Sunday, 28 May 2017

Thought for the Day

"Photography is the art of captured light" 
Barry Lopez

Image: Alan Parkinson - Brighton Pier

Early films released by the RGS

As a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, I'm well aware of the amazing archives that they hold, from expeditions dating back well over 100 years. I've been fortunate enough to see some of these special items, as a special privilege for those receiving an award. From Livingstone's hat, to Shackleton's stove, I've seen quite a few of them. There are also the amazing images taken of Shackleton's famous expedition.
There have been several previous projects to unleash these archives onto the public, usually when funding has been made available in some way. These include image archives of Everest, for example.

The BBC reported yesterday on a new release of black and white films made of some of the earliest explorations.
The films were made in the early part of the 20th Century and provide an amazing insight into these early explorations.
Watch a documentary here which describes the project to digitally enhance the movies, and then make them available more widely.

You will need to go to the BFI Player to watch the films apparently.

I haven't been able to find the collection at the moment. Can anyone guide me to it?

As a BFI subscriber, I'm aware of the excellent films that are available to watch there, either free of charge, or for a small fee per film.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Webwatch - your contributions welcome

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
I've already written the Autumn 2017 issue, but  the Spring 2018 issue of Webwatch is going to be thrown open to anyone to suggest some content. It will be the 2nd time that I've crowdsourced an issue.

Your ideas 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)

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 ...
60-100 words, URL and a picture if you have one would be great.

Academic Phrasebank

Thanks to David Holmes for sharing the work of Manchester University, who have produced an Academic Phrasebank.

This would be useful for those writing essays for 'A' level.
Here's a description from the site.
The Academic Phrasebank is a general resource for academic writers. It aims to provide you with examples of some of the phraseological ‘nuts and bolts’ of writing organised according to the main sections of a research paper or dissertation (see the top menu ). Other phrases are listed under the more general communicative functions of academic writing (see the menu on the left). The resource should be particularly useful for writers who need to report their research work.The phrases, and the headings under which they are listed, can be used simply to assist you in thinking about the content and organisation of your own writing, or the phrases can be incorporated into your writing where this is appropriate. In most cases, a certain amount of creativity and adaptation will be necessary when a phrase is used.The items in the Academic Phrasebank are mostly content neutral and generic in nature; in using them, therefore, you are not stealing other people’s ideas and this does not constitute plagiarism. For some of the entries, specific content words have been included for illustrative purposes, and these should be substituted when the phrases are used.The resource was designed primarily for academic and scientific writers who are non-native speakers of English. However, native speaker writers may still find much of the material helpful. 

Roger Crofts on the value of Geography

I've met Roger Crofts fairly regularly over the last six years or so when attending the SAGT conference, or visiting the Royal Scottish Geographical Society.
He's a great supporter of school geography.
He's written a great piece in 'The Scotsman'.
There are some very useful quotes for those needing to remind people of the value of our subject.

Geography is a key ­subject for all future citizens, as it opens the whole world to pupils, improves their ­global view and provides a ­context for learning numeracy and literacy. Let’s make the most of it, as geography is the ­subject of our time.

GI Learner - Romania meeting 1

Earlier this week, I spent 4 days in Romania, where I attended the latest project meeting for the GI Learner project that involves exploring geospatial thinking with young people.

I flew from Luton direct to the Romanian city of Iasi. This was a country that was new to me, and I didn't know what to expect. I loved it.
We arrived to warm weather, and checked into the Hotel International, where I found this view from my hotel room.

A wander of the city was interrupted by a torrential downpour caused by the heat, but we managed to see some of the many interesting buildings in the city, including some of its many churches, before heading for an evening meal with colleagues at a fine restaurant in the centre...

Images: Alan Parkinson

Macondo: an Inspirational place...

50 years ago today, according to the Guardian, Gabriel Garcia Marquez's finest book (although some might disagree) was published.
One Hundred Years of Solitude tells the magic-realist tale of the town of Macondo and the Buendia family and their past, present and future, as predicted by the mysterious Melquiades.
It starts with one of the most memorable first lines in literature:
Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. 

I first read the book over 35 years ago, and have reread it several times since. It introduced the world to Macondo, and the first paragraph continued:

At that time Macondo was a village of twenty adobe houses, built on the bank of a river of clear water that ran along a bed of polished stones, which were white and enormous, like prehistoric eggs. The world was so recent that many things lacked names, and in order to indicate them it was necessary to point.

The book tells the story of generations of the family, and the fortunes of Macondo over 100 turbulent years.
There are political events such as the arrival of the train, the banana company and the various machinations of different groups. There are magical events, and strange fates played out. People have written about the inspirations for Macondo.

As I start to put my thinking together for some work I'm going to be doing with Peter Knight, funded by the Royal Geographical Society, it's one place that I shall suggest helps to inspire our work to consider Inspirational Places and Landscapes.

Image by Joanne Maciel, and shared under CC license: Non-commercial, no derivatives

2018: the EU year of Cultural Heritage

2018: the EU Year of Cultural Heritage

On 9 February 2017 Council and European Parliament representatives reached a provisional agreement on a decision establishing a European Year of Cultural Heritage (2018). 
Cultural heritage encompasses resources from the past in a variety of forms and aspects. These include monuments, sites, traditions, transmitted knowledge and expressions of human creativity, as well as collections conserved and managed by museums, libraries and archives.
The aim of this initiative is to raise awareness of European history and values and to strengthen a sense of European identity. At the same time, it draws attention to the opportunities offered by our cultural heritage, but also to the challenges it faces, such as the impact of the digital shift, environmental and physical pressure on heritage sites, and the illicit trafficking of cultural objects.

