Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Geography Collective and Cultural Olympiad

One of the things I'm proudest of in the last few years is my involvement with the Geography Collective, and our Mission:Explore books, iPhone app and other activities...
We can now announce our latest project, thanks to the project leadership of Daniel Raven Ellison.

We are very pleased to say that we will be delivering a major project for the Cultural Olympiad as part of the Discovering Places programme called Discover Explore. Discovering Places is funded by a grant from Olympic Lottery Distributor (OLD) through the London Organising Committee of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG). It is delivered by The Heritage Alliance with the support of key partners.. one of which is us.

We will be working closely with The Workshop to create something very beautiful and cool which will be launched this summer.

“The project aims to inspire young people and their families to discover hidden, extraordinary and important historical sites and stories in cutting-edge and engaging ways. The unique collaboration between Discovering Places, The Geography Collective and numerous small and medium scales historic and natural environment organisations will inspire active participation, animate spaces, raise awareness of environmental sustainability and enhance learning by linking up local heritage assets.” The Heritage Alliance 

‘We are extremely excited to be working on this cutting edge and creative strand of Discovering Places.  This project is going to open up opportunities for children and families to explore and experience places in new ways and have a great deal of fun while thare are at it.  We will be uncovering heritage in ways that will demonstrate how inclusive the Cultural Olympiad is and break new ground on engaging young people with the people, places and stories of not only our pasts but our future’s past.’ Daniel Raven-Ellison, Project Director, The Geography Collective

To read more about the Cultural Olympiad, Discovering Places and our project take a look at the Heritage Alliance newsletter here.

Look forward to meeting the rest of the Geography Collective in May to kick-start the project... 


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Learning Score - get it while you can....

John Davitt's genius lesson planning tool: LEARNING SCORE is now available for a limited time only as a FREE download with a lifetime license.
I paid actual cash money for this about 6 months ago to use with teachers, so this is great news for those on limited budgets...

To see how it might be used Doug Belshaw has made a video of him planning a history lesson.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Rory's Story Cubes

During my lunch-time at the Education Show I took the opportunity to do a quick trip up and down the aisles to make sure that I saw as many of the stands as possible and have a chat to anyone who had a geographical connection, or who caught my eye.

One stand I particularly wanted to see was the CREATIVITY HUB stand, where RORY's STORY CUBES were available.

I have these cubes as an iPhone app and also as the infinitely preferable 'real thing', and have used them with many teachers over the last few years to explore the ideas of geography as "writing the earth".

I have used my cubes with hundreds of teachers as a way of exploring creative writing, including my sessions at various conferences. By using a net for creating a cube such as the one below, taken from MATHSISFUN with thanks, you can also add your own cubes...

Cut out the shapes and add your own words or instructions on the six sides relevant to the subject that you are using them for.

If you were making a set of geography cubes, they might contain instructions. These could be used to add a map symbol or place name, to turn a particular compass direction (to direct a route across an OS map sheet perhaps), or to describe a particular landscape.

I got a set of ACTIONS cubes to mix in with them, and had a chat with Rory - who looks just like his picture on the flyer.

I was also really impressed with the MAX cubes, and a bit disappointed that they were only prototypes and not available to buy - not yet anyway... Follow the link to add your thoughts on whether they should be made more widely available for the particular reasons that are suggested.
Follow Rory and the team on Twitter @storycubes, and read this story from the Belfast Telegraph for some information on what they are planning yet. Some interesting projects to come...

Friday, March 18, 2011

Thinking about disasters...

..is something that a lot of us have been doing for the last week...

So have other colleagues... Simon Jones has posted the results of his thinking on the presentation below, which he has shared on Slideshare. Some really interesting and challenging questions...
There was also a response from the Guardian's DATA BLOG, which had a comparison between Japan and Haiti as part of its DECADE OF DISASTERS piece.

There is also a useful NUCLEAR POWER feature which shows the number of power plants that may now have an uncertain future, and face far more stringent safety checks and procedures. Useful mapping in both of these features...

Responses to the disaster have spread far and wide.
Fears over the nuclear radiation that is likely to spread from the Fukushima plant caused salt to sell out in China.

Thanks also to Fred Martin for sending through this intriguing link.

This is all 6 major channels at the precise time of the earthquake laid over each other. 

The one in the top left is NHK (Japanese equivalent of the BBC) and the others are all commercial broadcasters. Which channels react the fastest - how long do some of them take to react ?

Warning: may give you a headache...

He also told me about the website which shows the live Geiger counter readings for Tokyo.

Thanks to those people who have left a comment on the Tsunami page on the GA website.


