Saturday, February 28, 2009

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Sky News and Weather Visit

Had a very pleasant day yesterday. Got the early train down to London, with my Vodafone dongle keeping me in touch with all things geographical. Across to Waterloo, a West Norfolk Cornish Pasty (not happy that they've changed the recipe on the vegetable pasties though - it's all tomato now !) Down through Clapham Junction ("Britain's busiest railway station" apparently) and past Kew Gardens, and out at Syon Lane.

Walked into an anonymous industrial estate, and there were the cluster of buildings that make up Sky News and Sports, and the various other broadcasting channels that are produced in the buildings. Security was very tight.

I was there to meet up with Lucy Verasamy: a former pupil of mine, who is now part of the weather presenting team along with Francis Wilson, Isobel Lang et al...

It was a 'quiet' weather day, with the 3rd or 4th consecutive day of anticyclonic gloom, which meant that the visit was possible. News wise, the Turkish airlines crash had happened that morning, so the news team were running with that story.

Had a long chat in the weather office. It was, I think, about 10 years since Lucy left school. She did a degree with Iain Stewart of "Power of the Planet" fame, and even back then was always determined to be a weather presenter. She was also very positive about the value of geography as a subject, and even thought that being a geography teacher might be an alternative career.

Had a tour of the SKY NEWS studio, which is surrounded by a walkway. There were a huge number of people involved in producing the various output: tv of course, Sky News radio, internet / websites and online video production, press and library
Martin Stanford was in the news room at the time, with his tablet pc. Also saw the Channel Five news room.

SKY NEWS has a FLICKR photostream.

Lucy also talked about the impact of the snow in London in February, and the very busy day she had, which started with a 4am journey to the studio. As she'd forecast the snow it would have looked bad if she hadn't made it in !

The WEATHER GIRLS on the SKY NEWS team also have their own BLOG which Lucy contributes posts to.

We talked about the place of weather and climate on the curriculum, and the tendency to focus on extreme weather events rather than attempting to teach the complexity of everyday forecasting...
The weather is very much part of the geography that students 'live' each day.
Hurray for weather...

Middle England

Just got the new Stuart Maconie. "Pies and Prejudice" was about the North, "Adventures on the High Teas" is a search for 'Middle England'. May start it later...

Update: just over half way through now and enjoying it very much...
Some good quotes: like the section on Tunbridge Wells, which I went to a couple of months ago, the fact that the Quorn hunt now has to make do with a 'meat substitute', the rise of the gastropub, the joy of Marmite and the full English breakfast, and the section on music - on the basis of one section I bought the 'Ivor the Engine' music of Vernion Eliot (which to be fair I'd been considering for a while...)... plenty of cultural geography in there....

Monday, February 23, 2009

Great pictures of the world AT WORK

A TWITTER tipoff....
Great BOSTON GLOBE set of images from various news agencies (and interesting comments which follow - warning, may contain rude words)

Looking forward to this...

Coming in April: the new Bob Mould...
20 years since 'Workbook': I feel old...
Don't worry, I'll get geography in there somewhere...

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

Watched this earlier this week.
Great film...
Let's see how it does at the OSCARS.
How could it be used in a geography classroom ?
It's a certificate 15, so you're looking at GCSE groups at least.
How about the issues of possible "slum voyeurism" or the apparent amounts paid to the child actors compared to the lead actors ? How accurate was the reporting here ? How easy is it to 'assume' things in this way ? (remember the Sceptics' Toolkit)
What about the British orientation of the workers in the call centre ?

