Skip to main content


Showing posts from 2011

That was 2011……

As 2011 ends with my family technically homeless and with me struggling to put together the CPD log required to retain my RGS(IBG) Chartered Geographer status, the timing seems right to look back over the year.  This  post is for myself and is a place for me to look back on, so I won’t be offended if you give it a miss! As 2011 ends, I’m reminded of this post and the image below, taken near to Christmas 2004.  The event linked to this image was the watershed of my teaching career. It’s when I decided to stop playing teacher an put a little effort into it.  What a long way we’ve come since then! Looking back at the review of 2010 and some of the things I was looking forward to in 2011 , I truly have no idea where the time went! Most of this post will follow some sort of chronological order, but I’ll start with a the highlight of the year and a thank you: I got married in August 2011 to the long suffering, some would say widow to teaching, Kelly. The day was perfect and it wa

What is learning? A personal reflection.

A conversation between myself, Kevin , Nick and Mike this morning got me thinking about what learning is. This is a very important thing to reflect upon as many mantras put learning centre stage.  Indeed, I’m in the habit of assessing the value of a project or action by asking the question ‘how does this make learning better?’ I think that every person involved in education should have a clear understanding of what learning is and means in their context. The problem is, it’s very difficult to tie down what learning actually is.  This got me thinking – do I know what learning actually is? The debate sometimes puts learning up against assessment, but I’m fairly sure that they are part of the same thing. The following is an attempt to pin down what I think learning is .  It has been formed through my own personal journey through learning, my current role as a middle leader in a secondary school and as the father of a toddler (seen above learning not to look down a hose when his fa

YouTube edu

OK, so I’ll get straight to the point: I don’t see the point of YouTube Education . That may be due to my own context or our way of going about things, but I’ll try to explain where I’m coming from and I’m happy to be proven wrong. This sums it up for me, it’s the warning you get once signed up: This statement is spot on, but, if it’s true, then why do we need YouTube Edu? This statement applies to YouTube and the whole entire galactic content of the web, doesn’t it? While we’re at it, it also applies to any educational resource – DVDs, Video, Cassettes, Radio, Pictures, News…. Before I go any further, I’d like to point out that I think YouTube content is great for the classroom. In fact, I use it often. But… For me, there are a number of issues with this intro. Firstly, teachers have been safety using video in classrooms for years. Secondly, although you get access to all of the educational content on YouTube Edu for free, a) YouTube is free anyway and b) who decides wha

TeachMeet @BETT 2012

I went along to BETT and the attached TeachMeet two years ago.  It’s a good opportunity to catch up with familiar people and meet new teachers and contacts.  Maybe see you there ?

Digital Leaders coming to Priory

The photosynth above was created last weekend, half way up a cold and snowy mountain.  It’s here as we hope to slowly incorporate mobile devices in fieldwork. One of the ways we wish to do this is by exploring and establishing the concept of Digital Leaders at Priory School.  Much has been written about Digital Leaders and there is a useful gathering of links below.  The project here will be supported though our work with Creative Partnerships, and in particular James Byford.  Taking the lead from the excellent work of Kristian Still and Dan Stucke, the recruitment process is due to go live in the New Year and will ask for digital applications.  We intend to follow this up with an emersion event where we will explore the role of the group. In order to get things started, we have created a set of overall missions that we’d like to work on that include: Identifying curriculum opportunities for mobile devices (esp BYOD) Undertaking a digital audit of the school and presenting it in

Mobile @PriorySouthsea Update

Mobile at Priory Update View more presentations from David Rogers Gave a presentation to the whole governing body today about the mobile device policy.  All seemed to go well, and I have a few useful action points related to the WiFi access project. Any questions, please feel free to get in touch . I hope that my main points are clear, the first few slides deal with the overall vision of the project.

Sometimes, it’s got to be about the slog. Reflections of the term.

