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Showing posts from 2012

Maps and stereotypes: Geography lesson idea.

Most geography teachers are aware of the stereotype reinforcement that is encouraged by most published Atlases.  Being the owner of a three year old whose curiosity about the world is growing, I’ve noticed this more and more.  You could say that it’s in danger of becoming an obsession. The image above is of a large, plastic map that came along with an atlas.  There are reusable stickers that we could stick all over the globe.  New Zealand and Sheep, Tasmanian Devil etc.  The problem isn’t limited to traditional paper based maps.  The image below is from a recently published iPad App.  At least they’re animated I suppose. The point?  As geography teachers, we have a responsibility to make young people aware of the limitations and bias that sources of information contain.   This is a germ of an idea, I’m putting it here to revisit after the New Year Madness.  Similar to a previous stereotype mapping activity , young people would be presented with a map of their local area.  I

‘I am not afraid of storms as I am learning how to sail my ship.’ That was 2012. 2013? #bringiton

While I am yet to meet the day in which I do not look forward to going to work, 2012 has been a tough, bittersweet year professionally speaking.  I truly love my job, but the challenge of motivating a high performing, dedicated and inspirational team in the context of working within a school deemed to ‘require improvement’ has been an interesting (and on-going) challenge as increased monitoring has forced some difficult decisions.  As one 15 week term ended and 2013 approaches I am reminded that Ofsted is due to pop in again.  The outcome will put the whole school and Priory Geography under a microscope.  The result will either be a ‘Good’ or ‘Special Measures.’  Still, I am reminded that I wouldn’t be doing anything else.  I am reminded that I couldn’t work with a better team.  I am reminded that I do truly love this job.  I am reminded of the futility and danger that focusing on the narrow accountability agenda brings: you forget about all the wonderful happenings that occur rig

Running Boy.

I’m sitting down to ponder and produce the final posts of 2012.  One change this year saw me take up running.  I aimed to complete the Great South Run (which I did in 1hr 24mins) and run a total of 500 miles during the year.  I ended up running 600. I’m quite pleased with this achievement and have set my sights on completing the Brighton Marathon in 2012 as well as some other events (feel free to post / tweet your recommendations).  I even went running on Christmas Day.  The benefits of running, other than weight loss ( around 2.5 stone at the moment, while keeping up my intake of quality ale and fitness) to me are: - Being outside more and seeing more of my local area in different seasons.  I’ve always enjoyed the invigorating feeling of being on mountains ad wild places in horrendous conditions, and the post run sugary treat and tea almost equals the post walk / climb ale. Having my 3 year old son say he want to run with me.  I didn’t expect the motivational feeling

Jo Debens featured on Daily Edventures

Daily Edventures is a blog put together by Microsoft’s Vice President for education, Anthony Salcito .  Its ambitious aim is to feature an educator every day.  I was lucky enough to be featured back in August but I’m very happy that colleague Jo Debens has been featured this week .  Jo is a key member of Priory Geography, and has been there almost from the beginning of the department’s  transformation.  Well deserved recognition for someone who is modest and has the habit of underselling herself I’, sure that you’ll agree with me that her piece is far more interesting than my own.  I’ll also flag up Jo’s long overdue personal blog .  Rest assured that one of my missions will be to nag her to keep it up to date…

Drip feed CPD from Partners in Learning

As we come to the end of another term, it’s been time to reflect on fourteen weeks in my new role as Professional Tutor.  One thing I have learned is that we never stop learning.  Well, I knew that already.  More specifically, I know that no one learns within set periods of time.  One frustration this term is the reliance on CPD ‘time.’  Often at the end of the school day or within INSET days.  This is clearly bonkers.  I’m notorious for not being able to focus during such training sessions.  Add to this that, as a profession, many agree that educators should be modelling ‘any-time-anywhere’ learning with young people and encouraging lifelong learning. Personally, I prefer to dip in and out of training when I get the chance, or when the mood takes me.  This is where I’d like to use Partners in Learning as an example of a setup where this can be achieved.  I’m planning to use their materials in order to develop a whole school approach to up skill teachers at my institution.  There

Branding thanks to @geoDebs

One of the constants in our department is our use of the term ‘Priory Geography.’  That’s our department, and the branding is used throughout our work.  For example, learning resources, our Twitter feed and on internal posters and communications. It’s nice to be part of a team.  This latest logo was knocked up by Jo. Nice work.

