Friday, 27 November 2009

GA Post-16 National Conference

Image by Alan Parkinson - as seen in "Look at it this Way"...

Details of the Geographical Association's first Post 16 National Conference are now on the GA website.

This will take place in London on the 22nd of June 2010

This conference will discuss ways to enhance A-level teaching and learning through two major themes: rivers, floods and management and the impact of urban change. The workshops will include ideas for fieldwork and the use of ICT, and how to prepare students for the fieldwork examination questions.

Online booking already available...

There are large discounts for student GA members.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

The Climate Challenge

OXFAM have launched a new website called "THE CLIMATE CHALLENGE" ahead of the Copenhagen climate conference.

It has a range of games and quizzes featuring celebrities (some of whom you may have heard of) and, usefully, a series of downloads which include the following things below to clutter up your blog post...

The game is also available in a range of languages including CHINESE....
Why might that be ?

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Water Conflicts

A very useful Sky News video....

Royal Academy of Art exhibition

My wife went on a school art trip down to the Royal Academy of Arts and Tate Modern yesterday. Below are a few of the images she took of the sculptures outside the building.
There was also news of a forthcoming exhibition at the Royal Academy called EARTH: Art of a changing world...
This is timed to coincide with the Copenhagen Climate Change talks, and opens on the 5th of December and goes through to

I'm in London during that period so will certainly be going along.

There is also a connection with the CAPE FAREWELL project which I used as my POLAR context when teaching the OCR Pilot GCSE Geography...

Thursday, 5 November 2009

"Rebranding" in Lake District

The classic "Elderly People" traffic sign has often been criticised for its depiction of an impression of elderly people that might be less than appropriate.

A recent item in the Daily Mail (my favourite online newspaper resource) showcased a response to this in the Lake District.

Cumbria Tourism placed an alternative version of the sign on the Old Man of Coniston (that's a landform by the way, not a person...)

This was part of a "rebranding" of the Lake District as "the capital of adventure"....

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

The Future of Work

A new presentation from the creator of "Thirst"...
Via Simon Jones on Twitter...

Friday, 25 September 2009

Social Inequality

Perfect for the Unequal Spaces unit at 'AS'

Image by Alan Parkinson, and available under Creative Commons license

A conference for level 3 students of Geography, Humanities, Sociology and Health Studies.
Organised by Carl Lee, and took place at the University of Sheffield.

Danny Dorling and colleagues John Pritchard and Dan Vickers from SASI were present, and presented on the issue of Social Inequality, using images from WORLDMAPPER and talking about their work.

The second session involved a discussion on tackling inquality.

Thanks to Carl for the invitation. Carl has added a range of the resources that were used at the event to the EDEXCEL 'A' LEVEL NING. It is also worth hunting out a copy of Carl's excellent book on Sheffield: "Home: a Personal Geography of Sheffield"

The SASI website features a range of very useful links for those interested in teaching and learning about social inequality.

Some notes that I took in the first part of the day will hopefully be added in due course...

Friday, 18 September 2009

Facebook Profile Template

Check out the profile template of TONY CASSIDY.

The resources take the shape of a template to produce a FACEBOOK-style "profile"
The profile is for a geographical context: a landform, city, development indicator, famous person, body of water... etc.
The template is here:

And followed shortly after by a TWITTER template, also produced by the inimitable Tony...

Quality stuff...

UPDATE: Here is some fantastic work by Year 9 students from Seaford Head Community College, who used the idea in their Geography lessons with Miss Smith. I love these. Thanks for sharing. I'd love to see some other examples...

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Using Flip videos in the classroom

This has great potential for use with A level students !!

If you haven't already watched this programme on Teachers TV, then you really need to.
And if you haven't already bought a FLIP (or similar) video then you really need to....
Paul Cornish, of the excellent GEOGRAPHER website helps a colleague from a different school to explore the use of video in the classroom.

This is a wonderful resource, which includes a range of ideas for using video in the classroom, and certainly went beyond how I used it: an excellent "living" climate graph example...

It led me to a new tip which I hadn't been aware of before, which provides a particularly neat method for embedding "live" YOUTUBE (or other TUBE) videos into powerpoint.
Of course, this requires the videos to be hosted on a site which is accessible in school, which may be an issue for some colleagues. You need to have a live internet connection for this to work.

