This is our Britain

The front page of 'The Sun' today was interesting...
It started with a photo montage of Britain, with images from the 4 nations: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Inside is 'where the Sun stands' on issues such as Immigration, NHS, Education, Energy etc.
Would make a nice exercise for students to explore the imagery that is used on the cover, or to play 'guess the stance'.
For example, is 'The Sun' in favour of a) more wind power or b) fracking to solve the energy crisis...
There's a useful guide inside to the 49 elements that make up the cover image....

Can you suggest what could be the missing 50th image ??
Can you spot John Terry ?

Thanks to Steve Brace for leading me to the New Statesman's parody covers of other newspapers...

Tom Sherrington.... holiday reading...

If you want to refresh your thinking this summer, you could do worse than catch up with the writing of Tom Sherrington.

Tom's Twitter tag is @headguruteacher 

There are several of Tom's posts that I have referred to in events over the last few months.
One I've returned to recently was the metaphor of learning that is featured in this post, which explores the idea of moving from PLANTATION thinking to RAINFOREST thinking.
I like the rainforest analogy as it connects with geography, but also my sort of thinking about moving away from 'traditional' and 'regimented' approaches...

South Yorkshire Way

I'm not from Norfolk, although I have now lived for more than half my life in the county, and enjoy living here very much...
My home county is South Yorkshire.
A new long distance footpath is due to open in April 2014 called the South Yorkshire Way.
It passes through my home village, which I coincidentally visited last weekend when I was up in Sheffield working at the GA for a few days.

I thought that it might make a useful project for students to design the route of a footpath around a particular county where the school was located, or alternatively one that has been allocated to them. Digimap for Schools would be a great tool to use for this task, or perhaps ArcGIS Online in the form of a Story Map...

Coincidentally, one of the projects I'm currently involved in is updating the resources that are on the Digimap for Schools website in the light of various changes that have taken place to the curriculum and exam specifications, and also to respond to user feedback and actual changes on the ground or through time.

Yorkshire will also be at the centre of things in July next year when the Grand Depart of the Tour de France comes through Yorkshire. I've just ordered my shirt so that I'm ready... and intend to create some resources around that for use next year in my new job...

View from the footbridge at Wickersley School.
Image: Alan Parkinson

P.S: Happy Yorkshire Day for the 1st of August...

Follow the Trumps

The Follow the Things project that I have been involved with for the last few months as we develop the site has now got its own Trump game cards, and a growing Flickr set of images of examples of cards. Why not create one of your own and add it to the 'set' for others to take and make use of.

There are full instructions included in the FLICKR set that Ian Cook and colleagues on 'Team FTT' are building up.
Challenge students to research, create and add a new card to the growing gallery, or use them to play along...

Mystery location

Kudos, but no prize, for anyone who can identify this mystery location....
Image: Howard Berry

Geographies of Human Well Being

A rather good free resource produced by the Geography Teachers' Association of Victoria.
Click to download as a PDF

Written by: Kelli Ashton and Claire Jones
Project manager: Judy Mraz, Director of Projects, Geography Teachers’ Association of Victoria Inc

SGQM Moderation Days

For the fifth year in a row (I think), it's up to Sheffield tomorrow and Tuesday to join the moderation team for the GA's Secondary Geography Quality Mark.

This year there's a bumper crop of applications... I think perhaps the most we've ever had, which is good news... and bad news... as it means a longer moderation period (at one point there was talk of extending it to three days). Instead, we've got a larger moderation team this year, with some new faces drafted in with long experiences...
The great news is that once again I'll get to read about some wonderful stories of geography departments that are doing things, and have put many hours work into creating portfolios of their best work, backed up with data and other evidence that they are doing particularly well within the context of the school, and also beyond the school.
There are always inspiring stories and nice ideas to adapt and share. I'll be tweeting some of the good finds and highlights tomorrow...
Will be good to meet up with former GA colleagues too, and have a swift half...

A final note is that the school I'll be teaching at from September holds a Quality Mark, and the certificate is in pride of place on the wall of the classroom that I'll be using...

Why not investigate applying from your geography department ?
Details on the GA website

New London Crime Map

Made by James Cheshire of CASA, with whom Explorer HQ is working on the DISTANCE project.

See the blog for more.