Today, I spotted the cartoon above over at .  With almost perfect timing, it seems to sum up and a handful of words this term.  It hasn’t been pretty, but the stuff we are doing is essential.  It’s been a term in which we’ve laid some foundations for the stuff to come. It’s been a slog, mundane, a mission. But essential. There hasn’t been a lot of cool stuff. Yet. Sometimes, the cool stuff can get in the way. On reflection, this has been a tough term.  As always, the team have delivered and I am very happy with the team around me. So, let’s have a look back and forward. The term started with the department being awarded Centre of Excellence status. At the same time we spearheaded the drive toward a BYOD policy with the launch of the Mobile @ Priory policy. A big part of the slog has been getting our collective heads around the idea of using mobile devices within the classroom . There is much more to come on this.  We’ve also set up some missions on the Mis

The power of networks: the case of the Tashtastic Geographers

Last month was Movember .  It’s the second time that I’ve taken part, this time as part of a team of geography teachers.  On reflection, this is a great use of a network (personal learning or otherwise). If networks are all about individuals, then their activities must reflect the range of interests and personalities if it is to become sustainable.  Personally, I have joined many networks and the either left or failed to engage fully because the community doesn’t reflect interests.  In other words, a network needs to have a personality. Check out the Hodder Geography Nest for a rouges gallery. You can still sponsor the team here . What networks do you engage with the most? Mine are: The team at work – crazy bunch of geographers, but we share similar interests and socialise. Local RGS(IBG) Geography network – we help run these at Priory, but face-to-face is always better than over the net. Twitter – I usually take it seriously, but not always.  Two of my first c

@priorygeography supporting #Movember

Sam Atkins and myself joined a team of geographers this month to raise money and awareness of men’s cancers. Alec Weaver is just normally hairy. There is still time to donate to the team here. Would you employ these people?

Priory Geography Action Plan

I work with a great team of people.  And I like to plan.  In fact, I consider the annual action plan to be a vital document.  That’s providing that it becomes a living document and not filed away somewhere and forgotten.  The image above shows what our priorities over the next twelve months are.  I’m not going to share the full detail of the plan, but the main aims and objectives are at the bottom of the post. I would offer a handful of tips for completing an action plan: ensure that as many points as possible link to the Headteacher’s vision and whole school plan; base actions upon measurable outcomes and data from last year (including lesson observations, pupil option numbers, GCSE results etc) Write the plan with the team, make sure they are happy with what they are responsible for (or at least let them look at it and agree before you stich them up ) Share the load.  It’s apart of the teaching standards to take a team view of the curriculum, for exam

Hodder Digital Ideas Day

Was invited to London today to speak at the Hodder Digital Ideas Day.  The brief was to talk about some of the challenges and opportunities available around technology in schools. The only thing I would add to this is that in 5 years time, I can see a lot of educational content and textbooks being published by young people, co-constructed with teachers, maybe using ePub. The slides below cover what I spoke about: Hodder Digital Ideas Day View more presentations from David Rogers .

Mobile devices: pupil WiFi access project

Mobile devices have been around for a while.  I remember using one of these back in the early 1990s so that my parents could pick me up from Air Cadets . I remember that even back then the buzz around mobile devices was phenomenal.  Ever since I started teaching, the educational world has been awash with claims that the latest mobile technology is going to revolutionise learning.  To me, no single device has lived up to this. I think it’s about behaviour and not devices.  Of course, we need stuff that’s portable, light, easy to use, affordable, compatible…… But none of that is going to revolutionise learning.   Our approach, or behaviour, to using devices could. ‘Two roads diverged in a wood – I took the road less travelled, And that made all the difference’ Robert Frost We’ve already taken the first step, and thanks to a very supportive Leadership team and staff, we have a policy in place.  The policy aims to inform behaviour toward and when using mobile devices.  The next

Microsoft Partners in Learning Innovative Teachers Meeting

Yesterday evening I journeyed to Reading for a meeting of innovative teachers.  The event was relaxed, and the Indian street food provided was amazing! I spoke about our mobile learning adventure. I’ve included the slides below and narrated the key points.