Again, BLOGGERS introduce some interesting additional detail and suggestions.
Marc Silvers National Geographic blog (link above) contains an interesting interview with Thomas Chandy of Save the Children (India)

It’s great that the movie talks about poverty, it’s great that the movie is about hope. But let’s move the debate beyond this: The reality is millions of children are working when they should be at school. Can we move beyond talking and do something to change this reality?
Plenty of potential avenues to explore at the WIKIPEDIA article on the film.
Also an interesting BLOG POST here on the "urban geography" of slums, with interesting maps and diagrams.
Or how about this quote from David Denby of the New Yorker:
As slum children, Jamal and his friends are enchantingly beautiful, but the supersaturated color makes not just the kids but every surface and texture shine glamorously, including the piles of garbage that Jamal and his brother live among. Boyle has created what looks like a jumpy, hyper-edited commercial for poverty—he uses the squalor and violence touristically, as an aspect of the fabulous.... Besides the children, what I will remember of “Slumdog Millionaire” is a disorderly exploitation of disorder, a kind of visual salad of glowing rotten fruit, constantly tossed.
So - how are YOU going to use this film in your classroom ?

UPDATE: Fantastic news that Slumdog won 8 Oscars last night...

London 2012: both sides of the coin....

My daughter is currently doing some half-term homework: designing a 50p coin to commemorate and celebrate the London 2012 Olympics, as part of a competition being run by Blue Peter...

Meanwhile, here is Noel Jenkins with the first of a planned series of videos looking at the impact in Portland, where the sailing events are going to be held.

Impact of the 2012 Olympics on a local business from Noel Jenkins on Vimeo.

Queueing for Beginners

A new purchase thanks to the work of Ian Cook, and his cultural explorations. Joe is a cultural historian, and this book tells the tale of everyday life, and the reasons why things are as they are. It's also full of 'living' geography !

Why do we drink beer in pints ? What about our obsession with the weather ?

One of the stories it includes is when Jeremy Paxman presented the weather (as edited from Have I Got News For You, via YouTube

It starts with something that fascinates me: the MASS OBSERVATIONS project, which ran from 1937 to the early 1950s.
I have a copy of a book called 'Austerity Britain' which contains a similar history / geography crossover looking at the years after WWII, and providing a real sense of place, and a lost England...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Blighty is the new name for UKTV People. It's another channel rebranding in the vein of 'Dave'
There are images, ring tones, and details on programmes.
Vic Reeves made a programme on Harris Tweed to help launch the channel, and the inevitable phrase 'geography teacher' emerged...
A pity, as the rebranding images were rather nice: various variations on the Union Jack, and the content is full of geography:
Britain from Above, Wainwright Walks, Coast, Trawlermen etc...

Withnail and I

The importance of 'place'
The farmhouse that was the location for Crow Crag in the film was up for sale by auction: Sleddale Hall in Cumbria.
A campaign began to save the hall.
The WEBSITE was trying to raise money to buy the hall.
There are quotes engraved on the door and other surfaces of the property.
The new owner is apparently open to allowing visitors ?

Back from York

Just had 4 days 'off the radar' (a little) in York.
Managed a few cultural highlights.
First of these was Disney's BOLT, which was really great: a great pace to the film, nice "Incredible Journey" subtext in the middle with the road trip section: loved Rhino the hamster...

Second was SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, which was exhilerating: great claustrophobic soundtrack and gripping. Below one of several films from FOX Official Movie site.

Sure both these films have their place in the GEOGRAPHY classroom...
Also had a nice meal in the Assembly Rooms, which is now an Ask chain restaurant, just round the corner from York Minster, Guy Fawkes' place and all...
Also took in a rather fine Bruichladdich 16 year old which had been in a Margaux cask - rather delicious, and did some serious shopping in the (never ending) sales: some nice North Face and Rohan, plus a soft-shell jacket.
Trip over to Harrogate as well to meet up with Val V and listen to some live jazz in the Harrogate Brasserie.

Catching up on a few other things as well:
1. Nice BLDG BLOG post link to article on the suburbs: the 'new American slums'.
2. Goathland in the North Yorkshire moors fighting to save its 'HEARTBEAT' - importance of tourism to rural economies - more on that to come...
3. Noel's updated WWW REVISITED Web 2.0 links - looking forward to some Olympics 2012 'action' as well...
4. Browsing nearly 900 pictures in #uksnow FLICKR photoset
5. Got a royalty cheque for £15.06 after my WALKING WORLD WALK was downloaded quite a few times last year. Thanks to all those who downloaded it and walked it...
7. Made a superhero thanks to the SUPERHERO FACTORY (thanks to Angela Maiers for tipoff)

Driving up noticed that I passed through an area of Lincolnshire that had been rebranded as districtnk and a guide which had the name yorkshiresouth rather than, er, South Yorkshire.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Photo Generators

Always good to have photo manipulation generators.
Thanks to Vicky Woolven for leading me to PHOTOFUNIA, with which I made this nice image...

