Friday, 21 December 2012

Taking a festive break... more landscapes in 2013

After  a busy year of blogging, I'm taking a break for the Christmas and New Year period.
There may be some circumstances under which I will return, as something majorly geographical could happen before the 1st of January, but if not, have a peaceful break everyone and look forward to blogging through 2013 with you....
Image shared under CC license by Flickr user calsidyRose

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Minecraft and Geography

How about this for a great way to teach about landscape: by creating your own ?

Does this image mean anything to you ?

If not, then you've probably never heard of MINECRAFT: a game that has millions of players worldwide and is finding its way into lots of schools too.

My son LOVES Minecraft and has produced some amazing creations on the Pocket Edition that we have on the two tablets in the house. He and his sister play together in a creative world they have generated.

When I upgrade my computer in the New Year, we will put the full version on, and really start to explore the Minecraft Universe.

Recently, after a Twitter exchange with Claire Rafferty in Australia, I created a Google Doc and started to put together a summary document which could form the basis for Geography teachers to start to think about how they could use Minecraft in the Geography classroom... and also explore where it was being used in other parts of the curriculum, and also as an extra-curricular activity.

I discovered Stephen Reid, who I'd quoted in the document was interested in the project, and he was happy to get involved too. He runs a free Minecraft project for schools to get involved with the game. Check it out.

Finally, there seems to be a movie of the creation of Minecraft that has been produced, and the trailer can be seen here - my son will be interested in this:

I'll open the document up to scrutiny and publish it in various places in the New Year so that I can work on it over the Christmas period 
Get in touch if you have something you want to contribute...

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Nature Cure

I was reminded of this excellent book by a tweet from @Landscapism

It described the use of the word palimpsest to describe a landscape. It's a phrase that I use when talking about landscapes, although it's usually qualified, in the same way as Richard Mabey does, by saying that the landscape rarely starts again - elements of the past remain stubbornly and reappear....
The rains of the last few months have shown up in many areas the routes of previous watercourses and drainage which farmers tried to suppress....

One to read over Christmas perhaps...

Here comes the sun...

The first of two mentions for my village in the local paper today.

The first relates to the planning application for a SOLAR FARM.
This is an alternative renewable energy proposal to WIND ENERGY, and one that students could perhaps get involved in assessing for its potential benefits and problems for the local landscape.

There were some objections to the plan which received approval today, but also some good points made in its favour of course.
You can read the application, which includes a full appraisal of the site in the document which is linked to later in this blogpost.

One of the factors that had to be considered is the impact on local drainage. I pass the proposed site occasionally - it is not on what could be called a main route - and it is sloping, but doesn't appear to have the same drainage issues as other fields which have received a lot of rainfall in recent months.

If you have suitable digital mapping software, you can visit the proposed site at TF 87517 20010.

According to this BBC NEWS article the scheme had been opposed by Litcham Parish Council which said it opposed the "industrialisation of a tranquil area".

Also in the EDP was a quote from a Litcham resident:

“In my view it would be criminal damage to desecrate [the countryside] in the manner proposed. The countryside is being eroded at an ever-increasing pace. There must be a better place than this.”

I'm going to explore this a little more with a view to turning it into a possible activity for a unit - an alternative to the usual wind farms perhaps. 

Chapter 4 of 'Look at it this Way': Gone with the Wind, explores the changes that come about as a result of wind farms and similar developments. This could be a useful update / additional activity when using that chapter. Are these likely to become more common over the next few years ?
They will work when it isn't sunny - wind turbines won't work if it is't windy...

Click here to download the planning proposal as a PDF (PDF download)

Are there any proposed solar farm developments near you ?

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Music and Landscapes

From the excellent LANDSCAPISM blog from 2011 comes a useful list of landscape-based music.
There are some useful pieces of music and other soundscapes.

The work of Chris Watson features heavily, which is not surprising.
Chris Watson's music is available on Spotify, and there are a few albums of his on there - well worth listening to. I was interested to see a collaboration with Robert MacFarlane that he did recently.

You can listen to this via the embedded player here:

I have a few ideas of my own which I've come across during 2012. I'll add them to a future blogpost.

Try the Landscape of Music too - interesting map concept...

Image: Winter Sky, Alan Parkinson

Thursday, 6 December 2012


This idea came to me just now.
I was searching for an image of me for a background to a slide, and this image popped up.
I wondered why for a second then realised that my name: ALAN is contained within the name 'ZeALANd' in New Zealand.