Got my ticket for the Rush 'Time Machine' tour in May at the Sheffield Arena: over 30 years of hard rocking and a full play through of 'Moving Pictures': it's going to be loud...

One of my favourite Rush tracks is called 'Subdivisions'...

There are plenty of amazing aerial images of the various Subdivisions of cities in the USA on Chris Gielen's TWISTED SIFTER blog. Here's one from Florida...
And here, for your musical education (because this blog isn't just about geography you know...) are Rush performing the song live as part of the R30 tour...

Lyrics by Neil Peart - plenty of geography here...

Sprawling on the fringes of the city
In geometric order
An insulated border
In between the bright lights
And the far unlit unknown...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Education Show

The GA will have a stand at this year's Education Show 2011 at the NEC.
We will be in Hall 6&7 on Stand P30A - the subject association area (as at BETT) - the show starts later this week...

Come along to pick up the latest catalogues, see some of our new publications, browse some GA resources and be told about the support for Primary and Secondary colleague that members can expect, as well as our CPD support and online networks.

We would be interested to hear your views on the curriculum review, English Baccalaureate, and other challenges facing geography in schools, as well as the opportunities presented by these 'interesting times'.

I will be setting up and manning the stand on the first day of the show: Thursday the 17th of March

Alternatively, come with a USB drive and I'll let you have some free resources from my hard drive...

I'll also be handing out various bits for those who get there early...

My colleagues Nicola Donkin and Paul Baker will be on the stand on the other 2 days of the show...

Look forward to seeing some of you there...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Another world-changing event...

Just after 7am on Friday morning I pulled into a multi storey car park in central Coventry. I had set off rather earlier than I needed to ensure that I was on time for an NQT event that I was running, and as I checked my mail and Twitter feeds, news started to come in of an earthquake and tsunami...
The rest of the day was spent running the conference, and by the time I got home at 7pm that night, there was a clear sense that this was going to be very bad news for Japan and the rest of the world...

It became obvious that a lot of colleagues were hard at work over the weekend preparing a range of resources.
My colleague Anne Greaves at the GA had produced a really useful page of materials at short notice on the Friday in my absence.

Below is the text of the update that I will send to Anne for addition to the GA website tomorrow (Monday) but it is here for early access, and also for possible comment... This is a draft, and is my personal response to the events in Japan...

Update for GA website resources

The weekend of the 12th and 13th of March has been dominated by regular updates from the region of Japan that was most badly affected by the earthquake of the 11th (which has been upgraded to a magnitude 9) and the ensuing tsunami and aftershocks.
The force of the earthquake has shifted the east coast of Japan by 2.4 metres, and even shifted the earth’s axis by 25cm. News footage has shown the astonishing scale of the devastation, and the power of water in a highly urbanised area. Entire towns such as Minami Sanriku seem to have virtually disappeared, and tens of thousands of people are missing at the time of writing, in the massive debris fields that the tsunami left behind.
The crisis has now been called the “worst since World War 2”, with the astonishing power of the water and shaking accompanied by the potential for a greater nuclear disaster than Chernobyl in 1986. Videos showing the swaying skyscrapers of Tokyo also provide a reminder of the efforts that have been made to protect buildings from potential earthquakes. This, combined with regular drills will have had an effect on overall casualty numbers, although some of the videos show a remarkable nonchalance as people stood and washed boats being washed under bridges that they were stood on.
The combination of hazards has had wider impacts on the country’s economy, links to global markets, car exports and manufacturing have been suspended, insurance claims will run into billions, and there are forecasts of rising energy prices. Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures are responsible for over 40% of the Japanese economy, and most manufacturing has ceased. Food rationing is taking place, and water supplies are cut in many parts of northern Japan.
Energy is currently being rationed as a large percentage of Japan’s energy comes from nuclear power, and there are fears of nuclear ‘meltdown’ at a number of nuclear reactors. Screening centres have been set up as over 200 000 people have been evacuated from the area around the reactors. A rolling programme of 3 hour blackouts is planned for the next few days. Oil refineries have been affected, and many petrol stations have closed, with long queues at others.
In the longer term, there will be a stimulus for the construction industry, as the infrastructure and many buildings will require reconstruction, but this is a long way in the future…

