Happy 10th Birthday Google Earth

It's 10 years ago since the launch of Google Earth.

I remember seeing it for the first time, and contacting the Google Education team which was then very small, and Dennis Reinhardt let me have a Pro license for a year so I could have a good play. I started preparing a presentation for the Scottish Association of Geography Teacher's Conference in 2005, which is where I first met Ollie Bray (he was finishing his presentation at the time) and also applied for an Innovative Geography Teaching Grant to develop a users' guide to Earth, which became this very blog !

Today, Google announced a few new features to celebrate the 10th anniversary of what many teachers would say is the most useful tool for geography teachers, but which has now been eclipsed a little by other tools, and perhaps some apps too. It's still something I use weekly at least, and used it the other day in fact to explore Ely...

There's also hundreds of new images for my favourite Chrome extension, and a web gallery too (sort of a super version of Noel Jenkins' Earth as Art activity)

RIP Chris Squire

I've been listening to Chris Squire regularly for close on 40 years...
I remember a friend Phil rehearsing his band in the school drama studio and playing a version of 'Seen all good people' (he had good taste in music)
I've seen Chris live with Yes many times in various incarnations over the years... most recently on the 'Open your Eyes' tour and wish now that I'd taken the chance to see them last year playing some classic albums...
Going to be a Yes evening on Spotify now for sure... and will load up the car with CDs for a long drive tomorrow...

Volcano Top Trumps map

Raphael Heath has produced a very useful new map for any of you who use the Volcano Top Trumps packs in your classroom. If you haven't seen the Top Trumps, they can be purchased via the website.

Here's the map, which shows the locations of the volcanoes in the pack.


A really busy day on the blog yesterday, with over 4200 page views... Statistics show that there are more visitors from the USA than the UK to the blog more generally.
Whatever brings you here, you're all very welcome. Don't forget that if you sign up to the daily newsletter (see the link on the top right of each page) you'll never miss a post...

Good to know that even after 13 years or so of blogging, I've still got things to say that are worth reading....

Danny Dorling at the GA Conference

The first of a planned series of videos from the GA Conference, which features the keynote lecture given by Professor Danny Dorling on the theme of Population, liberally illustrated with Ben Hennig's maps and cartograms... More details HERE on the GA website.

Population from Geographical Association on Vimeo.

Physical Geography Photo Competition

After last year's successful photo competition run by the GA's Physical Geography SIG, the event is back again this year.
This is the 2nd year - here are some of last year's winners.

This year, the theme is EARTH SCULPTURE.

What's involved

We know that physical geography shapes the land and the sky, but we don't often stop to notice and really appreciate our environment, and how physical geography processes have shaped what we see around us. So here is the perfect opportunity to encourage your students to go out and explore Earth’s land and atmospheric forms.
To take part, students take a photo and write an interesting and informative description of the physical geography they have captured, then submit to the website before the close of the competition on Friday 11 September 2015.
The website includes advice and suggestions for discovering examples of physical geography plus tips for creating a good entry.

We encourage your students to enter as taking part will broaden their geographical understanding.

Details and prizes

There are two entry categories:
1. Ages 11–14 (KS3), 2. Ages 14–18 (KS4–5)
Prizes from outdoor clothing company Páramo will be awarded for 1st, 2nd and 3rd places in each category and entries judged as highly commended will also be rewarded.


  • to promote students’ observation and awareness of physical geography in their environment
  • to apply young people’s knowledge of physical geography using an informal context
  • to inspire young people to observe and interact with physical geography through imagery
  • for young people to recognise that photography is an exciting and interesting way of capturing and interpreting physical geography.
Some ideas:
  • a stone wall with pockets of weathered rock or unusual ridges that stand out
  • interesting cloud formations
  • a ‘stepped’ hillside
  • ripples across a sandy beach
  • a gorge
  • stacked boulders on a mountain top
  • a river meander.

Final few weeks of term

Just pencilled in all the various events that are happening over the final few weeks of term into my teacher planer. There's a lot of lessons that are being used for other events, and the students are in for a hectic end to the year with some really exciting events both during and after the school day.

