Press release for our Virtual Reality work

I've been working with Google Expeditions research group from the Open University for a few weeks. They've come into my school twice, to lead sessions on VR (virtual reality)
There's now a good write-up of their visit with a good image that I took at the start, and an image of me at work later on.

Details in the document on how to get involved in the project if you're interested.

Our Migration Story

From the Runnymede Trust, a new resource which explores how migration has shaped our islands, and made Britain what it is today, focussing on 4 periods of history. It has a history focus, but would be useful for

Hodder Geography Digital Resources

I worked on this during the summer months. The resources are now live, and you can get a free 3 month subscription by following the link.

Volunteered Geographies 1

I've spent some time over the last few days exploring the ideas surrounding my presentation at the Practical Pedagogies event in November, as it's going to be here before we know it...

My theme is the Power of Geographical Information, and how some of the data that are collected by the new "internet of things" and our personal devices can be harnessed for classroom use.
This is an area that is of growing significance: students should be making use of these data but also aware of their role in its production.
I'll be making reference to a few areas and projects that I've been involved in recently:

- the British Red Cross resource on the Nepal Earthquake
- the GI-Learner and GeoCapabilities projects, funded by ERASMUS, that I have taken part in
- my CILT logistics resource for the GA

Will also be referring to a few apps that I use to tap into this data, and the work of individuals such as Ben Hennig and Eric Fischer. Pokemon Go may get a mention too, as part of the idea of volunteered geographic information.
There'll also be mentions of Spatial Literacy, and students' DQ and digital literacy. I've contacted a few other people for some other surprises. There'll be reference to a paper that we prepared for the GI Forum, which has been picked up by the Open University's Google Expeditions team too.

If anyone reading this has any other thoughts on this area, or is aware of useful resources that I should be taking a look at, please get in touch.

What (not) to wear....

My son is unwell, so I've needed some work for students to complete which is challenging and creative, but doesn't need my specific input.

I headed to TeachIt Geography and found a useful document which explored the equipment that scientists (and other visitors) need to take when travelling to Antarctica to cope with the climate of the Polar regions.
This is paired with an activity (pictured above) from the newly revamped Discovering Antarctica website.

There is also the Shackleton Solo website, which features the equipment carried by the late Henry Worsley on his attempt to cross Antarctica which unfortunately ended in his tragic death. Henry's website illustrates the equipment that he took with him, such as these Paramo salopettes.

Free Primary Geography training on the Jurassic Coast

The award-winning Jurassic Coast Education team have a great offering for all Primary colleagues in the area.

They are offering all Primary teachers across Dorset and East Devon a chance to develop their skills and knowledge about rocks and fossils at a series of Big Jurassic Classroom Discovery Days.

With exclusive access to incredible rock and fossil specimens and the expertise of real Earth Scientists, this is a unique opportunity to build your science skills and knowledge.

Reserve your place now. Further details will be sent via email in due course.

Dates and venues are as follows:

10th November 2016 – Safewise, Bournemouth

2nd February 2017 – Safewise, Bournemouth

8th February 2017 – Dorset County Museum, Dorchester

23rd February 2017- The Etches Collection, Kimmeridge

27th February 2017 – Chesil Beach Centre

7th March 2017 – Bridport Museum

13th March 2017 – YHA Swanage

20th March 2017 – Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre

27th March 2017 – Seaton Jurassic

Please note: places are limited to one booking per order. If you need to book multiple places for colleagues, please ask them to book separately or contact us on

For more information, see the Jurassic Coast website.

Some kind comments

..on the resource that I wrote for the British Red Cross.

Matt Podbury said that it is:

"Superb, from start to finish. A job, very, very well done. Well done Alan & the folks at the BRC"...

Paul Berry reviewed it on his excellent Devon Geography blog.

It was also shared with Australian colleagues by Stephen Matthews, and picked up for International Baccalaureate colleagues' use as well.

Rob Chambers has also added a mention to his ICT Across the Curriculum blog.

My commended poem...

