Twitter

GA NQT Conferences 2014

This blog was started to coincide with the NQT Conferences run by the Geographical Association.

These are being run again during early 2014
So far, they will take place in the following venues:

30th January - Birmingham
6th February - London

Outcomes and further resources from this will be provided on this blog through the Spring and Summer term as delegates complete their NQT year...