We apparently have Simon Weston coming to speak at our Prize giving and celebration service, and I'm very much looking forward to hearing what he has to say.

What are you looking forward to most of all in the final weeks of this term?

Tablet Academy Showcase Classroom event

Heading to Norwich on Monday afternoon for a Microsoft Showcase Classroom event at the Great Hospital near the Cathedral, which I've passed many times but never been inside.

It's an event to introduce Microsoft tablets, and ideas for classroom use. Delegates receive a free tablet for their personal use after the event. I'm planning on using it as my markbook and planning tool, thanks to some support software from a colleague and some nifty Dropbox synching.
There are still tickets available, (at the time of posting) so you could come along and join me.

Here's the sort of things I'll presumably be doing on Monday.

Microsoft Showcase Tour from Born on Vimeo.

Helsinki - tales from Finland 2

Apologies for delay in posting this... I've been busy...

The second half of my half term was spent in Helsinki.

Gatwick was the airport I had to use to avoid a long stopover somewhere on the way. I also wanted to fly Norwegian Air.
Norwegian Air offers free wifi, which is OK for sending a few e-mails and tweets and browsing some documents, but not fast enough for much else given that the plane was fairly full - it's faster with fewer passengers. Having said that, it's a lot better than nothing... and allows you to follow your route, and tweet from 35 000 feet.
They have a cool map which tells you where you are, so you can track your flight. We made good time: 2 hours and 20 minutes.

I was in Helsinki for a meeting of the GeoCapabilities project.

This took us to quite a few interesting locations, and we were also blessed with the weather, which was warm and sunny the whole time I was there.

Images from the trip can be seen at the end of the post.

Many thanks to Sirpa Tani and colleagues for the hospitality. We visited the Walkers cafe in central Helsinki, which is a subsidised place for young people to go (coffee at 10 cents) to avoid them getting into trouble in the city, or drinking alcohol. Rather than criminalise these young people, the Finns do something proactive about it.
We met the person who set up the venue, which was a good place to spend the morning. The project translates literally as 'Children of the station' and helps to stop children hanging around.

It was the weekend when high school students graduate, and they were all wearing their traditional white caps and the city was busy. We visited some splendid restaurants, each with a different atmosphere.
We headed out on the ferry to Suomenlinna, a World Heritage site, with an amazing fortress. Our 2nd day of meetings was in a room in the fortress.
I also headed for the Olympic Stadium and went up the tower and had a tour.

A few days of interesting new geographies, plenty of hours wandering the city and uncovering some of its secrets. Thanks to Duncan for showing me the roche moutonnees
I'll be back I hope...

Dropping a Clanger?

The work of Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin has been with me for most of my life, going back to the late 60s...
This week, on CBeebies, one of their classic series was brought back to life, with a new CGI version, made along with Daniel Postgate.

Clangers is a reboot of the original ... the stories are new, inspired by the originals.

There's also a suitably relaxing narration, this time round by former RGS president Michael Palin, who has spoken of how proud he is to be involved with the series.

One of the favourite books I own is a splendid hardback book which was published earlier this year by Four Corners books: some images from it are below, showing the original Clangers - there are many more fabulous close-ups of models, sets and scripts for all the Smallfilms series.

Watch on iPlayer and make up your own mind...
Here's a look behind the scenes, and also follow @helloclangers on Twitter

Have they dropped a Clanger? I think this will introduce the Clangers to a whole new audience, but I hope they seek out the hand-made originals too...

Drone footage of a flash flood in the desert in Utah...

 Is it possible to drown in the desert ?

CILT UK - a new resource with the GA coming soon...

I've just finished my latest writing project.
This time, it was a resource for the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) in association with the Geographical Association. 

CILT's conference is currently taking place, and the twitter stream is creating some interesting ideas for following up. Logistics is an area which is providing a range of options for employment, and is a real growth area. It's also an area which has a real connection with Geography. Location is vital to logistics, as are

There are 8 lessons which are fully resourced, and mirror the 8 professional sectors within which CILT operates.

I'll let you know when, where and in what format the final resource is published and made available....