Expect some new resources from the GI Learner project on this theme here, and over on the Cultural Geography blog that I also run.

Thought for the Day

"The trouble with words is that you never know whose mouths they have been in" 
Dennis Potter

Friday, 26 May 2017

Manchester University 'A' level resources

Some very useful resources have been shared by Manchester University.
They relate to an event that was put on for teachers and students last year. There are presentations and a recording of the lectures given on: Carbon cycles and Changing Places.

You can download the presentation slides as PDFs.
The Changing Places presentation offers some interesting perspectives on place, in the context of the city of the Manchester.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Thought for the Day

Via Yorkshire Post Facebook page...

London - cultural geography for Changing Places

London is one of the locations where we are going to carry out fieldwork.
It's a city with an endless mosaic of stories to explore.
My colleague Claire has put together a pack of images and text for students to explore in preparation for a trip to collect data later this term.
Here are some of the things in the pack...

Lyrics to the song "LDN" by Lily Allen

Online newspaper pages e.g. the EVENING STANDARD, or the Guardian's LONDON section.
Images of life going on as normal during the Blitz e.g. London milkmen
Data on Air Quality
The City Dashboard from CASA

There's plenty more, but before I tell you what they were, what would YOU put into such a pack?

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Refugee Week Resources

Published by the British Red Cross
Register to download for free - this is now available.
Nice work by Rob Bowden.

Some details:
Activity 1: “Someone like me” This activity uses aspects of identity to stimulate dialogue and provide an opportunity for young people to challenge their own thoughts about refugees and asylum seekers. The focus is less on the label of “refugee” or “asylum seeker” and more on the common humanity of refugees/asylum seekers as “someone like me” (someone that I can relate to).
Activity 2: Mutual respect and understanding This activity explores the importance of mutual respect and understanding for creating communities. It introduces learners to universal human values and asks them to consider their own values, as well as the values needed to build mutual respect and understanding.
Activity 3: Building empathy This activity introduces young people to a real-life story to help them build empathy for refugees and asylum seekers. It is based around a short film (3 min 26 sec) about Ali, who came to the UK from Afghanistan. Young people think about Ali’s needs and values before considering the similarities and differences between Ali’s values and their own.
Activity 4: Community building This activity provides case studies of refugees and asylum seekers making a positive contribution as active citizens to the communities that they live in. It helps young people to consider refugees as fellow citizens and to think about their own role as active citizens. Activity 5: Taking positive action This final activity builds on the previous activities, focusing on the roles that young people can play in creating a positive shared future. It asks them to consider values, attitudes and actions in order to produce a positive action plan. The outputs from this activity could be used for wider sharing.

Sgt. Pepper

Another fine StoryMap made by Brendan Conway...

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Job opportunity

Over the years that I've been 'standing on the shoulders of giants', and working with geographers across Europe, I've been fortunate to meet and spend time with some wonderful teachers. As a moderator of the Geographical Association's Primary and Secondary Quality Marks, I've also seen hundreds of schools' inspirational portfolios of work (and borrow a few ideas to use myself...)
Every now and again, a job comes up in a department where I'd really like to work, if I wasn't already working in an excellent school, and that happened today.
Check out the job details for St. Ivo School Geography department, where you could work with the awesome Rob Chambers and colleagues in a department which holds a GA Centre of Excellence award.
Best of luck to all the applicants.

King's Ely Aerial

A new promotional video, part of a series made by my school. Great to see Ely from a different angle, and shows the range of activities and environments we offer our students...

Ice Flows Game - resources in preparation

The Ice Flows game has been developed by the University of Exeter, led by Dr Anne Le Brocq, with funding from the NERC.

It was made to help disseminate the work of a research project on Antarctic ice sheets.

I had the 3rd of a series of Skype chats today, as I am completing some work to author a resource pack to support teachers in using the game with students.

From the website:

The game is called Ice Flows - because it does! Ice behaves like a fluid and flows due to gravity, much like a blob of treacle does, though a bit slower. Snow falls on the top of the ice sheet, and ice is lost at the edges and underneath through iceberg calving and melting.
If the inputs and outputs are equal, the ice sheet finds a balance – a “happy place” (or more scientifically, an equilibrium state), where the ice flows at a rate to balance these inputs and outputs.
The game is based on a simple ice sheet model which represents the way in which ice flows, and how that flow is altered by changes in the surrounding environment. Computer-based ice sheet simulation models are used by scientists to both understand how the ice behaves and to make projections for future behaviour.

Ice flows slowly, from a few metres per year, to several metres per day. In the game, time and space are modified to make the game playable.

The game would take a very long time to play if we didn’t speed up time, the game time for one level represents thousands of years, though changes in ice sheets over decades can cause a significant contribution to sea level change.
If the height and length of the ice sheet were representative of the real ice sheet , you would need to line up a few hundred phones in order to see the whole ice sheet. Hence, the ice sheet has been stretched in height in comparison to its length. Each profile represents about 1500 kilometres in length, and about 4000 metres in height.