Mapping inequality: geographies of difference

Next year’s GA conference is all about the geographies of difference.  Priory’s Geography curriculum allows pupils to explore how places and spaces can affect the experiences of different groups of people and it’s something that I believe strongly about. Today, I saw a Tweet sent out by James Ball with a link to the tube map for those who can’t climb stairs.  The map is below, compare it with the full tube map above. This provides an excellent context for geographical enquiry.  How does the experience of London differ? This area of personal geography also provides an excellent source of on-site fieldwork investigation.  For example, our pupils often explore the school as ‘different’ people to see how far they would get.  This is the map of our school if you can’t use steps:

Scotland Unplug’d

Very excited to open an email today from Jen Deyenberg this morning confirmed a place at the Scotland Unplug’d event in April next year.  The whole thing appeals to me greatly: “Unplug’d Scotland is a Retreat to go to the beautiful Loch Tay to get away, write, collaborate, be active, and build relationships with Educators from all aspects and levels of learning.  A natural setting away from pressures, technology, and conference tables will allow us to get a chance to share, grow, relax, and reflect as educators and learners.” There are still places available, so if this sounds like your thing then head over here.

Getting grant money

The photo above shows a bunch of our GCSE students undertaking their Controlled Assessment fieldwork at Hengistbury Head in Dorset.  This opportunity was possible through a Frederick Soddy grant through the Geographical Association.  In the current funding climate, I think that it’s essential to seek, apply for and get external funding.  There are a couple of reasons for this: it makes learning better and it gives a little independence to the department.  This financial year we have been successful in securing nearly £20k of external funding.  This figure is closer to £30k since I joined the department in January 2008.  This post aims to set out our approach to securing funding as many colleagues often ask what’s our secret. Before going into any detail, some principles: Any funding opportunity is always linked to development in pedagogy across our curriculum.  In the event of pilot projects, we aim to expand them within the academic year.  We are not about gimmicks or one off

10 days left of Movember

There are 10 days left of Movember , the facial hair growing marathon that aims to raise awareness of, and fund for, men’s health issues. This year, after securing permission from Mrs Rogers, I’ve gone for the feral look.  It’s coming along but I can’t wait for it to come off! So, if you’d be so kind, please support our team of Geographers by donating here .  I'm also hoping to be at the Partners in Learning Teachers meet this week, so all spare change gratefully received

Discover the World Volcano Study Aid

Over the summer, Discover the World sent me off to Iceland.  The main purpose was to put together a Key Stage 3 Study Aid surrounding the Eyjafjalljokull Volcanic eruption in 2010. There are also GCSE and A’Level links. You will need to register to be able to access the pack. There are a 6 lesson ideas together with various worksheets, videos, photographs and other resources.  I’d be interested to know what you think. I’ll be speaking about how the pack can be used in lessons as well as some of the other Iceland fieldpack notes at the GA’s Annual Conference in Manchester in April 2012.

EdComs Teacher site

I’m getting through that ‘must blog about’ list while we wait to head off for a second viewing on a house.  I must be trying to avoid spending that much money! Over the summer, I was involved on the periphery of the new EdComs teacher site.   The site is now available in Beta and I would recommend a look.  There are a range of very useful resources (including some brilliant Geography related stuff including the BP Carbon Footprint resources) as well as a range of opportunities. We’ve used some of the resources before, but it’s nice to see them and many others all in one place. At the moment, those who register for the site could end up winning a ticket to the Learning Without Frontiers conference.

