Friday, March 29, 2013

GA Conference 2013

I'm preparing my contributions to the Geographical Association Conference today.

The conference will be held at the University of Derby, which is my favourite of the three venues. It runs from the 4th to the 6th of April.

The first day of the conference doesn't involve any of the usual workshops.
I will be heading over to the Association at Work session to grab a bite to eat, and chat to Ian Cook (who features in this month's 'Geographical' magazine coincidentally) to talk about a Follow the Things project I'm doing between now and the end of June.

Later that afternoon, it's the public lecture from Ellen MacArthur, followed by the GA Awards. I know that something I worked on has won an award, and there may be a few more in the offing too...
Then it's the wine reception, followed by a few drinks with esteemed geographer colleagues...

Friday is the main day of the conference, with sessions from early in the morning to late in the evening. My draft schedule is as follows:

Lecture 2
Oceans for the Geography Classroom from Jamie Buchanan Dunlop. I've worked with Jamie on three different projects this year for Digital Explorer.

Workshop 6
Ian Cook – Follow the Things 
A controversial choice as this clashes with Bob Digby's Presidential Lecture, but I'll be going along to get ideas and pointers for the work I'm doing with Ian. I'm sure there'll be a big turn out for Bob's lecture so I won't be missed...

Workshop 11 – SPC
I'll be going along to support SPC colleagues in their workshop.

Lunch, and a chance to network with colleagues. I'll also spend some time on the Discover the World stand to share ideas on the mission booklet which we've put together with them.

Lecture 7
David Lambert
My old boss talking about the thorny subject of progression in Geography - what's not to like.

Workshop 20
APPening Geography 
I'm up on this one. Katy Shipman and I will talk about apps, and their use in geography. We'll ask people about their favourite apps, and explore how they can support learning.

Workshop 26
I'm up on this one as well.. going to be a busy couple of hours !
Two Hundred Heads are better than one
I'm going to act as master of ceremonies, and introduce two sessions by Tony Cassidy and John Sayers. They are both on the theme of collaborative work, and the importance of sharing. 

Lecture 13
Urban Vignettes - Emma Rawlings-Smith and other colleagues who are involved in setting up a website with writing on urban areas. I'm hoping I can get across in time to join this one.

SPC Meal - down into Derby Centre for a pizza and a chat with colleagues...

GeoBeerMeet - over to the Brunswick Inn near the railway station for a gathering of teachers and some fine ale...

Sign up for the event on Google+ here

After the GeoBeerMeet I shall sleep soundly, knowing that my major contributions to the event have been concluded.
The second main day of the conference is on Saturday.

Lecture 13
Digital Earth - a lecture by Karl Donert, related to an EU project which I am involved in, and which has taken me to various European locations... which is nice :)

Keynote – the changing Arctic
Terry Callaghan lecture - an important element of the conference is the chance to develop knowledge and skills in new areas. This is an area that I've been focussing on with some reading, and will develop further for some writing I'm planning in 2013 and beyond.

Mission Explore fieldtrip - a quick trip out, with a trial of some of the missions in the book

Bringing knowledge back in
A range of contributors from the various UK nations...

If you're going along to the conference, come and say hello.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

John Muir Trust Mission booklet

For the last few months we've been working with the amazing folks at the John Muir Trust to put together a booklet of missions which marries the Mission:Explore style of missions to the aims of the trust, which are to encourage young people to experience the landscape, and care for wild places.
John Muir was the father figure of nature conservation, and quotes from him have been included to connect the missions with some of the ideas that he had over a century ago.
The resource is part of the celebrations for the Year of Natural Scotland, 2013

You can get to see the missions on this GRAPHICLY page. It will be available in other locations shortly, and I'll add the links to those as they emerge.

Here's a slide that I've used in many of my presentations...
Get out and about this Easter... and don't forget to take the opportunity to Mission:Explore...

Monday, March 25, 2013

HMS Warrior

I spent Thursday of last week down in Portsmouth.
I'd travelled down the night before from a course that I was running in Birmingham, so it was a long day, and I got to my hotel quite late. I was in what the hotel described as a 'soundproof room', although the large gap under the door, the thin walls and 'energetic clientele' meant that I questioned the validity of the description. Slept surprisingly well for all that, and the following morning took a blustery walk through the edges of the city and into Gunwharf Quays, following a route that I'd walked before on a previous visit to work with students at Priory Geography. I entered the Historic Dockyards, home to the Mary Rose and other nautical treasures... and made my way to the venue.

The event was organised by members of the Geography department at Priory School in Portsmouth, particularly Jo Debens.
The event brought together around 50 students from a number of local schools, and was hosted on the gun deck of HMS Warrior in Portsmouth harbour. This provided a few 'issues' in terms of access to 3G or WiFi, but also an inspirational setting. We were surrounded by cannons, and ropes, and the students had tables suspended from the ceiling, and surrounded by barrels, hammocks and more cannons... We were cocooned in one hundred and fifty years of history.
The weather was not the best... drizzling with rain and very cold, but fortunately I had plenty to keep me warm, running round checking on all the groups as they were working. The day was quite 'unstructured', which was good in some ways as there was a lot of 'discovery learning' going on from all concerned, including me.
Students arrived just after 9, and we got settled into the cable deck. We were a little cramped, but we had some chairs and cushions.
I spent about 40 minutes setting up the day. We had an introduction from the Education manager of the ship, and I then explained what the curriculum was, and who was responsible for deciding what it contained. We discussed the absence of student voice in the process of curriculum making, and also what was meant by co-creation. I talked about the work of Mission:Explore, and in particular the need to explore new approaches, new topics and look for relevance and challenge.