I used a video from YouTube with very straightforward instructions (and then recursively used that same video when I tried the method myself):
  • If you have an older version of powerpoint CLICK HERE
  • If you have Powerpoint (Office) 2007 CLICK HERE

Had a go and it worked very well.
Needs to have a cut and paste, and then some changes to the PROPERTIES of the Shockwave flash object (video). You also have to enable the DEVELOPER tab in powerpoint if you haven't already got that enabled.
This creates a window on the slide with a video which can be made to LOOP or not, and START AUTOMATICALLY or not...
These can be included with other text and graphics (and other videos) on the same powerpoint slide in an appropriate place.

All the resources that Paul uses in his lesson are contained on the TEACHERS TV PAGE.

Would be interested to hear from colleagues who have used this method, and how they used it...

Started to put together a PPT with step by step instructions which I shall add here when I've finished it - got a few other priority things to finish first...

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Latest Shift Happens update

Latest Shift Happens update

Because it fills 5 minutes of any CPD session...

Podcasts for A level

Some useful podcasts produced in association with NERC and made available at the Geological Society website.

Thanks to Stuart Hitch for the tipoff, via SLN.

Topic include Coastal erosion in Norfolk, flooding, soils and groundwater and volcanic activity.

Friday, 4 September 2009

New GA website now live....

The GA web team: Anne Greaves and Ben Major, have been working away for months with designers Ledgard Jepson on a new website for the Geographical Association, and it is now live, after several weeks of beta testing and tweaking. Visit the GA URL to see the new site.

The site looks a lot brighter, clearer and easier to navigate, and uses more of the screen’s width. Thanks to a major effort on tagging the resources, it is also easier to find things using the ‘Search’ function if they are not immediately obvious from the home page, and a new ‘Resource Finder’ should help you find something appropriate to the key stage and topic that you are interested in quickly, or items written by a particular author.

A one page user guide to the new site and how it’s laid out can be downloaded by following the link (PDF download):

Members can also bookmark their most useful sections of the website on their own personal homepage. Logging in to the site will provide members with details about their account, and allow access to the journals which you subscribe to.

There are plenty of new items in the shop, which are displayed in a scrolling window, which will also suggest items that might be of relevance to you if you login.

News is easier to find, and has all been updated.

If you are not already a GA member, this is a good time to join and take advantage of the many membership benefits.

The website is also home to all the resources supporting the GA’s manifesto for school geography “a different view”.

Download the latest GA MAGAZINE from the site now

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Extreme Environments CPD

Teaching students about EXTREME ENVIRONMENTS in KS 3, 4 or 5 ?
There's an event planned for the 23rd of October in Sheffield which you might find useful.
It's being organised by the Prince's Teaching Institute, in association with the Geographical Association and the Fuchs Foundation.
It includes a keynote by Professor David Lambert.
Full details are available HERE.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Animoto now with added video...

Here's a quick video I put together to try it out...

Now when people ask me at CPD sessions "can you put videos into Animoto" I can say, "Yes, yes you can...."

Cultural Globalisation

Another Twitter tipoff is the CULTURAL MUSIC maps (thanks to the #musicmapping hashtag, which is worth further investigation)

This uses the GRACE NOTE service, which is used to add TRACK INFO to iTunes and other music player software, such as my Creative Zen XFi....
As you can see, the map can be used to focus on a particular country, and you are then presented with the current most popular Top Ten artists and albums for that country.

So in Spain for example, there is currently an interest in Michael Jackson and U2, but also some local artists.
This is particularly interesting when related to places such as China or Japan.
These seem to have fewer European and American acts, particularly Japan. Mousing over the acts and albums tells you a little more about them.
Worth using for investigating cultural globalisation and the spread of certain musical artists worldwide.

Which countries have indigenous artists resisting the cultural imports ?

Lady Gaga big in China ? - enquiry into why ?

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Devon Coastal Landscapes

Some images which people may find a use for, from my family holiday....

A little Flickrslidr slideshow of some of my favourite Devon images

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Urban Geographies of Brighton

Nice Urban Geographies of Brighton work by Liz Smith.

Discovering the Arctic

The sister site to Discovering the Antarctic has now been launched, and is live.