This year is turning into a bumper year for ice bergs apparently, with reports of a large number in the sea off the coast of Canada, and into the North Atlantic.

The US Coastguard and the Canadian coastguard monitors the ice situation in the areas around the USA. There is likely to be an increase in their number as glaciers continue to retreat and become unstable. They have also been seen a lot earlier than usual this year. More signs of trouble ahead.

One (short term) benefit to an increased number of icebergs is that they are popular with tourists because of their beauty, so there may be more iceberg tours...

There were also plans in the news earlier this week to tow icebergs to places which are in need of fresh water, such as the UAE...

I'll keep you posted on the completion and availability of the finished resource pack.

Fieldwork Survey - another chance to help shape the support for teachers

Another request, if you have a few minutes, to provide your thoughts on the survey on FIELDWORK  launched at the GA conference. It's a questionnaire on fieldwork and outdoor learning which was developed by Philip Monk and other colleagues on the Fieldwork and Outdoor Learning Special Interest Group.

If you had time to fill the survey in, that would help to inform the GA's future support for Fieldwork and Outdoor Learning.
It's embedded below as well if you had time to help out.


Thanks in advance :)

Accessing Census data

Thanks to Catherine Brookes on the OCR Geography AS/A Level Facebook group for alerting me to the fact that on the 12th of May the old Data Explorer / Neighbourhood Statistics website section was closed down, and the functions moved to NOMIS.

Datashine is still available to perform some of the functions that this site did, but you may want to check the new website and the workflow through to the data you need if you were intending to use the old one any time soon.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Food and Landscapes

The Marks and Spencers food ads have always been creative and stylish, and some years ago they were remixed by Geographers, with their slogan, "this is not just food....." being appropriated...
The latest ad is excellent, and connects food with travel and landscapes.
I love elements of this...

Quake - a VR series

A new VR series. 

Quake is made up of 12 short-form audio dramas, each available online only and accompanied by a graphic-novel style animation, alongside an immersive, 360-degree, 3D film of the first episode in the series, Trapped Man.

The film - which sets the scene for the rest of the series - takes place inside a collapsed building. Viewers who are watching on VR headsets on YouTube and the Radio 4 website will become a central character in the drama. As the viewer’s eyes become accustomed to the darkness, the sights and sounds of their surroundings become apparent.

Each stand-alone episode tells the story of a different individual caught up in an earthquake; their stories interweave in a gripping non-linear narrative. Whilst the series starts with Trapped Man and ends with Search And Rescue, the remaining ten episodes can be selected in any order, allowing audiences to create the narrative that suits them.

The virtual reality film is made by Bafta Award-winning video production company BDH Immersive. Each of the subsequent episodes feature an accompanying animation made by Eight Engines.

Rhian Roberts, Digital Editor at Radio 4, says: “Quake is designed as something that can fit into whatever space you have available in the day, choosing episodes to suit or listening to the whole thing as a podcast. It’s an exciting innovation in how we offer Radio 4 drama to both new and existing audiences. The slow paced visuals offer an extra dimension to each episode, but it’s always the audio drama that leads the way.”

The film can be viewed on VR headsets, on the Radio 4 YouTube channel and on the Radio 4 website. The audio will also be available as a podcast.This pioneering audio drama series is inspired by the remarkable digital revolution in humanitarian efforts. With the creation of mobile internet, the world has found a new digital nervous system which enables thousands of ordinary people to help save lives. In Quake, this is illustrated in the episodes Crowd Sourcerer; Digital Jedis and Game Changer, where the humanitarian effort spreads beyond members of the local community to volunteers from across the world. Quake celebrates the anonymous philanthropy of the global digital community.

The series writer is Glyn Maxwell and the producer is Sharon Sephton

Quake will be available as a complete box-set from 15 May 2017 at Radio
 Here's the first episode 

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Thoughts from Prizegiving

The Senior prize-giving day at my school heard a speech from one of our parents: Maxwell Gomera, who is the Deputy Director of UNEP's World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
UNEP is the United Nations Environmental Programme.
Mr. Gomera talked about his upbringing, in a mining village in Zimbabwe, and meeting a former schoolmate, who had dropped out of school early.
I was interested in the section of his speech where he gave advice to students.
Firstly, if you're at school, you're still in the game, and you still have a chance, he said.
He shared a Shona proverb: "The chakata fruit on the ground belongs to all, but the one on the tree is for she who can climb".
He talked about the work the agency is doing to develop an Inclusive Wealth Index.
I hadn't heard of this before, but it seems from looking at the details and the previous reports that as well as being an economic indicator it is also packed full of geography.
Check out the domains which it involves, when talking about the crises that we face.

He stressed the importance of resilience, friendships, exploring other cultures, and keep on asking questions!
This was a well thought out speech, which I hope all our students took on board.
I look forward to finding out who our Junior school guest is... last year it was Eddie the Eagle.