London's Olympic Legacy

I travelled to London last week to take part in a School's programme day for the Prince's Teaching Institute at Draper's Hall in the city of London.
The other main speaker was John Widdowson...

His theme was the Olympic Legacy.
He had a large number of excellent resources based on his work in and around the Olympic Park, which I duly borrowed....

The games were now a year ago, and there has been a bit of coverage in the media about the anniversary, and the evidence of 'legacy'.
There's plenty on the Olympics at the GA website.

This Guardian article provides an interesting perspective on the latest ideas related to the legacy, and the fact that there is a mixed picture.

I will be updating the resources that were taught last year about the Olympics and doing a 'one year on' short unit to explore what has been happening since the Games.

Also check out the free OS maps of the Olympic Park as it will look in 2030 which can be downloaded from the links HERE.

Image: Alan Parkinson

Kids saying 'I'm bored' already ? Check out Summer Camp...

We're now just over the half way stage...

Providing a daily dose of adventure, the Mission:Explore virtual Summer Camp challenges children to explore nature in your local neighbourhood, park or holiday destination. Can you photograph an alien invasion, cross a park without being caught out by a squirrel or travel 100 metres without being seen? 

"Using the site is easy" explained Tim, a 9-year-old Mission:Explorer. "There is a map that you can explore to find missions to do. I chose one that I wanted to do, then went outside to do it. Yesterday I went exploring wearing a mask, pretending that I was someone else. Once I'm done, I share a mission report on the website and collect badges".

By visiting the site you can sign up for daily outdoor activities, which are e-mailed to you, or browse a wide range of badges that your children can collect.

As Dan Raven Ellison says:

"Many of the activities on the site can seem a bit ridiculous - things like becoming a unicorn, climbing the height of a mountain on a staircase or making yourself a nest... but there is a serious side to what we are doing. Our activities inspire children to explore, play and learn outdoors and in nature. They can benefit children's health and education as well as help busy parents by providing lots of ideas for things they can do with their children".

The Mission:Explore virtual Summer Camp runs for 100 days until September and includes activities that have been created by National Geographic, The Great Nature Project, the John Muir Trust, City Farmers, Thames Water, UK National Parks, the RSPB, Ramblers Wales and a growing number of outdoor exploration and education organisations. Over 100 inspiring activities are available on the website.

If you have children, join the Summer Camp ( - complete some missions today, and banish boredom forever!

Check out some of the missions you may have missed....

  1. Shuffle exploration - Explore while you listen to music on shuffle. Each time the music shuffles, shuffle your way of exploring.
  2. Find something... - Find something hard, soft, sticky, crumbly, silly, cool, brown, tiny, massive, smelly, mean, round, flat, strange, normal, straight, flying, underneath and something new.
  3. Squirrel skirmish - Cross a park without being seen by a squirrel. 
  4. Become an extreme stair climber - Climb to the top of the world's highest places without leaving home.
  5. Walk straight! - Visit a wood. How far can you walk in a straight line without bumping into a single tree?

Follow the Things work

I've spent several weeks now working on a set of resources for the Follow the Things website. I've been blogging the progress, and the website is going to be updated in the next few weeks with all the latest resources, a CLASSROOM PAGE, plus a special Teachers' guide which can be printed out as a booklet for students to use.
I travelled down to Exeter University last week in the heat to work for a few days on new resources and ideas, and plan out some future development for the site.
It's an exciting project to be involved in, as interest in the site is now coming from all quarters, and many parts of the world.

I'm going to be joining a group of NQT teacher bloggers through next year too.
Oprah Whipp has already posted the first of the resources, on her use of the Banksy couch gag in the Simpsons.
Follow our hashtag to find out more about the use of the website. Further work will continue through the summer and beyond...

Welsh Geographers unite...

The GA's Welsh Special Interest Group has a new FACEBOOK page.
'Like' it to keep up to date with all their developments and work...
Non-Welsh Geographers welcome too :)

Guerrilla Cartographers: an atlas of Food...

Last year, I helped support a planned Atlas of Food, which was being produced by a group of Guerrilla Cartographers.
The aim was to create an atlas of food, from a range of contributors.

The Geography Collective contributed a special selection of images from the Mission:Explore Food book, with a sample of missions, and this was included in the final book.