Discovering the Arctic has a range of resources, images and activities which make it an essential visit for those using the Polar regions as a context for learning activities.
Developed by the RGS-IBG in association with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Scottish Association for Marine Science, and the British Antarctic Survey.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Climate Change projections

Part 1 of the outcomes from Flood Management 09 at the Barbican earlier this week...

Many of the speakers referred to the latest climate projections which had been released on the DEFRA website earlier that week, and had been reported in many of newspapers.

Hilary Benn introduces the projections as being very 'sobering'.

5 things that need doing:

1. to protect people from the immediate risks
2. to plan (e.g. motorway drainage, emergency plans) for the future - the adaptation report is currently being consulted on until September (one for 6th formers perhaps to get involved with
3. to work internationally on a climate agreement

Also refers to importance of Copenhagen 2009 - the website is well worth visiting - has plenty of useful resources for teachers and students

4. to play our part - reduction targets need to be met - working towards a LOW CARBON UK
5. supporting individuals e.g. through the Act on CO2 campaign.

The models can be seen by following the links from DEFRA site above.

A Met Office introduction to the projections here:

Delve into the projections page to find all sorts of maps, graphics and information on the likely changes between now and 2080 on a range of climate indicators.

Explore these with students...

Also head over to the UNEP Seal the Deal site.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Leeds University free CPD for Secondary Geography

Quite a lot of relevance to some Edexcel topics...

The annual event for secondary geographers will take place later this month: on Saturday the 20th of June, at Leeds University. is a PDF file with all the details that you will need. Some excellent sessions.

Visit the website for more details on how to book - there are still spaces available.

The event is free, and delegates will be given refreshments, a buffet lunch and materials to take away.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Geography Training: Edexcel units possibly ?

Geography training has a new face: well, two 'new faces' actually...

From 1st June 2009, a new geography CPD provider is available.

Launching today is a new CPD training opportunity for colleagues in the UK, and beyond...
GEOGRAPHY TRAINING joins together the Geographical Association's own Alan Parkinson, with International Baccalaureate specialist, and creator of Geography all the Way: Richard Allaway.
In addition to the existing face-to-face and online CPD opportunities available from the Geographical Association, we offer a tailored service, with training to match your needs, at a venue to suit you.

Areas of speciality:

  • Creative approaches for the teaching of Geography
  • The use of Information and Communication Technology in Geography teaching
  • Recent changes to the Key Stage 3 and GCSE programmes
  • International Baccalaureate Geography - including the 2009 syllabus change
  • IGCSE Geography
  • Training focused upon application such as Google Earth, GIS applications, web2 tools etc

If you are interested please get in touch to discuss our availability and the necessary fees.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Geography of Disease

How did the pig get on the roof ?
....the swine flew...

Great BRAIN POP animation

For those using the "Geography of Disease"

Saturday, 2 May 2009


New look for GeographyPages - now with added Manifesto....

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Tornado Websites

Firstly, again via Paul on SLN, there is a link to an online GIS style resource...


There is also a TORNADO CHASE GAME

If you're on Twitter, you can also sign up to follow the NETWEATHER forum team on their storm chase... Has a live stream to follow when the chase is on !

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

One for you or your AS students ?

Free Fieldwork courses: Teacher Master-class & AS Student Summer School

An opportunity for students and teachers alike...

The Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) is providing fully funded opportunities for AS geography students and for geography teachers through our Learning and Leading programme.

They are offering fully funded places on two separate residential courses, based at the RGS-IBG in London led by experienced staff from the Society and other professionals. Full costs will be covered including accommodation, food and travel to and from RGS-IBG:

Teacher Fieldwork Masterclass: Monday 17th - Friday 21st August 2009
Teachers will visit a wide range of sites in London which provide opportunities for teaching and learning in geography – topics include the Olympics and sustainability. The course will cover a variety of fieldwork techniques, ideas for low cost and local fieldwork and safety management and ideas for easy to use ICT and GIS. There will be opportunities to share experiences with other teachers and plan and create resources to take back to school and share with others.

AS student Fieldwork Summer School: Monday 24th - Friday 28th August 2009
Students will visit a wide range of sites in London which provide opportunities for learning in geography. They will have the opportunity to develop investigative skills and use a variety of fieldwork techniques. They will find out about further study and career options in geography. The course will provide opportunities for personal development, working with other students from around the UK, building confidence and independence.