Evaluating sources of information and Creating a graphic novel about Stonehenge. Updated.

Where is Stonehenge and what is it like slide share selected from David Rogers Another post inspired by an excellent resource produced by Noel Jenkins .  We’ve used Stonehenge as a Year 7 assessment for the past four years as the issues continue to be relevant.  The issue also provides an opportunity for our classes to apply the skills learned throughout the ‘Amazing Places’ unit.  We get students to create a graphic novel of a journey from Portsmouth to Stonehenge. A graphic novel requires carefully developed literacy skills and the ability to select information from a story. As this YouTube clip found by Jo demonstrates: I’ve put these resources here as the first lesson allows students to evaluate photographs (through a Flickr slideshow ), OS maps, website information and other forms of digital mapping including Google Earth.  We consider this lesson to be one of the most important in the first term of Year 7 as it focuses on the crucial geographical skill of interpret

Using ‘thunks’ to kick start a lesson.

Thanks to Noel Jenkins’ recent excellent post over at Digital Geography for the inspiration here. At the moment, our school is having a real push for quick starts of lessons.  It’s not a new thing, just something to focus on and an important part of setting the right climate for learning.  If you’re not familiar with Ian Gilbert’s ‘thunks’ visit here . Noel’s post describes a problem that we also encounter: describing places really well is difficult. Not only that, it’s really difficult to trust sources of online information: how do students know what to trust? Stonehenge 'thunk' from David Rogers The thinking behind this series of slides is to get students to revisit the ideas and skills of critical evaluation of sources learned during the ‘ Iceland doesn’t exist’ lesson.  The inspiration came from this post over at the Google Earth Blog that links to this BBC article .

Using PowerPoint better: LiveWeb add-in plus text input to support thinking about UK flooding

Geography is all about events that happen outside in the real world.  As mentioned last week , Year 10 are currently exploring flooding and its effects.  That means a slight juggle in the order of teaching in order to utilise the resources as they happen.  I’m sure our young people can live without oxbow lakes for a few lessons . What enables Priory Geography to develop these ideas is the following (although Jo and Sam may disagree) A solid curriculum, supported by lesson level Schemes of Work.  We are always aware of the bigger picture and the requirements of the examination.  This allows us to link current events easily to the specification, ensuring that we are developing geographers rather than exam passers. A sharing culture within the department and the wider geography world – this enables us to collaborate on ideas and develop them.  The learning activity described below was inspired by Sam’s input earlier today: he emailed out some resources and weblinks.

Berkhamstead School Teaching, Learning and Assessment Conference

Very happy to have been invited along by Nick Dennis to this event.  There is a great line up of keynote speakers and workshop presenters, and the price is excellent too! There are plans for a Teachmeet on the Friday before the event too. Check it out here .

Floating topicality @priorygeography - UK Flooding

This is a quick post, crafted after 5-10 minutes of thinking. Year 10 have just finished the hydrological cycle, and with the current wet weather and increasing flood risk, there is a chance to explore this as it's happening. So: these two worksheets as students enter with the current BBC News forecast playing.  The questions extend and tap into the previous knowledge and I see little point in waiting to start flooding proper when there's a great example of ground saturation, concentrated precipitation etc. Next, play this analysis video and explore using the Environment Agency's Flood risk maps.  Topped off by a homework of keeping a diary of the events now. The great thing about the Priory Geography team is that we will all be teaching this in around 30minutes to our Year 10 classes.  A great example of teamwork and a testament to the high quality of Jo Deben s' and Sam Atkins ' work.