There are lots of overlaps here with the work I'm doing at the moment with Follow the Things too, as many of the maps tell the cultural story of food, and connections with wider stories...

The e-Atlas can now be downloaded as a PDF from the website.

This is an excellent resource, and I will be using this with Year 7 students next year....

Barcelona by night...

Awesome time-lapse on Vimeo...

MIDNIGHT BARCELONA from Pau García Laita on Vimeo.

Over 2000 visitors

It's good to see the LivingGeography blog growing in popularity as time passes...
For the last few months, I've been regularly getting over 1000 visitors a day, and yesterday it was well up over 2000...
Please feel free to leave a comment on a post that you've read (it'll make a difference to the spam that I usually have to moderate...)

If you like this blog, you should also head over to my new classroom teaching blog too, where I'm sharing my preparations for heading back into the classroom.

Also, just to say that this is the 4700th post on this blog...

Thought for the Day

'The qualities necessary to the explorer are, … in … order of importance: first, optimism; second, patience; third, physical endurance; fourth, idealism; fifth and last, courage' 
Sir E. H. Shackleton, 1914

Abstract city maps...

Via the Pyschogeographical Commission on Facebook...
From my wife's favourite site: This is Colossal....

Asia Sound Effects

A little ambient sound for those of you who are teaching about China / India and related locations, and are Spotify subscribers..
Remember that some of these locations are specifically mentioned in the new KS3.

Cassini Photograph...

I shall use this image in my lessons next year....

It was taken at the weekend by the Cassini spacecraft, which is currently out near the rings of Saturn...

All Geography, and all human endeavour has taken place on that small pale blue dot... (with respect due to Carl Sagan)

Image Credit:  NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Rush play flood benefit concert

Good to see that one of my favourite bands: Rush are playing a flood benefit concert for the victims of the recent Alberta floods.

Here's a spot of music to 'lift your morning mood'...


I've been using Chris Jordan's amazing images of Midway (and other projects of his) for some years now.
They show the impact of activity on the oceans, and in particular the impact of ocean plastics.

Watch the trailer of the film, which is currently in production here.

Midway Atoll, one of the most remote islands on earth, is a kaleidoscope of geography, culture, human history, and natural wonder. It also serves as a lens into one of the most profound and symbolic environmental tragedies of our time: the deaths by starvation of thousands of albatrosses who mistake floating plastic trash for food.

With Seas and Oceans now specifically mentioned in the KS3 Programme of Study, now is the time to start looking for appropriate oceanic resources and stories...

I hear thunder.... hark don't you ?

Thunder and lightning is predicted for the next few days, as the heat and humidity that has built up over the last few weeks comes to a climax...
There are some thunderstorms developing already and it's possible that tonight will be dramatic...

It's worth following a few Twitter accounts which are related to weather and such issues...

@MetOffice - of course
@UKASF - UK Storm Forecasts
@CloudAppSoc - Cloud Appreciation Society

I'll be putting together some materials related to the summer heatwave ready for the new academic year. There are plenty of economic connections.

There are various weather apps which will also be useful for tracking the storms, and sites such as Rain Today.


Also the Met Office has a Lightning strikes map.
And a BBC VIDEO here

A few rumbles of thunder so far but nothing much besides...

Image: Alan Parkinson

Derek Robertson

A nice post from Derek Robertson, to wrap up the years of effort that he has put into his work supporting teachers in Scotland as part of the Consolarium and related work for Education Scotland.

Derek was a pioneer of Games Based Learning (GBL) and his work has been very influential.

I've met Derek several times over the years - in the first instance at the classic Islay 2020 conference and also at #TMBeyond when the weather conditions for those people who were camping were rather inclement. He's also a fellow fan of the wonderful John Shuttleworth....

Best of luck to Derek for his new role at the University of Dundee.

Onwards and upwards

At the end of the academic year, it's worth taking a few moments to look back.
I've had an 'interesting' year with quite a few ups and downs, which have (mostly) been shared here.

Several people who I've had the pleasure of working with over the last few years have been awarded with promotions, which range from Heads of Geography, to Assistant Heads, right up to Heads of the whole school....
Particular congratulations to Ollie Bray for his headship in an amazing part of the world.
There have been some very useful events this year too, many of which I've followed using the hashtag and later made contact with some of the people involved.

