GA Conference 2018 - a first request

I'm doing some final preparations for the GA Conference next week...
I'm involved in a few things:

  • Lecture to share work on a project on Changing Places with Peter Knight from Keele University
  • Joint workshop with Anne Le Brocq from Exeter University on the IceFlows Game Educational resources that I've written
  • Joint workshop with Tanith Ludlam and Kathryn Stephenson of the GA's Secondary Phase Committee on Making KS3 really count
  • Teachmeet Presentation on 'Geographies of Home'
  • Beermeet at the Sheffield Tap (following on from the Teachmeet)
  • Finishing off the tweeting of 125 Top Tips on the @GA_SPC Twitter feed... Just a few more to go.... #125geotips
I've also been working on a few other elements of the GA Conference which will emerge as the event progresses.

Here's the request. If there's something that you have done with/during KS3 to prepare them for GCSE which has been particularly effective, please let us know, and we'll be publishing a new Top Tips document immediately after our session....
Thanks in advance...
Don't be shy :)

Fashion Revolution Week - love your clothing...

Get onto this for Fashion Revolution Week.
My students have been creating their label images, and we're all set up hopefully for some interesting fashion stories to emerge once we go back from the Easter break.

Ecolint: Water Security Session #1 : Thinking things through

Water Security and Scarcity is a growing issue for the world, and in particular for cities such as Cape Town, which recently faced a countdown to Day Zero, when water was going to be rationed for its 4 million+ inhabitants.

I'm going to be talking about this at an IB Geography Conference on Possibilities which has been organised by Richard Allaway.

It's taken a lot of thinking to get to the point where I currently am with my workshop, and will crack on with that over the next few days. 
I'll share the outcomes after the event. There's an element of gamification, and the idea of futures as being Possible, Probable and Preferable...

Here's some videos that are shaping my thinking...

 Also a Good Magazine version is: I shall be using Cape Town as a place context, so here's a video


Thanks to Google Translate (and the English language based nature of much of the content), Pedro Damiao's GeoFactualidades blog has now been running for over a decade, with a post a day during that time (a man after my own heart). I've featured it here before - ten years ago in fact! Nice to hear that it was LivingGeography that inspired this effort.

I've never quite managed to make it over to Portugal to work with Pedro, although I'm hoping to head over to work with Jaime Araujo and the AENIE crew this summer again.

Follow him on Twitter as well.

Palm Oil - some resources

There are many resources which are suitable for introducing the ubiquitous nature of Palm Oil in our food. This is something we have explored with work on Endangered Biomes, and also geographies of food lower down the school.
Palm Oil production is linked to the negative impact on certain habitats and wildlife, and there have been some connections with particular TNCs in recent years.
We also explored the global 'spread' of Nutella...

Endangered Lacoste

An interesting awareness-raising project by the clothing firm Lacoste, who are famous for their crocodile logo. They have a limited edition series of clothing, which is based on a number of endangered species. Their special editions of the clothing are made to specific volumes which correspond to the number of animals that are left...
A sad context though, especially given the recent passing of Sudan, the last male white rhino.

In Edinburgh? Have small children? Go to see this...

I've worked with Tom Morgan Jones for a decade or so. He's the genius inker behind all of our Mission:Explore books and other resources for companies such as Discover the World and Arla, including his very own Inky Mess font.
His ink splatters made our award-winning Mission:Explore books stand out, and he's also wonderful company - we'll always have Glastonbury!

He now has a new book out that he's written and illustrated himself called 'The Red Dread', designed for young children aged 3-7.

Go to see his launch event and get involved in a big monster drawing event and get your own signed copy.

Rackheath Development

I'm going to keep an eye on this development for the next few years I think.
It's a new development of thousands of new homes, which will become a new community, and is located to the NE of Norwich.
There are going to be numerous articles in the local press, but this one provides a background to some of the plans, and connects with the idea of place as a palimpsest: a series of layers built or developed on top of each other. Places change over time...

Are there similar large-scale developments in your own local area?

Both sides the Tweed

Thanks to Jo Norcup for passing through information about a programme which was broadcast on BBC Scotland recently, and will be available for another few weeks. It fits with some of the themes in Graham Robb's new book 'The Debatable Lands' on the border country.
Search for it on iPlayer.