The aim of the programme is to increase the opportunities and motivation for self development among young people through the use of fieldwork, specifically supporting those who may not have been able to undertake such activities due to challenging circumstances or a lack of opportunity and who are keen to continue their geographical studies at university. In relation to teachers this supports the development of a department’s provision in geography.

We are requesting applications for both courses by Friday 8th May 2009. Further details and application forms can be downloaded from or by contacting:

Amber Sorrell
Learning and Leading Project Coordinator
Royal Geographical Society (with IBG)
T: 020 7591 3180

Added on behalf of Amber Sorrell

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Plastiki 17 days from launch...

Just been writing some resources for the GA's website on the forthcoming PLASTIKI expedition.
The GA will be involved in tracking and reporting on the voyage and providing some curriculum materials for using the voyage in the classroom by UK geography teachers.
The PLASTIKI is a vessel made from recycled plastic bottles. It will set sail from San Francisco in 17 days and counting (there is a countdown on the main website page linked to from above) and visit various locations reporting back on major environmental themes.

It will complement the current voyage of the BBC Box, which is another useful maritime example. The Box is currently in the Indian Ocean.

Friday, 3 April 2009


David Rayner has been busy again, and has produced a very useful new VIDEO 'CHANNEL' called GeoTube, which is hosted on a site called FLIGGO.
This is not banned in schools (well, not yet anyway)
It has a collection of useful videos, and this will grow over time.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Twitter and Data Mining

Flood Contingency map copyright the City of Fargo

Have been following a few stories recently, and using the idea of 'data mining' the 'Twittersphere' as a resource.
On the BBC News this morning, there was a report on the city of FARGO in North Dakota, where people were being evacuated due to record levels on the Red River..

For many people in the UK, 'Fargo' puts them in mind of the classic Coen Brothers film with the woodchipper... For others, it's paired with Wells on the side of stagecoaches in westerns...
For the residents of the city though, the current issue is that of record levels of flooding on the Red River, up to almost 41 feet above normal.
'Trending' on Twitter (i.e. one of the most popular current words or tags that are included in people's 'tweets') is the word FARGO
Using a service like TWITTER SEARCH or TWITTERFALL, the tweets with the word FARGO in them can be seen as they appear: sometimes 20 or 30 a minute... With the latter, they 'cascade' down the screen as they appear.

This is particularly useful because the nature of Twitter means that many users will post links to news reports, background reading, pictures of current events, or their personal thoughts, which means that an event is being 'broadcast' in a number of short inputs, but together these can be assembled to create an 'alternative narrative' for the events.

Reading the tweets is fascinating, as each one has a particular 'angle' or 'message', many offering a perspective on the story which makes one think about the event in a different way, and would provide tremendous material for some high-level descriptive or persuasive writing.

This is the sort of creative work that can act as a useful counterpoint to what we might call more 'traditional' resources and classroom activities. Used occasionally it might provide a useful 'news room' style event which could engage pupils and provide a memorable (even compelling) learning experience.

The city's website also has a great deal of useful information in the form of planning and floodplain maps HERE.

There are also other tags or hashtags e.g. #fargoflood emerging as the event develops.

The nature of these events is that they are ephemeral, and teachers would have difficulty planning a session in advance in many cases. The new KS3 PoS includes a deal more flexibility than in the past, and this means that there is a chance that if an event happens that is relevant to the particular units that are being taught in a longer term scheme, that time can be given to exploring events 'as they happen'... This sort of reactive, immediate work could prove to be valuable in preparing students for the sort of employment that they may well have in the future.

Of course, another issue is that what compels large numbers of people to 'talk' about the same thing is generally (although you can argue with me here) something 'negative', so we reinforce the idea of disaster geography, rather than reflecting on more positive changes and events. One can imagine that the next major earthquake, volcanic eruption etc. will all create a major outpouring of tweets... Are we still to have our first major post-Twitter disaster ?

In the meantime, my thoughts are with the people of Fargo as they watch the waters rise. My best wishes to you all, and of course to other settlements in the area, as although the focus may be on Fargo, other communities are also suffering....

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Gapminder reminder....

Thanks to Ollie Bray, who's in Vienna, for posting this link - if you haven't seen Gapminder before, you need to check it out... This was always fantastic for use with GCSE and 6th form groups. Visualisation is the new rock and roll...

