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Showing posts from September, 2010

A breath of fresh air....

Sometimes, teaching can be a lonely business.  This week though a series of fieldtrips has lifted spirits. There's nothing like a bit of physical geography to get the mind going! We've been using a mix of technology and traditional methods this week. One nice activity, especially on cold wet days, is the pebble race. This involves challenging pupils to prove that Hurst Castle Spit is managed by people, and far from natural in its current state.  Students grab a pebble at the top of the landform and next to the sea. The shingle that has been placed there by engineers is very angular, while naturally placed material is round through the process of attrition. Field sketching is also a useful activity.  It allows young people to reflect on the features in front of them.  To finish off this week, the students finished by adding clay to their work and making the paper smell of the location.  This resulted in some interesting work!  And of course, there should always be time for

What's in your rucksack?

So, there I am talking about some pebbles. What's that you say? How big is your bag?!? I come from an outdoor education background, and have been taking groups into the hills for around 14 years now.  I have to say that those years have been free of major incidents.  However, the everyday geography fieldtrip has often caused a few issues! Although I tailor the contents of my bag according to the trip, there is a fairly standard setting.  Here I'm going to list and explain the items I've been taking with me during the last few days.  I should add, that I am one of three staff. Another caveat is that we ensure that the pupils who go are well prepared - indeed, I won;t let them on the bus if they aren't. Many of these items are for comfort, enjoyment and, most importantly, safety. Clothing The Rucksack is a Mountain Equipment Diamond 50+ - I love this sack and have had it for 8 years.  It's been everywhere with me.  However, I use it on trips as it can easily tak

Fieldwork and technology 1

There is a lot on my mind at the moment, so it was fantastic today to get back to basics: a fieldtrip.  We ventured to Highcliffe in Dorset to explore this classic coastal management case study.  During the day the pupils played around with various bits of technology. We took along some Flip Ulta HD cameras, a tripod and some pupils.  One activity chalenged the pupils to create a 1 minute revision video about a method of coastal management. We saw some great ideas including: Interviewing a groyne, Pupils melting into the drainage channels to simulate water draining. All together a nice simple activity.  It took about 30 minutes for each group of students to plan, script and film.  The videos will be turned in to a revision podcast after the three visits. Of course, there was also plenty of time to stand and stare.........

The Royal Geographical Society support school geography

I've just finished our report on the department's 2009/10 Innovative Geography Teaching Grant project.  The project facilitated the Space Explorers workshop as well as some transition work between Years 6 and 7. The project linked into the 21st Century Learning Alliance Fellowship project that had a wider remit about using new technologies. This type of action research and funding is very useful for geography departments and I would encourage others to apply for the grants .  The closing date is the 15th October.

Managing Local Fieldwork: Doorstep Geography

The last project that I finished was for Philip Allan.  The idea of the Managing Local Fieldwork pack is that it supports schools in developing their school grounds for fieldwork.  This isn’t just limited to secondary school geography departments as I’ve tried to make as much as I could relevant to other contexts. I do enjoy working on book projects as it gives me the chance to reflect upon my own practice.  This project builds upon the work of the GA’s Secondary Phase Committee (and especially Emma Johns) during the Manchester Conference a well as my own in developing an programme of outdoor learning. The pack contains a CD ROM full of presentation, reading and video material. I’m pleased that the editors allowed me to omit the presentation slide note pages. There is also a full course script and a book to help with presentation skills (not written by myself) I will be talking about developing fieldwork using the school grounds and local area at the Scottish Association

Using Office Live Apps to prepare students for Controlled Assessment

I'm a big fan of allowing students to chose how they complete work. In response to this, I've found that many of our students prefer to use Microsoft Office based products rather than Google Docs. We also have the Live@Edu set up, so it makes sense to use it.  In addition, in a bust secondary school with huge pressures on curriculum time, I just don't have the time to up skill students to use unfamiliar software, when it's not important to the outcome. I don't really see the point in doing so either outside of a whole school approach... For controlled assessment practice, the limitation of not having simultaneous live edited is not an issue. I want to provide feedback to students without printing. Plus I want to be able to provide this feedback from where ever I am. The students use the Live@Edu accounts to draft their work. Then, they share their work with me by: Clicking on the File menu and selecting 'Share' Entering my school email address A w

Sometimes you just have to make time to…..

