NCGE 2014 in Memphis

Are you going to the NCGE this year ?

A lot of visitors to this blog are from the USA, so I'm assuming some of you may be.

If you are, be sure to check out my Mission:Explore colleague Dan Raven Ellison on Saturday....
...and be sure to say hi from me...

GA CPD courses for the new year

I'm cutting back on my GA CPD courses next year to concentrate on a few other projects and opportunities, and it's good to see that Ben Ballin, David Gardner and others have stepped in to increase their involvement in leading courses for the GA.

Details of new courses are now on the GA website.

There are some new courses, and other favourites are running again, notably two dates with Margaret Roberts talking about Enquiry.

Greater London National Park - a debate

Join in tomorrow (Tuesday 29th) using the hashtag #citiesfest

The Cruise of the Betsey

The Royal Scottish Geographical Society and the Friends of Hugh Miller are chartering a traditional sailing boat for a week in September 2014, to follow the journey of discovery taken by Hugh Miller in the summer of 1844 on the sail boat, the Betsey. The project will celebrate the life and achievements of a great Scot, a great scientist but also a remarkable observer of the social history of the time.
I've been involved with the project by providing a framework for some stories based around the journey which will be taking place in the 2nd week of September. 

I'll not be able to join the voyage in person, but you'll be able to follow on the website (which we're creating at the moment, and the Twitter feed for the project, which has just been set up here.

Follow the voyage in the start of the September...

100 years ago...

World War I was beginning...

A reminder of the Google Drive document that I started some months ago. Plenty to consider as projects once the term restarts...

The 4th of August sees the centenary of Britain declaring war with Germany....

Barcelona flow-motion video

Made by Rob Whitworth - read about this in the local paper as he has a connection with the Norwich School of Art and Design...

Barcelona GO! from Rob Whitworth on Vimeo.

Thanks to Ben Hennig for the tipoff to this...
Makes me want to go back to Barcelona...

Get lost....

"With every additional technology that assists in exploring the physical world around us, we are losing our sense of direction and ability to navigate without them."

A good piece by Curtis Silver on mapping and how digital tools and apps might be leading us to lose some of our instinctive navigational skills, particularly for younger generations who perhaps never grew up handling paper maps in the same way as older generations.
It's an interesting geographical / spatial take on the idea of digital natives / immigrants.
It quotes John Kennedy who says that learning to read a map to follow a journey is important in developing a range of elements which are also important to the development of our brains and the way they work:
  • Shape recognition: critical to forming thoughts
  • Direction and orientation: relate to our ability to orient ourselves and the intrinsic ability to know when we are moving away or toward something, (some feel this is critical to moral decision making as well).
  • Analysis and Synthesis: analysis of environmental factors, distance, timing, safety and synthesis, which is pulling these together for seeking a relevant or most appropriate/safe path.
  • Working memory: as we learn to navigate our environment and pull in all the other factors (mental connections) our memory builds until we can find our way automatically (it becomes a zombie system) allowing us the ability to enjoy the environment instead of looking at a screen.
There are some interesting ideas relating to how students would cope if they found themselves somewhere quite close to where they lived, but then had to find their way home. Would they know which way to go ? What are the dangers of relying on technology ?
Gave me some ideas for how this might fit into a landscape unit.
Well worth reading...

Same and different

London 1970

What has changed and what remains the same over forty years later...


Took delivery of this map a few days ago and am looking forward to trying it out in the Norfolk Broads this summer.
One of my (many) summer projects is the creation of some resources on the Norfolk Broads National Park.

The map is from Splashmaps and is made from a special waterproof fabric, which can be written on with a special pen. Stick the map in the washing machine and the routes you've marked on disappear. No more problems folding the map, just scrunch it into your bag. You can also 'wear' the map, or even use it as a sling in an emergency, or a picnic blanket.

How would you make use of a Splashmap ?

The project was originally funded using Kickstarter, as this BBC news item shows... I blogged about that at the time.