I started wondering whether there were other names hidden in the names of countries or cities.

Can you find and suggest any other 'placenames' ?

Perhaps this could be set as an alternative homework activity. If nothing else, it will get students looking at an atlas...

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Geology Map from BGS - grab your own...

Explore the geology that underlies your local landscapes with this free map tool from BGS

Thursday, 29 November 2012

The Shipping News

I enjoyed reading this post from the SOME LANDSCAPES blog, which is on my blog reading list...

It mentions the descriptions of the landscape used in E Annie Proulx's classic 'The Shipping News'.

If nothing else, it stirred me from my seat to find it on my bookshelves, and consider re-reading it. I read it when it first came out, which I now see was nearly 10 years ago !

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Hill figures in the landscape

There are many hill figures dotted around the UK. I've been up to quite a few of them, including the famous Cerne Abbas giant with his well you know.

The Digimap for Schools blog has a nice idea for students: to design their own hill figure using the annotation tools in Digimap for Schools.

Check it out and have a go yourself...

Friday, 9 November 2012

White Cliffs of Dover

A few years ago I read (and blogged about) a book by Julian Baggini called 'Welcome to Everytown'. In it, he described spending a year in the postcode which apparently had the most 'average' characteristics of any postcode area.
It turned out to be the postcode where I was born and brought up, to the east of Rotherham.

Julian has now moved on to another place which has resonance for the people of England. He spent a week in August as writer-in-residence at the White Cliffs of Dover.
In an article for the Times, he talks about the various views that people have about the cliffs. Are they a supportive icon of Britishness, or a symbol of exclusion ?
What do they mean for different people ?
Julian has also written this piece in The Guardian which is worth reading.

This would be relevant for the lesson 'Living on the Edge'.

Image by Flickr user HBarrison and shared under CC license, for which many thanks...

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

The Ice Man cometh...

Published on 12th of November
Available to buy on Amazon...

‘The Ice Man is a great cross-curricular text for science, geography and history. The book is an excellent length and packed full of interesting info.’
Fiona Dyson, Southfields Academy

Sunday, 4 November 2012

CPRE - landscape podcasts...

CPRE have some great resources on their site, and have recently added a new section.

The countryside and the city - how can we tell them apart ?

There are going to be 6 speeches to listen to.
These would perhaps be most useful for older students.
The first two are there at the time of posting....

They are by Andrew Motion and Frances Pryor....
Useful for landscape - links to the idea of changes and different impacts on the landscape....

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

CPD related to the book in early November

In early November (later this week in fact), I'm going to be heading down to Somerset for the Somerset Geography Conference. I'm doing a session on my KS3 Toolkit book on landscapes (with updates) and ideas about teaching about landscapes. This will include mentions of the White Cliffs of Dover, Ash dieback, Brave and other Pixar films, burger boxes, Google Earth and other things....

The conference has been developed with a lot of work from Noel Jenkins, who has put together a great line-up for the conference. Sadly, like the SAGT conference at the weekend (see separate blog post), Iain Stewart was unable to attend as he had been allowed permission to film in Turkmenistan, which apparently is rare, but had to be this week.

Don't forget that this award-winning Toolkit book has a blog to support it - as with many of my books, such as the Badger GCSE book which has its own blog HERE.

If you can't make that event, you now have the option to join me for a virtual Teachshare version of the same event, where I'll run through the event.

It's going to take place on the 6th of November: the day after the Somerset conference, and will be an online event starting at 6pm.

Come back at the weekend, and I'll post a link through to the event, or you can visit the VITAL PORTAL page to see details about how to subscribe to the Vital Geography portal (if you don't already) and access the content....

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Breast is best... and Electric Forest

A landscape feature in Wiltshire is going to be turned into a giant breast by an artwork.
The aim is to raise awareness of breast cancer, as well as being an artwork in itself involving special illuminations....
Long Knoll will be transformed by the artwork.

Read the story on the BBC NEWS website here.

Another similar illuminated experience happens locally to where I live.
It's called Electric Forest, and involves special lighting of Thetford Forest...
I'm about to book some tickets for the family to experience it in December...

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Exploring Urban Landscapes

A flaneur is a wanderer: the term is linked to the idea of psychogeography....
The ROBOT FLANEUR wanders randomly through a city of your choice and displays Street View images...
Made by James Bridle
Explore the following cities:
San Francisco
Sao Paulo
Tokyo City

Via Urban Photo Blog on Twitter

I can think of lots of ways of using this to explore urban geography and comparisons between cities in different parts of the world...
A sort of slighty redacted and randomised version of MAPCRUNCH, my session starter of choice...