I entered a poem in the Fenland Reed Poetry Competition earlier in the year. I don't make a point of writing poetry, but was tempted by the theme.... I wrote about the Ordnance Survey's mapping of the Fens in the 1920s... and the problem of mapping such a fluid and protean landscape as the Fens... It's a bit clunky, but I enjoyed writing it.... Hope you enjoy reading it...

I was really pleased that my poem was 'Commended' by the judge.

Thought for the Day

“Every last trifle we touch and consume, right down to the paper on which this magazine is printed or the screen on which it's displayed, is not only ephemeral but in a real sense irreplaceable. Every consumer good has a cost not borne out by its price but instead falsely bolstered by a vanishing resource economy. We squander millions of years' worth of stored energy, stored life, from our planet to make not only things that are critical to our survival and comfort but also things that simply satisfy our innate primate desire to possess. It's this guilt that we attempt to assuage with the hope that our consumerist culture is making life better—for ourselves, of course, but also in some lesser way for those who cannot afford to buy everything we purchase, consume, or own.”

Joel Johnson

The Cottager's Reply

Rural / urban change...

XKCD on Climate Change


Google Expeditions and VR

Google is heading into VR research, by funding projects exploring the value of VR headsets and associated imagery.

At the moment, tours are written by Google, and include points of interest which connect with imagery.

The Google Expeditions app is now available for iOS as well as Android. It allows for one device on a network to act as the 'tour guide' and for the other devices to be the 'tourists'. This means that they can be guided through the locations at a pace dictated by the guide, who can see where they are 'looking'. Importantly, the devices that are being used can be either iOS or Android or a mix, and the tour will still work.

Thanks to Shailey Minocha and Ana Tudor from the Open University for coming into my school twice with the technology and working with students...

Richard Allaway has been exploring this area, and presented on it at the GA Teachmeet. He has now added some ideas to his website, which try to tackle the problem of how to produce your own experiences for students...

He's presenting on this at the Practical Pedagogies event in Toulouse in November which I shall be attending, and presenting at...

HMS Terror found

After the earlier discovery of HMS Erebus, one of Sir John Franklin's long lost ships, it's now been announced that HMS Terror has been found. This has been one of the longest mysteries in Polar exploration, and it remains to be seen what may be found on or in the wreck.

Russell Potter, author of Finding Franklin: the Untold Story of a 165-Year Search, had this to say about the discovery of the HMS Terror:

“It’s hard to overestimate the significance of this new and magnificent find: the second ship of Sir John Franklin’s expedition, HMS “Terror,” has been found. Initial images show her to be in far better condition than her sister ship, the “Erebus” (found by Parks Canada searchers in 2014), with her hatches battened, her bowsprit still in place, and many of the glass panes in her captain’s cabin still intact, it’s enough to warm the heart of any marine archaeologist — or perhaps give them a heart attack! – certainly a discovery that exceeds anyone’s (mine included) wildest imaginings as to the vessel’s state of preservation.”

I like this tweet as well:

Rob Whitworth timelapses and flow videos...

Check them out on Vimeo....
Dubai one is excellent.
Here's Barcelona...

Barcelona GO! from Rob Whitworth on Vimeo.

British Library Mapping Exhibition

This opens in November, and looks like it will be well worth a visit.

Read more about it here.

New Discover the World resource on the Eyjafjallajokull eruption

Good to see Simon Ross, co-author of the OCR 'A' and 'B' textbooks from Hodder presenting this new video case study by Discover the World.

Discovering Antarctica

The latest version of this website was launched this week.
It has some new content and rearranged sections, on the Changing Climate and other aspects of Antarctica.
Looks like being even more useful...