Head over to the Splashmaps website to see which areas are covered already.
I also recommend signing up for a free download of the mapping eBook which has some nice ideas about map creation that I'll be using with my Year 7s next year.

Simon Armitage clears the air...

"My first word, everyone's first word, was air."

'In Praise of Air' Simon Armitage. Installation. from DED ASS on Vimeo.

Next time I'm in Sheffield, in early August, I need to catch up with Simon Armitage's poem which has been placed on the side of a building at the University of Sheffield, just up the hill from the GA in Solly Street.
It's been printed on a material which purifies the air around it, and will stay on the building for a year.

Check out the Catalytic Poetry site for more on this project, and the background to it.

A day of anniversaries...

Twenty six years ago, I started teaching at a school in Norfolk. While there, I met and married my wife, and since then either one or both of us have worked at that same school in various roles. I left the school six years ago to join the GA, and today my wife finishes to start a freelance art career. A quarter of a century of connections to the school come to an end.
You can see what she is offering in terms of clubs, workshops and tuition for young people in Norfolk on her new website: sallyparkinsonart.

And as a coincidence, twenty years ago today, my wife and I went on our first date.... How time flies...

Do you teach Edexcel 'A' level ?

Via the Edexcel Geography Ning (one of my more useful contributions to the world... now up over 3700 members !)

From Jon Wolton, the Subject Adviser for Edexcel.
We are looking to speak with centres currently teaching GCE Geography specifications as part of our research into the re-development of AS and A levels in Geography for first teaching in September 2016.
If you currently teach AS/A level Geography and can spare approximately 45-60 minutes to speak to a member of the Pearson Geography qualifications team, then please complete this survey which outlines available dates for a telephone call in August. It doesn't matter if you teach the Edexcel specification or not, we would like to involve as many teachers as we can in our research.
As a thank you for your time we would like to offer an Amazon voucher worth £20.
Please note that we will work on a first come, first served basis in terms of opportunities to get involved.
The DfE is consulting on the proposed subject content for AS and A level Geography from 2016 and the full content consultation can be found here and it will close on 19th September. I would encourage you to have your say.

Key areas
60% of the qualification on four specified core themes common to all A level specifications:
• Physical - Water and carbon cycles; Landscape systems; (a minimum of one core theme for AS level)
• Human - Global systems and global governance; Changing place/changing places (a minimum of one core theme for AS level),
40% of the qualification on non-core content chosen by the exam board that maintains the overall balance between human and physical geography and at least half of which addresses people-environment questions and issues, a balance of quantitative and qualitative methods and skills,
fieldwork to be assessed within one independent student investigation (see Ofqual consultation below) and within appropriate exam questions for A level only, fieldwork to be assessed by exam only for AS level.
Ofqual is consulting on its assessment arrangements for Geography and the consultation can be found here. It will close on 22nd September. Again, I would encourage you to have your say.

Key areas
exam only assessment (including that of fieldwork) for AS level,
20% weighing on a non-exam assessment of fieldwork for A level, marked by teachers and moderated by exam boards,
Assessment objectives specify more clearly than the current ones the abilities required in the subject. The proposed ranges are narrower than those in the current assessment objectives for greater comparability between specifications.
You may have followed that the A level Content Advisory Board (ALCAB) was set up to provide advice to the DfE and Ofqual on the content of new GCE Geography qualifications. ALCAB has published the report from its geography panel.
All the best and have a great summer.
Edexcel Geography Advisor

GCE AS and 'A' Level Subject Content

The draft subject content for the new AS and 'A' level Geography specifications are now available from the DfE - click HERE to download as a PDF

There are some interesting themes and ideas emerging, and plenty of stuff on data analysis and fieldwork.
What do you think of it ?