For more Careers based resources, check out the GA's iCOULD page, which links to some short videos of people talking about how geography connects with their career.


Londonmapper is a project which has grown from Worldmapper, and involves Ben Hennig, Danny Dorling and the rest of the team. The site now has a new EDUCATION tab and section.
Click it to see what I've produced for the site, as my latest new writing project to go 'live'.

Last year, I successfully applied for an Innovative Geography Teaching grant from the RGS-IBG to help fund the creation of these resources. Working with Ben Hennig, I created a Scheme of Work with a range of extra materials, based on London, using Census data and looking forward to the future.

There's a guide to using the LondonMapper maps and data, along with some other materials. I put a lot of effort and ideas into these, and think they're really quite good. Enjoy them...

RGS Ambassadors

The Royal Geographical Society has a large team of Geography Ambassadors who you can request to come into your school and talk about Geography, perhaps to link with option time, or to add interest to the Summer term etc.
ESRI have now produced a very useful map related to the Ambassadors to show which universities are involved in the scheme.

I've had Ambassadors visit my previous school and they always get a good reception...

Take a look and see what they can do for you...

New Psychogeogaphy Zine...

I've followed Tina Richardson's work in the area of Psychogeography for some years now... we met in a church in Hunstanton when I was working for the GA... and I later gave a talk to the Leeds Psychogeography group in the Parkinson building at Leeds University. Use the search box to find previous mentions.

She has released a book of writings in the area, and now this new zine called 'Stepz' - a hard copy can be obtained for £5 or a PDF version can be downloaded for free from this link.

£30 000 target reached

The Greater London National Park concept developed by Daniel Raven Ellison reached another significant milestone earlier today when, on the final day for the funding, the totaliser went through the £30 000 target.

Thanks to everyone who funded the next stage, which will involve a range of further publicity and lobbying, plus the printing of a special newspaper with more details on the proposal.

BIXI and mapping - a CILT resource

Putting together the final sections for a new resource I'm writing for CILT in association with the GA.
The image below shows the station approach to Waterloo Railway Station in London. The Santander Cycle docking station at this location is the busiest in London.

  • Why is this so busy ?
  • What additional support is needed to keep this network working effectively?

 There are various maps which have been created to visualise the use of these cycles, which have been

Hugh Miller voyage - the film

Last year, I was involved in creating some web resources to accompany a voyage made through the Scottish Hebrides in the footsteps of Hugh Miller. I was invited along to join the voyage but sadly couldn't make it as I was teaching. I created a StoryMap which, on reflection, I should have entered in the ESRI StoryMap competition as looking back it was pretty good. Take a look and see what you think.

Following the Betsey from Fergus Cruickshank on Vimeo.
A group of artists, scientists and musicians journey to the isle of Eigg, retracing the original voyage of Scottish geologist Hugh Miller. It was a voyage of discovery to new landscapes, experiences and knowledge.

Shot on the Canon 7D with Miranda 28mm, Vivatar 135mm and Canon 50mm lenses.

Filming and Edit : Fergus Cruickshank
Sound design and Music : Kevin Robertson
On Location Sound : Barney Strachan
Voice of Hugh Miller : Paul J Creegan

They set sail again on 20th June for 'Betsey 2'  - this year's project has an interdisciplinary team aged 20 - 76 and is called 'Testimony of the Rocks: journeys through time'.

Plans are afoot for some further work surrounding this journey.

The sound of Climate Change

The sound of climate change from the Amazon to the Arctic from Ensia on Vimeo.


World Oceans Day

Today is World Oceans Day. I've written about them a fair few times, and also written a range of (award winning) resources about them.
I'm also going to be writing more about them in the next few months for a range of projects.
Check out Digital Explorer's resources for a range of Ocean related goodness.

The theme this year is Healthy Oceans, Healthy Planet.