Current listening.... Bjork and Hector Zazou

Augun min og Augun þin
Ó þa fögru steina
Mitt var þitt og þitt var mitt
þu veist hvað ég meina
Langt er siðan sa ég hann
Sannlega friður var hann
Allt sem prýða ma einn mann
mest af lýðum bar hann
þig ég trega manna mest
Mædda af tara flóði
Ó að við hefðum aldrei sést
elsku vinurinn góði

My eyes and your eyes
Oh, those fair stones
Mine was yours
and yours was mine
You know what I mean
Long has it been since I saw him
He was truly handsome
All the grace a man should have
He stood out from among them
You I mourn for most of all
Weary with a flood of tears
Oh, that we never had met
My fond friend, my dear

Fashion Revolution Week

I spent the last few weeks with Year 8 exploring who made their clothes. This is now turning into a useful display for the summer term, and I will share some of the ideas here as it takes shape ready for the summer term, when we have various events where we have visitors to the school.
Remember, you need to ask the companies that you obtain clothes where they, in turn, sourced their stock from.
What is the supply chain? How transparent is this? e.g the Nike Manufacturing map has some useful data, but could it be improved further?

The Fashion Revolution fanzine that we mentioned is linked to HERE (you can view it full screen and zoom in)
Some interesting work from the students this week, and yet again, something that I will return to next year.

Monocle on King's Cross redevelopment

I buy Monocle magazine occasionally, particularly when there are special features on livability, or cities, or quality of life. There's plenty of interest in this chunky publication.
The most recent issue also had a reminder of some of the video materials that are produced and shared by the publication.
One of these is an excellent video on the redevelopments in the area around King's Cross. This is an area that colleagues are focussing on for their work on Changing Places, and also some fieldwork with older students too. As an area, there are plenty of opportunities for exploring the redevelopment itself and also its use. It has drawn university buildings, restaurants and other activities there, along with a concert venue in King's Place.
There are also the new UK offices for Google there, and I've visited the YouTube Creator Store a few times with my kids (the last time I visited they'd just launched a new product range, so I was given a free glass of prosecco and cup cakes while my kids browsed)
I've wandered through the area a few times when exploring that part of London, and have visited the parks, and the riverside seating area There are plenty of trendy bars and it's becoming a destination in itself...

My colleague Claire has also put together a really excellent cultural set of resources to help our students to explore ideas of challenge in urban areas and how London has change over the years. I will be sharing some ideas from that in another post...

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Let's go fly a kite

The Norfolk Coast has some great beaches. I've been to most of them numerous times, and proposed to my future wife on one of them... what a romantic eh?
However, some of them are popular with people who want to do activities which would be dangerous to some of the other people who might want to use the same space.
Brancaster beach, for example, is popular with kite surfers. It is also protection for the golf course behind, which has some erosion problems.
The National Trust, which manages this stretch of coastline (they own quite a lot)
They have introduced a zonation system to keep people safe.

This would make an introduction to the idea of zoning land for management purposes...

Which other areas have similar zoning decisions?

Fidget Spinners

The latest trend to annoy teachers across the country following dabbing, bottle-flipping and the loom band, although there are some who say these particular objects help pupils to concentrate, or remove stress. I have to say I'm not one of those people...

I started thinking about the sourcing of these objects, following on from the Follow the Things work that we have been doing on the supply chain of certain products.
We explored the raw materials, and their environmental impact. We considered the likely 'lifespan' of such items, and referenced previous fads such as loom bands and wondered "where are they now"?

We considered the idea of crowd funding and the millions raised to bring the fidget cube to life. Over £6 million!

This article from the New York Post describes some retailers in the USA having the sense to air freight them in to get them quicker, and one company selling 20 million in a month! They are selling out all over it seems. They are even seen as a business/office toy for adults.

AliBaba is the website for people to access Chinese suppliers, and find a suitable manufacturer, and we discovered plenty of factories in Shenzhen which make them. We then followed that up by looking at the location of this city which also houses the manufacturing of many other products.

I know that some science subjects have used them to explore forces and other principles of movement, but I'm not sure I'm in a hurry to do a geography of the fidget spinner unit...

Could also be scope for a debate topic about whether they should be banned.

Any other ideas out there?

Friday, 12 May 2017

New Google Earth - if it ain't broke?

New Google Earth has been released, and there are some good (and not so good) elements. These are my initial thoughts on first look during this week.

It's now optimised for Chrome and also for DESKTOP machines, so won't work on my MacBook Air at the moment, which is a bit annoying... It also won't work on mobile devices. And it won't work on my classroom desktop machine which is an HP - just hangs and tells me it's loaded 0 of billions.... This is a little inconvenient, but at least you can still use older versions such as the Google Earth Pro I've been using for a few years.

It looks good if you can get it to work, and there are plenty of new features - some of which aren't too useful... but some of which will speed up its use: the search function is much improved for example.

The switch from 2D to 3D reveals (in many but not all locations) some interesting 3D renderings of aerial scenes. This was a bit random - switching from 2D to 3D provides a new Ken Burns style rotation, but it's hard to get the view to exactly as you want it, and then it tends to be quite a low level flat view, without the option to see distant landscapes. Having said that, the effect is really very impressive if you go to a location where it's enabled, which is not the whole of the UK yet it seems. Cities work well. Ely is still flat, and has lost other elements too, whereas Norwich and Sheffield work really well.

I've worked out how to tilt the view, by holding down shift and scrolling the mouse wheel or holding down the left mouse button and moving the mouse forwards and backwards...