Friday, 12 October 2012

Other landscape blogs...

One link in a piece that I read this morning led me to a blog, which led me to another and so on...
Came across plenty of blogs out there on the theme of LANDSCAPES, which may provide some ideas for possible classroom activities.

Landscapism by Eddie Procter has some interesting postings...

There's a useful gazetteer of landscape sites and resources... and a list of landcape reading.

Also a good post on the differences between rural and urban.

One of the most useful features of the blog is down the left hand column, where there are links to a wide range of further blogs and websites with a good chunk of geography in there...

These would reward further exploration...

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Thought for the day

"Every hour spent reading is an hour spent learning to write".

Robert MacFarlane - author of 'The Wild Places' and 'The Old Ways'

Somerset Geography Conference 2012

In a month's time I'm going to be heading down to the Somerset Geography Conference.
As it happens I'm going to be taking the Geography Collective Spaceship as my mode of transport as Dan Raven Ellison and I are involved in the afternoon session.

I shall also be talking about teaching about landscapes. This is based on my KS3 Toolkit book, which is still available to purchase from the GA shop of course, and for which this blog was set up. If you want to find out more about how I developed the book and put it together and ideas for teaching about landscapes with the latest ideas thrown in, please get in touch.

Noel Jenkins has put together a cracking line-up for the event.
Head to the Somerset Geography Posterous page for more details.

Hope to see some of you there...

Friday, 28 September 2012

Learning outside the Classroom

Exploring the landscape means getting outside the classroom...

We are delighted to announce that the Geography Collective has been shortlisted for a Learning outside the Classroom award.

We would be even more delighted if you would consider voting for us, especially if you have been enthused by our Mission:Explore books, app or website, or perhaps been visited by us, seen us at Glastonbury, Latitude or the Hay Festival, ridden on buses in Suffolk, cycled along Sustrans routes in many cities, explored the Great Glen with Discover Explore or in some other geographical context...

We're going to be on the road in the next few months, and also will be running our Geography Camp in December, of which more later...

Please click the link and give us your vote. Thanks :)

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

ICT toolkit books

Preparing some resources for the course on Geomedia in Salzburg that I am leading next week.

You still have chance to get funding to join me for a repeat of the course in February 2013, and the course is likely to run several times during 2013 - I'd love to see lots of you there... you can get your fees, accommodation and travel paid for.

I'm going to be using several activities from two books which I edited, and were published in April this year.
I will also be using Paul Berry's adaptation of my Landscape in a Box idea.

We'll be doing some fieldwork and there's a photo competition too...

You really need to have a copy of these books in your departmental library.
They have been selling well, and getting good feedback from users.
You can order them from the GA shop - click to follow the link, and remember that GA members get a discount on purchases, and free P&P

Multimedia made Easy by Paul Cornish

GIS made Easy by Bob Lang

Sunday, 2 September 2012

A new landscape feature...

...with several prominent features...

The Giant Naked Lady of Cramlington (let's see if this blog post makes it past the filters...) is opening in October as part of an attraction called Northumberlandia...
A bold new landscape feature...

It has been created by the Land Trust. Admission is FREE.

There is a viewpoint where the feature will reveal itself to the visitor, and plenty of walks - it's difficult to see the whole feature and it will change as people walk through it...

Go to the website to download a rather nice MAP and LEAFLET in PDF format.

Might make a useful new tourism case study if you're in the area...
I'll definitely pop in the next time I'm passing....

Saturday, 1 September 2012

One year down...

A year ago, I was just coming to terms with the (premature) end of my job at the Geographical Association after three wonderful years, and decided to try things out as a freelance geographer: author, consultant, trainer and whatever else people would pay me to do.
Here's a visual summary of what I've been up to, made with Tagxedo

As it happens, my extensive networking over the previous decade meant that I had a few projects to start in on, the Geography Collective was going from strength to strength, and I was fortunate to get a temporary contract managing the OU's VITAL CPD portal. Paula Owens involved me in a writing job for the BBC, and together we produced a major resource for the Digimap for Schools for EDINA. Thanks also to Richard Allaway, who asked me to write content for his Geography all the Way website and collaborate on an innovative series of eBooks, the first of which is now available to download from the iBookstore.