I've done a lot of travelling, and have worked with hundreds of geography educators.
I've written hundreds of thousands of words, and had quite a lot of them published, or turned into resources for a range of organisations and projects.

There have been a few projects that have 'stalled' a little and been more difficult to complete...
I've had a few rejections on various potentials plans and progress.
I'm working on a few final writing projects now to finish off the year, and just had a little extra cheeky project in via e-mail which will keep me busy for a few extra days...

I've got a few weeks over the summer when I'm hoping to do a little less, and have a 'holiday'... although geography never stops :)

...and then it's back into the classroom for most of the week from September.

Field Papers version 2

I blogged about this site some time ago...

Field Papers allows the creation of a personalised atlas. The pages can be printed off, and also scanned back in with pupil annotations to create a useful record of a field excursion.
The second version of the site has now been released, and has a range of new features which mean that it is even more useful.

Immerse yourself in GMail

I've been using GMail for 9.1 years. I was one of the first wave of adopters, and have always championed this web mail solution to collate a wide range of accounts, offer large amounts of free storage, and also connect with other Google Apps.

There is now a useful tool called IMMERSION from MIT, which will show all the connections that are created by the GMail networks that you have. There is a lot of information uncovered by the tool.
You will need to give it permission to access your mail, which can then be revoked once the visualisation has been created.

It will show you a graphic of your connections, which can be generated for a particular period of time, or for your whole time on GMail. It will show you connections between groups, and also colour codes particular mini-networks that it spots. It does this very well....
I ran it for my account, and it came up with this...

It shows that Dan Raven Ellison, my co-conspirator in Mission:Explore is the person I've e-mailed the most over the years... and by a long way...
Orange is GA connections, Blue is the Geography Collective, Brown is EuroGeo etc....

You can also see when you first started e-mailing someone, and various other data....

Description from the website...
It has been almost two decades since the beginning of the web. This means that the web is no longer just a technology of the present, but also, a record of our past.

Email, one of the original forms of social media, is even older than the web and contains a detailed description of our personal and professional history.
Immersion is an invitation to dive into the history of your email life in a platform that offers you the safety of knowing that you can always delete your data.
Just like a cubist painting, Immersion presents users with a number of different perspectives of their email data.
It provides a tool for self-reflection at a time where the zeitgeist is one of self-promotion.
It provides an artistic representation that exists only in the presence of the visitor.
It helps explore privacy by showing users data that they have already shared with others.
Finally, it presents users wanting to be more strategic with their professional interactions, with a map to plan more effectively who they connect with.
So Immersion is not about one thing. It’s about four. It’s about self-reflection, art, privacy and strategy. It’s about providing users with a number of different perspectives by leveraging on the fact that the web, and emails, are now an important part of our past.
Here are my collaborators over the last 9 years....
My time at the GA has left a legacy, plus work with VITAL and EuroGeo as well as Digimap for Schools and Discover the World.
No surprise to see Richard Allaway up there either, and for many years Val Vannet was my most e-mailed person apparently.

What do your e-mails reveal about you ?

So far away, so close...

A nice post on the OS Blog about places in the UK that sound like they could be further away... Where can you get to within 20 miles of home...
A good chance to use Digimap for School here with its built in gazetteer of places.

Follow the Things playlist...

Now playing.... Icebreaker International

New curriculum and the new economy

A useful item from the Citizenship Foundation.

It connects with the ideas of economic change, and the nature of the skills that should be included in the curriculum.

What skills do we need to ensure that we develop with young people during their KS3 Geography experience ?


The title of a 7Gb download of maps and data for GIS package Quantum GIS.
It's been released by the Norwegian Polar Institute and contains all you need to know about Antarctica...

Exeter bound...

A couple of weeks after my last sojourn down to Newquay, it was down to Exeter last week, to work with Ian Cook at the University of Exeter on new classroom page(s) for the Follow the 
Things website to be launched shortly...
The work is described HERE. 
Here's a draft layout of one of the pages.... It'll look a little like this....

