Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Started a new Twitter stream yesterday to collate stories of the Big Freeze...

Follow @FrozenUK for the cold weather geographical digest... or add #FrozenUK to your tweets and I'll pick it up and add it when I get the chance...

There is more snow falling as I type this...

Monday, December 20, 2010

Thought for the Day

They've got Pepsi in the Andes
McDonalds in Tibet
Yosemite's been turned into
A golf course for the Japs
The Dead Sea is alive with rap
Between the Tigris and Euphrates
There's a leisure centre now
They've got all kinds of sports
They've got Bermuda shorts

Roger Water: "It's a Miracle" from "Amused to Death"

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Time to eat the dogs...

I'm always on the lookout for map -related items, as I'm preparing for a few map-related things early in the New Year.
There was a really interesting post on the intriguingly named "Time to eat the dogs" blog earlier this week, that I found via Twitter and something else (as is often the way...)

The post is about the idea of 'terra incognita': this is a phrase that was once used on maps, but these days there are no unknown places... or are there ?
Gerald Zhang Schmidt suggests that the blank spaces are cultural rather than physical.

" can no longer go out to many places where no tourist has tread before. In fact, because of globalization, the traveler feels as if she has seen the world already, and while many places are still fun to visit (if exotic enough), there is nothing truly new."

Fits with the Taras Grescoe book "The End of Elsewhere", which I have blogged about before...

He goes on to explore the sort of thinking that led us at the Geography Collective to create Mission:Explore:

"How well do you know the people and paths in your community or the species that dwell in your own backyard?"

A final link from Gerald is his interest in the cultural significance of  chilli peppers... geography and food combined...

Maps as cultural objects

This looks very cool - thanks to Kenny for the tipoff...

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Ning's the thing...

Nings have developed nicely since I first saw them in 2006-7...
At the time, I was teaching geography and the 'A' level specifications were being reviewed.
I set up a NING to support my 'A' level teaching, and to share resources and discussions relating to the work that was being carried out. Another NING was made private to my students, so that work within school could be developed further. I also created other networks for colleagues.
That first main NING now has over 2200 members !

At the 2008 Scottish Learning Festival, I attended my first teachmeet, and presented on Nings in a short 7 minute presentation slot.

When I joined the GA, I took NINGs with me, and the GA's online professional network was born, as was the now thriving PRIMARY CHAMPIONS Ning, which is closing in on the round figure of 1000 members

Earlier this month, the pre-release materials for the January 2011 Edexcel exam was released, and there was an immediate response:

Over 20 new members joined the network
Over 100 members joined a group to discuss the new pre-release material and others joined related groups
There were over 100 contributions to discussions about the materials, particularly on the tectonics hazards question, which has now had almost 50 replies and contributions..

Plenty of helpful ideas and resources being shared for the benefit of all members...

So come and join a NING near you...

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Points of View...

A new feature was added to the GA website yesterday, following discussions by the Website Editorial Board earlier in the year, and some great work by the web team.
As a GA member, when you log in you will be able to add a comment to any page of the website and, if you have purchased an item from the GA shop, you can also add a STAR RATING and a comment. This will let us develop more of a community feel to the website (non GA members will have to wait for their comment to be moderated) and if you are logged in you can add an image to your profile.
I have added a comment to the page which contains my WINTER TEACHING IDEAS, so feel free to take a look at that and add your own thoughts...

The snow is falling again outside the window as I press PUBLISH POST...

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Please help me with the answers to these questions...

A little experiment to crowd-source some answers for the Edexcel GCE Geography specification.
This examination, taken by students in the UK when they are doing their 'A' levels - age 16-18, has an optional unit called "The World of Cultural Diversity".

The unit has a focus on cultural geography, and is based on 4 key areas.
1.Defining culture and identifying its value
2.How and why does culture vary spatially?
3.The impact of globalisation on cultural diversity
4.Cultural attitudes to the environment

There is a very useful guide by the Chief examiner that can be downloaded from HERE.