The writing work I did for the RGS-IBG's From the Field, working to translate the research of PhD colleagues, was later awarded a GA Silver Award, as was the Geography Collective's Our books had won a National Trust / Hay Festival Outdoor Book of the Year Award, and we were also runners-up at the Educational Writers' Awards, with the ceremony held at the House of Commons. I produced a set of resources on the Frozen Oceans for Jamie Buchanan Dunlop which are now used in hundreds of schools, and we've worked on a few more things as well...

I wrote a book for Badger publishing: a GCSE Grade Booster, which was published in April. I also have a children's book on Otzi the Ice Man due for publication in November 2012.

Karl Donert involved me in a range of EU projects, and steered another one to successfully gaining funding. This took me to Europe several times, and my passport will continue to get regular use for the next few years. The digitalearth project took me to Manchester for the GA's conference where I met the tireless Joseph Kerski. Paul Baker involved me in Independent School events.

I've found myself in many different hotels once again, and there have been plenty of highlights, and also lots of lonely days staring at a screen willing ideas. Some moments that stick out from the last year involve:

  • splashing along muddy towpaths on the outskirts of Leeds on my bike writing 'missions' for SUSTRANS 
  • standing on the viewpoint at over 3000m on the Aiguille du' Midi with Richard Allaway and staring at the clouds we'd just passed through in the cablecar
  • crunching through the snow in Salzburg on a Sunday morning as the churches in the city competed with each other to have the loudest bells
  • presenting at BETT and then heading across London to the Outdoor Show to join the Geography Collective on their stand
  • sailing up the Solent on a tall ship, and taking the helm
  • walking on the frozen ice of the Worthersee (don't try this at home kids)
  • attending the book launch of Mission:Explore Food at Hackney City Farm
  • walking around the Olympic Park with John Widdowson and a school group

Oh, and I have a book manuscript co-written with John Widdowson, which has to be on the desk of Ruth Totterdell at the GA first thing Monday morning !
Here's to my 2nd year of freelancing. Unless I get an offer to entice me back into the classroom somewhere in Norfolk, I'll carry on doing what I'm doing for a while yet.

And I have a reasonable number of diary slots through into 2013 if you fancy getting me involved with something you have planned...

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Landscapes of Brave

A nice quote by Katherine Sarafian, the producer of 'Brave' on the importance of research when starting to plan the film:

We started this journey, right here in Edinburgh, about six years ago, on a research trip, because it's research, research, research. Pixar start in the truest sense of where you want to begin the story, which is by touching the rocks and the heather and the lichen, and breathing the air, and seeing the weather changes.

I went to see the film on Friday afternoon while down in Kent for a long weekend, and really enjoyed it. It helped that it was at an Odeon rather than my usual fleapit (no offence) so had HD image quality, and surround sound and good seats...

The animation of the landscape was fantastic, particularly the scenes where Merida rides quickly through it, or the rain falls, or the fishing scene in the river... There was the humour of the little half-heard comments, such as when the warriors all climb to the top of the high tower and one says "I can see my house from here"...
Not everyone has been quite as positive about the film, but I thought it was a wonderful film, and also enjoyed the short film 'La Luna' which accompanied it...

Image source

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Olympic Landscapes

Recognise this coastal landscape ?
What geographical features can you see ?
It's taken from the BBC's animated Olympics trail that has been shown repeatedly for the last few weeks. What other landscapes does it contain ?

Click to enlarge - Image copyright: BBC

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

What is your favourite National Park ?

That's the (difficult) question on this BBC page.
Here were the standings at the time when I cast my vote...

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Richard Long's Road Graffiti

Have blogged several times about the work of Richard Long and the connection with landscapes.

The recent road race around Box Hill has a few other geographical connections, such as the Olympics geocaches that had been hidden by Sam Atkins and pupils at the Priory School, Portsmouth.

Came across this video of the artwork being made: Road Graffiti, which is inspired by the graffiti written on the roads during the Tour de France.
Also has connections with other artworks made by Long.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Olympics opening ceremony

Danny Boyle's opening ceremony for the London Olympics has been in the news today, as there was a practice run last night. It turns out that three people I know attended the event, but they've promised to #savethesecret although I did a search on #ruinthesecret and found a few pictures.
It's no surprise that the ceremony is based around a pastoral view of England.
The Evening Telegraph used the headline 'Farm Olympics' when the first pictures were released.