Screen shot 2013-07-11 at 22.34.51

Screen Shot 2013-07-02 at 12.23.02 PM

What is

  • It’s an online shopping website, if you understand ‘shopping’ to involve betraying the origins of things, like you might ‘shop’ a person to the police.
  • It’s designed to have the look, feel and architecture of familiar online stores.
  • It’s stocked with examples of art work, documentary film, journalism, activism, academic, student and other work revealing the lives of everyday things, i.e. the relations between their producers and consumers hidden by commodity fetishism.
  • It shows how their makers tried to make these relations apparent, visible, tangible in ways that might move their audiences to act by trying to make them feel guilty, shocked, appreciative, awkward and/or involved in other people’s lives and work.
  • It researches what its makers and viewers have said online about each example: what it aimed to do, how it was made, what discussions it provoked, and what impacts it had.
  • It’s full of quotations that are arranged so that they read like a conversation, a conversation that can move from the computer screen  into the classroom as teachers create lesson plans and schemes of work with its contents.
  • It aims to inform and inspire new ‘follow the things’ work (by teachers, their students, as well as artists, filmmakers, journalists and others), which we hope to publish on the site too. Some examples of new work have already been published.
  • It has become a popular website for teachers looking to engage their students in North-South relations via the geographies of commodities. So, we’re working on a new ‘classroom page’ to bright together materials and ideas already developed for this purpose
There have been further new sections added recently, including a new SHIPPING page, and also a PEER REVIEW section which shows where the site has been referenced in other papers / websites etc.
I've been involved in the creation of a new CLASSROOM page, and it's good to see it taking shape with some draft layouts HERE.

For a quick introduction to some of the key ideas, you can download an article that Ian co-wrote with a number of colleagues

Made In ? explores some of the connections between commodities and consumers (PDF download)

There are also going to be several teacher BLOGS which are going to follow a number of colleagues who are teaching. The first one by Oprah has now been published.

Summer geekiness

Check out the latest additions to the Geography Geek website being made by Helen Young.
Always worth a browse to see what's new...

Amazon unpacked...

Thanks to Ben Hennig for the tipoff to a rather wonderful photography project from Ben Roberts.

It describes the impact of the arrival of Amazon into the town of Rugeley:a former mining town. The arrival promised employment for some of the residents. Read the essay and look at the images to find out more.
Some years ago, I used to use a resource that was produced by Emma Johns on the Amazon warehouse which opened near Milton Keynes.

The warehouse is a building which I have passed many times on my travelling over the last few years.

I haven't reproduced any of Ben's images, but will be requesting permission to do that.
In the meantime, head over to the website and have a look yourself.

Permission granted by Ben to feature his images for educational use....
Thanks Ben :)
Follow him on Twitter @benrobertsphoto

What is the Rainforest Alliance ?

One of my recent writing projects involved preparing some resources for a project which included the Rainforest Alliance.

What is the Rainforest Alliance? from Rainforest Alliance on Vimeo.

This provides a useful introduction to some of the work of the organisation. Their Twitter feed is also worth following as it includes a range of useful information on sustainability and related ideas...

Legoland - brick by brick...

On the hottest day of the year (so far), the hottest place in the UK was over 31 degrees C - it was recorded at Heathrow Airport. As planes took off from Heathrow, they passed over where I spent last Saturday: Legoland, Windsor.

We had used our Tesco vouchers to pay for entry to the park. My son has recently become interested in Lego, particularly in connection with Star Wars, the Hobbit, Lord of the Rings and other film franchises, along with sets from other versions too... We managed to get on quite a few rides, and also enjoyed the displays of various Lego-related stuff..

There were also connections with the Follow the Things project I'm currently involved with, as there was plenty of evidence of brands, and even a container port. For more on that project, keep reading. Why not 'follow this blog' (click the link in the right hand column)

See my Flickr page for more images, which might be useful for those exploring theme parks or related tourism issues....

Maps and the Geospatial Revolution

Course starts tomorrow...
Apparently I'm one of more than 30 000 participants...

Will let you know how it goes...


Rivers - from the source

It's good to have a quest in mind for the summer holidays... something that you want to achieve.

I live in a village in Norfolk, which has a small river running through it. River is a grand term for what, at the point where it crosses the road close to my house, is a small chalk stream.

The River is called the Nar.

It's apparently known as 'God's Holy River', as it flows through various religious buildings..

The source of the river is apparently close to my village, and over the summer I'm going to find the source, and then follow the river for as long as possible to the point where it flows into the Great Ouse.