The title for this year's exam has just been released, and is below - there are 2 parts to the question, one of which involves research.

Explore how external threats and internal vulnerability vary in their impacts on cultures and landscapes.

Research contrasting locations and examples to show why the impacts of these pressures vary in their severity and type

So if any of you lovely blog visitors have thoughts on resources, websites or other approaches to answering this question, please feel free to add them as a comment below, and we'll see what happens....

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Infinite City

Another tip off via Twitter...

The INFINITE CITY is an article about a new book by Rebecca Solnit, who we like a lot at the Geography Collective.

It's an 'atlas of San Francisco', but not the usual type...

They are designed to make the reader think anew about the city of San Francisco—its history, natural habitat, economic function, political values—and, by extension, about the way we all imagine the places we live in. "A city," Solnit writes in her introduction, "is a particular kind of place, perhaps best described as many worlds in one place; it compounds many versions without reconciling them." 

Ordinary maps show only the physical infrastructure that these "many worlds" share—streets, rivers, monuments. 

The maps in Infinite City, on the other hand, treat the physical city as a blank slate, on which many different experiences can be overwritten, like texts on a palimpsest.

Exciting urban geography...
Sounds like a fascinating book !!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

New IB Geography course from the GA...

The International Baccalaureate is being considered by a growing number of teachers as an alternative to more traditional courses.

IB Geography - Reflecting on the 'new' syllabus
This CPD course will help Post-16 teachers, both new and experienced, reflect upon the demands of the IB geography diploma programme.

The 'new' 2009–2017 syllabus will have completed its first cycle in the summer of 2011 and this one-day course will provide an excellent opportunity for teachers to reflect upon the first cycle and make plans for the next.

London - Friday 24 June 2011

Further details and online booking are available on the GA website

The course tutor is Richard Allaway, creator of the rather wonderful GEOGRAPHY ALL THE WAY website.

Google Earth 6

A new version of Google Earth was released recently: GOOGLE EARTH 6...
It includes millions of 3D trees, and other improvements, including better integration with Google Street View

Go to the AMAZON for example, and you can wander the jungle and explore some of the tree species in the rainforest... I'm sure we can come up with some ideas for using this in the geography classroom :)

And don't forget my Innovative Geography Teaching funded project from back in 2005...

Friday, December 3, 2010

Russia 2018

Anyone want to buy some second-hand England 2018 geography resources ? Hardly used ?

An interesting resource is this movie below: the short movie used as part of the England bid.
Would be good to look at it for cultural / global references... - the power of the brand of some Premiership teams... What are the messages coming across ?

Or how about this one for showing the scale of football in terms of its economic importance to the country, and our culture ?

You can also see the bid  movies from the other countries on YouTube... Could be good for comparative work.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

David Lambert at the SSAT Conference #nc10

David Lambert gave a keynote lecture to the 2010 SSAT annual conference on Friday 26 November. 
He addressed round 1500 school leaders on the question: are subjects in crisis? 
Obviously he focussed on geography and made some positive remarks about the recent White Paper The Importance of Teaching and its intention to recentre the school curriculum on 'knowledge'.

You can see a video of David's lecture on the SSAT website (take a look at Dylan Wiliam's session while you're there....)

The slides that David used (you might want to listen to the presentation while watching the slides, or put them side by side on the screen...) are available via SLIDESHARE... and have been embedded below...
November 2010 SSAT Presentation

View more presentations from GeoBlogs.

If you're snowbound today & your school is closed take a look...
Think of it as a little impromptu CPD

Monday, November 29, 2010

Derbyshire Poetry Walk

If you live within reasonable travelling distance of the Peak District, you might be interested in a poetry / geography / history event being organised by my friend Rob Hindle.

A descent in the traces of the first bombing raid on Sheffield, 12 December 1940

Longbarrow Press invites you to join Rob Hindle on a walk in the traces of the Blitz:

Sunday 12 December

Meet at 1.30pm prompt on Platform A, Sheffield Bus Interchange

The walk will start on Hathersage Road near the village of Dore at 2.30pm

Total distance approximately 6 miles. There is an opportunity to join the walk at Cafe #9 in Nether Edge (see below) at 4pm. The walk from this point is a little under 3 miles.