PGCE Enquiry session

This is the fourth or fifth year where I have visited the Secondary Geography PGCE’ers at the University of Portsmouth.  The focus for the three hour session (followed by ale at Portsmouth’s oldest pub) was enquiry. 2012 getting to grips with enquiry presentation slideshare from David Rogers

LiveWeb add-in for PowerPoint

Stuart Ball visited a couple of weeks ago and showed me something in PowerPoint 2010.  Live webpages embedded into the slides.  This allows the presenter to access live web pages without exiting the slideshow.  I’ve put together a couple of crude screencasts (using Community Clips) to demonstrate.  The add-in can be found here and has worked for me well.

My BYOD BETT mission

BETT always leaves me feeling melancholy.  It’s kind of very cool, but also a bit naff.  However, the best part about the show is meeting other teachers (and the occasional company who ‘get it’ too).  During the last show I took part in the wonderfully mind bending DELL thinking jobby. This year I’ll be banging on about Bring Your Own Device.  Well, to be more exact I plan to tell the story of what we’ve been up to at my school – an on-going mission to develop a better pedagogy that uses, where appropriate, the devices that young people bring with them to school every day.  I’m not going to give any spoilers, mainly because I’m planning to be bang up-to-date and there continues to be developments each week – especially around the moral implications  of relying up parent’s providing 3G….. So, it’s with great pleasure, a little excitement and a shed load of nerves that I can tell you that, during Bett 2013, I’ll; be mainly: Taking part in a debate in the BETT Arena ; Talk

‘Floating Topicality’–Barrack to the future

Earlier in my career, I was honoured to work regularly with Jeff Stanfield, the inspector and advisor of Geography for Hampshire.  He always used to talk about building in time for Floating Topicality within the curriculum.  This has become one of the Priory Geography policies.  So, with a number of events happening in the United States over half term, I decided that a little diversion was needed for all year groups.  All classes are being taught this lesson.  For Year 9 it serves as a GCSE taster lesson. For Year 10 the lesson beings home the importance of general geographical ‘place’ (caps and bays) knowledge and serves as a useful case study for hazards.  We will return to this at the appropriate time in the curriculum. For Year 11, in the build up the their SDME paper, it’s an opportunity to develop the vital skill of critical evaluation of data, as well as serving as a case study of a climatic hazard. Fear Years 7 and 8, we explore a geographical issue within the

The art of (unplanning)

The art of (un)planning from David Rogers An idea lifted from Daniel, but one that I’ve tried to develop at the school.  I shared a few ideas on (un)planning yesterday with teachers.  I define (un)planning as techniques that require very few resources to drive the lesson.  Indeed, often there are only a handful of input.  Most have been written about on this blog before, so this is more of a collection of past ideas. 1. Never off duty – this refers to the way in which there are always lesson resources and ideas in everyday life.  It takes no time at all to create small resources like this recent one below: 2. Ban pens and pencils and paper .  Just every now and again. 3. Use John Davitt’s Learning Event Generator . 4. Lead with enquiry and challenge students to think and come up with answers that you weren’t expecting. Iceland does not exist .

@DropboxTeams Dropbox for Teams, in school

I’ve been a user of Dropbox for quite some time now and have found it very useful in the classroom to support AfL and share resources between members of Priory Geography .  Compared to other cloud based facilities, the ability to create a folder structure and for the contents to be automatically shared and uploaded is very useful. In addition, it’s very easy to generate links to share resources through Facebook and other outlets. The limitation has always been having to rely upon the rather limited 2GBs included in the free version, or having to pay for extra space.  This has been solved by the relatively recent introduction of Dropbox for Teams . I have to admit that the slick sign up was problematic at our place, but once through we have five accounts and 1TB of space.  This means that all resources can be shared, and the department budget is taking the strain.  Accounts are blended into existing user accounts, and for a small team of our size it works well, allowing all membe

Running thanks

The photo above was taken as I waited to start the Great South Run in Portsmouth this morning.  There were 25,000 other runners and I managed to bimble over the line in 1 hour and 24 minutes which I was pleased with.  Back in January, I hadn’t run ever.  Thank you to all of those who have supported me so far.  There’s still time to sponsor my efforts .  It also means that I’m only four miles off meeting my goal for 2012. Next? The Brighton Marathon in April.