The other connections I have with the river are that when I was teaching hydrology, we used to take students to the river to carry out fieldwork, along with my former colleague Mr. Stone, and for over 10 years, the River ran past the back of the flat where I lived in King's Lynn, and I crossed it almost every day for another decade when travelling home from work....
The river is intertwined with my life, and I'm going to try to walk along it, and find myself in places I've never been to before, which are within five miles of where I live....

What are your plans for the summer ?

Prince's Teaching Institute

It was down to the 30 degree heat of London yesterday.
I was off to Drapers' Hall in the City, a short distance from the Gherkin, and round the corner from the Bank of England.
The venue was rather grand, with the Livery Hall having been used for filming scenes in 'The King's Speech', for example.

After five years of working for the GA and a freelancer, this was my final CPD session before heading back into the classroom.

I was asked to talk about authentic learning, and prepared a workshop-style session which ended up being slightly more of a provocation session providing some ideas for bringing case studies to life using outside influences, up-to-date contexts and a sprinkle of technology...

There were some familiar faces in the audience. Thanks to Ruth Totterdell, Graham Goldup and Maria Larkin for the invitation. They'd wanted to involve me in Prince's Teaching Institute sessions for a while, but this was the first opportunity.

My warm-up man in the morning session was John Widdowson, with whom I've co-written a book on 'Fieldwork through Enquiry', which will be published later this year.
John has spent several years working in the area around the Olympic Park, and provided a wealth of up-to-date information on the transformation that is taking place in the area around the Olympic Park. There were some really useful materials provided for the delegates.

If you want to spend some time with John in and around the Olympic Park, some options are here.

It was a hot day to be in London, but enjoyable...

Our latest Mission:Explore production

In association with the RSPB...

The RSPB Big Wild Sleepout will take place over the summer.

Follow the link for ideas to while away the warm summer evenings...

A couple of blogs to check out...

A few blogs that are worth a mention....

Mike Tidd of Gillingham School, has been updating his blog.
There's a new design, and it brings out some recent posts which are useful, such as one on KS3 Geography planning in the light of the new curriculum documents.

Also check out a new blog from Peter Knight of Keele University's blog: the BLANK ATLAS blog.
This MICRO GEOGRAPHY post, for example has a nice mention of our Mission:Explore project.

Why not consider starting a blog for professional reflection, or to support planning as a target for the new school year. You could spend some of the summer setting it up and populating it with some initial posts....

Thanks to Mike T for the reminder of another blog that would be useful to follow for NQT Geographers.
@AmberKatja has a blog GEOG ON THE SPOT which will hopefully follow her journey.

World Population Day - 11th of July

I've blogged a lot about the value of TIMING when teaching particular topics.
There are many World Days which could be connected with some of the work in Geography.
Global Dimension produces a useful calendar to identify these days.

The 11th of July was WORLD POPULATION DAY, and as with many of the others, there are materials available for this day.

Back-blogging so this post a little later than planned...

Alan Whicker RIP

Sad news earlier in the week of the death of TV traveller and broadcaster Alan Whicker.

Many people's introduction to the world was via Whicker's World. This was made by Yorkshire Television and broadcast from the late 60's onwards, so I remember this being shown on the TV when I was a young' un...
There have been many TV travellers since, but Whicker alongside David Attenborough was in the first wave...

Is your town crap ?

Some years ago, the Idler published a list of 'Crap Towns', which had been nominated by their residents.
There were short descriptions of 50 towns and cities, along with images which were chosen to show the town in the worst possible light. This in itself makes a useful homework task: to deliberately search for negative / positive etc images in Caravan Gallery style...
A new version of the book is planned, and a shortlist of cities has been created.
Here's the shortlist  - is your town on there ?
Does it deserve to be on there ?

Burnham Market
Bury St Edmunds
Chipping Norton
Craven Arms
Fort William
Four Marks
Great Yarmouth
High Wycombe
Leamington Spa
Medway towns
Merther Tydfil
Milton Keynes
Newton Stewart
Stoke On Trent

There has been plenty of local press in the last week or so in many of these towns - look at the way that local papers have been presenting the story and supporting their own towns...

Where is your nearest potentially not so good town ?

Millennium Development Goals Infographics

Thanks to Paula Owens for the tipoff here...

Some interesting infographics on the progress that has been made towards the current Millennium Development Goals.