We also had an input from Robbie and Jonathan, two of Priory School's Digital Leaders. Robbie was very clear about how the Digital Leaders supported members of staff, and was very helpful during the day.

The students were then given an iPad and a range of pens and paper and some space to discuss what they wanted to achieve. I used the ideas funnel idea which was originally shown to me by Jamie Buchanan Dunlop, and later made its way into my Badger GCSE Book. This helped them to decide on a key idea that they would spend some time developing further.

After an hour's work, it was time for a break. At the morning coffee break, I headed over to Action Stations, where Jo Debens was co-ordinating some work for BBC School Report. There was lots of activity and I grabbed a coffee before heading back to the ship. It was good to meet up with several Twitter contacts on the day, who I'd not met face to face before.
I also had great support from Jonathan Parrott, the current PGCE colleague at Priory School, who was very helpful. There were also several Priory students videoing the sessions and discussions on the day, and I was also interviewed by Amelia and her friend, as were all the teachers. We also had a flying visit from David Rogers.

We then went back and did another hour before coming together to hear about the ideas that the students had put together. The students were real stars, and they came up with 9 specific ideas for developing curriculum resources, which they presented.
Some of them were excellent, all of them were interesting. They are apparently going to be developed a little more back in school. Some students used the iPads for display, others for prompts for their presentations.
Here's my original tweets of the ideas:

  • #kidsmeet idea 9 creating the 'Applas' - the app atlas - 'think find learn'... Mar 21, 2013 
  • #kidsmeet idea 8 the wonderful world we live in - accentuating the positives of geography.... Food geographies... Mar 21, 2013 
  • #kidsmeet idea 7 poverty in the uk - its not just overseas - defining poverty and linking it to students' lives Mar 21, 2013 
  • #kidsmeet idea 6 using time based curriculum - iPads etc - new topics on climate change - topicality - more fieldwork - linking subjects Mar 21, 2013 
  • #kidsmeet 5 - game-ography - technology Minecraft - climate and biomes - FIFA and tracking players - F1 visiting tracks Mar 21, 2013 
  • #kidsmeet idea 4 - climate change - app - clicking on map and identifying characteristics - pen pals and global stories - Google Earth Mar 21, 2013 
  • #kidsmeet idea 3 Iconic places - skyping people in other countries & app development - virtual visits - idea of place Mar 21, 2013 
  • #kidsmeet idea 2 Health Mar 21, 2013 
  • #kidsmeet idea 1 USA - law & politics and modern warfare

I'll follow up with a little more detail on these ideas when I get a moment in a future blogpost...

Shortly after one o' clock, we rounded off with thank-yous to those who had helped, and I was then off to run for a train back to Norfolk.

This was yet another excellent event conceived and organised by Priory Geography. If Carlsberg made Geography departments....

Sunday, March 24, 2013


I'm always impressed by writers who are able to conjure up entire worlds and sustain a mood, mythology and history for their creation. Some of my favourite books depend on entering a world that the author has created. There's also a certain geographical element to this of course.
Authors need to become experts in the meteorology, geology, biology and pedology of their creation and they need to make sense. Settlements, transport routes, resources or inequalities - all of these are conjured up. Tolkien's Middle Earth or Jack Vance's Lyonesse are worlds I spent hundreds of hours in when I was younger.
If students are to be able to develop an extended piece of writing, or immerse themselves in a particular milieu this tends to lead to independent learning - they want to learn more in order to develop their enjoyment of the experience.
My son is very interested in Minecraft, and this has led him to research and uncover a range of videos which show how to carry out particular tasks, craft particular objects and combine particular processes to develop.

All of this is quite a  long lead in to a recent discovery of mine via Theo Keuchel.
It's a website which describes the daily goings-on in the mythical NW town of SCARFOLK.

It's a hybrid of 1970s nostalgia which has been subtly warped and twisted... There's some real skill at work to edit familiar graphics such as tape cassette inserts (OK, familiar to those aged over 20...) and twist them into a dystopian vision in beige and brown... I wonder whether they need a geography teacher for the local school ?

You can follow the creator of Scarfolk on Twitter @richard_littler

I think I may try to create my own warped milieu... although some would say that I've been doing that anyway for some time...
Sleep well...

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Some nice geography lessons...

Meaghen Brown has shared a number of interesting 'geography lessons' online.

I enjoyed this one on the Story of Place in particular.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Museum of Contemporary Commodities

At the start of the year, I was invited to an event at the University of Exeter, to explore ideas of trade justice, commodities and the stories behind things that are for sale in shops. The idea of MoCC starts by imagining shops as museums, and every product that is for sale as an exhibit in the museum. What would you write on the tag that goes with it to explain its story...
MoCC is the Museum of Contemporary Commodities.
Watch the video to find out more about the project.
This is something I am going to be involved in later this year, as I work on a project with Ian Cook of Follow the Things fame....

MoCC Thinkering Day from Simon Moreton on Vimeo.