There are some new stories which have been curated for the new Earth, such as HOME.
The HOME stories are also trailed in the Google Earth extension which I have on Chrome, which shows a new aerial view each time I open a window.
From an article on the launch:

Google Earth’s Gopal Shah said: ‘With the new Earth, we want to open up different lenses for you to see the world and learn a bit about how it all fits together; to open your mind with new stories while giving you a new perspective on the locations and experiences you cherish.
‘It’s everything you love about Google Earth, plus new ways for you to explore, learn and share. Zoom in and see what adventures await you in the new Google Earth.’
I've come to the conclusion that I'll probably carry on using the Google Earth Pro version that I have downloaded to my machine until the iOS version comes out, when hopefully the interface is back that makes it useful, and maybe other aspects have been amended from this current launch version.
I've not tried it with my 3D Space Explorer mouse yet either to see whether that works well.

The Google World Wonders site which I worked on a few years ago also seems to have disappeared... I luckily downloaded all the education packs several years ago, and have then on my Mac.

Does anybody else have any thoughts on the new Google Earth?

Pink Floyd at the V&A

I'm really looking forward to seeing this at the Victoria and Albert museum... Looking ahead to my next trip to London, perhaps around an SPC meeting. Nearly 30 years since I last saw them live... An Old Elean Aubrey Powell was also behind many of the album cover designs...

Flash Flood Games

For those who are interested, and want to learn more about this game.
Game can be obtained from SourceForge

GA Magazine - Summer 2017

The latest edition of the GA Magazine is out, and as always there is a summary of the GA conference, including several pictures of me in action and conversation at the Teachmeet. There's also a report on the Charney Primary Geography Conference, and the usual features including a cracking two pages of Webwatch featuring mentions of the Ice Flows Game, Dollar Street and many more.

GA members can download a PDF copy now, and hard copies will be arriving shortly.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Innovative Geography Teaching Grants 2017

Good news earlier today, as I heard that Peter Knight of Keele University and I are the recipients of a Royal Geographical Society Innovative Geography Teaching Grant to fund a joint project exploring landscapes and Changing Places.

Here's a bit of text from the application document that I put together.
Title of project:
Inspirational Places: Changing Places

--> ‘A’ level teachers are currently teaching new exam specifications for the first time. The addition of ‘new’ areas including Global Governance has caused some concern. One area frequently included in requests for support on online forums and Facebook support groups is the Changing Places topic. I worked on a chapter in the CUP ‘A’ level textbook on this topic, and enjoyed revisiting themes first introduced in the OCR Pilot GCSE course.

For some years, Dr. Peter Knight teaches a unit called ‘Inspirational Landscapes’ as a third year undergraduate module (level 6) as part of the BA and BSc Hons Geography degree pathways at Keele University. This introduces students to creative ways of interpreting, and (re)presenting place, with parallels to ideas on the new specifications. It is mentioned in this ‘Geographical’ article:

Both applicants have a long-standing interest in work connecting academic and school geography contexts. The grant would provide an opportunity for them to team up.
The proposed output would be online resources to support teachers in their understanding of key themes in Changing Places, provide them with practical strategies and resources for teaching, and offer a bibliography of additional reading and resources for exploration and research.

Progress will be reported here on LivingGeography... 

Image: Alan Parkinson

RGS Awards

The annual RGS-IBG awards provide recognition for people from various fields of geography, including High Education, public policy, dissemination and engagement and also schools.
Each year, 2 teachers are awarded with the Ordnance Survey Award for excellence from the RGS.
Nine years ago now, ...nine!... I was honoured to receive the award. It remains one of the proudest moments of a career spent living geography...

This year, Paul Turner from Bedales School, and Claire Power were the two recipients.

There were also awards for 2 other people in particular whose work I have used.
James Cheshire has produced a range of excellent maps and tools on the data - he is getting an award.
Ian Cook et al, who are responsible for Follow the Things, and a whole range of other useful tools are receiving the Taylor and Francis award won by Professor David Lambert last year.

Well done to all the award winners. You will have a wonderful day in early June....

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Exam Command Words

As we approach the exam season, you may find it useful to check out this presentation from Simon Jones - one of many useful ones that he has shared. This would also make a more permanent classroom display.

Keeping skills in focus

Shared here so that I remember it, but this is a nice idea for each unit and assessment / practice session: to keep the order of the skills the same, but just change the topic / context...
Will be interesting to see how it works out.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Revision videos by Ali Gray

Thanks to Paul Baker for passing through a link to Ali Gray's YouTube channel, where videos are being shared which might be useful for Common Entrance exam, or relevant revision for the younger years. Thanks for creating and sharing them Ali!

Digital Addiction Video from HMC

I used this today in form time. It's a useful short video on digital addiction which went down well and prompted discussion...

Monday, 8 May 2017

University of Birmingham GCSE Event

Via Chris Revitt. An opportunity for teachers and students close to Birmingham.

Year 8 Explore Geography Day, 6 July 2017
We would like to invite you to the University of Birmingham’s forthcoming Explore Geography Day: GCSE and beyond, to be held on Thursday 6 July 2017, run by the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences.
The event aims to excite students about Geography and other related subjects taught in the School (Geology, Environmental Sciences and Urban and Regional Planning) to help Year 8 students in their preparation for their GSCE choices.

The Welcome session will address ‘Why study Geography?’ from the perspective of current AS students, undergraduate students and researching staff. The interactive workshop sessions have been designed to give students an insight into the range of subjects which are on offer in the School. Throughout the day pupils will meet current students and also have the opportunity to tour the campus, to get a feel for what it’s like to be a university student.
This will be followed by various workshops, including an interactive session in our newly £2.5 million redeveloped Lapworth Museum of Geology.