Now Henry Porter, writing in the Observer says that the event made him fall in love with our landscape all over again.
This may be a resource that is worth deconstructing once it's over, in terms of its description of our landscape...

It's certainly an interesting Cultural Geographical event...

Where the wind blows...

BBC News article from a week or so ago.

There were plans to put turbines onto Docking Shoal, which is close in to the North Norfolk coast, but these have been rejected because of the nesting terns nearby.
There are two further wind farms which have been given permission: Race Bank and Dudgeon.

Fits with Lesson 4 and 5 which focus on changes to the landscape.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

In Noel's dreams....

Noel Jenkins recently shared a KS3 Geography 'Fantasy' scheme that he had put together...

It's great to see that in the Year 7, there's a healthy dose of Landscapes.

You can still get your copy of 'Look at it this Way' from the GA ONLINE SHOP - now with free delivery....

Take a look at the SoW and see where you can fit landscapes into your KS3...

Explore landscapes this summer...

Take the opportunity over the summer to explore an (un)familiar landscape a little more...

I'll be heading for Devon.
In North Devon there is a chance to take part in a special Mission:Explore set of missions, which have already been attempted almost 400 times (at the time of writing)

Many landscapes have a designation as an AONB, and this would be a useful context for exploring landscapes...
There's plenty on these 'landscapes for life' at the AONB page.

Could be a great context for KS3...

Friday, 29 June 2012

Looking at landscapes anew...

I spent a pleasant few hours earlier today in the valley of the Gaywood River, just east of King's Lynn with colleagues from UEA and the Norfolk Wildlife Trust. We were involved in testing out an augmented reality solution for allowing visitors to a place to find out more about the nature's benefits / ecosystem services in that area.

Sarah Taigel has created, and is trialling an application called VesAR which stands for Visualising Ecosystem Services using Augmented Reality. It uses an app called LAYAR, which I have previously experimented with. 

Holding the phone or tablet up at particular locations reveals 'hotspots' floating in the camera view, which contain more information about what the visitor is looking at. (See the image below)
Ecosystem services are split into three types:




Essentially, a landscape like the river catchment we walked through provides three types of benefits, e.g. a regulating benefit would be the grazing meadows along the river, which slow down runoff after rainfall and reduce the flood risk, a provisioning benefit would be the nearby Reffley Woods, which provide a source of timber, and a cultural benefit would be the ruin of St. James church (pictured above) which provides a historic reminder of the way in which the landscape was used in the past.

You can perhaps think of other examples of the three types of benefit. 
Landscapes are increasingly being managed to protect the existing benefits, and to provide more benefits where possible.

You can read more about the work in this BLOG POST here or on Sarah's website: Communicating Landscape Futures.

Sarah will be presenting at the Enhancing Fieldwork Learning Showcase at Preston Montford in September. I'll be there too presenting the work of Mission:Explore and Guerrilla Geography. The tours that Sarah has been creating will be released to the general public, and be accessible to anyone with an appropriate GPS-enabled smartphone or 3G tablet. I shall let you know when that happens in a future blog post.

Image of St. James ruin: Alan Parkinson
Image of VesAR: Sarah Taigel

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Wastelands to Wonderlands

There's an exhibition on at the British Library which I plan to visit over the next month or so.
Wastelands to Wonderlands explores the different ways that Britain has been represented in fiction over the years, and contains many manuscripts and other materials.
There's plenty here that's relevant to teaching about landscapes, and the way they are represented.

I'm grateful to Angus Willson for the loan of the exhibition catalogue in advance of my visit.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Placing Place

Preparing some materials for a course in a few week's time. It's being held at the HQ of travel company Discover the World.
The course is being run along with Simon Ross, who produced a number of books that I made heavy use of when teaching, particularly his mapskills book.
The theme is Developing a Global Sense of Place at KS3 and GCSE. I'm exploring KS3.

There are quite a few areas that I could focus on as PLACE is a key concept in geography, and the idea of visiting places is central to the work of Discover the World.

As always, once the germ of an idea comes to me, it's time to flesh it out with various resources and web tools. I have put together two sessions which will eventually be shared on Slideshare.
Interestingly, the OFSTED Subject Report on Geography, published in 2011, made a series of recommendations.
The first was that schools should:
  • focus strongly on developing pupils’ core knowledge in geography, particularly their sense of place
It's interesting that a sense of place is described as core knowledge ?