World Oceans Day is important to celebrate:
  • To remind everyone of the major part the Ocean has in everyday life. They are the lungs of our planet, providing most of the oxygen we breathe.
  • To inform the public on the impact of the human actions on the Ocean.
  • To develop a worldwide movement of citizen, towards the Ocean.
  • To mobilize and unite the world’s population on a project for the sustainable management of the World Ocean. They are a major source of food and medicines and a critical part of the biosphere.
  • To celebrate together the beauty, the wealth and the promise of the Ocean.
Google have released new resources into their Oceans Collection, to mark the day.
This includes a range of places where you can dive beneath the oceans.

Google's Ocean Street View imagery is provided by the Catlin Seaview Survey.

The new imagery includes underwater Street Views from the oceans around the Philippines, Indonesia, the Solomon Islands, the Cook Islands, Australia and American Samoa.
Thanks to Google Maps Mania for the link.

The Expedition Game

A brand new resource from the Royal Scottish Geographical Society.

A new teaching resource is available on our website. Together with Perth and Kinross council we have created a downloadable resource, to prompt discussion about personal qualities, leadership, and team work. The resource links to several curricular areas, including Geography, English, Maths, Biology and Outdoor Learning.
The Expedition is a role play game tracing the story of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition (1914-16). 

The game links into the SQA, SCQF and Curriculum for Excellence.
Please click this link to access the resource, from the RSGS website. (PDF Download 13.2Mb)

This is a significant piece of work, written by Perth and Kinross Outdoor Education team's David Girling along with the RSGS Education Officer Rachel Hay. I am looking at this with interest as a possible resource for next year.

Mad Max and Namibia

The new 'reboot' (I believe the current phrase is) of Mad Max has just been released in cinemas.

Some of the film's adventure scenes were filmed in Namibia.
Back in 2013, it hit the news when there were reports that the filming had damaged the fragile desert landscapes which are one of the most important landscapes in the region.
I haven't seen the film yet, but would be interesting to start collecting examples of where films have resulted in some controversy over their impact on the landscape, or the urban environment in which they were filmed.

For example, 'The Beach' based on a book by Alex Garland also hit the headlines at the time of its filming, and was analysed in even more detail here.

Any others that you can think of ??


I've been trying to take part in the 30 Days Wild challenge so far this month. It's not been easy to find somewhere truly wild, but I've done my best to take a few minutes each day. I particularly enjoyed going off the beaten track in the parks of Helsinki.

Here's a pond on the school site, which I'm going to explore a little more over the next few weeks...

GA Webwatch - Primary focus...

Webwatch is the column that I've written in the Geographical Association's magazine for about nine years now. It provides ideas on using the 'web' in its various guises in the classroom and beyond.

Spring 2016's issue of Webwatch column (in GA Magazine) will have a PRIMARY focus.

I'm keen for Primary colleagues to send me pictures and details of websites, web tools, digital mapping and images, and apps being used in a Primary setting. A short description of the app and how you've used it would be great.

A chance for (slight) fame and (no) fortune.

Many thanks. The deadline is the end of the summer holidays, so there's no rush, but you might be spending the next few weeks outside the classroom doing fieldwork, using iPads etc., so a chance to think of something appropriate. All contributions given a name check, and sent around the world in the 6000 (ish) copies of the journal that are distributed to members.

University of Leeds - Geography Teachers' Conference

The annual event is on the 23rd of June this year.

Geography Teachers’ Conference 
‘Humans in Nature’ 
Tuesday 23rd June 2015 
School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds 

The Sustainability Research Institute will bring together some of their top academics to share insights into the latest cutting edge research on human interactions with the natural environment, in this exciting teachers’ event. We are fascinated by the connections between people and environment, and the conflicts and opportunities that this interface presents. We will cover topics such as nature and the city, justice and adaptation to climate change, and the work retailers are doing on sustainability. In addition, you will find out about some of the less obvious - but perhaps more interesting - options for students who are considering university, and meet other teachers from related disciplines. The Sustainability Research Institute in Leeds is made up of the largest collection of social scientists in the UK working on environmental issues. This year is our 10th anniversary, and we look forward to celebrating that with you at this teachers’ event.

The event is FREE, with lunch and refreshments included! 