Students will experience an interactive workshop on the adaptations of dinosaurs, and a hands on session exploring volcanoes and their products.

The event is free of charge and registration is now open for bookings, with a maximum booking size of 10 students per school. Places will be allocated on a first-come-first served basis. Pupils will be expected to bring their own lunch, although light refreshments will be provided. Alternatively, there is a café opposite the Geography Building where food can be purchased.

How to Register

To register for the day, please visit our event Booking Form at If you have any queries regarding the event please contact Alexandra Dublin, Tel: 0121 414 4691 or email

This day has been designed to excite students about studying Geography at GCSE and beyond - we welcome students who are undecided on their GCSE choices in the hope that we can help them make an informed decision.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Nail Houses

I liked this article which shows the position of a few nail houses.
I have used these before to discuss how people sometimes oppose developments. The pace of change in China has meant quite a few of them developing - sometimes there are doubts about the validity of some of the images though.

Edith Macefield was the sort of person who probably helped inspire the hero of Pixar's "Up", who eventually heads off in his house which is being surrounded by new developments.

UWE Geography Conference

Details here of an event for colleagues who teach in the Bristol area.
It's the annual UWE Geography Conference, organised by the Bristol GA.

It's organised by the redoubtable Garry Atterton, who I haven't seen for a few years now, and Mark Jones.
This year the keynote is from Mary Biddulph.
If you follow links from the Bristol GA blog you will also see other recent activity and courses.

I was happy to have been invited to a previous UWE conference to be a keynote speaker, way back in 2010. 

My keynote deck has disappeared into the ether, although my Slideshare account has several hundred others...

Jam today...

What a great story...
Borchgrevink is a name to conjure with...

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Young Geographer of the Year 2017

The 2017 title for the Young Geographer of the Year competition has been released, and it's a good one again.
We will be entering this competition with Year 7 and 8 students, and hoping to do better than in recent years.

This year's title is:
"What is the Geography of your favourite place?"

They will be introduced to this in the final half term, once exams are out of the way, and we have also finished a few other things.

For more information, go to the RGS website, where you can find more information, and also the

I've had to think about where my favourite place, and have kicked things off by

Here are the details from the RGS website.

Place’ is one of the most important terms used by geographers, allowing an exploration of the people, processes and connections that make particular places meaningful.

Everyone’s favourite place is different and unique. It could be somewhere everyday – such as a local space, a football stadium or a museum – or somewhere extraordinary – such as a holiday destination, a place that holds a special memory, or a place that you have read about or seen in a film.

In an exploration of their favourite place, students should consider how their favourite place is shaped by local, national and global process, and what these geographical processes – both physical and human – are; the people and connections that make this place meaningful; and the social, cultural, political and environmental geography of their favourite place.

The competition has four categories: 
Key Stage 2 (students aged 9-11), 
Key Stage 3 (students aged 11-14), 
Key Stage 4 or GCSE (students aged 14-16) and 
Key Stage 5 or A Level (students aged 16-18). 

The Society encourages schools to run their own local semi-finals before entering their top-placed entries into the national competition.

The deadline for all entries is 9.00am on Friday 13 October 2017.

If you want a presentation to get you started, with a focus on Norfolk, but which has quite a few nice quotes, feel free to take a look at at this one of mine. It's showing its age a bit but some of the slides would be useful I think for ideas. There are also some nice ideas to adapt on the Tutor2U Geography page.

There's also a separate competition for newly qualified teachers for the Rex Walford Award.

GA Conference 2017 #18 - next year...

This is the last post to sum up the GA Conference for 2017

Bryan Ledgard's official photos have gone up on the GA's Flickr page

Next year's conference is to be held in Sheffield.

GA Annual Conference and Exhibition
Sheffield Hallam University, Thursday 5–Saturday 7 April 2018

For the theme of the 2018 Annual Conference I would like us to reflect on geography in the real world, and how its application affects our daily lives.
As I write this I am connected to a global network linking the physical, human and virtual worlds: I use a laptop from China powered by electricity generated from various sources; I drink coffee from South America; I track a delivery that tells me I am ‘stop 12’ in a carefully mapped route; I email this text through an invisible network of servers located around the world.
While we may recognise geography’s ubiquity, we need to make young people and the wider public more aware of the role that geographical knowledge and skills play in the real world. This Conference will explore how we can share with a wider audience the real-world geography that surrounds our everyday lives. Whether we like it or not, we are all geographers.
Nick Lapthorn, GA Senior Vice President, 2016–17

Sheffield Hallam University is next to the railway station, so a good location.

I'll be there of course. It's good to see it doesn't clash with my daughter's birthday or my wedding anniversary, as has sometimes happened in the past...

It will also be the GA's 125th anniversary year, so plenty of opportunities there...

I've already got a few ideas bubbling away...

GA Conference 2017 #17 Some more presentation slides and sessions I didn't get to..

Over the next few weeks, Milan at the GA will be adding many of the presentations from the GA conference to the Conference page. You can also view presentations from previous years. There are plenty of mine on there already from previous conferences going back years...

Leah Sharp and David Rogers shared their story at the Teachmeet in brief, but there was a better full presentation that David shared on his blog, which looked at their transition project.