I'll be using a lot of my own images of distant places, and others by colleagues. Images of places can be obtained from COMPFIGHT
This enables searching for images which are copyright cleared through Creative Commons.

I shall be referring to the following books / resources, as well as some of the outcomes from the GA's National Curriculum Reform Working Group that I have been serving on. Some of the things that we've heard from Michael Gove this week have meant a fresh perspective on some of this work.

There'll also be lots of ideas to take away as always.

Some references
"The Power of Place" - Harm de Blij
"Teaching Geography 11-18" - David Lambert and John Morgan
"a different view" - Geographical Association manifesto
"How to be an explorer of the world" - Keri Smith
"Arctic Dreams" - Barry Lopez
"Journey Journal" - The Geography Collective
"Mission:Explore" - The Geography Collective
'Look at it this Way' - Alan Parkinson
'Learning through Enquiry' - Margaret Roberts
'Oops' - Hywel Roberts

Image: Alan Parkinson - Valle Blanche, below Mont Blanc

Sunday, 17 June 2012

The houses that fall into the sea...

Listen again to this BBC Radio 3 programme from last night on BBC iPLAYER

Lyz Turner's house, in the East Yorkshire town of Withernsea, is falling into the sea. "My house has started talking to me," she says. "It produces haunting sounds like far-off women wailing."
This programme, combining interviews with music and the sounds of the sea, the wind, the land, the dying houses, explores how people cope with natural calamity: with anger, stoicism, distress, and art.
One winter, Ron and Judith Backhouse watched as first their fence, then their shed, and finally three trees slipped over the cliff at the bottom of their garden on a private estate above Scarborough. "The crack is running up towards our next door neighbour's house," says Ron. "It's maybe five or ten metres away from his bungalow now and we're connected to him. So if he goes, we go, too."?
Artist Kane Cunningham bought a condemned bungalow on the same estate so that he could live in it, use it as an artistic installation and document its demise. Since he moved in, the neighbouring three houses have been demolished for safety reasons, and he reckons his is next.
"You can't fight Nature," he says, "so you may as well celebrate its destructive force. Houses aren't immortal, and neither are we, despite what we may want to believe."
"As I listen to the soft wailing through the wall," says Lyz Turner, whose family have lived here for three generations, "I feel the house knows what's coming. Since Domesday there's been a dwelling where I live, and it seems all the voices of the past, whoever lived here, all the people from the lost villages under the sea, are crying for us now.".

Friday, 15 June 2012

Richard Long

Always been a fan of Richard Long's work, and the way that it links to landscape.
He also went to St. Martin's like my wife :)

There's an exhibition of his work on in Wakefield, which I shall try to get to the next time I am up in Yorkshire.
This article describes hos career and work.

"The landscapes that I have chosen to work in are the landscapes that still cover most of this earth; the world is still basically an empty place."

200 towns

Thanks to Keir Clarke for tipoff to another useful site which merges a range of different media.

200 Towns allows you to explore 200 towns.

A useful new 'Perspective on British Landscape' ?

Monday, 11 June 2012

More writing...

Coastal landscapes feature in the book in the Chapter 'Living on the Edge'.

One of the downsides of Twitter is that it has made me want to buy loads more books which I can't afford to keep doing.

The latest tipoff came via Joe Moran.
I've enjoyed both of Joe's books that I've read, particularly 'On Roads', which I think is due a re-read.
He suggested that he had enjoyed Jean Sprackland's book on 'Strands'.

There was also a nice spot of feedback in that reading the preview section that's available on Amazon there's a nice quote by Joe Moran to describe a beach...

It is 'a frontier not only between water and solid ground, but also between the wild and the domestic'.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Writing Wild Places

Wastelands to Wonderlands

Listen to Simon Armitage in particular in this clip, which relates to the British Library exhibition on landscape and literature. It's on my list of things to do in the next few months when I'm in London.

There are other clips too, which I discovered via the excellent SOME LANDSCAPES blog, which is a very useful bookmark for anyone interested in culture and landscape....

Saturday, 2 June 2012

The Old Ways

Surprised to find that my copy of the new Robert MacFarlane 'The Old Ways' arrived today, although it's not supposed to be out until the 7th of June.
Not that I'm complaining...
Started reading it straight away... was supposed to be saving it for summer.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

More oilseed in the news

Another news item on the increasing yellowness of the British countryside, as featured in the toolkit book...

Sunday, 27 May 2012

New Robert MacFarlane Book...