@DTW_Schools study aids pick up honours at SAGT

I travelled up to the Scottish Association of Geography Teachers Annual Conference in Glasgow on Saturday to man the stand for Discover the World.  While I was there, it was with great honour that I picked up three ‘Highly Commended’ awards for our on-line study aids . There are currently three study aids on the website that are free to teachers (after a simple sign up procedure).  There are plans afoot to add further titles.  All of the resources are available to download. I put together the Key Stage 3 resources for the Eyjafjallajökull Volcano, Solheimajökull Glacier and Hardanger Tourism packs.  Simon Ross, Stephen Schwab and Susan Schwab worked on the GCSE and A’Level links and the KS3 literacy lessons. I’m also looking forward to this trip when I head out to Iceland with the NQT / PGCE CPD visit in April, as well as my school’s Iceland epic.

Guest post by @Treagie : Pimp your lessons

I’ve always thought that leadership is about doing the right things as opposed to doing things right (not my saying).  In leadership, this often means empowering other people and taking a back seat and letting other develop and take the credit.  This approach has enabled Priory Geography to explore a wide range of projects and increase our headline A*-C by an average of 12% each year (although we still have work to do on achievement).  Sometimes, I wonder if this is a politically wise move, but I don’t really care. Part of my new role (leading teacher learning) is to provide an ‘Induction’ programme for new teachers and others who wise to pop along.  Traditionally, this has been delivered by the ‘experts’ who have been teaching a long time and as such talk from the perspective of ‘having already made it.’  So, to mix things up I’ve asked NQT+1 teachers to run some of the sessions.  This allows me to introduce Hannah , who is far more creative in her approach than I am.  Check out h

Introducing the Mobile@Priory Cookbook

The past two years have seen the development of a Mobile policy that has encouraged their use; the provision of student accessible WiFi and the co-planning of lessons that use a blend of students’ own devices and our own.  The next twelve months will see some further exciting developments, including some work with the fab people at the UK Partners in Learning.   In the meantime, here is our Mobile @ Priory Cookbook.  It documents the journey through this project so far and has been put together by the lovely people at Borbonesa who we worked with last year.  It’s embedded below and also available here .  It’s a cookbook instead of a manual or instruction book as it’s  designed to dip in and out of – to take what works and implement it in a different way by adding different ingredients at different institutions.  We’d welcome your feedback. Open publication - Free publishing - More cookbook

Discover the World ( @DTW_Schools ) news

I do like Discover the World and their approach to providing quality learning stuff for schools.  Two quick pieces of news regarding the travel company.  Firstly, the GA sponsored trip to Iceland for PGCE students and NQTs is filling up nicely.  I’ll be accompanying the trip in April next year to provide some advice on curriculum links and to give some workshops.  I may also provide a little guidance during the Reykjavik pub crawl also.  There are limited places left so visit here for details . Secondly, I’ll be traveling up to the Scottish Association of Geography Teachers Annual Conference in Glasgow on Friday night to represent the company at the exhibition. I hope to catch up with some of you there.

BETT 2013: Learn Live session

BETT has changed location but is sure to be a whirlwind of activity as always.  Priory Geography and myself are involved in a number of exciting events at next year’s event, that starts at the end of January 2013.  I’ll be feeding in this news as and when details become available.  The first is that Priory Geography will be delivering a Learn Live session based upon the BYOD policy that has been operating at our school for the past 18 months. See you there ?