David wrote it up here.

I also missed Ellena and Richard's VR session on the final day...

This was also well received, and there was good support from Shailey and Ana from Google Expeditions.

You can also give the GA your FEEDBACK on the conference by clicking the link.


Out last Wednesday evening to the theatre to see Ventoux by the 2 Magpies Theatre company. For those who have not heard about the play, it is about the rivalry between Lance Armstrong and Marco Pantani, which came to a head on their ascent of Mont Ventoux.

As you may be able to see from the poster below, there's a famous tower on the mountain, and this has been turned into a hypodermic needle...

A good night...
Catch the tour while you can.
More details here.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Costa for Schools - new resources being promoted

I had an e-mail today from Costa. 

I signed up for their resources a few years ago, and the e-mail was to tell me about their exciting new Geography resources which supplement those that I wrote previously.

The twist is that I'm the one who also wrote these new resources earlier in the year. I've previously blogged about them, but they are now being properly launched, and people have been told about them.

They explore three new enquiry questions, which are shown below.
Thanks also to the St. Ivo teacher who provided the nice review comments below.
Go here to sign up for the resources, which are then free to download. Request your free coffee map poster while you're at it, and let me know what you think.

Lyme Regis - the case for hard engineering

A great ESRI StoryMap exploring coastal defences... and the case for protecting Lyme Regis.

GA Conference 2017 #16 - Keynote lecture

The second keynote lecture was given by Peter Hopkin: a Professor of Social Geography, Newcastle University, which was in the area of YPG.

He had done a range of research into Young People’s Geographies, hence the connection with Mary's Presidency and curation of the conference theme. I was involved with the Young People's Geographies project while teaching, and took some Year 10 students along, and later ended up running the YPG days towards the end of the project while working for the GA.
I was reminded of this quote from Gill Davidson's evaluation report on the YPG:

"The project can celebrate the fact that teachers are genuinely engaged in effective curriculum making and exploring new and innovative approaches to learning and teaching geography alongside their pupils. They are actively involved in re-conceptualising the relationship between subject knowledge and pedagogy and are taking ownership of their geography curriculum."

Young People, Place and Identity was the theme of Peter Hopkins' talk, and how young people 'identified'.
  • Islamophobia and issues of identity – how people view young people in terms of whether they are disinterested / radicalised.
  • Sometimes young people are marginalised as part of assumptions based on their age
  • One new phrase I picked up on was participatory diagramming, or in other words, using flip chart and post it notes…
Some interesting thoughts on an area that I hadn't really considered before, and some interesting questions on how perspectives may vary depending on whether young people lived in urban or rural areas. 

Was reminded also of the work I'd done at the time when teaching, and which was on my old GeographyPages website. The website is now gone, but you can access it using the WAYBACK MACHINE.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

GA Conference #15 - Day 3 - GeoGnomes

Saturday morning got underway early - perhaps after the Beermeet the evening before a little too early... then I found that Starbucks was closed, which scuppered my breakfast plans. Grabbed some orange juice and a quick chat with Tony Cassidy before heading to grab a seat at Sharon Witt and Helen Clarke's session, which I knew was going to be totally awesome.

The first session of the day was again over-subscribed, and over 60 people squeezed into the room for a much-anticipated session. Sharon Witt and Helen Clarke launched their ‘gnomifesto’ for curriculum making and provided a huge range of ideas connected with gnomes and their place in the world. They talked about how gnomes could be used as a context for exploring the curriculum.

They started by explaining that the word gnome comes from the meaning “to know”, so with the knowledge-turn, gnomes are ideally placed to contextualise this for students.

They described the ways that gnomes can be used to help young people explore (un)familiar places. We had a go at producing words that gnomes might give to landscape and urban features.

I was able to share some of the word-hoard that teachers had developed with Robert MacFarlane who had inspired the original activity, using Twitter. He took the time to reply and ask for a little more information. If children speak the language of “childish” when describing landscapes, this was about developing the idea of “gnomish”. We had gnomes as urban explorers, and geologists.

Sharon shared an urban streetscape activity, which she had adapted from an activity that had been used by Stephen Scoffham at the Charney Conference (see previous posts). There were hats, puppets (a variation on the pigeon geographies of the previous year) and a special badge to induct us into the Gnome Association.

For Early Years practitioners, they provided a range of ideas, including some ‘simpler’ ones such as “what is as red as a gnome’s hat”, or “what is the same shape as a gnome’s hat”.

It was playful and imaginative and the highlight of the conference for me.

Monday, 1 May 2017

The Human Atlas of Europe

The Human Atlas of Europe: A continent united in diversity
A review

Here are three important dates to remember for geographers…

· June 23rd 2016 – the EU referendum is held
· March 29th 2017 – Article 50 triggered
· April 24th 2017 – publication of the new Human Atlas of Europe

Policy Press previously published a Social Atlas of Europe, with the same author team in 2014, which explored European identify through a range of different facets.

This Atlas explores provides a human perspective on Europe as it exists today, and explores how it might look in the future. The motto of the EU is “United in Diversity”, and the authors explore the strength that this diversity offers, viewing ‘Europe’ as a single large area stretching from Iceland to Turkey. A reference map at the start identifies the 43 countries that are included in the maps, and their part in the evolution of the European Union.