There's a hashtag #MDGmomentum

The Millennium Development Goals, (MDGs), are the most successful global anti-poverty push in history. Governments, international organizations, and civil society groups around the world have helped to cut in half the world’s extreme poverty rate. More girls are in school. Fewer children are dying. The world continues to fight killer diseases, such as malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS. There are less than 1,000 days to accelerate action on issues such as hunger, access to education, improved sanitation, maternal health and gender equality. Get involved and help build #MDGmomentum!

IoE Seminar on Knowledge - Margaret Roberts and Michael Young

This post has been a long time in gestation.... various editing and other thinking and further reading has followed the original event. This has shaped a lot of my recent thinking, and will also feed in to my future planning...

IoE: Geography Seminar Notes

In mid-May, just a few days after arriving home from Bruges and five intensive days of geography, it was down to the Institute of Education for some more. David Lambert had organised a seminar as part of the work of GEReCo: the Geography Education Research Collective.
This is a group which is connected with the Geographical Association. Visit their page for more information.

The seminar involved Michael Young, who has written widely on the idea of ‘powerful knowledge’ and Margaret Roberts, who introduced many geography teachers to the powerful idea of ‘geographical enquiry’.

There was a large crowd of spectators, who included Teach First students, MA and PhD students from the IoE, including former GA colleague Ben Major, and many familiar names from geography teacher education - if you can think of someone who has written about geography education, they were probably there...

In the notes that follow, DL is David Lambert, MR is Margaret Roberts and MY is Michael Young. PK is powerful knowledge...
Any errors of interpretation are entirely mine....
My additional thoughts on what was said by the chair and speakers are in red, along with further questions and thoughts that I’ve had since the event.


DL - introduction referring to ‘a different view’ and the background to the development of the seminar.
Emphasis on skills and learning in previous curriculum review under QCA
DL - “all teachers are curriculum makers” 
How can we make the curriculum happen in the classroom

Michael Young
“I gave geography up” - I wondered whether that was possible.

MY also described how he didn’t have to ask the way to Nunn Hall (where the seminar was being held) because of his prior knowledge of its location - I wasn’t sure that counted as powerful knowledge, especially as all I did was ask someone and then follow the signs...

PK one of the “least understood and most neglected area of educational study”

MY’s book ‘Bringing the knowledge back in’ refers to the ‘social construction’ of knowledge.

PK has distinctive properties - it is emergent from how it was constructed, but not dependent on that. PK is different from everyday life, and should provide ‘reliable explanations and predictions about the world’.
‘think the unthinkable and the not yet thought’ - Basil Bernstein

In any field, need to ask the question whether there is such a thing as ‘better knowledge’ ? If there is, then access to it has to be entitlement for all, or there will be inequality in society.

Knowledge is often a starting point for curriculum development, but always expresses some interests.

Those in power will make sure that their children have access to the best knowledge.

MY referred to the “Highest qualified teachers”  ?? What does that mean ? Are teachers in the schools where the powerful send their children necessarily ‘the best teachers’ ? Should the best teachers be supporting the most challenging groups ? Is this a sustainable option ?

Vocabulary may be used to exclude some people from PK - some of MY’s references to deceased French Sociologists without further explanation could fall into this category ?? ‘Knowing’ references used in this way could serve to exclude...

MY was not convinced about developing a curriculum relating to the interests of students, and not to knowledge ? Examples of this could be the GYSL project.

PK should be differentiated from everyday life - kids don’t come to school to have more of their everyday life...
It shouldn’t be tied to contexts.
It should take them beyond the contexts of their experience
Achieving access to this is the task of pedagogy...

Referred to Finland - FNBE - and the role of education

I’d recently been to the country, and actually talked about the work that I had been doing, and we heard a lot about how they were going in the opposite direction to the one that a lot of people assumed they were. Local / municipal curricula are developed which are related to local needs and experiences. A lot of this involves work outside of the classroom if the groups of Finnish teachers that I have worked with at Salzburg University are anything to go by.

Transmission model - Vygotsky - from everyday to knowledge and then back to real world.

“Pedagogy and curriculum are fused in the professional judgements that teachers make in their planning..”

Curriculum should have no pedagogy, and that was the problem of the 2008 incarnation of the curriculum, which didn’t separate them sufficiently.