The Cornershop

Thanks to Jo Norcup for a post on Facebook which led me to The Cornershop, which is open through August.
It's a project of Lucy Sparrow's who has gained funding from Kickstarter and other sources including the Arts Council to open a shop where everything in it is made from felt.
Check out the video to get a flavour of the awesomeness of it all, as well as a geographer's perspective on the link with commodities, or visit Lucy's site for more: Sew your Soul.

The nearest tube station to the store is Old Street, and I'm going to try and pop in and buy a packet of Richmond sausages (it's a long story)

That summer feeling...

I've been off for a few weeks now, but most of the people who read this blog in the UK (and several other countries) will perhaps be finishing for the summer in the next few days if you haven't already.
Apologies to colleagues from the Southern Hemisphere, who are returning to school at the moment after a holidays...
Enjoy the summer when it comes... that first day of the holiday feeling reminds me of the scene from Withnail and I below...

I'll be taking my usual summer blogging break in a few week's time...

OU Pedagogy report

Thanks to Joe Dale for the tipoff to this report from the Open University. I spent 18 months managing the OU's VITAL Geography portal, and creating hundreds of resources before the funding ended, and it's now just sitting there mothballed... just checked and you can still log in and take a look...

This document dates back to 2013, and describes some pedagogy and innovations related to teaching, some of which have particular relevance to the teaching Geography.
Check out the sections on GeoLearning, Crowd Learning and Gaming for example....

Summer reading

Books piling up by my bed...

Endonym Map

A map showing countries labelled with the names they call themselves...

Thought for the Day

The next two days are spent hopefully completing a unit of work on London for the Royal Geographical Society. A tangle of papers and files open on three computers covers my desk...

“The city is a machine for teaching people to be city-dwellers. But first it necessitates submission, which it extracts by means of its scale, but also its complexity, its confusions – its tangle.”

Will Wiles (2014)

How well do you know your local area ?

A great new quiz from the Office for National Statistics.
You can of course put in a postcode that isn't your own area...
How many will you score ? 

Now listening...

Robert Reed's homage to early Mike Oldfield...
Album out next week - pre-ordered. This stream won't stay live indefinitely...

London in 3D

Enjoying the new 3D feature on Google Maps for creating some virtual views of London...
Click EARTH bottom left and then TILT THE VIEW just below the compass.
Click the COMPASS to rotate the view.

Commonwealth Games

The Commonwealth Games are approaching.

I created some materials for use with Edina's Mapstream website (could also be used with Digimap or other GIS packages) Take a look at these if you have a moment.

Today, the OS released information about their new map showing how the Games came about. Read about it on the OS blog.

If you are interested in teaching about the Games (though you'll have to be quick as summer is approaching for those who aren't already on their break), there's a set of resources HERE.

London - new 3D buildings

Thanks to Mark Brandon for the tipoff to what I think is a new addition over the last day or so to Google Maps (and also Google Earth): a whole load of new 3D buildings for London.

Not the whole of London, but large parts of it...

On Google Maps, you can click the tilt view button which is just underneath the compass. This gives you two levels of tilt, and then a view looking straight down.
Ideal for exploring London....

London's growth and maps

Working away on several things over the last few days.
Two of them were for the Royal Geographical Society, and related to the idea of cities, specifically the city of LONDON.
I've been asking people in a number of places to say what they would get up to if they only had time to do three things on a visit to London.
I'll be sharing some of the outcomes in a few week's time once the resource has taken shape.
You can see plenty of maps that I've started to collate for the unit on my Pinterest board for the work here. These will then be interrogated and used by students as part of the work that they are doing...

Follow GeoBlogs's board Mapping London on Pinterest.
As part of the work I've also created a timeline on DIPITY.
This allows you to create up to 3 timelines with 150 events for free...

Have I missed any obvious dates of events relevant to mapping ?
Let me know by adding a comment or sending me a tweet.

What would be your three favourite places to visit in London ?
Let me know by adding a comment or sending me a tweet.

Climate Change CPD course

Climate Change CPD course offered by Discover the World.

