IAPS Geography conference

The IAPS Geography conference is held in Oxford on the 19th of November.
I am one of a small number of speakers, and will be leading a session for colleagues called 'Developing a technology enhanced geography curriculum'.

Details in this booklet from IAPS (PDF download)
Members can book via the IAPS website.

This is one of the few external events I'm going to be doing in the next academic year...

New Bill Bryson

Out in October - I suspect quite a few copies of this will be sold...

100 Geosites

A new app from the Geological Society shows details of 100 great places to explore geology.

It's an app version of an interactive map produced by ESRI.

The app can be obtained from the app store.

There are two sites fairly close to me, and I've visited both numerous times: the famous stripy cliffs at Hunstanton, and the folded cliffs near Cromer.

Rock on....

Happy retirement to John Lyon

Between September 2008 and 2011 I worked as Secondary Curriculum leader for the Geographical Association at Solly Street in Sheffield. I shared an office with the Programme Director: John Lyon, who had been there three years himself at the time when I started.

We worked on the second phase of the Action Plan for Geography, and worked on numerous projects, CPD events, publications and other support for teachers. It was a privilege to work with John, who was able to do the 'strategic' thinking that I couldn't, and I kept him fed with ideas. On office days, we would spend most of the day working at our desks, with questions and ideas fired back and forwards, before wandering down for a sandwich eaten while we carried on working. I loved my three years working at Solly Street, and several hundred venues around the country and beyond. When perceived financial issues meant that my job was made redundant, one of the aspects of the job that I most missed was the chance to continue working with John.

John officially retired yesterday, although he will continue to be associated with the GA in many ways.
Very best wishes to John, and thanks for the continued
support over the years.

And also my best wishes to Becky Kitchen who starts a new job as Secondary Curriculum Leader for the GA on the 1st of September. She'll do a fabulous job and have a great time as well.

Image credits: Bryan Ledgard (John with Alan Kinder) and RGS-IBG (Becky on the occasion of her winning the OS Award for excellence - some splendid people have won that particular award over the years...)

New resources for QGIS and the Census

In 2014, the Royal Geographical Society awarded two teachers an Innovative Geography Teaching grant of £1000 to fund the development of new resources, based on the use of Census data.
I was one of those teachers, and worked with Ben Hennig to create a new education section of the LondonMapper website: a new project involving Professor Danny Dorling, which explores London through a series of cartograms using Census data.
My Scheme of Work explores the LondonMapper website and materials, and uses the idea of future urbanists looking back at London to see how it has changed over the years.
It connects with the other unit that I wrote for the RGS called Mapping London.

The second grant was awarded to Paul Turner, who takes over as Head of Geography at Bedales School in September. He worked with Dr Adam Dennett, a lecturer from UCL who works at CASA.
Paul's website and materials can now be viewed here, and he is keen to connect with teachers who want to trial the materials. You can contact Paul via the site.
There are 10 lessons which act as an introduction to QGIS, and the mapping and analysis of Census data.

New Orleans - 10 years on...

This time ten years ago, a hurricane called Katrina (the last one to have that name) was heading for New Orleans.
It turned out to be a dramatic incident which I taught about at the time, particularly with the 6th form groups who were exploring meteorological hazards at the time.

This is a useful piece by Harry Shearer.

Also, if you're reading this over the next week or so, it's worth checking out Twitter for lots of links and images ten years on...


"The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it".

2041 is a site outlining the projects of Robert Swan, who is planning an expedition to Antarctica in 2016. He has travelled extensively in Polar regions.
The name of the site comes from the fact that 2041 is the year when the current moratorium on mining and extraction on the continent is due to be discussed again.
Worth a visit for anyone who might be interested in getting involved with some of Robert's future projects.

Peter Jackson makes connections...

In a new video shared by the GA...

Geographical connections from Geographical Association on Vimeo.
This video, presented by Professor Peter Jackson, explains how geographic thinking can be used to find connections in the world which are not immediately apparent. For example, areas that many people see as separate (like the global north and the global south, or urban and rural areas) are in fact connected. The video would be an excellent introduction to A level thinking about connections, and begin a discussion on how factors like demography, food production and energy production are truly global systems.