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Monday, 23 March 2009

Exeter Urban Rebranding

Some great work from Jo Blackmore and colleagues /students at Okehampton College on an URBAN REBRANDING fieldtrip to Exeter.
Good to see the EDEXCEL NING turning into a really positive outcome: useful images and an excellent model for a fieldwork booklet. Thanks for sharing...

Friday, 20 March 2009

Photosynth: a possible fieldtrip activity

After the school run today, it was a quick trip up to Hunstanton to take 164 pictures of the famous stripy cliffs: the southern end of the cliffs near the promenade - thanks to my Nikon D40X that took about 5 minutes as I wandered from the carrstone boulders in the tidal zone, to the base of the cliff and zoomed in on some of the individual rocks in the red and white rockfall zones. The light wasn't ideal, but that wasn't really the point in this case.
I then batch-resized the images ready to create a PHOTOSYNTH.
Taking my cue from Ollie Bray's BLOG POST, I installed Microsoft Silverlight, and then PHOTOSYNTH itself (having to keep reminding myself to use Internet Explorer rather than my usual Chrome)
PHOTOSYNTH installs 2 programmes: a web-browser plugin for viewing the 'synths' and an application for creating them.
If you've read this far and are thinking "what's a Photosynth anyway ?", here is a DESCRIPTION.

A detailed GEOLOGICAL GUIDE of the cliffs can be viewed here (PDF download)


Also embedded below: needs SILVERLIGHT TO VIEW, and to be viewed in IE or Firefox

Let's try to collect together a GEOGRAPHICAL library of Photosynths...
If you've made one, please let me know....

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Google Street View UK launched

GA HQ on Street View - Image copyright Google and associated imaging partners...

Today is the launch of the widely anticipated Google Street View. I had an invitation to attend, and would like to have been there, but had another appointment today pre-booked.
Just following the LIVE LAUNCH on Sky News, which is also going out on TWITTER. People on TWITTER noticed it last night before the official launch.

UK cities covered so far

- Birmingham
- Bristol
- Cambridge
- Coventry
- Derby
- Leeds
- Liverpool
- London
- Manchester
- Newcastle
- Norwich,
- Nottingham,
- Oxford
- Scunthorpe
- Sheffield
- Southampton
- York
Northern Ireland
- Belfast
- Aberdeen
- Dundee
- Edinburgh
- Glasgow
- Cardiff
- Swansea

Friday, 13 March 2009

Results are in...

January module results are now in for the AS Units.

Also celebrating the first 100 posts on the blog.
Thanks for reading...

BBC Box Update

It's been a few weeks since my article on the BBC Box was featured in the GA Magazine.
A recent e-mail from James Woolven, who teaches in one of the GA's CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE reminded me to check on the box, and it has recently arrived in BRAZIL.
The BBC website follows some of the goods that arrived in the USA from China into the stores where they were sold.
The box was then loaded with a cargo of 'household goods'.
The box is now in Santos in Brazil, and there is another very useful BBC ARTICLE describing the changing economic circumstances facing Brazil. This would be very useful for 'A' level GLOBALISATION topics.

Thanks to James for also telling me about the AIS Ship Tracker website. It has a map which shows the current position of container shipping vessels around the coast of the UK. Click on a ship to find out more details of what the ship is carrying and where it is heading...

Red Nose Day

Don't forget to donate to Red Nose Day

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Billy Connolly in Canada and Nunavut

Bought a cheap copy of Billy Connolly's 'Journey to the Edge of the World' in a well known supermarket yesterday...Visit the ITV website for more details on the series, which would be good viewing for those people studying Extreme Environments and Cold Environments
There are some good descriptions of the changing landscape of areas like Nunavut, the majesty of icebergs and glaciers, and the experience of climbing one of the Tuktoyaktuk (also known locally as 'Tuk') pingos.
The ITV website has an interactive map and video footage, and you can catch up with episodes on the ITV PLAYER for the time being. There's also a GALLERY OF IMAGES.

Plenty of associated press and blog posts as well to flesh out the content.
The DVD is available from next monday, and features Billy's travelogue, which may provide an engaging classroom resource, although it has a 15 certificate, so there could be some 'fruity' language - your 6th formers will probably have heard it before though, maybe even from you ;)

Here's a taster...