To book a place, or for more information, contact Alice Lambert at socialscience@leeds.ac.uk

Here are the sessions:

Why retailers (should) care about sustainability 
Dr Claire Quinn (Lecturer in Natural Resource Management) 
Retailers hold an important “gatekeeper” position in the UK food supply chain. They can create positive change, but they can also pass on the responsibility (and the cost) to others. In this session we’ll examine the role of the retail sector in sustainability, in particular how one retailer (M&S) engages with ideas of sustainable agriculture, climate change and biodiversity. 

Nature and the City 
Dr Martin Dallimer (Lecturer: Environmental Change) 
For the first time in human history, over half the world’s population now lives in towns and cities. In England that figure reaches 80 to 90%. Urban areas are profoundly different from the natural environments which they replace. Nevertheless, our towns and cities often have large areas of ‘green space’, such as public parks and domestic gardens. This presentation will explore the myriad benefits that urban green spaces, nature and wildlife can provide for a human population for whom experiences of ‘nature’ are increasingly restricted.

Fair adaptation to climate change 
Professor Jouni Paavola (Professor of Environmental Social Science) 
Climate change is already happening and will get worse even if progress is made in mitigating the emissions of greenhouse gas emissions. Local authorities and government agencies will thus need to act to protect people from adverse impacts of climate change. This workshop will explore why and how social justice considerations are important for adaptation planning. It clarifies how adaptation planning and measures should acknowledge that people are differently impacted by climate change and may be vulnerable to these impacts to a different degree. 

Do Your Students Want to Change the World? 
Dr Lucie Middlemiss (Admissions Tutor and Lecturer in Sustainability) 
Students studying Geography, Economics or Politics at A level are often unaware of the less obvious, but more exciting, opportunities at degree level. In this session, led by our admissions tutor and one of our top students, we will show what’s involved in our environment-related degree programmes, and you will hear about the student experience ‘from the horse’s mouth’


My next event is GeoLincs on Wednesday afternoon....
Good to see I've got top billing ;)

Prince's Teaching Institute

I just spent a very pleasant day in Harrogate, with the sun shining working with a group of teachers who had been working with the Prince's Teaching Institute on the New Teacher Subject Days programme. They were back to present their learning resource assignments, but first of all they had to listen to me for a few hours.
It was great to work with Ruth Totterdell from the GA once again. She shared some thinking on the new specifications and the work of the GA.
I shared two presentations: Geography and You, and Keep taking the Tablets. They won't be shared elsewhere for the time being.
Thanks to the colleagues who came along.

A long drive home, after a long week at work, but a very worthwhile experience, and thanks for the tweeted thanks waiting for me on my return:

Worth checking out the PTI's CPD offerings for next year...

Antarctica Drone Footage

There has been some discussion over the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), otherwise known as drones in Antarctica, with a suggestion that there might be some restrictions on their use...
However, here's what can be produced with their use, a rather beautiful film...

Antarctica from Kalle Ljung on Vimeo.

Helsinki - stories from Finland - 1

I spent the last four days of the half term in  Helsinki: two full days of meetings with a day of travelling either side.
This is for the GeoCapabilities project, which is a very interesting international project, involving a number of countries.

We had a meeting here on Sunday: a World Heritage Site.
It's called Suomenlinna, and is a fortified island, with a range of museums and other features. I'll provide more details of the whole trip over the next week or so, but thought this would whet your appetite...

Photographer: Lentokuva Vallas Oy
Source: http://www.suomenlinna.fi/en/governingbody/media/image-bank/ 


Eduqas is one of the awarding bodies, and they have just released their new 'A' level specifications.

Simon Oakes gave a very useful lecture on Human Geography teaching at the GA Conference, as part of his role developing specifications with Eduqas. This was filmed, and is now online.

I've linked to the first video below, and you can watch the rest by following the links.
It starts by looking at Manchester as a Place...

Blog break...

Just returned from a 5 day trip to Helsinki - for a meeting for the GeoCapabilities projectpictures and stuff when I get through the next week at work...

Good luck in advance to those doing Edexcel GCSE Geography this week (particularly my daughter) - now get revising :)

Normal blogging will now resume...