Mobile Learning Update

It’s an exciting time at Priory geography at the moment with some incredible mobile learning curriculum projects lined up. This post is a quick reflection and update on the pedagogic adventures since the introduction of our Mobile @ Priory policy . Firstly, why do I consider the use of mobile devices for learning important? Many others have put the arguments better than I can, but: 1. The photos above show my two year old son taking part in some analogue activities.  This will never stop. The video below shows him interacting with an iPad.  Mobile devices are just a tool, but his expectations and access to knowledge is already larger than mine. Technology is already a pervasive force in his life.  In two years time he’ll be starting school…. 2. Computers are costly.  If this money was spent instead on providing first class WiFi, students can use their own devices in class, saving money. Spare money could be used to help those without access to technology at home.  After all,

Partners in Learning Facebook Page

Linked to my previous post, A Facebook page that’s worth having a look is Microsoft’s Partners in Learning Page .  Another example of how Microsoft are engaging with teachers.

Using Facebook to support learning

I’m rubbish at keeping track of what’s interesting on the internet.  I’m fairly OK using Google’s Reader, but I’m not a fan of Forums or having to look in multiple places.  It’s a trait that is shared with many of our young people.  We’ve been using a Facebook page since September.  It’s more or less a static page: it doesn’t allow a lot of interaction.  However, what it does do is show up in young people’s Facebook feeds.  Most of our students are engaged with the social networking site, and it makes sense to be engaged in it.  Here is a little but of information about the page and how we are using it. The set up: Chat is turned off. This is unmoderated and difficult to record. I can’t see it ever being a good idea to use Facebook chat to communicate with young people. All security settings are ramped up to maximum.  This means comments are turned off. The page has been set up using an alternative Facebook profile so there are no links to teachers’ personal pages.

PGCE Enquiry session

After teaching young people, working with new teachers is my favourite thing to do.  I enjoyed meeting the Secondary Geography PGCE cohort yesterday at the University of Portsmouth.  The slides used are below.  Please do remember, that the activities reviewed are a small selection. No teaching activity is effective if it is over done. Getting to Grips with enquiry 2011 View more presentations from David Rogers Furthermore, remember why you decided to become a geography teacher. Don’t be afraid to develop your own style of teaching and geography, and always feel free to get in touch . If you do want to get connected, this is what I recommend: 1. Set up your own blog.  Even if it’s private.  Reflecting on your experiences and practice is very powerful. Share your ideas with others, like you did yesterday. Don’t underestimate your own ideas.  I gained some new ones from you yesterday and the reason we like working with PGCE students at Priory is they bring new perspect

[de] Oceans Teacher Academy and why we should be teaching about our oceans.

'The more you learn about the oceans, the more you realise how important it is to know more about it' A week or so ago I was just getting back from the first Oceans Academy run by Digital Explorer .  The aim of this post is to share some reflections on the weekend and about the oceans in general. After the weekend, it became very clear to me that our team need to be teaching about oceans. In fact, they should be embedded throughout the curriculum. Firstly, a huge thank you to Jamie and Sarah at Digital Explorer for putting together such an inspirational weekend. Also a huge thanks to Helen, Ceri and Mark – real polar scientists who were enthusiastic about their subjects and, more importantly, willing to share and reach out. There should be more opportunities for teachers to meet and work with scientists. Many CPD events have me clock watching, ‘locked’ in a basement, talked to continually or wondering why.  This weekend balanced the need for training, a campaign mes

Microsoft Partners in Learning Forum 2011

I have a lot of time for Stuart Ball and those involved with Microsoft Partners in Learning.  Having been involved with them for the past two years, I love their philosophy and approach to providing recognition and training for teachers.  I like the way that they don’t pretend to be experts in learning, but defer to teachers that are active in the classroom.  Finally, I like the way that they encourage teachers to make the most of what they have. I’m also a great believer in using the best tool for the job, why is why I would recommend heading to the annual Forum in Reading.  Full details on the event are below: The 8th Microsoft UK Partners in Learning Forum is a one-day conference, free of charge to all teachers and educators who wish to attend. The workshops and keynotes this year have a STEM ‘flavour’ and address the theme of ‘Teach more, learn more, inspire more.’ This year the Forum is being held at the Microsoft Headquarters, Thames Valley Park in Reading on the 24 th