Global Climate Change – the pros and cons from a scientist and politician’s perspective

The course aims to develop the knowledge of Global Climate Change, Sustainability and Eco Tourism in the teaching of geography at KS3 and GCSE.
Course leaders and presenters include one of Iceland’s leading geologists and former presidential candidate Ari Trausti Guðmundsson as well as two leading geography teachers Jo Deben and David Rogers. The course aims to develop the knowledge of Global Climate Change, Sustainability and Eco Tourism in the teaching of geography at KS3 and GCSE. Presented by experienced and inspirational course leaders, delegates will have the opportunity to discuss and evaluate a range of practical approaches to help develop your geography students. Teachers attending the course will be provided with materials from the course and a free buffet lunch. Last but not least all delegates will have an opportunity to win a free teacher inspection trip to the Azores. 

Course Outline

The course will be held at the Discover The World offices on Wednesday 15 October, 2014.
Discover The World
Arctic House
8 Bolters Lane
09.30 – 10.00 coffee and cakes
10:00 – 11.15 a look at global warming from the perspective of a scientist and a politician, with reference to Iceland and Europe by Ari Trausti Guðmundsson.
11.15 – 11.35 Coffee break
11.35 – 12.30 'Changing the way we teach climate change' by David Rogers
12.30 – 13.30 Lunch break (buffet lunch provided).
13.30 – 14.30 Sustainability and Eco-tourism in the Azores – new exciting classroom case studies with reference to Discover Geography resources by Jo Deben
14.30 – 14.50 coffee break
14.50 – 15.30 an introduction to the Azores as a possible school trip destination by Discover the World
15.30 Winner of the free trip to the Azores announced
15.30 – 16.00 coffee  

Course Leaders

Ari Trausti is one of Iceland’s best known geologists and a former Icelandic Presidential candidate. With over 25 years’ experience as a freelance consultant, Ari has worked in a variety of fields, including TV hosting, teaching and writing.
David Rogers David Rogers, Assistant Head teacher and multi award winning pedagogic troublemaker.  Fellow member of the RGS and OS excellence in geography teaching winner, Microsoft Expert Educator and author. David can be followed on Twitter @DavidErogers and writes at
Jo Debens is a multi-award winning Curriculum Leader for Geography.  Jo is known for using creative learning, information technology, learning outside the classroom, student digital leadership and curriculum hacker’s approaches to education.   When not in the classroom, Jo can be found exploring, reading, and walking her dog.  Jo can be followed on Twitter @geodebs and writes at

For more information or to reserve a place please email

Mission:Explore at Farnborough

Not content with hitting Latitude festival, Mission:Explore will also be at the Farnborough Air Show this weekend.
You can come along and pick up one of our special mission booklets to carry out while at the show.

This will help you explore our great new photo functionality on the site. 

Take a picture and submit it to get your mission points. This means that we can build up a massive gallery of images of completed missions, with ideas of how you have tackled them.

Head over to Mission:Explore and sign up now.

And come and say hello if you're at the show... Could be a scorcher...

Mission:Explore at Latitude Festival

Colleagues from Explorer HQ are gearing up for Latitude festival at Henham Park near Southwold.
As in previous years, we've provided some activities and mapping for the kids who attend the conference. Go HERE to download our special activity booklet.

Seek us out in the Kids' area and do some activities...

This year, there's also a chance to hear some epic Shackleton based goodness from Suns of the Tundra - how many other bands do you know that have a top geographer as a lead guitarist ?
They are going to be performing on Friday night, where you can catch their new album as a live accompaniment to the classic film 'South' telling the story of Shackleton's voyage on the 'Endurance'.
Find in the 'Little House' venue in the Faraway Forest...

Z GIS wins award

Good to hear that Z GIS won an award at the ESRI User Conference yesterday

Z GIS was where I was based when working on the digitalearth project, and also visited when leading some GeoMedia in Geographical Education courses at the University of Salzburg during my freelance geographer years.
A great team of people doing great work...