Link to resources page with supporting materials: http://geography.org.uk/resources/videocasts/geographicalconnections/


Down to Southwold yesterday for a day beside the seaside... a classic resort which was described by Pevsner as "one of the happiest and most picturesque seaside towns in England" and one of our favourite places, and only an hour and a bit away from home, traffic permitting, which it didn't...
Image: Alan Parkinson

1.7 million

That's the number of views that this blog has now had since I started it back in 2008...
Thanks for stopping by... come again...

More good news for Geography

Following last week's Guardian editorial, and Jo Debens appearance on the there was another article on the importance of Geography today on the TES website, and presumably in print as well.

This time the author is Rita Gardner, the Director of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG)

Rita mentioned the Action Plan for Geography, which is what I also did in my post on the previous article.

The initial boost for geography came in 2006. This marked the first time the government substantially invested in geography at school, with Lord Adonis signing off a five-year, £3.8 million action plan. The Royal Geographical Society (RGS) led the advocacy for this, bringing representatives together from across the community – schools, universities, employers and business leaders. Breadth of community support, leadership by learned societies and professional bodies, a strong subject body in the form of the Geographical Association and speaking with one voice as a community have been powerful forces for the discipline ever since.
Meanwhile, geography teachers saw the action plan as a long-awaited vote of confidence in their discipline, as well as providing essential professional support.     
I'm proud to have been part of the APG team, and for the job that we did.
The article is well worth reading, as it sets out some of the changes that have taken place in the subject which, as Rita says is:
a rigorous, relevant and civilising subject that is, and should continue to be, at the heart of education in a world characterised by change and challenge.

Colouring in....

The Ordnance Survey got in on the 'adult colouring book' action today by posting some colouring sheets based on their mapping and logo.
I really liked the London logo for example:


A presentation on the GeoCapabilities project, which I'm involved with. Check it out. Some powerful ideas of curriculum making and leadership.

World Power Map

New in today, via Google Earth blog is a link to a resource called WORLD POWER MAP.

This uses Google Earth, and a range of data sets to enable the interrogation of a range of data related to global power relationships and geopolitics.
Here's the creator Kevin Thuot on the site:

I created the WorldPower Map because I wanted a better way to understand the relationship between geopolitics and energy resources. Being a voracious news reader, I’ve found that despite the increase in the flow of information, making sense of what it all means and how one storyline impacts another hasn’t become any easier.
Reading the news is not enough. All major world events play out on a backdrop of the physical world – both natural and man-made. The WorldPower Map merges these two halves, news and strategic landscape, into a clear whole.
You can download a range of materials and links as a KML file which opens up within Google Earth. As the links are live links, the maps will update if there are changes to the data.

Back to School 2

Getting ready to start back on the daily commute to school in a few weeks time.
The ONS has released the latest updates on the Travel to Work data that it collects.

Peter Gabriel charity song

’20 million people are washed up by the flood, 
20 million dreams are sinking in the mud.’

Just browsing through the Peter Gabriel albums on Apple Music (on my free 3 month trial) and came across a charity single I hadn't heard before.

In July 2010, devastating floods hit the majority of Pakistan. These floods affected around 20 million people, mostly by the destruction of property, livelihood and infrastructure, which people are still trying to rebuild.

“Open Your Eyes” – Salman Ahmad, Peter Gabriel and Alison Sudol

Here's a sampler...

Back to School

Ease the pain a little with an updated version of the classic 'Welcome to Geography' resource created by Simon Jones. Thanks for all the hard work here, and for sharing. This will be on my classroom wall once again to welcome students young and old. Follow the links below the presentation to see Simon's other excellent resources.

Cambridge Cycling or Driverless cars

More transport stuff, which is too late to make the forthcoming resource that I wrote for CILT in association with the GA.
Here's a video explaining what Cambridge has done to try to become Britain's Cycling Capital.

Cambridge: Britain's Cycling Capital from STREETFILMS on Vimeo.

The second is a game that I got from the AGTA website.

It's called ERROR PRONE and the purpose of the game is to illustrate the 'benefits' of driverless cars.
Both are work a look...

R4 Today

Fast forward to 1:54:20 on today's Today programme to hear Jo Debens and Wayne Hemingway explaining why geography is a vital subject.
Nice work by Jo once again.