Hugh Brody

I've been (re)reading Hugh Brody's work for many years.
He is an anthropologist who has spent his career working with indigenous peoples in places as different as the High Arctic and the Kalahari desert.

If you want an introduction to his work, this profile is a good place to start, as it provides some background on his work and personal inspirations.
I am reading a piece in Tim Dee's recent anthology on place written by Hugh, which is excellent...

Wicked Weather Watch

I've just had a fresh look at the KS2 materials which have been produced for the Wicked Weather Watch project.
You'll need to provide an e-mail address and password to create an account, but you can then download a useful series of activities for younger pupils. Plenty of great ideas here...

DfE Commonwealth education pack...

Find out more about the Commonwealth here.

Warning: contains a flag recognition activity and some cloze worksheets...

New Ladybird Expert series title

A new addition to the Ladybird Expert series of books has been written by Professor Iain Stewart and is on the theme of 'Plate Tectonics'.
Good to see Marie Tharp included, for her work visualising the work of herself and colleagues....

Teachit Geography - a new resource

I've just had a new resource published on the TeachIt Geography website.
It's a set of 20 short ideas for using technology in the Geography classroom.

Hopefully there's something there for everyone to explore, and you can read my Webwatch column in the GA's Magazine if you are member, for more tips on websites and apps for Geography teachers.
You can join the TeachIt community, by subscribing, or contributing your own resources (for which you will receive a small payment per download)

Here's a short piece that I wrote to accompany the ideas and put them into context.

Using technology in the Geography classroom

First of all, it’s worth saying that it’s possible to teach without technology, although all classrooms in the UK will have electricity. This electricity will probably power a classroom PC or laptop, a projector, possibly an interactive whiteboard (which may not be used very interactively) and other devices including tablets. When your job as a geography teacher is to introduce young people to the world and help them understand it, it makes sense to use the available technology to show them the world (using images or Vimeo videos), map the world (using digital mapping from the Ordnance Survey, ESRI or others), visualise the world (using Ben Hennig’s cartograms, Dollar Street’s stories of families around the world or innovative data tools like Earth Null School), connect with the world (through social media and Skype) and tell the story of the world (using a range of tools including Google Earth, blogs and Virtual Reality expeditions)

There are many options for geographers to use websites, apps and new devices including home assistants, digital cameras or environmental and weather sensors to bring up-to-date information into the classroom. Young people are often keen to explore these technologies, but the teacher’s role is to see the pedagogical value in them, and appreciate how they might be helpful in developing students’ geographical capabilities and subject knowledge (see for more on this).
Classroom activities should take students beyond the way they use their phones for social media, or their laptop for gaming. Geographical tools such as GIS and VR offer creative opportunities for exploration, and GIS is a tool which offers the potential for future employment, and a way in to analysing data for fieldwork as well as answering some of the world’s important challenges. 

Earlier this year, I updated my chapter for a 2nd edition of Routledge’s ‘Debates in Geography Education’, and reminded teachers that often they act as a ‘gatekeeper’ between students and technology, but that a gatekeeper can decide to open as well as close the gate.

Rock Draping

While in Snowdonia, I was challenged to take part in a 'rock draping' challenge by Paula Owens and Steve Rawlinson.

You can read about this technique for engaging with the landscape in an article in Primary Geography, from 2014 (Subscription required)
This was part of a weekend of fieldwork in the Cwm Idwal area called Wildthink, and the technique is described by Paula in the article as having the following benefits....

Rock-draping provides opportunities to use the whole of our body to touch the landscape and feel the geology: explore textures, hardness, strength, inclination, situation, aspect, durability and so on. Recording an image of the ‘draping’ is also geographical as it made us consider elements such as the best view, the colours in the geology, the light and the position of the sun and the shadows it might cast. Put simply, rock draping makes you think about the size and shape of a boulder and its journey to that one particular spot. 

I passed this very rock pictured above the day before, but had to wait to return to the valley, so ended up on a roche moutonnée (various spellings are possible) in the Nant Ffrancon valley.

Here's my attempt...

Image: Claire Kyndt

Arctic Live now open for bookings - don't miss out!