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

DFID Consultation - Global Poverty

The Fight Against World Poverty
Where next for the UK?
Your chance to shape the debate...
CONSULTATION MEETINGS at venues around the country....

Register and have your say and find out the latest information so that your teaching is up to date...

“The Global community faces enormous challenges. The economic crisis, food security, climate change, energy insecurity, conflict, rising population – these are challenges of unprecedented magnitude which affect us all, and in particular the world’s poorest and most vulnerable. The nature of this interdependence means that it has never been so important to invest in our common future.” Douglas Alexander, Secretary of State for International Development (10 Feb 2009)

In response to the challenges currently being faced the Department for International Development (DFID) is working on a new narrative for international development that will culminate in a White Paper that will be published in July 2009.

At these events you’ll hear from a DFID Minister, a speaker from one of the many organisations that work hard to help eliminate global poverty e.g. Oxfam and inspiring stories from volunteers who have worked on an international development project. You’ll have the chance to ask the speakers any questions you have and to take part in debating a particular topic at your table that will be fed back and inform the direction of DFID’s work.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Latest edition of New Scientist

How to Survive the Coming Century...

The latest issue of New Scientist magazine has an article with an interactive map on how the world might look with a warming of 4 degrees celsius.
A fairly dystopian view...

Monday, 23 February 2009

There are still a few places left on an Africa day, which is going to take place at the Royal Geographical Society on Friday the 6th of March. The day will be led by Graham Goldup, and focus on updating teachers' subject knowledge, and promote collaboration between schools and teachers that have an interest in the continent.
Full details are available by clicking HERE, or on the picture below.
There are some top-notch speakers and the event will take place in the august surroundings of the RGS.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

London 2012: both sides of the coin...

My daughter is currently doing some half-term homework: designing a 50p coin to commemorate and celebrate the London 2012 Olympics, as part of a competition being run by Blue Peter...

Meanwhile, here is Noel Jenkins with the first of a planned series of videos looking at the impact in Portland, where the sailing events are going to be held.

Impact of the 2012 Olympics on a local business from Noel Jenkins on Vimeo.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Snow Day

Another load of snow arrived in West Norfolk. 65 schools closed at the moment in West Norfolk.
All the family off school - as I was working from home today, I don't really get the benefit...
Just added my details to the #uksnow map that Ben Marsh produced.Join the map by tweeting #uksnow then first part of the postcode, then score out of 10

e.g. #uksnow S66 8/10

Also check out OLLIE BRAY's POST on making use of this in the classroom along with Google Earth.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Extreme Weather or Not ?

"We're very lucky in the band in that we have two visionaries, David and Nigel, they're like poets, like Shelley and Byron. They're two distinct types of visionaries, it's like fire and ice, basically. I feel my role in the band is to be somewhere in the middle of that, kind of like lukewarm water."
Derek Smalls in 'This is Spinal Tap'

Today, as with yesterday is a 'snow' / 'duvet' day across many parts of the country. The BBC NEWS reported the traffic problems in and around the country. They didn't mention that much about other parts outside of the capital, mostly London yesterday, but anyway. The snow has now moved North, and the chaos continues.

At lunchtime yesterday it was out to collect my kids from their primary school, which has closed early due to the weather forecast being a worsening situation. This morning was an interesting slippy walk, but they were safely delivered.

Today, the newspapers have some very creative headlines and stories, and there have been some interesting journeys to work by a lot of colleagues.
For the first time, the ice and snow has prevented me getting up to Sheffield.
Instead, I'm working through a range of projects the deadlines for which seem to have piled up this week.
One additional resource that I have been putting together is for some UEA PGCE colleagues.

Meanwhile, over in Australia, there is a record breaking HEATWAVE which has led to parts of daily life grinding to a halt.

Back to the snow finally, The Register: the satirical website had a funny report, although it has a rude word, so you can find it yourself if you want the full version.

There was also a good map on the GOOGLE MAPS MANIA website, which was related to TWITTER, and is mentioned in this BBC NEWS REPORT.
A #uksnow map...

Worth collecting the various impressions of the impact of the snow.

One ironic one was that the cost to the British economy was apparently over £1 billion, which is of course small change these days....

The Daily Mirror had the best headline of the day !

Monday, 2 February 2009

Google Earth 5 now available to download.