For the 70th anniversary of the Sheffield Blitz, Rob Hindle has devised a poetry walk that will illuminate the attack on the city by German bombers on 12 December 1940. The journey will begin at Dore Moor and end in Fitzalan Square (Sheffield City Centre), with Rob reading and discussing poems that emerged from his original plotting of the walk last winter, descending from the edge of the city to the site in the centre where the most devastating blast destroyed the Marples Hotel. The walk is timed to start in daylight and finish in darkness.

Everywhere the smoke

like ink in water

everywhere fires like marsh gas.

Admission £5 (includes unique CD package designed and produced by Longbarrow Press).
Bus fare from Sheffield central bus station to Dore Moor is approximately £2.50.
Places are very limited and must be booked in advance through Rob Hindle (email:, phone 0114 232 2714); early booking is advised. The walk is moderately paced over mostly level terrain and will take 3½ hours or less. Please wear warm, weatherproof clothing. There will be opportunities to rest during the walk, including a stop at Cafe #9 on Nether Edge Road at around 4pm.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Vaughan Cornish : geographer

Vaughan Cornish was one of the most influential geographers of his time. He was born in the 1860s in Suffolk, and had a career spanning 60 years. He was President of the Geographical Association during that time.

Last Friday, while putting some boxes down in the warehouse at Solly Street in preparation for the official opening (of which more later), I found a brown cardboard box, which was labelled "Vaughan Cornish Original Prints" and excitedly opened it to find about 50 large prints on thick card, several of them stamped as being entered for the 1904 St. Louis photographic exposition. Took a few images of some of them...

Some of them featured pictures of wave forms, an area which Cornish was particularly interested in.
I loved the silvered blue finish on some of the prints, which had faded in the century since they had been made, and then hand labelled by Cornish himself. There was also a print taken after an earthquake in the Caribbean, which I had read about him experiencing (he was injured in the event), and a snowdrift in Manitoba (another area that he was interested in)
Made me re-visit a plan that I had about 5 years ago to write a short book(let) on Cornish, when I did a bit of research about him.
Might be worth rethinking... would be a good excuse to delve into the GA and RGS archives, and also apparently those of the University of Oxford.

There's a good article on Vaughan by Andrew Goudie (another influential geographer) on JSTOR, and the abstract provides a few clues to follow up on his various interests.

I also have a copy of the book "The Beauties of Scenery", which was an attempt of his to objectively evaluate the landscape, and is worth hunting out in a second hand book-shop.

Google Books has a few links such as HERE

Monday, October 25, 2010

SAGT Conference 2010

Up to Glasgow for the last few days for the 6th consecutive SAGT conference, this year held in the city for the first of its 3 year residency.
The weather was mixed, and the journey up was not without its delays either, but the actual day of the event was bright and cold, and managed to get some nice pictures taken in the evening, as above - looking along the Clyde from the Crowne Plaza hotel and SECC.

My presentation was part of the overall conference programme, which included a number of familiar names from previous events, and from English geography circles...

I arrived the night before the conference, and over to Hutcheson's Grammar school via a jammed M8 to set up the GA stand. The school was a nice mix of ancient and modern, with a wonderful church for the keynotes. Our hotel was next to the SECC, and the Finnieston Crane and made my way back there eventually after various diversions to meet with Dan and Noel, and out for a meal with Val Vannet at the City Cafe, overlooking the Clyde and the Clyde Arc (or Squinty bridge as it is called - one for LOCATION LINGO there....)

The following day, over to the venue early and set up. Met lots of delegates for chat, Ken and Darren from the Ordnance Survey, who gave me lots of jute bags, and Paul from Mapseeker. John Hopkin: GA president for 2010-11 came up to do the fraternal greetings after the first inspiring keynote from Al Humphreys.