Curriculum knowledge is not just more experience. It must drive enquiries... and you can only do that if you have specialist subject teachers. Agreed there, although there are lots of pressures on teachers and many who finish their training never enter the classroom or leave a few years into their career.

Knowledge is not an absolute truth, and can never be imposed from the top - down
Knowledge inspires questions.

Some activities can disconnect learners from knowledge.

PK is always specialised as human progress depends on specialisation: in terms of knowledge, it’s the expansion of disciplines.

Boundaries are important - have to explore reasons for going beyond them.
Also the basis for authority that teachers have in conversation with parents.

Ties in with work done by Alex Standish that can be seen on the GTE 2013 page of the GA website, and also work by David Mitchell.

Margaret Roberts

MR: Geographical knowledge has a cultural and political context. MR’s concern was with classroom practice - relating it to the students’ experiences.

MR talked about the inspiration of teachers that she had worked with herself.

Worked at Countesthorpe - and referenced the work of Pat Darcy.
Talked about Jerome Bruner - Towards a theory of instruction / the Process of Education

School knowledge shouldn’t be inert, but should include everyday geography.

Vygotsky - spontaneous and non-spontaneous concepts (or at least that’s what they were called in translation, which might have missed some intended nuances...)
Personal Geographies

Not all students have those experiences though ?
I was reminded of my recent trip to the EuroGeo conference - one of the adult delegates wanted to go and touch the sea, because she lived in a landlocked country and had never done it before...

This is important in university courses also.

If everyday knowledge is important, then it has to be made an object of study...
Distinction between personal knowedge and that to be known by the current culture
Not enough to leave it to the teacher...

Margaret talked about how the students that she worked with demonstrated this. Worked in communities in Sheffield (an urban location) with large percentage of migrants.
Experiences of Sheffield, UK and the World formed the basis for discussions.
School geography offered an opportunity to talk about the places they were familiar with - no opportunity to do it within the school curriculum.
She referred to the OCR ‘A’ - Pilot - ‘My Place’ scheme of work, which I had the chance to teach, and which changed my teaching utterly, despite having been a teacher for over 15 years by the time I started.
Also, at a recent event, I met a colleague who was apparently the moderator of the coursework that I did at my school, and said she knew she'd always get something creative from us.

With many of the GA projects, personal geographies are built in - YPG, MGH, VP, MMPITW
Young Peoples’ Geographies
Making Geography Happen
Valuing Places
Making my Place in the World

Margaret used the example of cities, and showed some slides with images as an example. 

e.g. if we took a focus on the Geography of Auckland (Singapore curriculum)
A teacher would give students something different than what they might discover themselves.
Settlement ? - History of development of the city
Land use models - critiquing these - knowledge changes over time - modern cities don’t necessarily ‘behave’ as the model would suggest...
Christaller - city in context of surrounding settlements....

Margaret’s presentation included Ben Hennig maps - quantitative data - from Views of the World blog.
Scope for critical geographers to make sense of knowledge and connect it with personal experiences:

Doreen Massey - ‘City Worlds’ - geographies of power
Michael Bradford - change in a city was his focus
Liz Taylor’s urban model based on geographers’ ideas

What is taught is influenced by how it is taught...

If we have PK then we should also have powerful pedagogies...
Need to consider the political nature of many issues that are taught
The status quo needs to be challenged
Ethical issues involved...
Hidden meanings and data need to be uncovered.
Consider underlying politcal end economic structures

‘Geography through Enquiry’ will be published by the Geographical Association in the summer of 2013. Brings the ideas from the original 2003 up to date, and provides new thinking.

Potentially powerful knowledge is perhaps a better way of thinking about the idea of PK

Margaret’s presentation ended with a particularly good analogy to the idea of music.

If we take a piece of sheet music, it means very little unless you have the ability to read it and perform it. Otherwise it is a series of ink marks on a piece of paper.

‘Music does not excite until it is performed’ - Benjamin Britten - whose centenary it is this year.

Also reminded me of a quote from David Hockney, which I used at a number of GA events.
‘I can get excitement from a puddle’....

I've used that idea of the curriculum as music since... 

Margaret's new version of 'Learning through Enquiry' comes out later this year... I am going to help Margaret with the social media around the launch so that you can find out more about the book in advance...