Image: Alan Parkinson

ALCAB report for Geography

Following earlier tweet on the 'A' level Geography consultation, you may wish to read the full report from the 'A' Level Content Advisory Board

There is plenty of meat here, and lots to think about re. 'A' level content and the way that it might be assessed... Important that there is some updating of what has been fairly static topic-wise for a while now... Lots of writing needed for new resources too.... which is always a bonus.

New shirt for summer...

Coming soon to a beach near you...


We've been preparing some work for Year 8s linked to Marcello di Cintio's book: "Walls" with our Year 8 groups. It's described over on my teaching blog.
It's an exploration of some of the world's divides: those places where two territories rub up against each other. I'm reminded of lyrics from one of my favourite bands: Rush, who I guess Marcello would be familiar with:
They shoot without shame
In the name of a piece of dirt
For a change of accent
Or the color of your shirt
Better the pride that resides
In a citizen of the world
Than the pride that divides
When a colorful rag is unfurled
Lyrcis: Neil Peart

You can find out more about this using a search on Marcello's own website.
Sadly, some of the boundaries that Marcello mentions in his book are currently in the news for sad reasons. The conflict between Israel and its neighbour continues to lead to casualties, in the current conflict with Hamas, which escalated overnight. There has also been debate along the US-Mexican border over Obama's views on what might be best to do with regards to immigration. I also read something last week about the divided city of Nicosia on Cyprus (Daily Mail link)

Finally, I've been toying for some time with buying Alastair Bonnett's latest book, and the American title of the book is preferable to 'Off the Map'.
From this article here on the book, which describes a trip to the town of Baarle, where national borders are rather confusing:

“People think of borders as negative things; it’s often said we want a world without borders,” but Baarle has “made me think true borders aren’t only about exclusion, but also about identity creation. Where in a world without borders could you possibly ever escape to?”

Also watch out for a forthcoming 'Teaching Geography' article written by my HoD on this topic...

OFQUAL 'AS' and 'A' level Geography consultation

Latest from OFQUAL yesterday.
You have until September to give your thoughts on these proposals
More on the GA website.



1.1      We have already announced our decisions on the design and assessment of new GCSE geography, following consultation in summer 2013. The new qualifications are due to be taught from September 2016.

A level and AS qualifications

1.2      We consulted in late 2013 on proposed assessment arrangements for A level and AS qualifications in geography and on new assessment objectives for these qualifications.[1] We proposed that 20 per cent of the marks should be allocated to assessing fieldwork skills in a non-exam assessment.
1.3      It was intended that the reformed qualifications should be taught from September 2015. However, the responses to the separate consultation, hosted by the DfE, highlighted the need for a further review of the proposed content. This led to a decision to defer the introduction of new A level and AS qualifications in geography until September 2016.

1.1      ALCAB.[1] We have reconsidered our proposals for the balance of assessment in the light of the draft revised content and have decided that our original proposals remain appropriate. However, as the draft content has changed, we repeat our proposals here and invite views on them. In addition, in response to the new subject content, we have made some changes to the assessment objectives on which we previously consulted. We set out our rationale for our revised proposals below.