Snowdonia - Glaciation days

Up in Snowdonia currently with colleagues and some students doing 2 days of glaciation with them, based around Rhyd-y-Creuau. The light was a bit flat for most of the day sadly, but got a few decent images.
Here's one from Cwm Idwal yesterday...

Image: Alan Parkinson


If you're in the market for a new GPS device, the Ordnance Survey have just launched their new range. I've mentioned them before, and we were given a quick preview at the OS GetOutside Champions Launch in January in the New Forest.

You can read all about the features of each one by clicking the link above - they certainly sound impressive, although I would still always take a map and compass just to be certain that you can navigate if something goes awry...

All OS GPS devices have a built-in SIM card that connects via GPRS to SeeMe.
SeeMe is an exclusive service provided by our partners TwoNav, which allows you to share your location and performance with your friends in real-time, straight from the GPS, so that they can follow your adventures with you step by step.

A glimpse into Paul Turner's classroom

A great little video from the RGS-IBG Schools website, showing Paul Turner explaining how he uses a range of tools to use data in the classroom...


A new set of resources on the ecosystems of Madagascar have gone up on the Eco Schools Northern Ireland website, which may be just what some of you are looking for.

Snap Planet

Check out the Snap Planet app, which provides high quality aerial imagery, and allows you to share and compare as a way of exploring places around the world.

There are many images, which can be searched and displayed...


Joseph Kerski's TED talk

Joseph is a geo-hero of mine, and I'm happy to say that I'm one of his... He is the Education guru at ESRI.
He did a TEDx talk at Vail in Colorado a while back, and this is now up and ready to watch on YouTube.

"A good map helps you to ask a better question." - Joseph Kerski 

Joseph is a geographer who believes that mapping and geotechnologies can transform education and society through better decision-making using geography. He served for 22 years as geographer and cartographer at NOAA, the US Census Bureau, and the US Geological Survey. He serves as Education Manager for Esri, where he focuses on GIS-based curriculum development, research in the effectiveness of GIS in education, professional development for educators, communicating the need for geographic skills, tools, and perspectives. 
Joseph is active in creating and teaching online courses in spatial thinking and geotechnologies. 
He wrote Interpreting Our World, Spatial Mathematics, The Essentials of the Environment, Tribal GIS, and The GIS Guide to Public Domain Data. He writes for 3 blogs. He has created over 4,000 videos. 

UNICEF's Urban World visualisation

Thanks to Matt Podbury for the tip off to this visualisation...

Madrid - GI Learner - Post 1 of 3

A few posts to sum up my recent visit to Madrid with students.
I flew from Stansted to Madrid Barajas airport on Sunday 2 weeks ago, to take a group of 13 students to stay in the city as part of the GI Learner project which the school has been involved in for the last 2 years.
During that time we have created, refined and tested a range of materials along a learning line. This is a progressive set of resources, which develops a number of competencies which we have identified and tested, and put out to public scrutiny in a number of ways.

The first day started with an icebreaker GLOBINGO activity, which I led, and some organisation of students by first names, and ages.
We then split the group into two, and the older half headed for the University, while the younger group headed into the city to do a Selfie challenge. The weather was glorious - sunny and warm, and blue skies. The younger group enjoyed a long tour of the city, and a chance to see the Royal Palace and Plaza Major.

I saw the inside of a computer room as we started to work on some tours for the younger students, and introduced ideas of Storymaps, and some of the web apps that can be made with ArcGIS Online. There were some nice ideas developing, and some students worked nicely in international groups. We returned to the hostel for the evening, and shared stories.
The following day was rather cold, and was spent working on tours, and investigating the city further. By now we were settled into our routine of working, and having some time to socialise, and meet with the other students: the purpose of Erasmus projects...

The best place to live in the UK

The annual Sunday Times report on the best places to live in the UK was featured in this weekend's Sunday Times newspaper.

York has been named as the best place to live in the UK for this year.
My parents, brother and sister all live in York- I'm the only one living 'down South'.
A useful exercise for students would be to use data from maps such as Datashine, Illustreets and similar tools to investigate the differences in quality of life around the country.
And where would be the 'worst places to live'?