David Rogers, Noel Jenkins and Dan Raven Ellison were among the other seminar presenters, along with Ollie Bray, whose Hodder Gibson book also won an award. Good to see a few of my Twitter followers popping up as well, and gained a few more over the weekend.
Writing the earth

View more presentations from GeoBlogs.

My seminar presentation (or a version of it at least) is above.
Handouts included a copy of "Chop one red onion" from the PGCE Survival Guide, and a range of other resources and maps.
I also read one of Rob Hindle's poems from "Neurosurgery in Iraq".

SAGT Delegate Notes

After the 2 full seminars, it was a final keynote from Alun Morgan.

Earlier, I had collected two awards for the GA's publications:  COMMENDED awards to GCSE toolkit and TOP SPEC series...

Out into the sun for the evening, and over to the Granary with Kenny and Akiko for a pint and chat with Ollie.
Another good SAGT experience.
In the evening, did some photography with Noel along the river, and then food, after a 'mystery tour' of Govan....
The following morning it was a simple matter of scraping ice off the car, and a 350 mile drive south...

David Rogers has posted his seminar presentation on his blog already, along with a write--up... Will be blogging about his present later...

All pics by Alan Parkinson, and available on Flickr.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Michael Palin's love of Geography

taken from the ATL Magazine

" is renewing itself 24 hours a day... [and] remains for me the freshest and most exciting of subjects. Geography is about understanding our world. It illuminates the past, explains the present and prepares us for the future. What could be more important than that?"

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Institute of Education Seminar

The latest in the Engaging Geography series, which was originated by the late Duncan Fuller, and now organised by his great friend and colleague (and fellow Geography Collective member) Kye Askins is being held on Wednesday of this week at the Institute of Education.

Here are the details.
I shall be 'recording' as much of the events as I can to help with my nascent MA studies, and own professional development....
If there is phone reception, I shall be tweeting from the event too... some amazing speakers...

Date: 13th October 2010
 Room 836, Institute of Education, University of London, 20 Bedford Way, London WC1 H 0AL 
Convenors: David Lambert (Geographical Association / Institute of Education) and John Morgan (Institute of Education)
10.30: tea/coffee
11.00: Introduction to the day.
  • Introductions [10 mins]
  • David LambertDo we have to say what geography is? To whom? [10 mins]
11.20: Session one. ‘Setting the scene and whetting the appetite.’
  • Professor Alastair BonnettGeography in public. Geography as one of humanity’s big projects? [20 mins]
  • Dr Jessica Pykett: The public in geography. Can the public(s) be identified? (20 mins]
  • Discussion: [10 mins]
12.15: Lunch & informal discussion [Room 802: 30-40 mins]
1.00: Session two. ‘Particular settings and perspectives’.
Key elements and participants (10-15 minutes each, including questions) are as follows. Contributors are encouraged to provide specific instances, examples or case studies to illustrate or exemplify the points they wish to make.
2.30 pm Discussion: Michael Young: what is a Powerful Knowledge?
Michael Young is a distinguished Professor of Education at the Institute of Education. The disciplinary basis for his research is the sociology of knowledge, represented by two career spanning and important books:
Young, M. (1971) Knowledge and Control. London: Collier Macmillan.
Young, M. (2007) Bringing Knowledge Back In: From social constructivism to social realism in the sociology of education. London: Routledge.
Michael will provide a 20 minute input, possibly picking up on matters arising from the above, plus further time for questions.
3.15: Tea break
3.30: Session 3. ‘In what ways is geography a powerful knowledge to communicate, and to whom?’
1. Pairs or threes [40 mins]
Write down (in a form that can be left with the seminar organisers):
  • specific ways in which geography is a ‘powerful knowledge’
  • particular ‘publics’ who need access to geography as a powerful knowledge (and why)
2. Feedback-discussion, based on a ‘one-minute headlines’ from each group [30 mins]
4.40: Brief round-up and short break
5.00: Session 4. School Textbook Archive (with wine and nibbles)
Launch of the Geography School Textbook archive: a fully catalogued collection at the Institute of Education, assembled by donation and financial assistance from the Frederick Soddy Trust.
Opening up opportunities to study the ‘knowledge of the powerful’ and ‘powerful school curriculum knowledge’ in the context of school geography. With Ashley Kent, Emeritus Professor of geography Education and leader of the archive project.
6.00: Depart

Monday, October 4, 2010

New Teaching Geography now available for download...