Thoughts on pedagogy & potential activities

The challenge for teachers in the next few weeks will be to pick an appropriate route through the large number of potential resources and activities that could be selected. Teachers as ‘curriculum makers’ have difficult choices to make, and even more so than ever where this event is concerned.
Students are likely to come with questions, and anxieties, and teachers will need to tackle those sensitively. These are likely to form the basis for the response: a lesson that is planned too rigidly might not enable some of those important questions to be answered. Try to ensure that at least one computer with internet access is available for research. It may be possible to access the live news stream from NHK news: http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/
Some sense of the scale of the disaster might be appropriate to explore, using Google Earth or other mapping software e.g. GIS mapping, perhaps using some of the available free tools such as ESRI’s ArcGIS online explorer: http://explorer.arcgis.com/ (a map of earthquakes in Japan has already been created)
Students could perhaps be placed in a ‘newsroom’ hot seat – maybe preparing materials for the Google Crisis Response website that is mentioned later in this resource. Alternatively they could be interviewing a survivor, or prepare questions for a rescue worker on their way to the disaster area. They might be asked to prepare / design applications that would be useful for residents and other people in the affected areas.
Use the Sky News home page or Newseum site http://www.newseum.org/todaysfrontpages/ to explore the front pages of newspapers in the UK / around the World.
Possibly a Wordle of the headlines could be constructed, to explore the language of tragedy, and how to work on some of these issues to raise the morale of people in the affected areas.
Alternatively, take a Japanese poetry form: the haiku, and pupils could write a response to what they have seen and heard, perhaps adding a hopeful note…
There could be an exploration of how the shape and height profile of the coastline of Japan may have funnelled the waters further inland and at a faster rate in certain locations.
Teachers should perhaps take a lead from students at the start of the lesson, to assess the possible focus for part of the lesson:
What do they know ?
What would they like to know ?
What should they know ?
If we are having a debate about core knowledge in geography, should ‘tsunami’ be in there ?
Remember geographical enquiry: the choice of stimulus material will be to identify appropriate images and then offer potential for research and reflection.
Is it perhaps too early to be dissecting the disaster ?
If any colleagues have thoughts on these ideas, or would like to provide further examples that they have planned, we would be very pleased to receive them and share them more widely.

Links and connections

The BBC News website has an astonishing video: one of many, showing the force of the water as the tsunami hit:
Some colleagues have been hard at work producing resources which they are happy to share.
Andy Knill, who teaches in Essex spent most of the weekend compiling a tremendously useful Google Document:
This contains a large collection of possible sources of information and Twitter feeds to follow for updates.
Becky Pook from Peacehaven School was quick off the mark with a creative and well-referenced resource which explored not only the physical background to the event but also the emotional response. It includes some interesting ideas for model making and creative use of images. Many thanks to Beccy for sharing.

View more presentations from Beccy Pook

Another Slideshare, which contains a range of images is: http://www.slideshare.net/effat57/the-japan-earthquake-and-tsunami
Ollie Bray wrote a blog post which concentrated on the effort of Google and other technology firms to update their imagery as quickly as possible to enable assessment of the damage and some before/after comparisons.
There was also a useful link to Google’s Crisis Response Dashboard: http://www.google.com/crisisresponse/japanquake2011.html - this provides a range of  links including a person finder and some dramatic YouTube clips.
Mark Howell blogged his thoughts – another example of the importance of teacher blogs:
Some interesting thoughts on the issues of teaching a fast evolving news story.
Heathfield School, where blogging is embedded in the curriculum was also commendably quick off the mark with some Year 6 tasks – thanks to @DeputyMitchell on Twitter.
Jon Snow of Channel 4 news is writing his SnowBlog from Sendai in Japan: http://blogs.channel4.com/snowblog/
GeoEye: an image provider, has some useful Before and After images, which have been shared by the New York Times. The webpage has a useful slider to enable comparisons:
The US Pacific Fleet has started an aid operation called Operation Tomodachi, and there is a useful Flickr set here from the people involved:
The UK charity Shelterbox is already active in the area, as are many other charities and international search and rescue teams. Follow the Shelterbox teams on: http://www.shelterbox.org/
James Reynolds (http://twitter.com/typhoonfury) travels the world filming in disaster zones and he has made his way to Japan as well as posting regular updates via Twitter. A useful ‘contact’ to follow over the coming days.
There was also the amazing story of Hiromitsu Shinkawa who was rescued from the roof of his house while floating many miles out to sea.
The story of the town of Minami Sanriku is a sober, large scale example of the power of nature…

I have not considered the nuclear events here, but there is certainly going to be a major review of nuclear safety and energy policy in the months to come...

Thanks also to many other colleagues, including John Sayers, James Baird, Kenny O Donnell and Tony Cassidy for their thoughts.

Finally, for those who would like to involve students in fund-raising, or donate to the disaster appeal.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Great review for the new Mission Explore books...

From explorer Benedict Allen...

“This young explorers’ kit is endlessly adventurous – a journey in itself. An utter delight – full of surprises and things to make you look at the world afresh."