Image: Alan Parkinson, York Minster detail

Sheffield - exploring a sense of place and a changing place

Ahead of the Geographical Association's 2018 conference in Sheffield, a new resource on the city has gone live on the website.
It is written by a number of people, including local teachers and academics, along with curriculum experts and others who know the city well.

It has involved work by John Lyon, former Programme Director and colleague at the Geographical Association, as well as Emma Rawlings Smith, who has done research into place.
It is well worth taking a look at for those wanting to find out more about place.
There are also some fieldwork resources too, for those wanting to explore the city.

An excellent resource!
I shall be referring to it during my lecture on Place at the GA Conference (on Saturday afternoon)

Practical Pedagogies 2018

I am very much looking forward to my 2nd Pedagogies conference. This time round the venue is Cologne, where I was due to be for the recent EuroGeography conference, but couldn't make it in the end due to school commitments, and being too close to the Erasmus mobility.
The super early bird tickets are, I think, now all gone, but there's still chance to get a ticket for a low price, and come and see me talk about my pedagogical approach to teaching geography...  and links with the curriculum... basically a lot of ideas from my time in the classroom, working for the GA, and all the fine people I've met since who've influence me...
Those people coming to #TMGeogIcons in June may well get a sneak peek into some of these ideas as they take shape....
Check out the website - it's pretty awesome...


I was intrigued to see this book appearing in my Twitter feed, written by Quinn Rollins. Like many books, it is linked to the ideas of classroom management, but focusses on the aspects of fun which may sometimes be lost in the pursuit of something more edifying or 'rigorous'...
Although there may be less of a research-led basis to what is being said, this is also about creativity and being open to new ideas and connections.

I loved some of the simple ideas contained in the book - we already make use of graphic novels, Lego and a range of other toy-related materials.
The value of a book like this is that you can see the ideas actually written down, and there are some QR code links to scan to see student work produced using the different techniques.

4 million views!

After the recent acceleration of interest (over 300 000 views in the last month alone), I'm now speeding through the milestones, and yesterday evening as the snow swirled around the house, it was the latest one to be reached. Thanks for all the interest, particularly from Norway at the moment it seems...

New RGS-IBG website now with free resources

I blogged previously about the launch of the new Royal Geographical Society website.

I received an e-mail earlier with some interesting and exciting information, which will perhaps be of interest to you as well.

To celebrate the launch of our new website, we're making all of the Society's teaching resources free to everyone until Monday 9 April 2018.

Our new site is easy to navigate and search so you’ll be able to find all your favourite resources as well as discover many more.

You can now use a keyword search which will draw together all the relevant resources - including modules, podcasts, animations or videos – by keyword, theme or phase.

From 9 April, you will only be able to access our subscription resources if you are an RGS-IBG School Member. We will send all School Members login details before these resources are locked.

Iain Stewart: a new Ladybird Expert book

I have a few of the new Ladybird Expert series books, and have this new one on pre-order.

It's written by Professor Iain Stewart and is on the topic of Plate Tectonics.

Looking forward to seeing how the topic is treated...

Tui - Better World Detectives

Tui is the travel company formerly known as Thomson. 
They have made available a suite of resources for KS2 pupils, which involves 6 fully resourced lessons. There is an accent on sustainability, which connects with the company's approach of promoting sustainable tourism.
An e-mail is required to download the resource pack, which runs to almost 300Mb as it includes a range of assets including videos and teacher resources to print off. These are fun, and well packaged materials, with nods to social media use, and themes which will be familiar to many young people. The lessons introduce students to a fictional island first, before exploring plastic in the oceans, coral reefs, and the impact of tourism on local communities and people.

Say hello to the Better World Detectives, and you may find a use for some of these resources within your KS2 curriculum.

Steve Rackley - Geogramblings

Good to hear from Steve Rackley via Facebook of the latest from his sabbatical travels. You'll remember me blogging about Steve's Ode to Hans (Rosling) at the GA Teachmeet last year, and good to hear that he's thriving and busy, and also that he's planning on coming to Sheffield, and the Teachmeet again...

Geogramblings is his blog, and he's also been producing a grid which shows how the posts connect to themes within the AQA GCSE Specification. This makes it a very useful blog for geographers - particularly to make a point that all teachers should be bloggers.