Reminded me of back in 2006 when the 'G' team of David Lambert, Dan Raven Ellison and Hannah Boucher were guest editors. Give Geography its Place campaign was fighting for Geography back then... I still have my Passion 4 Geography t-shirts and hoodies and stickers.

Matt's inspirations

I enjoyed reading two short pieces by Matt Podbury on what inspires him as a Geography teacher. There was plenty of interest here, and I shared some of his inspirations, in particular Margaret Roberts, although I wasn't lucky enough to have her as my PGCE tutor.
Having said that, I was fortunate to be in the last cohort taken through by the late and wonderful Vincent Tidswell before his retirement.
I was pleased to get a mention, and also enjoyed reading about Matt's first meeting with the legend that is Russel Tarr. Check out Matt's website if you haven't visited before.

Greater London National Park

Down to London yesterday for a meeting at the rather nice GeoVation hub in Clerkenwell.

We were there to have an Explorer HQ meeting, and that meant seeing Dan Raven Ellison who is behind the proposal for London to be a National Park city. I got several copies of the newspaper that has been specially printed to showcase the proposal. You can download your own PDF version of this document from the website (and find out more about the project)

Also got to see Mark, Helen and Tom who are equally awesome...

A chance to work for the RGS-IBG

An opportunity to work in the historic surroundings of the Royal Geographical Society has arisen. They are looking for an Educational writer on a 3 year fixed term, full time basis. An exciting chance for someone to create some inspirational new materials to link HE Geography with school geography.

Geography: the must have 'A' level....

Geography has not always enjoyed prominence in the past, and this was partly the reason why the Action Plan for Geography received funding, after a lot of work by the Geographical Association and RGS-IBG to secure support from previous governments.

The Action Plan for Geography (PDF download of evaluation report) ran from 2006-11, and I worked on it as part of the APG team for the final three years, while employed at the Geographical Association.

As part of that, we created the manifesto 'a different view', and I put together the promotional video here.

a different view downloadable

Yesterday, after some of the best results in Geography for a while, there was the news that Geography had seen a large increase in the number of students

The Guardian then produced an editorial which was really pleasing to see, as it showed perhaps the legacy of some of the work that we did back then, and the hard work of both teachers and students since then, as students who were experiencing their KS3 Geography back then were the students who were collecting their 'A' level results this year.

It calls Geography 'the must have 'A' level'

It is inherently multidisciplinary in a world that increasingly values people who have the skills needed to work across the physical and social sciences. Geographers get to learn data analysis, and to read Robert Macfarlane. They learn geographic information systems. They can turn maps from a two-dimensional representation of a country’s physical contours into a tool that illustrates social attributes or attitudes: not just where people live, but howwhat they think and how they vote. They learn about the physics of climate change, or the interaction of weather events and flood risk, or the way people’s behaviour is influenced by the space around them.

Olympic accommodation? Try a favela...

For over 2 decades, favelas have featured in my teaching: informal settlements in Brazilian cities, possibly named after flowers which grow on the steep slopes, which is where some of these settlements also locate.

Now it seems that they are going to be pressed into service for the upcoming Olympics, as accommodation for visitors.

The Guardian had a feature on those people who feel that the Olympics will make the city worse not better, and there's a useful piece by Thais Cavalcante here. Another resident of Rocinha speaks here.

Thought for the Day

For every 2 tonnes of food and drink consumed in the home, another tonne is going to waste at some point in the chain

David Moon, head of ​food ​​sustainability at W​rap UK

There are 3 useful recent Guardian articles to go along with this issue here, here and here.

London Pavement Geology

London can be the location of a geological field trip if you look down at the pavement, and then across at the geology of shop frontages.

There's a useful interactive map which can now be used to identify places in London.

Nice work by Dave Wallis.

GA Teachmeet and BeerMeet 2016

Well advance notice of the 2nd GA Conference Teachmeet, which will take place at the Roundhouse in Derby on Friday the 8th of April, 2016

The Beermeet is likely to take place at the splendid Brunswick Inn just across the other side of the tracks.
You can sign up to present here - would be very good to see some first time presenters sharing ideas on the conference theme...
You can see last year's Teachmeet here.