The latest issue of Teaching Geography is now available to download by those who subscribe to it....

It features a range of inspirational articles on the theme of place by Mark Jones, Eleanor Rawling, Becky Kitchen, Margaret Roberts and others...
Articles range from a teacher visit to Greenland, to the urban re-branding and renaissance of Scarborough...

To add a subscription to your GA membership, or to join (and gain access to the last five years of journals in electronic format) click the JOIN THE GA link.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Commonwealth Games: geographical curriculum making...

The Geography of Sport has found its way onto many KS3 schemes of work.
It made its way onto mine as I used to teach in a Sports college. The PE department had a lot of money, and we didn't so it made sense to start to make a few connections. Remember that at this time of austerity, any additional source of funding for geography departments needs to be explored.

The World Cup has been and gone, the Olympics aren't until 2012 (although that is getting closer every day... literally a day closer)...
Just been watching the first part of the opening ceremony for the COMMONWEALTH GAMES.

The weblink above includes details on getting the bid document, for activities which involve planning a bid for the games in your local area...

The idea of designing the cultural element of the opening ceremony of a similar event in your home area has already been explored elsewhere.... perhaps the giant helium balloon used in Delhi could become a giant Yorkshire pudding on which images of the county were projected, if they were held in Sheffield ?

With many official languages, a huge variety of landscapes and diversity. the ceremony included a lot of music, costumes etc.
I liked the henna hand painting from beneath...

Good for exploring cultural diversity in India, but also how an event like this will raise awareness of the country. A nice REUTERS SLIDESHOW has some good pictures contrasting ancient and modern India.

Don't forget the Geographical Association shop has a range of resources for teachers considering teaching about INDIA.

A TOP-SPEC book written by Gill Miller & Sue Warn on the new Superpowers of India and China (some sample materials are available)
An INDIA map
A series of DVDs made for the GA in association with Pumpkin.
There are 4 DVDs in the series, and there are discounts for ordering more than one disc.

A sample of the DVDs can be seen on the YouTube ChannelPumpkin which has clips from lots of DVDs to whet your appetite.

A Primary Super-schemes book on a village in India.
Plus the classic Ladakh and Chembakolli photopacks....

Don't forget that GA members get big discounts in the shop, so JOIN NOW.

Coverage of the Commonwealth Games on the BBC

Suresh Kalmadi at the Opening Ceremony: 
"India is ready to host the Commonwealth Games. We have the second fastest-growing economy in the world. There have been delays and challenges but we have risen to the challenges and we can do it. Despite the adverse publicity, all the Commonwealth nations have stood by India. This Games will be the largest in history."

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Edexcel Cultural Geography resources...

One of the good aspects of the new Edexcel AS/A2 Geography course is the support in the form of additional materials (and of course the seminal NING)

It's great to hear from Jon Wolton that there are some new guides for each of the units which include ideas, and suggestions for related news items and articles.

Click HERE to go the download page for the World of Cultural Diversity resource

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Hurray for Nollywood....

You've heard of Hollywood, and Bollywood, and now a third country takes the stage (or screen) in the shape of Nigeria's 'Nollywood'.
This has been featured in a few current newspaper articles, such as The Guardian one here.

Many of the films are made in local languages, and are therefore important culturally.

Cinema is an essential part of global culture, and there is a long tradition of geography teachers using films in their teaching, sometimes to teach about particular concepts, or natural hazards.

Blog Action Day: theme is WATER...

For the last 3 or 4 years now, I have been involved in posting something on BLOG ACTION DAY on the particular theme of the year.