Are you up to date ?
The latest version of Google Earth has been put on the website to download.
It's Google Earth 5
It features the much anticipated Ocean flood and surface data, plus new historical imagery and improved touring facilities.
Get yours today.

Extreme Weather ?

As the 4 Seasons sang
"Oh what a night, late December back in '63.."
and it was, because I was born then.
Theo K, a Twitter contact led me to this classic YouTube video showing the snow of that winter, and how the trains kept running....

and today....

Friday, 23 January 2009

A possible new assessment model for the future

You can't escape assessment....but you could e-Scape assess.....
The GA has been involved, with Goldsmiths College, in an exciting trial of a new method of assessing student's geographical work, using handheld technology (PDAs) to create a digital portfolio, which is then assessed using a method called 'comparative pairs'. This is a more robust method of comparison between individual pieces of work than the traditional method of moderating pieces of coursework. It was suggested by Alastair Pollitt, former head of research at Cambridge Assessment, based on earlier work in the 1920s (see later)

The final report on the trial, written by Fred Martin with David Lambert has now been made available on the GA website, along with further details on the project.

The trial involved schools taking part in a field visit to Porthcawl, and exploring the issue of rebranding on their return. There are links to other projects which involved the use of handheld technologies, and also the idea of media landscapes. The report also mentions a range of other field investigations which Fred Martin produced.
An e-portfolio was created as a result of the process, and this was judged by comparing each portfolio with all of the others, and saying in each case "which is best" ? The software that was used was an online system, which meant that judging could take place at a time and place to suit the judges within the (fairly tight) timeframe that we were given.
Over time, the software decided that there were some pairs that didn't need to be compared (if you take the 'best' and the 'worst' piece from a sample, you don't really need to compare them to see which is best as it's fairly obvious...)

As one of the judging team, I have to say that this whole process was a fascinating insight into the techniques (and in some cases, deficiencies) of the current systems of assessing large numbers of exam candidates. I certainly learnt a great deal about the way that assessment works. A related issue is that this could form an approach to the management of controlled assessment, as the software on the PDAs could be set up to

The appendices in the report, which can be downloaded from THIS PAGE of the GA website would reward closer reading by those who are interested in an alternative approach, which also taps into the

The later appendices contain too many 'hard sums' for me, but I think they say that I was a reasonable judge - was I more Craig Revel Horwood than Bruno Tonioli ?

For those who also want a little more, Tony Wheeler has published a useful summary of the whole process on the FUTURELAB website's FLUX section, and there is also a TEACHERS TV programme on e-assessment. Mobile phones are mentioned here too (iPhones perhaps ?)

This includes a useful analysis of the comparative pairs method, and the reason why an e-portfolio makes the judging of this a possibility....

Alastair explained how Louis Thurston had developed this theory of assessment in the 1920s, based on simply comparing one piece of work directly with another. Alastair argued that abstract assessment criteria did not help in the process of marking, as examiners inevitably convert the abstract into concrete exemplars, increasing variability and unreliability. So why not just compare work directly? If enough comparisons between two different pieces of work are made by enough judges, a very reliable rank order emerges (the one that always wins moves to the top, the one that always looses goes to the bottom and the others spread appropriately between). I understand that QCA use this system already to monitor inter-board comparability, basically to ensure an ‘A’ in maths from OCR is the same as an ‘A’ in maths from Edexcel.

The problem lies in the scale of the award. With twenty paper scripts and half a dozen judges it can be done round a table, but when there are thousands of scripts and dozens of judges it becomes a logistical impossibility. However, with the advent of web-based portfolios, like the e-scape set of portfolios, are available anywhere and anytime each assessor has an internet connection. Multiple copies can be viewed at anytime, making the paired process possible in a high-stake assessment for the first time.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

GIS at the GA

Just been browsing the new "GIS for A-level geography" book written by Peter O' Connor
This is available from the GA Shop: priced just under £30 for GA members.

It's the first book of its kind to cover GIS at this level.

After an introduction to GIS, which includes a range of practical applications. I like the fact that it starts with a simple image of supermarket loyalty cards. When I used to teach 'A' level ICT, there was a section on the importance and value of data collection of this type, which can be used to populate a database of geo-referenced data linked to individual's shopping patterns.

The book explores methods and techniques of data analysis and GIS output and applications.