Traffic counts...

The Department for Transport counts traffic at a large number of locations around the UK's road network.
These can be accessed via the website here.

They are available for each county. Here's part of the Norfolk map showing the area around Swaffham.

Click a marker, and then choose a section of the road and you can download a CSV file of the data for that stretch of road.

This will show you the average annual daily flow of cars, lorries etc. for a number of years. Choose a series of roads, and you can assess the rate of traffic flow, changes over time, and the influence of particular junctions.

I came across this data while I was working on a forthcoming resource for the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) in association with the GA.

Thought for the Day

“A lot of our geography is in the mind”
Doreen Massey

And I've got a lot on my mind....

How to build a city

I was drawn to this article by Stuart Jefferies in the Guardian's excellent section of articles on cities.
I'm also keen on using gaming such as SimCity and others to explore how cities are created and managed. This is something that goes back many years to some of the early simulation games used in the classroom.

I have SimCity 4 on my iMac but sadly little time to explore it...

The article provides 20 steps towards building a great city.
It is also illustrated in infographic style by Sam Chelton.

I'd be interested in students looking at these steps and seeing whether a city that they are studying, or which they are allocated has some of these characteristics.

A few weeks ago, I was also fortunate enough to win a copy of the game Cities:Skylines - the deluxe version which is a bonus, and I look forward to exploring how this could be used for educational purposes.

New Zealand flag design

The New Zealand government is choosing a new design for its flag.
The process has involved a range of designs, and is now down to a short list of 40 designs... a few of which are shown below...

You can have a look - and share your own favourite designs if you like...

What would you put on a re-designed flag for your own country ?

New OS Map reading videos

I’m always with a penknife, map and compass. I’m an OS map user in a big way. It’s almost a daily thing. I’m enormously proud of OS. Its level of cover in this country is extraordinary. I think it’s something that, hand on heart, Brits do better than anyone else.
Map reading is a skill that’s dying out. Everyone should be able to read with a map and compass. It can and will save lives. Steve Backshall
Ordnance Survey created a series of videos with Simon King some years ago to offer a range of guidance on grid references, use of a compass etc.

They have now been updated with Steve Backshall as a presenter.
Here's the one on Grid References. Visit the website to see the others and download some map reading guides.

Happy where you live ?

The Telegraph has released the latest poll results showing where people are happiest and unhappiest.

Here's the top ten of each.


There'll be more on this project to come for the next few years, but here are the first details of a European project, funded under the Erasmus+ scheme, which I will be co-ordinating on behalf of my school, which is a partner in the project.

The projects is called GI-Learner, and is being led by someone who I have worked with on a number of projects: Luc Zwartjes from Belgium, who works in Ghent.

Here's a summary of the main points.

Many aspects of our economy and society are based on geoinformation and technologies: the majority of information has a geospatial component. Employment in the sector is rising rapidly, but few students leave school with a knowledge of geoinformation.
Many GI Science studies explore the idea of informatics, but not spatial thinking, and GI Science isn’t really taught in many schools. A Europe-wide training programme is needed with the capacity to raise awareness of the GI sector and create a geospatially literate workforce.

What we will do

Deliver material for rewriting/making the curriculum and educational programmes with the help of pupils, based around developing skills and knowledge useful for their future lives and employment in tomorrow’s society.

This will develop ideas of ‘digital literacy’, and digital integration (which concerns the appropriate use of digital tools, and the construction of ‘new’ knowledge).

We have got a range of excellent partners to work with us on the project, which will run for the next three years. I've worked with several of them before on other projects. Students will be involved in producing and trialling materials as part of the curriculum development.

Four schools

Sint-Lodewijkscollege, Bruges, Belgium 

King’s Ely – us :)

Bundesoberstufenrealgymnasium Salzburg, Nonntal, Austria 

Liceul Teoretic "Dimitrie Cantemir" Iasi, Romania

Two universities

Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Madrid, Spain 

Universiteit Gent, Gent, Belgium

European Association of Geographers  (EuroGeo)

 – Prof Karl Donert & Elzbieta Wołoszyńska-Wiśniewska

Watch this space as the project develops over the next three years.