A fifth of the #125UKplaces identified...

We've now had 25 suggestions for the list of 125 Special / Inspirational Places to visit in the UK...
Where would you like to add?

Ultimate Navigation Courses: finding your way

One of the benefits of working as an Ordnance Survey GetOutside Champion is to be offered a range of opportunities to develop your own skills and practice as part of the overall support that is offered by OS colleagues. In this, we are being encouraged to share our expertise, and to develop ourselves through the process. My educational connections mean I am always looking out for opportunities which connect with my work.

I was offered the chance to go on a navigation weekend in the Peak District offered by Ultimate Navigation.
The dates didn't work for me, but looking at the website of the company I think this is something which might be of interest to colleagues who are involved in, or in charge of Duke of Edinburgh's Award in their school (as I used to be), or just want to improve their own personal navigation skills. It is only when outside, with map and compass and interpreting the landscape that one realises why a good quality map, and the ability to interpret it without a synthesised voice telling you which way to turn, is so important. Which is where geographers come in...

Dotocracy with Dotstorming

Dotstorming is a collaborative brainstorming tool which allows users to update media, chat and create a board of options. Once this has been produced, there is the option to vote on which of the media that has been added is the 'best'.
This is an online version of an activity we use where students are given several sticky dots each, and asked to 'vote' for suggestions which are placed on the wall.

It could also be used for silent debates, using the chat function on the tool.

We used this tool with students in Madrid as part of our GI Learner mobility, funded by ERASMUS.
Check out the tool, login and you can produce up to three boards and start the process of sharing with students.

Current listening...

Missing Migrants

An affecting documentary on the missing migrants who head from Central America to the United States.
The website here is the source.

125 inspirational / special places to visit in the UK

This is the 125th Anniversary year of the Geographical Association, and the conference in Sheffield in April will be very special.

One of the projects I'm doing (and have been doing for some time) is to tweet out a 'top tip' a day for 125 days on the GA Secondary Phase committee twitter feed. This is coming to a climax on the first day of the conference.

As part of the plans for the GA's celebrations, and connecting with my OS GetOutside Champions Role for 2018, I'm going to start collating a list of 125 inspirational places to visit in the UK.

We all have places from which we draw inspiration... This could be a beach, a particular walk, a historic building, a bench overlooking a viewpoint, a landscape feature or something more esoteric. 

The reasons behind the inspiration may relate to family members, an emotional reunion, or sad passing; they may be places that are visited often, or which left a lasting impression from a single visit. They may be places we remember fondly from childhood, or which we discovered later in life.

This project is connected to the 125th Anniversary of the Geographical Association in 2018. One of the projects which the association wants to develop is a list of 125 Inspirational Places to visit in the UK: human and physical landscapes and locations which sum up the best the UK has to offer.

The project also links to work being done by Alan Parkinson as an Ordnance Survey GetOutside Champion during 2018, and the production of a list with further guidance on visiting the places on it will be a project for Alan to complete.

There is also a joint project underway between Alan Parkinson, and Peter Knight of Keele University, who are working to produce a resource for teachers exploring Inspirational Landscapes and Changing Places at 

Here's an example for you:
Surprise View, in the Peak District
A bend in the road where the Hope Valley, Hathersage and Castleton and Mam Tor beyond suddenly come into view spread out below you - the light varies throughout the year, but the view is always exciting - one of the best in the UK
Be careful when driving! Park up and take in the view

OS Grid Reference: SK249800

I've produced a Google form which you can link to here, and help me out with if possible. Feel free to share the link to the form as well.

Thought for the Day

"The humanities prepare students to be good citizens and help them understand a complicated, interlocking world. The humanities teach us critical thinking, how to analyze arguments, and how to imagine life from the point of view of someone unlike yourself."
Martha Nussbaum

The dead centre of any city

A link via Bilborough Geography twitter feed (a good one to add to your network) @BilboGeog
It's a story about the location of the 'geographical' centre of some cities not necessarily being in the actual 'city centre'... There are some examples of actual cities.
When teaching about urban issues, I used to ask students where the dead centre of any city was, and then show them the Cemetery on the OS map... How they laughed...