The theme this year is WATER. 
The Vimeo video sets the scene...

Blog Action Day 2010: Water from Blog Action Day on Vimeo.|Start Petition

Blog Action Day is an annual event that unites the world's bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day. Our aim is to raise awareness and trigger a global discussion around an important issue that impacts us all.

Our Goal

First and last, the purpose of Blog Action Day is to create a discussion. We ask bloggers to take a single day out of their schedule and focus it on an important issue.
By doing so on the same day, the blogging community effectively changes the conversation on the web and focuses audiences around the globe on that issue.
Out of this discussion naturally flow ideas, advice, plans, and action. In 2007 with the theme of the environment, we saw bloggers running environmental experiments, detailing innovative ideas on creating sustainable practices, and focusing their audience's attention on organizations and companies promoting green agendas. In 2008 we covered the theme of poverty, and similarly focused the blogging community's energies around discussing the wide breadth of the issue from many perspectives and identifying innovative and unexpected solutions. Last year, the conversation around climate change brought our voices around the globe to discuss an issue that threatens us all and mobilized tens of thousands of people to get more involved in the movement for a more sustainable future. This year, with the theme of Water, we are eager to shed light on this often-overlooked topic.

And come back to Cultcha to see what I write on the cultural angle of water, and its purchase...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The English seaside...

I always enjoy the latest additions to Tina Richardson's blog: Arcades / Promenades, which relate to her psycho-geographical investigations of the English seaside resorts, such as Hunstanton.

Plenty of cultural connections in these places...

New books...

Thanks to the good folks at the Princeton Architectural Press for sending me copies of two rather wonderful new mapping books...

"The Map as Art" by Katharine Harmon ( I already have a copy of her excellent book 'You are here')


"from Here to There" by the Hand Drawn Map Association...

More to come on these books shortly....

"I sense that humans have an urge to map - and that this mapping instinct, like our opposable thumbs, is part of what makes us human...."
Katharine Harmon

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Cape Farewell: a voyage around Svalbard

The Cape Farewell voyages aim to bring a cultural response to the issue of Climate Change.

Previous voyages involved Anthony Gormley, and Rachel Whiteread, who was inspired to fill the turbine hall at Tate Modern with white cubes.

When teaching the now sadly ex-Pilot GCSE Geography course a few years back, I used the Cape Farewell pack that the Geographical Association produced.
The blog posts that relate to my studies of this EXTREME ENVIRONMENT are available by following THIS LINK to the blog: you'll see student work and a range of other resources which I hope you might still find useful...

The latest Cape Farewell expedition is going to follow the route shown on the map above, and it has JUST SET OFF... you can follow if for the next few weeks by visiting the CAPE FAREWELL WEBSITE, or following CAPE FAREWELL on TWITTER.

Friday, September 10, 2010

This blog in the Top 50...

Thanks to Samantha for getting in touch to tell me that this blog has been listed in a recent list of

50 best blogs for Geography Geeks

In at no. 6 :)
Thanks for the inclusion...

Welcome to any visitors who may be here because of my listing...
You might also find my LIVING GEOGRAPHY blog interesting: it has over 1800 posts now on all things geographical...
Best wishes

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Professor David Lambert in the TES

Just caught up with the publication of a piece by Professor David Lambert in the TES, published on the 27th of August, while I was away on holiday. I saw the original piece, and haven't checked yet for any possible editing of the piece for publication. It was titled "Crack curriculum's core and open a world of opportunity"