Ben Hennig’s innovative and bold cartograms and other diagrams will be familiar to many, since their first use in Worldmapper. They also formed part of the more recent LondonMapper project. For those who haven’t seen Ben’s gridded-population cartograms, their construction is explained. The presentation of the mapping is crisp, and the consistent layout of the pages and colour ramps that are used allow for easy comparison between indicators across the atlas as a whole.

The atlas is split into a number of sections, each with mapping based around a theme. These are Population, Wealth and Poverty, Health, Education, Work, Environment, Politics, Identity and Culture and EU budget. Each theme also allows for an exploration of demographic issues such as an ageing population, the pensions ‘timebomb’ and changing voting patterns.

The data used to construct the maps are drawn from a range of authoritative sources, all clearly identified in the appendix. We learn many things from them: the huge number of asylum seekers hosted by Germany, the draw of Spain for people born abroad, the fact that Turkey and the UK have a third of Europe’s prison population between them, and the variations in dental treatment across Europe. The maps are accompanied by pie and bar charts, which bring some of the data patterns into sharper focus.

Full-page maps are accompanied by a ‘top five’ and ‘bottom five’ for the relevant social indicators, showing regions which lie at the extremes of each data set. These assist in further analysis of specific trends. Each map also have a written commentary, which suggest further areas for investigation. The maps pose many interesting questions for further enquiry: why does Monaco have twice as many telephone lines as any other country? why do so many Portuguese have no schooling? why are the Dutch the ‘happiest’ in Europe? why do the Macedonians value their friends the most? The authors are adept at bringing out the geographical stories underpinning the maps.

The inclusion of a Eurovision Song contest map for the 2015 contest is an illustration of the flexibility of Ben Hennig’s cartograms for exploring and visualising contemporary social data.

The dedication of the Atlas to the late Jo Cox, who was killed in the run-up to the referendum, and to those migrants who have lost their lives trying to reach Europe is a poignant reminder of the importance of these issues, and the duty that geography teachers as educators have to keep them in the spotlight. It is essential that curriculum time is found to study them. In the act of curriculum making they participate in daily, this atlas will be an essential catalyst for teacher-pupil discussions, and an authoritative source of information as we move towards a post-Brexit world. As the authors say in the concluding paragraph:

“Where else but in Europe do so many have so much without realising what they have? Europe is a continent that is truly united in such diversity”.

This would make an excellent purchase for those grappling with some of the themes in new specifications, or who want a fresh perspective on familiar issues such as population and health.

Authors: Dimitris Ballas, Danny Dorling and Ben Hennig
Policy Press, April 2017
ISBN: 978-1447313540

The book is just £16 at the time of writing from the publisher’s own website:

For more of Ben Hennig’s maps, check out his blog here:

Danny Dorling’s website always contains further details on the books he has written, and provides a gateway to his writing:

Disclaimer: I was sent a review copy by Policy Press (although I would have bought one for my department as a reference copy)

Send my friend to school 2017

I've been involved in this campaign every year since it first launched, and it's nearly time to start preparing for 2017.

World leaders have promised every child in the world a quality education.
But a key piece of the puzzle is missing - the money to pay for this education - leaving the global picture with 263 million children missing out on school, and many more in school not learning. Now is the time to act to solve this crisis. We have a window of opportunity - 2017 is the year that world leaders can translate their words into action and fund education for all.

As part of the campaign, thousands of children across the country are creating paper jigsaw pieces, to represent that financing is the missing piece of the education puzzle, and sending them to their newly elected or re-elected MPs following the results of the UK General Election. It is important that as many MPs as possible can hear about the campaign so that they can see the strength of support for education.

Last year around 400 000 young people got involved. Can we get more this year?

Teachers can request resources to help them get involved in the campaign.

GA Conference 2017 #14 - Teachmeet and Beermeet

The Teachmeet was held in the Hillside Restaurant. Lucy Oxley and the GA team had supported David Rogers in the organisation of the event, which was sponsored by Discover the World, NST Travel, Bloomsbury Education (who provided the beermats) and Geography all the Way.

Richard Allaway had sponsored the drinks and food, and there was plenty of both, which were very welcome.
The setting was more informal than the previous year(s), and there was a good atmosphere – the beer helped with that. It was good so see Andy Knill, and other colleagues past and present.

As always, there was a random element to the order that the talks came out.
Simon Ross introduced us to some Norwegian music describing landscape, including Ola Gjeilo's "Tundra"

Bob Lang talked about the Dear Data project and how it inspired a cross-curricular art project in his school in Birmingham.

Steve Rackley performed his “Ode to Hans” Rosling – this was an excellent and moving analysis of how Hans’ work had influenced his work. This was another highlight of my conference.

I followed with my “It's been emotional” presentation on Emojis and how they could be used. Emojiography

Here's Bryan's image of me in action:

Image Copyright Bryan Ledgard / Geographical Association and used with permission.

I also liked Ali’s session where he gave us a Mentimeter code for our devices and asked us to provide 3 words to describe the Ideal Geography teacher.
The final session was by James Riley, who talked about the Missing Maps project which had also been part of our British Red Cross session.
We finished just about on time. An excellent Teachmeet once again.

Beermeet followed, over at the Albany pub and it was good to see Andy Knill come up from his new home in Dorset to join us.
The Albany was where the first Beermeet was held 9 years ago.

A good end to a very full day of Geography.