What teachers will perhaps find particularly useful are the 5 practical exercises which use ArcView 9.2 (a 12 month trial of the software and mapping data are included on the DVD that accompanies the book)

1. Where are all the people ? - map the UK's population density
2. How do patterns of crime vary across England and Wales ?
3. Is there a relationship between crime and levels of urban development ?
4. How does economic and social structure vary across the Cambridge urban-rural fringe ?
5. Mapping areas of low flood risk

Every activity has been fully explained with screenshots of every step of the process and full descriptions of which key to press....

Monday, 12 January 2009

Young Geographer of the Year

An extension activity for your AS geographers !!

Get your students in on this year's competition.
More details at the GEOGRAPHICAL MAGAZINE website.

The theme this year is ARCTIC.

Sponsored by Explore – the leading adventure holiday company, this year's winners win a place on an Arctic expedition, prizes for your school and more. The competition is open to young geographers throughout the country under the age of 18 years

We want you to carry out a project that involves a journey to the Arctic. What would you take with you and why? What would ensure your journey’s success? Your project should reflect a thorough investigation into the geography of the Arctic and a realistic portrayal of a journey to the North Pole. We would also like you to include one luxury item for your journey and an explanation of your item of choice and your reasons for choosing it.

Your entry can take whatever form you think is most appropriate – be it a written report, a short video film, a photographic essay, an audio file or a mix of all of these. The most important thing is that you plan and research accordingly for your Arctic journey and most of all – make sure to be creative and have fun!

Prize: 16–18 years

WIN! A place on the month-long expedition Arctic Adventure to East Greenland in July 2009, courtesy of BSES Expeditions.

The winner will depart in mid-July and will begin with a complicated journey via Iceland and southern Greenland. The expedition will involve three phases in the field – the science phase will build on long-term work in the area, including geology, survey work, fluvial and glacial studies, ornithology and invertebrates; in the trekking phase, groups will explore the mountains and undertake challenging journeys along ridges and through valleys to explore rarely visited areas; and in the mountaineering phase, groups will be trained in snow and ice techniques such as crevasse rescue, in order to undertake multi-day journeys on the glaciers and explore these untouched glaciers and mountains.

This is a chance of a lifetime to go on one of BSES’s extraordinary expeditions and to visit an amazing place that most people just dream about! To find out more about this expedition, visit

Terms and conditions of expedition

• You must be aged 16–18
• Must be available between mid-July and mid-August 2009
• Winner will be thoroughly interviewed by the expedition chief leader, and participation is strictly subject to his approval
• All participation is subject to a satisfactory medical check by the expedition chief medic
• The winner is responsible for their own travel and other associated costs to and from the UK point of departure/return for the expedition
• The prize does not include any personal kit, such as rucksack, sleeping bag, clothing and the like
• The winner must have a good understanding of the English language

Prize: 13–15 years and 12 years and under

WIN! A five-day Arctic Ice Adventure to Sweden, courtesy of Explore – the leading adventure holiday company

Based in the northern outpost of Kiruna, your adventure starts with a dogsled safari. With teams of huskies attached to each sled (along with a skilled local doing the driving!), we ‘mush off’ into the wilderness. There’s also the option of snowmobiling cross-country and over frozen lakes towards Kebnekaise, Sweden’s highest peak. And every night, there’s the chance to enjoy that most traditional of Swedish activities: a sauna.

On a visit to Jukkasjarvi, we overnight at the world-famous Icehotel, where everything from the chandeliers to the glasses for your drinks is made of ice. We can also play Father Christmas and ride our own reindeer sled, and enjoy a range of optional activities – from snowshoeing and ice-fishing to cross-country skiing.
You’ll love: • Trying a Swedish sauna • The thrill of dog-sledding • Meeting Sami reindeer herdsmen


All winning schools will receive a library of books worth £100 each, courtesy of Dorling Kindersley.

The Advisory Unit: Computers in Education will provide the schools of the winners of the 13–15 year and 16–18 year categories with a full site licence of AEGIS 3 –
their award-winning education geographic information system. There will also be further prizes from Ordnance Survey.

All finalists and their teachers will be invited to an awards ceremony at the RGS-IBG on Tuesday, 26 May 2009.

For more information and to download an entry form, you must be registered on Click here to do so. If you are already signed up to the site, simply log in and click on the tab 'Members area'.