Image: Alan Parkinson, Snettisham, Norfolk

Overstrand Groyne

An image I liked from earlier in the week when in Overstrand on fieldwork for GCSE. I noticed that Bill Bryson had written about the place in his most recent book 'The Road to Little Dribbling'

Image: Alan Parkinson - CC licensed

Plastic Free Schools

I've used Surfers against Sewage materials for a few decades now, and their new campaign looks interesting. We have signed up to get further information on the initiative, which is a timely one, although there are no more allocations for the present academic year.
There seems to be a growing movement for change, but we will see whether this translates into actual action.

New GPS from the OS

The Ordnance Survey is launching a range of handheld / cycle mounted GPS units, which make use of Ordnance Survey mapping. We were shown the details at the GetOutside Champions launch a few months ago, but the details are now emerging on the OS Leisure Blog.

Our four new handheld GPS devices come with advanced navigation yet simple functionality. Designed for hiking and off-road cycling, they’re rugged, water-resistant and come with all the accuracy and detail of our world-famous large-scale leisure maps.

Not only that, they’re packed with features to keep you on track with your performance, and let you and others know exactly where you are. You can also sync with other products to plot and share routes, or monitor your heart rate, energy and speed.

Find out more details HERE. Sign up to get the news on features and pricing.

I am hoping to get my hands on one for a while, to trial them for use in geography fieldwork and similar contexts.

Fenland Skating almost returned...

There is a tremendous tradition of skating in the Fens, which matches some of the skating traditions in the Netherlands, on the polders.
This hasn't been possible in the Fens for at least a decade, and last week we got close to being able to take out the old skates properly, but the thaw put paid to that, although some people did take the risk out at places such as Welney.
Skates feature in a book I read recently about The Fens, written by John Gordon, who also wrote the classic 'The Giant under the Snow'.

We may have to wait a few more years, until we can relive the exploits of the old champions with awesome names like Turkey Smart...

FSC Course in Creative Geography Fieldwork

For details of this course, go to the FSC website.
I shall be over in Rhyd-y-Creuau in a few weeks' time....

New RGS-IBG website

After a long period of redesign, the Royal Geographical Society's impressive new website is now live. It keeps with the circular 'themes' and adds new navigation, with

The Schools section has a new look of course, and a search function to find resources. The resources are also much more clearly presented: my MAPPING LONDON unit for example is now easier to read through and download all the associated resources.

One hundred years of Solitude

Love in the Time of Cholera and other wonderful books by Gabriel Garcia Marquez celebrated in today's Google Doodle. Magic realism...

OS GetOutside Champions video

A new video from OS Leisure... See if you can spot me...


Just a quick post from rainy Madrid to say that I very much support those colleagues in University / Higher Education departments who are currently striking to protest the proposed cuts to their pensions. I have seen quite a few people I know, and have worked with over the years, standing on picket lines outside their institutions.
While working for the Geographical Association, I paid into the USS pension, and presumably other GA colleagues continue to do so, and the predicted shortfalls in final payments are concerning for those who are working in this sector.
There have been strikes and picket lines for the last few days, even through the bitter winter weather that the UK is experiencing currently.
If you haven't seen the creative way that Ian Cook, from the University of Exeter is using Lego to reflect on the process (in a similar way to its use for the Follow the Things project) you are very welcome to check it out.

Zonia Baber

I've mentioned female geographers regularly on the 'pages' of this blog - mentions of Doreen Massey, Margaret Roberts et al. I have shared the stories of Marie Tharp who mapped the world's oceans too.
I'm also, very proud to have received the Joy Tivy Education Medal.

I wasn't really aware of Zonia Baber until an article passed through my social media feeds, but was interested to see the influence that she had on geographical thinking. She was described as a 'scientic suffragette', which is interesting given the current anniversaries of some women gaining the vote for the first time in the UK.
Zonia Baber was a geographer, who was very much involved in shaping how we think about teaching geography, and particularly the value of fieldwork.
Take a look at what she had to say.

Image: Via Wikipedia - shared under CC license
University of Chicago Photographic Archive, [apf1-00303], Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library. - 

Digitising land use using Digimap for Schools

There is a useful guide here to digitising land use data for Digimap for Schools to produce a map.