The books will be published on the 1st of April

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Wonders of the World

I asked my Twitter followers to suggest/nominate a natural and a man-made "Wonder of the World" that (importantly) they had seen themselves... and to add the hashtag #nqtgeog11

Here are the results:

Natural Wonders
Colca Canyon, Peru
Solheimajokull Glacier, Iceland
Here's a picture of me on that very glacier in 2010:

Jostedalsbreen, Norway
Cheddar Gorge
Tropical Rainforests
Yosemite Valley
The Cuillin Ridge, Skye
Here's one of my images of a section of the said ridge:

The Cenotes of the Chicxulub meteor impact in Mexico
Cwm Idwal
Landmannalaugar region of Iceland
Valle de Mai, Praslin, Seychelles - home of the Coco de Mer
Fingal's Cave
Bryce Canyon, Utah
The Alps
Grand Canyon

Man Made Wonders
Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao
Here are some pictures that I took when I visited....

Petra, Jordan (2 votes)
Great Wall of China
Serapeum, Temple of the Bulls near Cairo
The CERN Large Hadron Collider
Sydney Harbour Bridge (3 votes)
The London Sewers
The Emirates Stadium
Shah Mosque, Esfahan
St Pancras Station
Eden Project, Cornwall
Jamaa el Fna, Marrakech as the sun sets...
The Burj Khalifa - just been reading about the At the Top attraction and browsing pictures taken from the top - incredible...

My own choice is probably
Natural: Prekestolen or Pulpit Rock in Rogaland, Norway, which I visited in 1984 and have never forgotten...
I had a dodgy camera at the time, so didn't get any decent pictures. Here's one from TrekEarth, which is used with thanks to Kris Verhoeven

Man-made: The Blue Lagoon 

Here's one of my images:

Which amazing places do you 'visit' with your students ?

Urban News for a Sunday morning...

There were 3 or 4 "urban-related" tweets in my overnight feed that I caught up with earlier 'today' while having my breakfast...
Part of my daily routine now is to look at what has happened while I slept, and e-mail any interesting tweets to my e-mail account, so that I have a record of the links, and can follow them up when I have a moment...

This weekend, there has been an urban theme to many of the updates. Several of them were from the excellent @urbanphoto_blog stream... You need to follow them if you don't already.

One led me to the Twisted Sifter blog, from which I got this remarkable image, which apparently shows the suburbs of Mexico City marching into the distance, irrespective of topography.

The images were from Pablo Lopez Luz

I haven't explored the site further, but it seems to have a range of interesting images and other content.
The second site, which was equally arresting is a description of the development of a new (or perhaps not so new it seems) 'city' stretching out into the Caspian Sea from Baku, and called Oily Rocks.

The Liquid Infrastructure blog has the story and more amazing pictures of this complex structure.

Next was the news of a fire in the Garib Nagar slum in Mumbai. One of the houses affected was the home of an actress who featured in the film "Slumdog Millionaire". Of course there were thousands of other people affected too...
This was followed up by another newspaper article on the slums of Mumbai, and plans to bulldoze Dharavi. One to extend into the idea of local politics and ownership of land...

This was followed by a tip-off from Bob Digby to an article on the increased threat that coastal settlements in the UK are likely to face
A report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation relates to the idea of Social Justice, and looks at the impact on disadvantaged UK coastal communities.
Click HERE to download the report as a 1.4 Mb PDF file

The possible impacts on East Anglia (as featured in the report) are summarised below...

•  Weakening and collapse of cliffs due to desiccation as a result of higher summer temperatures and lower precipitation; also cliff destabilisation as a result of decreasing vegetation cover.
•  Weakening and collapse of cliffs due to increased precipitation in winter, which causes more water to penetrate into desiccated cracks.
•  Higher rates of coastal erosion from higher sea levels, more frequent storm surges and weakened cliffs.
•  High erosion will cause enhanced rates of longshore drift which may pose threats to the major ports of Great Yarmouth, Felixstowe and Harwich.

And finally, was an article by Rick Poynor on the book "Edgelands", which I am reading via Kindle app at the moment, along with some images of these peripheral areas.

So basically, Twitter - thanks to the Flipbook app - has replaced the need for me to buy a Sunday newspaper...

Saturday, March 5, 2011

ESRI Mapping Tool

A nice mapping tool produced by / for the ESRI Education community , which offers a range of base maps, and tools to draw on top of the base map to create a personal map. I liked the text tool, which allows labels to be placed by clicking on the map.

 The finished map can then be saved or printed.
Another option for map creation.

Try it out