Snow Day

Another load of snow arrived in West Norfolk. 65 schools closed at the moment in West Norfolk.
All the family off school - as I was working from home today, I don't really get the benefit...
Just added my details to the #uksnow map that Ben Marsh produced.Join the map by tweeting #uksnow then first part of the postcode, then score out of 10

e.g. #uksnow S66 8/10

Also check out OLLIE BRAY's POST on making use of this in the classroom along with Google Earth.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

My World in 60 Seconds

My World in 60 Seconds

This is an opportunity for student films to be shown on the BBC's BIG SCREENS in cities around the country.

For full details go to the GA WEBSITE, or read on....

Important update: Relaxation on format for submissions

When we launched the competition last year, a number of e-mails were received which queried the limited format for submissions for the My World in 60 Seconds project.

Following further discussions with the BBC, we have been able to widen the format for the submission of completed films, which we think will make it a lot easier for schools to submit their work and take part in the project. The emphasis still needs to be on the HIGHEST POSSIBLE QUALITY OF VIDEO FILE.

New formats that are now available are: a HIGH QUALITY DVD or HIGH QUALITY QUICKTIME FILE.

A reminder of some of the basic rules follows. All entered films must meet these guidelines, and:

Be made by students aged 11, 12, 13 or 14

Be no longer than 60 seconds including titles and credits
Only contain music if you have composed and played it yourself
Have permissions from all people that feature in the film
Be friendly and not contain any rude or obscene material
Arrive as a high quality DVD, QuickTime file or a MiniDV tape along with an entry form no later than 1 May 2009
Be posted to My World Films, Geographical Association, 160 Solly Street, Sheffield, S1 4BF

For further information see the GA website

Contact Alan Parkinson at the GA for further queries.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Snow and Heat

"We're very lucky in the band in that we have two visionaries, David and Nigel, they're like poets, like Shelley and Byron. They're two distinct types of visionaries, it's like fire and ice, basically. I feel my role in the band is to be somewhere in the middle of that, kind of like lukewarm water."
Derek Smalls in 'This is Spinal Tap'

Today, as with yesterday is a 'snow' / 'duvet' day across many parts of the country. The BBC NEWS reported the traffic problems in and around the country. They didn't mention that much about other parts outside of the capital, mostly London yesterday, but anyway. The snow has now moved North, and the chaos continues.

At lunchtime yesterday it was out to collect my kids from their primary school, which has closed early due to the weather forecast being a worsening situation. This morning was an interesting slippy walk, but they were safely delivered.

Today, the newspapers have some very creative headlines and stories, and there have been some interesting journeys to work by a lot of colleagues.
For the first time, the ice and snow has prevented me getting up to Sheffield.
Instead, I'm working through a range of projects the deadlines for which seem to have piled up this week.
One additional resource that I have been putting together is for some UEA PGCE colleagues.

Meanwhile, over in Australia, there is a record breaking HEATWAVE which has led to parts of daily life grinding to a halt.

Back to the snow finally, The Register: the satirical website had a funny report, although it has a rude word, so you can find it yourself if you want the full version.

There was also a good map on the GOOGLE MAPS MANIA website, which was related to TWITTER, and is mentioned in this BBC NEWS REPORT.
A #uksnow map...

Worth collecting the various impressions of the impact of the snow.

One ironic one was that the cost to the British economy was apparently over £1 billion, which is of course small change these days....

The Daily Mirror had the best headline of the day !

Monday, February 2, 2009

Discover Liverpool

Got this cheap at the weekend (the DVD version of it at least...)
8 themed documentaries on the culture and landscape of Liverpool
Worth seeking out in your local discount book store if you're in the NW.