The Making of a National Park City

Will be here in a week or so's time with some students…
Sounds like it will be a great event with a variety of speakers and activities…

Find out more and be inspired at an evening of entertaining performances and provocative thinking.
This landmark event explores what a National Park City is, what this means for London, and how our capital can soon become the world's first.
Hosted by comedian Josie Long, speakers include designer Wayne Hemingway, campaigner Fiona Reynolds, firefighter Simon Jakeman, as well as the Bollywood Brass Band, artists and poets.
Come along and see how a simple idea can help transform one of the world's greatest cities.
Line-up includes:
Josie Long, comedian
Wayne Hemingway, designer
Dame Fiona Reynolds, campaigner
Andrew Simms, economist
Bollywood Brass Band, musicians
Judy Ling Wong, community activist
Beth Coller, psychotherapist
Simon Jakeman, firefighter
Laila Sumpton, poet
Rifat Batool, headteacher
Dr Tom Coffey, GP
Jasmine Kamal-Pasha, photographer
Mathew Frith, conservationist
Rachel Bradley, sustainability manager
Paul Hamblin, national parks director
Daniel Raven-Ellison, explorer
Charlton Manor Primary, bee keepers
Andy Mitchell, CEO
Charlotte Webster, artist
Chris Romer-Lee, director, Studio Octopi

Huddersfield and Psychogeography

I studied for my degree at Huddersfield Polytechnic, preferring the course and location to Lancaster University, which also very kindly offered me a place to read geography. This was in the early 1980s, which now feel like a vey different country looking back…
This week, Huddersfield was the centre of a very different geography event with the 4th World Congress of Psychogeography.

Our work with Mission:Explore has been on the fringes of psychogeography, and I remember chatting with folks about it in our tent at Glastonbury too.
I was also invited by Tina Richardson @concretepost to come and speak to the Leeds Psychogeography Group a few years ago. 

Good to see that Tina's work is still going well. I would like to have been at some of the talks here, particular Travis Elborough in Greenhead Park, a place I remember well...


This book is recommended…. It's an awesome melange of maps and information about London...

Climate Rap....

SAGT Conference 2016

I've been attending the SAGT conference regularly since 2005, other than when in Iceland last year and in Toulouse this coming October half term.

It's an excellent one day gathering, which is taking place in Lanarkshire this year, on the 29th of October.
A good mix of classroom teachers, subject experts and entertaining keynotes.

Go here to download the conference brochure, and registration form.

OCR 'A' book now published

Now published....
OCR 'A' GCSE Geography book, by Hodder.

Elevate Editions

Now landing on desks around the country...
Image: Liz Smith

Aerial photography now added to Digimap for Schools

From the letter received this morning by subscribers....

Digimap for Schools now contains a wonderful new addition that many of you have asked for over and over again – aerial photography!
We are thrilled at the addition of this new data, kindly donated by Getmapping Plc.
The aerial photography shows magnificent detail and clarity - it's cloud free for all of Great Britain, something you won't get anywhere else!  You can now compare and fade Ordnance Survey maps, historical maps and aerial photography with our new enhanced Map Chooser (shown).  It's simple to use and offers maximum flexibility.
We've also added new learning resources to accompany the aerial photography.  Be inspired with ideas such as using aerial photography to introduce learners to travel, transport and trade or discuss marks we humans leave on the landscape that can be seen in aerial imagery.  Both excellent ideas to get you started with aerial photography.
To make you get the most out of this new addition to Digimap for Schools, we've created a short introductory video which explains the difference between Aerial and AerialX, the info tool for discovering exact dates the aerial photography was flown in your area of interest and a map key showing the patchwork of years stitched together to form this seamless dataset.  
And of course there is a revised Help section on How to .... fade between map types.

Here's the video, and more videos and webinars are on the Digimap for Schools YouTube channel.

British Red Cross Resource - now published

A new resource that I wrote for the British Red Cross has now been published, and placed online for download. It's taken almost a year from the original start of the project, which John Lyon asked me to do before he retired from the GA. During that time it has grown and become a major resource.

It's 130 pages long, and packed with ideas for teaching about natural hazards and humanitarian aid.

Free to download from the British Red Cross website.

“We urge all geography teachers to download this free resource and encourage young people to think about the humanitarian impact of natural disasters. This invaluable resource pack has been created with the technical input from the British Red Cross combined with the expertise of GA teacher consultants.”
Rebecca Kitchen, Secondary Curriculum Leader at the Geographical Association

Introduction and curriculum links

Learn about how the resource has been designed to support your teaching and how the content maps to the geography curriculum for KS3, GCSE and A Level.