Proposed assessment arrangements

1.2      Currently students are expected to undertake fieldwork to develop their skills and understanding of the subject; however, there is no direct assessment of fieldwork skills. We have received representations from the subject community arguing in support of a separate assessment of fieldwork skills and raising concerns about the effectiveness of the assessment of these skills by examination. In our review of the current qualifications, we also identified concerns about whether all relevant geographical skills were being effectively assessed in exams, and suggested that it was important to consider whether non-exam assessment should be included in reformed A level qualifications.[2]
1.3      Given the importance of fieldwork to students’ understanding of the subject and for progression to study geography in higher education, we are proposing that fieldwork skills should be assessed through non-exam assessment at A level. We propose that 20 per cent of the marks should be allocated to this assessment.[3]
1.4      In contrast to our decisions on A level science practical assessments we propose that the outcome for A level geography fieldwork assessment should contribute to the overall A level grade. The geography fieldwork assessment will take place over a period of time, and it can be more student-led than science practical assessments. It will draw on different aspects of the course and will not result in direct assessment of the fieldwork skills but will result in a written report, the marking of which can be moderated by exam boards.
1.5      In A level, the science practical assessment directly assesses a wide range of practical skills. Our expectation is that by the end of a two-year course of study in a science subject most students should have developed those skills and should therefore be expected to pass the practical assessment. As we have seen from the current science practical assessments, it is difficult to differentiate between students’ performances in such assessments. There is greater potential to differentiate between students’ fieldwork reports. 
1.6      We will work with the exam boards to consider how authenticity of the work and the quality of teacher marking and its moderation can be secured. We will keep the effectiveness of any new geography fieldwork assessment under close review.
1.7      We propose that AS qualifications in geography should be assessed by exam only. If there was a non-exam assessment in the AS qualification, a student who chose to take both an AS and an A level would have to complete two non-exam assessments. This could be disruptive to teaching and learning and add little value. A student intending to study geography in higher education could be expected to undertake an A level in the subject and therefore undertake the fieldwork assessment.

Proposed assessment objectives

1.8      The proposed assessment objectives specify more clearly than the current ones the abilities required in the subject. The proposed permitted ranges are narrower than those in the current assessment objectives. This should promote greater comparability in the way the abilities are targeted in different qualifications.

Assessment objectives
A level
Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of places, environments, concepts, processes, interactions and change at a variety of scales
Apply knowledge and understanding in different contexts to analyse, interpret and evaluate key concepts, information and issues
Use a variety of relevant methods and techniques to:
n  investigate questions and issues
n  interpret, analyse and evaluate data and resources
n  communicate findings

Current assessment objectives

Assessment objectives
A level
Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the content, concepts and processes
Analyse, interpret and evaluate geographical information, issues and viewpoints and apply understanding in unfamiliar contexts
Select and use a variety of methods, skills and techniques (including the use of new technologies) to investigate questions and issues, reach conclusions and communicate findings


[3] We have taken a different view at GCSE. We have decided, following consultation, that the new GCSEs in geography will be assessed by exam only, with some exam questions being designed to assess the knowledge and skills students learn from fieldwork. There will be no non-exam assessment, but schools must confirm in a written statement that students have carried out two pieces of fieldwork. 
The GCSE geography cohort is, of course, much larger than that for A level geography (in 2012 in England 163,604 students were awarded a GCSE in geography, and 27,604 an A level in the subject). Our decisions for GCSE geography took into account the logistical issues created by a compulsory fieldwork requirement for GCSE students and the challenges of making sure all students entered for GCSE geography have undertaken their fieldwork assessment. The writing of the fieldwork assessment in the classroom under controlled conditions diverts time away from teaching and learning, which can be significant in a small qualification such as a GCSE. There are also concerns about the authenticity and marking of some controlled assessments.

You may re-use this publication (not including logos) free of charge in any format or medium, under the terms of the Open Government Licence

Download the document and fill in these sections:

Consultation Question 27: To what extent do you agree or disagree that AS qualifications in geography should be assessed entirely by exam?
Consultation Question 28: To what extent do you agree or disagree that for A levels in geography 80 per cent of the available marks should be allocated to exams, and 20 per cent to non-exam assessment?
Consultation Question 29: To what extent do you agree or disagree that the proposed assessment objectives are appropriate for A level and AS qualifications in geography?
Consultation Question 30: To what extent do you agree or disagree that the proposed weightings of the assessment objectives are appropriate for AS qualifications in geography?
Consultation Question 31: To what extent do you agree or disagree that the proposed weightings of the assessment objectives are appropriate for A levels in geography?
Consultation Question 32: Do you have any further comments relating to the assessment of this subject?