If politicians want more focus on knowledge, subject teachers should decide what is crucial
The Government appears determined to reform the school curriculum again. This is something that some teachers may resist - it will appear as yet more change, when not enough time has been allowed for the last alterations to settle. And because of the return to "knowledge" as opposed to "skills", changes could be accompanied by much Gradgrind-sounding rhetoric about facts and old-fashioned subjects.
It could sound like a rush to restore a golden age of subjects past, and undo the curriculum reforms of the last government. However, if we can just stop dodging the imagined swinging pendulum for one minute, perhaps we can see a more progressive future, which is in teachers' hands. Teachers should seize this chance to get stuck into the knowledge question rather than collectively avoid it, which has in some ways been the story of recent times.
The professional language invented over the past 10 years is the language of pedagogy. This is no bad thing in itself, of course, but pedagogy has become so dominant that it is now confused with its apparently weaker cousin: curriculum. But it is the curriculum that teachers need to engage with.
At present, the subject curriculum is often referred to as the vehicle to "deliver" transferrable skills. This is wrong. It is pedagogy - the skills of doing and thinking - that is the vehicle. The curriculum is about the destination, the aims and goals, and is therefore a matter of serious moral deliberation.
Skills, on the other hand, are said to be value-free. But what shall we teach and how do we justify this? These are the important questions and they ought to be informed by what we think young people need to know.
The curriculum, like pedagogy, is about choices. It is, therefore, a part of what we have come to know as "professional judgment".
In the case of curriculum, the choices concern the selections of knowledge we try to teach. We make these selections according to principles we value, governed by our sense of educational purpose.
A curriculum shaped by whim, the topics in the news and contemporary themes of "relevance" - or, worse still, policy imperatives laid down by the Government - is likely to be incoherent, shallow and like junk food: deeply unsatisfying after the initial fat and sugar rush.
So this is why the subject disciplines matter. Geography is a good case in point. It is an ancient human fascination: its big idea is to try to make sense of ourselves at home on planet Earth. Mapping the world was, and is, fundamental. Today the project is augmented by all kinds of technologies including geographical information systems. But it is useful to consider for one moment what it means to know a bit of geography.
This is particularly important because these days, thanks to the internet and Google Earth, sat-nav and mobile phones, everyone knows some geography. Furthermore, we all have a geographical existence: we live somewhere, shop somewhere and have relatives and friends dotted around the globe.
This realisation has encouraged a lot of interest in "everyday geographies" - but again, let us pause for thought. Is our interest in everyday geographies curriculum-based or is it more a matter of pedagogy? Every teacher knows the strengths of working from the known and what is familiar to children - this is sound pedagogy. But in curriculum terms it is a betrayal not to move to the unknown and unfamiliar. Curriculum goals must be in the driving seat.
Part of the unknown for most young people consists of what is sometimes called "core knowledge", a component of our cultural literacy. This includes locational knowledge - also known as geographical facts, or what the Geographical Association's manifesto refers to as the subject's "vocabulary".
It is important to embrace this in school because this knowledge is not easily developed in everyday life. And yet, it is knowledge that helps make sense of information encountered in everyday life. It helps us function in society. If there is a move to identify subject essentials, or core knowledge, let us engage with it at face value. Instead of shrinking from the curriculum debate, it is time for teachers to take back intellectual responsibility for their work.
- The Geographical Association manifesto is at:
The good news is that absolutely necessary core knowledge is not a large component of the geography curriculum. It can be taught via the regular use of atlases, occasional quizzes and other enjoyable and simple devices that form part of the repertoire of careful teaching.
It can be thought of as the extensive knowledge base upon which more intensive geographical case studies and inquiries can acquire deeper contextual meaning. To illustrate: can we really expect to be able to engage with global climate change meaningfully, without a mental framework that would include naming the oceans and some of the world's ocean currents? Without such knowledge, we are literally disabled to some degree.
We can incorporate it, as many careful geography teachers already do, into the broader geography curriculum. Geographical vocabulary is powerful, but so, too, is its grammar or syntax captured by its key ideas such as place, space and environment.
A person growing up in the 21st century as a global citizen (and all that implies) is at a disadvantage without geographical knowledge - economically, culturally and politically. How can we make any of the personal decisions that already confront us every day about energy, food and water security without geographical knowledge?
Understanding geographical perspectives contributes to our capabilities as educated individuals and members of society.
Professor David Lambert, Chief executive of the Geographical Association

Where does cultural geography fit into this ?
Over to you...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Hans Rosling at GA Conference 2011

There was some exciting news earlier this week !