Just back from Portsmouth City Council’s NQT welcome meeting.  The event reminds me that we all need to make time to reflect and time for your own life.  I know that sometimes I struggle to identify where school me and me start and end.  Next weekend I’ll be in North Wales, so plan to have some down time. Just have to finish a few things first……..

Outdoor Learning this year

To some, it may have seemed that I’ve dropped off the planet over the past few weeks.  This has been quite deliberate as we get ourselves organised for a year of getting outside and also while I finish a book project. This post aims to outline some of the activities we plan to do, and how they are linked in to the curriculum, and outline some of the activities during the upcoming Year 10 GCSE fieldtrip to the Dorset Coast.  In particular, I outline how technology and creative techniques are going to be used.  I will be speaking more about this topic at this year’s Microsoft Innovative Education Forum in November. I strongly believe that outdoor learning is central to developing young people’s understanding of the world beyond the classroom and is pivotal in encouraging personal development.  This year, as a department, we have organised many of our outdoor learning opportunities – this means organising paperwork, etc etc. The development of outdoor activities also links to our

Start a learning adventure: UK Innovative Education Forum, Manchester- 30th November 2010

This time last year I started on a journey that has been challenging, rewarding and fun. It all started by submitting a Virtual Classroom Tour about a small project that we’d conducted in the department.  Good friends Ollie Bray and Dan Roberts convinced me that it was a good idea. And it was! I was lucky enough to take part in both the last UK and European Innovative Education Forums , at both I was exposed to a wide range of innovative practice.  But the best bit is that it was other teachers doing the sharing. Compliment this with some great looking workshops and keynote speakers, and I consider Microsoft’s Partners in Learning network to be valuable CPD. The best resource that the network has is Stuart and Kristen. Their down to earth attitude and enthusiasm creates a very human side to the Microsoft machine. I’ve also met some wonderful people, including the other UK European representative last year (I even got lost in Berlin with Jan Webb ). So, I would fully recommend go

Hello to Year 10

Tomorrow is my first lesson with the new Year 10 group.  I've just rediscovered a few resources to add in to the mix. First of all the Bawdsey, Suffolk time lapse video . This is a nice piece of film for bringing home the speed and impact of some marine erosion. The full (30 minute) timelaspse is here: 'Lines of Defence' Film (Final Cut) from Dylski on Vimeo . A shorter 6 minute version: And a video produced by a Year 8 student: The idea will be to measure the dimensions of our classroom and compare it to the 17meters of erosion that occurred in one year. In addition, we will then use Google Earth's distance measuring tool to measure 17m from Porstmouth's coastline in various locations.

Why do we restrict young people to classrooms?

Why is it that we expect children to perform within the restraints of classrooms?  Is there ever time to reflect? I recently found out that Charles Darwin often wandered along his thinking path whenever he felt the need to ponder and reflect. If Darwin knew in the 19th Century that getting outside to reflect was important, then why do many educators restrict young people to the insides of buildings, and sat at desks.  This is especially frustrating when reflection is such a central part of recent initiatives such as Personal Learning and Thinking Skills. Is it really about control? I know that when I get stuck (which is often) a walk, mountain bike, climb, run, sit can often provide inspiration, and I'm totally unable to talk on the phone sitting still. How can we ever expect young people to see life from different perspectives if they only ever see learning from one? How do we build reflection and thinking time in to the school day? Some methods that I have used, to vary

Why teach?

It's a question that I get asked a lot, especially as many people within friendship groups aren't teachers.  I can honestly say that I love this job, but when pressed for a reason why....... Please excuse the rambling nature of this post, it's part of a work avoidance tactic ;-) The #ukedchat discussion centred around this question for a while yesterday evening, and after refection I've come to three conclusions. 1. It's like the Littlest Hobo The Littlest Hobo was one of the TV shows that I grew up on, but all I can ever remember is the theme tune. Maybe there is some 'Voice' that keeps calling me back to the classroom.  The programme is also not about a loner but a collaborator moving around in the world.  I think that sums up the adventure that is, and probably always has been, education.  It also reflects the feeling I have that being a classroom teacher, confined to one room and one groups of children, is not enough.  As a middle leader I find