Session 1: Natural disasters

Session 1 is an introduction to the Natural disasters: earthquakes resource. It sets the scene by introducing the topic of natural disasters alongside general ideas of risk and hazard.
  • What do we mean by natural hazards and disasters and how can they be classified?
  • Which natural hazards are the most common?
  • What impacts will different natural disasters have on individuals and communities?

Session 2: Earthquakes

After a general introduction to natural hazards and disasters, this session moves on to look more specifically at earthquakes, with a focus on tectonic hazards.
  • Where do earthquakes happen, and why?
  • What were the causes of the Nepal earthquake?
  • How can people who live in areas prone to natural hazards prepare themselves for future events?
  • Could the Nepal earthquake have been predicted?

Session 3: The impact of a natural disaster

Session 3 focuses on the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster like an earthquake and the work of local and international Red Cross teams to support people affected.
  • What was the immediate impact of the Nepal earthquake?
  • What was the immediate humanitarian response to the earthquake?
  • How were local and international communities involved in this response?

Session 4: Recovery and resilience

After a natural disaster the Red Cross supports the people affected as they start to recover and rebuild their lives.
  • What are the longer term impacts of a natural disaster and how do people recover?
  • How resilient were individuals and communities in Nepal to the earthquake?
  • How can communities increase their resilience – what about the school community? What might make a community more or less resilient?
  • What lessons can be learned from each event so citizens are better prepared for them in future?

Earth Null School

Getting ready for the return to school, and putting together a sheet relating to the use of Cameron Beccario's wonderful Null School visualisation of Earth, overlaid with various datasets.
Many people will not have explored the options.

Click on the word EARTH to reveal them.

This is a valuable tool, of which some will only be using a fraction of its potential.

Reminds me of showing somebody that you could tilt Google Earth and show an oblique view… about five years after it had come out...

Practical Pedagogies Programme

The final version of the Practical Pedagogies programme, which will take place in the late October half term has now been produced by Russel Tarr.
There are over 100 workshops to choose from, with keynotes by Ewan McIntosh.
Booking will shortly be opening for delegates to the conference.

I'm going to be presenting a session on the Power of Geographical Information.
It's Session 6, and Workshop No. 34

You can still book for the conference if you fancy some Autumn sunshine in Toulouse...


Pleased to have been part of a growing team of volunteers, coordinated by @MrsHumanities to send out little boxes of treats at the start of the new school year.
The boxes I sent out will hopefully be waiting for people to receive on the first day back tomorrow…

Follow the hashtag to find out more, and perhaps get involved with the initiative to give a little back, or nominate someone to receive one.


A new site from Matt Roberts, with thanks to Matt Podbury for the tipoff. A focus on IB and iGCSE but plenty of interest, and useful content and links for anyone and with a stylish scrolling design which is very much in vogue at the moment.

Thought for the Day

The answers of confident students are a bad guide to what the rest of the class is thinking
Dylan Wiliam

OCR B GCSE Geography - textbooks and networks to support teachers

I hope those who are teaching this specification have invested in some rather wonderful Hodder textbooks that I've referred to quite a lot over the last few years.

When we first started discussing this project, I was keen to get the best minds in geography education to write our new OCR B GCSE Geography textbook. All are practising teachers and hands-on with curriculum development. We are all passionate about geography and quality geography teaching. With this in mind, we set out to provide much more than you need to simply cover the content of the specifications. We’ve searched the world for the best case studies and worked in partnership with the OCR specification development team, all former geography teachers themselves.
David Rogers 

As part of the support for teachers, Rob Chambers of St. Ivo School, has created a Schoology and Facebook network that is growing, and has people sharing resources and ideas, with more to come as the new term starts and colleagues start teaching the new specifications.

Published next week !

New OCR "A" GCSE Geography textbook…

CUP Elevate Editions now available

The Elevate Edition of the CUP 'A' level book for AQA is now available and has been published

This is an alternative version of the student book, which comes with a code at the front. This gives personalised access to a wealth of digital content to enhance the book.

We have gone for a similarly featured book for the Edexcel specification we are teaching at school.