Simple but effective ideas: Iceland does not exist

I have to say that I’ve been struggling this week with fatigue and a little loss of inspiration.  There’s also a shed load going on so I hadn’t really had a huge amount of time to put too much planning into my Year 7 lessons this week.  So with a little inspiration from Daniel from my friends at the Geography Collective and the words of some bloke I met at a GSMA meeting ringing in my ears (It’s about the device not the behaviour… #whatever ). The lesson started by a classic map detectives activity.  Students had to consider the map below taken from the Icelandic Met Office website .  I asked them to tell me what the map showed. I banned them from answering with ‘Iceland’ or ‘the earthquakes in Iceland in the past 48 hours’ and hinted toward some mapping work from a previous lesson where we considered the positioning of the tectonic plates. This allowed me to get around the room and help those who needed it.  Answers ranged, but most got to the main thrust: Earthquakes

Stuff that makes life easier: @Fotobabble

As geographers, Priory Geography love heading out into the field.  It;s the time of year when we run our mock controlled fieldwork assessment with Year 10, heading down to Barton on Sea, Highcliffe and Hurst Castle Spit.  One key way of capturing and presenting data from the field is the good old photograph.  These are often worked up in the classroom into annotated photographs / diagrams and field sketches.  The problem though, especially with lower ability students, is capturing the relevant information in the field.  Of course, voice recorders (Dictaphones) have been around for a good while now, and these have been used effectively in the past.  However, Fotobabble allows students to annotate images in the field using one of the department’s iPhones or one of their own mobile devices. I like Fotobabble as it doesn't require an internet connection to capture data.  Although the sharing has proven a little tricky, we have been able to capture images.  We have three more t

Simple but effective ideas: using Google Docs to keep track of data

However you cut it, data is here to stay and an important part of supporting learning.  Before you read much further you should read or revisit our approach to monitoring at Priory Geography .  Tracking students is about supporting students, not about Ofsted.  One of the problems faced by Heads of Department is how to keep track of what is going on across a department.  This is where our use of Google Docs comes in.  As each data collection phase finishes, I identify those young people who aren’t making sufficient progress.  What is important to note here is that the expected (or predicted grade) is a professional judgement by the teacher. All I do is add the name into the document and then the team enter any intervention strategies.  At GCSE this overview allows me to get involved at an early stage.

Vote for the @GeoCollective in the Learning Outside the Classroom Awards.

It’s great to see that the Geography Collective have been shortlisted for a Learning Outside the Classroom Award.  As a member of the group, a mountain leader and a geographer, getting students outside has always been a priority – even if it’s on the school site. Head here to cast your vote .

Handheld technology, BYOD, @socrative .

I’ve never spent any money on interactive whiteboards or class voting systems.  Although I see the merit in both, I just feel that a tie in to certain technology isn’t the best choice and that money is better spent in supporting creative and innovative practices. I saw socrative demonstrated at #TMPompey by Alex Bellars .  Priory School’s DiGITAL LEADERS used the website during their staff Inset session and I finally got around to playing around with the tools with Year 10 last week.  I should point out the groundwork that has allowed us to explore the use of such technology, mainly employing pupils’ own devices.  I remember being at a meeting at GSMA last year where somebody argued that it was about the device and not the behaviour.  Priory Geography’s use of a patchwork of mobile devices has proven this to be false.  It is about the behaviour.  The device used doesn’t really matter.  I am always aware of the political reasons to tie schools into a particular set of devices

Simple but effective ideas: Feedback 5

It’s clear that if students understand what they need to do in order to improve, they are more likely to achieve.  Furthermore, accurate assessment and marking is one of the cheapest and most effective ways of improvement pupil outcomes.  One challenge is how to set individual(ish) targets.  Although I don’t advocate every doing anything purely to satisfy Ofsted (or Gove for the matter, quite the opposite at times ), the need for students to respond constructively to the teachers comments is a focus in the new frameworks. The question is how?  At Priory Geography we developed a simple Feedback 5 session.  We mark our books every five lessons, using tailored target sheets to comment on what we have been looking for and what the pupil did well (this mirrors out school’s marking policy). The first activity in the lesson after marking is Feedback 5.  Students have five minutes to respond to comments, ask questions (especially with my questionable handwriting) and, most importantly, s