Top Educational blogs

The #ukedchat community is very active, even during the summer holidays.

The latest issue of the magazine includes a list of their choice of Top Educational blogs, and it's nice to see that LivingGeography gets a mention for the 2nd year running. You can visit the site and get a copy of the list as a PDF download, or copy a version to your Dropbox folder.

Thanks to anyone who nominated the blog, and hello if you're visiting for the first time as a result of the link.
Plenty of other excellent blogs on the list. Why not make the new academic year the time that you start blogging?

UKEdChat are currently asking people for their favourite twitter feeds.
Give @GeoBlogs a mention if you find my tweets useful.

Now listening...

Rebranding plaices...

Studying the rebranding of places is a relatively new theme for geographers who may have been teaching one of the more 'traditional' specifications for some time. However, as a former teacher of the OCR Pilot GCSE specification, it's something I'm more than familiar with.

I was interested in an article in the i newspaper last week, which was reported here. The group PETA which campaigns for the ethical treatment of animals sent an e-mail to the Mayor of the seaside town of Skegness to protest about the Jolly Fisherman: the iconic logo of the town.

The letter that PETA sent to the Mayor of Skegness can be downloaded as a PDF from this link.
The proposed poster can be downloaded as a large JPG too.

And here's a former Mayor's apparent response on Facebook.

There's also an alternative response to PETA which I won't post here, but you can find with a little sleuthing.

So perhaps this is an example of 'rebranding plaice', and one that I plan to make use of.

How would your rebrand your local place?

Public use of public space

I'm really interested in a collection of associated images from this blog link.
Seems to have been work produced by Sheffeld MA Architecture students back in 2009 as part of a project of some kind. I don't know more about it than that.
One diagram that I particularly liked is shown below.

It shows the different ways that people use a particular open space. There are a few examples which would need a little careful editing if using with students, but the list would be really useful to present them with, and I liked the icons for the particular aspects of the space that these different users would need. If there was a park or square near the school, particularly in a large city, this would make for a useful ethnographic fieldwork study, and a good 6th form project in particular. I may give this a go in some format...

If the original creators see this and want me to remove the image that's fine, but would be interested to know more about the project that led to the creation of these diagrams.

They would also be really useful, I think, for those starting to grapple with the Changing Place, Changing Places unit on the new 'A' level specifications.

Alan Garner unbound...

 If the rocks, caves, lakes, fens, bogs and dens of the land of Britain had a voice, it would sound like Alan Garner telling a story.” - Philip Pullman
Over the summer, one of the things I've done is contribute to a 'kickstarter' style project on a website called 'Unbound', which is aimed at getting books published, and which has now been fully funded, so will be going ahead.
This is a very special book, as it is a tribute to the author Alan Garner, co-ordinated by Erica Wagner.

Alan Garner books, both children's fiction such as the Weirdstone of Brisingamen and the Stone Book Quartet, but his more recent books like Strandloper and Thursbitch have been in my life for 40 years, and have a strong connection with landscape, particularly that around Alderley Edge, which I've visited several times.
The anthology quoted from below contains some remarkable stories about Garner's life, and his inspirations:

The purpose of the storyteller is to relate the truth in a manner that is simple: to integrate without reduction; for it is rarely possible to declare the truth as it is, because the Universe presents itself as a Mystery. We have to find parables; we have to tell stories to unriddle the world. ALAN GARNER, The Voice that Thunders (1997)
Looking forward to receiving the book when it's produced.

3D printed volcanoes

An interesting story on the use of 3D printing. This time, it's with the aim of helping people plot evacuation routes, and appreciate the risks that they face in different areas of the volcano.
Been looking at this technology for some time now, and waiting for its appearance at a reasonable cost, for use in the classroom. I've worked on a few projects, most recently the INTEL Internet of Things DISTANCE project, where we made use of it.

Benguela current

Benguela current is one of the key ocean currents which is part of the wider oceanic circulation.
This interactive website describes its importance, and is an attractive and useful resource.

I remember using a Julian Pettifer El Nino video some years ago which had some powerful scenes of the impact of this current being altered by teleconnections between places which were remote.

Back from Devon

Back from ten days in Devon.

Images by Alan Parkinson - cliff for biggery