Hans Rosling is the Director of the Gapminder Foundation, and produced one of the most exciting tools for geographers in recent times: GAPMINDER (now in a desktop version too)

Thanks in part to some work by our colleague Bob Lang earlier in the year, it is now confirmed that Hans will be doing the keynote lecture at the Geographical Association's conference at the University of Surrey in Guildford in April 2011.

One for your diaries: for the chance to see Hans in action - get a flavour of his presentations by watching this TED TALK.

Online booking for the conference is now available!

GA members get substantial discounts!
Full time and PGCE students get FREE registration!
Delegate fees have been frozen to 2009 levels !

Follow the GA on Twitter (@The_GA) with the hashtag: #gaconf11

This year, the conference will also be raising money for ACTION AID: the President's chosen charity.

On the Road

An excellent photo project by Sam Mellish.

On my travels up and down the 'A' roads (and quite a lot of the 'B', 'M' and 'C' ones as well...) of Britain, I've often thought about the roadside vans and cafes that spring up in laybys at the side of the road. Often named after some eponymous owner, or girlfriend, and offering "credit crunch breakfasts" or "big baps"...

Sam has been documenting some of these places in East Anglia, in an exhibition, which can be seen HERE. Sadly I just missed seeing the exhibition of actual images just down the road in Ely.
A book of his WIDER wandering is also available, which I notice focuses on the A303 which I've driven along 4 times in the last few months too...

The one I pass most frequently, which is just north of Sam's main area of focus, has a table with a nice view across the Nar Valley towards Castle Acre. I saw the owner packing up in the rain the other day - probably not a good day for custom... Also drove past Wendy's Bus Cafe earlier today.

Thanks to Joe Moran for the tipoff via his blog...

There are some nice geographies to be explored here in terms of:
Territory: who 'owns' a particular pitch or layby - is there conflict over these ?
Customers: what range of social groups use the cafes, are they inclusive/exclusive ?
Location: what views are offered ? what are the interactions between the customers ?
Sourcing of ingredients - local ?
Cultural links... the rules of the road... groups of people using the road for different purposes...

What else can you think of ?

Something I particularly like is Sam's use of a "tube-map" style diagram to summarise his travels. This will go into a collection of similar tube-map remixed images that I'm collecting for an event in London later in the year.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Postcards from the edge...

...of Yorkshire

Thanks to my psychogeographical contact from Leeds... @concretepost on Twitter...

A very nice looking project in SCARBOROUGH.

The project has involved the local population working with Electric Angel to produce a rather excellent POSTCARD SET. Local people worked with a poet and photographer to explore places that had a particular "meaning".

There is some excellent work coming out of the CREATIVE COAST partnership which fits very nicely with the idea of representing and relating to a place : all part of the Mission:Explore philosophy too, of course...

I am going to be in Scarborough later in the month and will certainly see how many of these cards I can track down...

Will also be picking up the CHART SCARBOROUGH map from the Tourist Information Centre. (Can be downloaded from here in PDF format)

Description of project:

In the past, people came to Scarborough because they saw something special in the town. Now you can follow paths around Scarborough to experience the diverse range of culture, art and heritage that the town has to offer today. Discover paintings, sculpture, murals, ceramics, digital media, photography, theatre, film, live music, spoken word and more. Take in the scenery that inspired renowned poets, writers and artists to produce some of their best work.

The map and the trails which you can find on this website provide exciting new ways to access Scarborough’s local arts scene of today and help you discover the quality and diversity of its cultural roots. You can even share favourite places and events by submitting your own trail.

From the classic to the contemporary, take a journey of discovery through some of the high points of Scarborough’s thriving and growing creative scene. This is YOUR journey. Whatever path you take will offer a new way of experiencing England’s very first seaside resort.

Images and more details HERE.

While we're on the theme of postcards, I enjoyed reading this Daily Mail article on the postcards of Donald McGill: the father of the 'saucy postcard'....