A new Robert MacFarlane book comes out next month...

I enjoyed this Spectator Review

An excellent quote from the book:

Landscape is still often understood as a noun connoting fixity, scenery, an immobile painterly decorum. I prefer to think of the word as a noun containing a hidden verb: landscape scapes, it is dynamic and commotion-causing, it sculpts and shapes us not only over the courses of our lives but also instant by instant, incident by incident. I prefer to take ‘landscape’ as a collective term for the temperature and pressure of the air, the fall of light and its rebounds, the textures and surfaces of rock, soil and building, the sounds (cricket-screech, bird cry, wind through trees), the scents (pine resin, hot stone, crushed thyme) and the uncountable other transitory phenomena and atmospheres that together comprise the bristling presence of a particular place at a particular moment.

This would fit in really nicely when planning how to teach about the landscape using 'Look at it this Way'.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Music and Landscape...

Just remembered today that Lac Leman in Geneva, pictured below was the Lake referred to in the title of one of my favourite pieces of music: Mike Oldfield's 1984 classic...
Image: Alan Parkinson
I remember this being an important piece of music when I was in my final year of undergraduate studies, when you had to chase down music...
Picture taken a week last Thursday on the shores of the lake in glorious sunshine...
Listen to it now, turn the speakers up loud...

What are your favourite pieces of music that are connected to landscape features ??

Mike has done quite a few, including Mount Teide....

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Mountain landscapes...

Chapter 9 and 10 of the book feature the Southern Alps of New Zealand, and a lesson which involves applying for a job with a company that flies tourists into Milford Sound.
Last weekend I was fortunate enough to be in the European Alps for the first time. After years of showing videos on tourism in Chamonix, I was able to wander through the streets of the town, and then head up on the cable car to L'Aiguille du Midi...
Enjoy some of my images below...
There were quite a few companies offering flights by small plane and helicopter over the Alps, so perhaps you could adapt the lesson to this location instead of using New Zealand, or maybe even a mountain range in the UK....

The hidden landscape

Underlying the British landscape is its GEOLOGY.
This tip is a new feature on the BGS website, which allows the embedding of a UK Geology or Earthquake Map.
Details are HERE if you want to make your own...
Here's a GEOLOGY map - click on it to show the surface geology... How does this relate to the surface landscape ?

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Dan Raven Ellison: Emerging Explorer...

Exploring landscape is important. Exploring the world is even harder...

I can finally share some news I heard about a few months ago, but which has now been made public...
Daniel Raven Ellison, friend and colleague at the Geography Collective has been named as one of National Geographic's 2012 Emerging Explorers.

The press release is here.
Dan is given the honour alongside other 'visionary young trailblazers' around the world.

The 2012 Emerging Explorers are U.S. cyborg anthropologist Amber Case; U.K. digital storyteller and zoologist Lucy Cooke; U.K. behavioral ecologist Iain Couzin; Mexican underwater archaeologist Guillermo de Anda; chemist Yu-Guo Guo of China; conservationist Osvel Hinojosa Huerta of Mexico; U.S. pilot and educator Barrington Irving; conservation biologist Krithi Karanth of India; Swiss crisis mapper Patrick Meier; U.S. archaeologist Sarah Parcak; U.S. data scientist Jake Porway; U.K. guerrilla geographer Daniel Raven-Ellison; U.S. archaeologist Jeffrey Rose; engineer and renewable energy advocate Ibrahim Togola of Mali; and archaeologist Daniel Torres Etayo of Cuba

Dan's full profile is HERE

Guerrilla geographer Daniel Raven-Ellison brings the spirit of adventure to geographic education, allowing people to see the world — and the field of geography — in new and surprising ways. Guerrilla geography challenges people, especially children, to explore the world around them, engaging in creative play, making new discoveries and forming community connections. Through technologies that allow users to share their experiences digitally, guerrilla geography not only educates but also inspires young people to explore their world in ways that stretch their minds and bodies, and motivates them to educate others and take action in their own communities. His Urban Earth films demonstrate guerrilla geography in action. He has walked across 13 cities, taking photographs every eights steps and editing them to create films to reveal new perspectives on how to experience cities. His program/website, Mission:Explore, and a series of award-winning kids' books of the same name encourage youth to go on adventures to learn about the world. 

This is great news and very well deserved....

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Robert MacFarlane

There's an event in London in June where you can hear Robert MacFarlane talk about his new book 'The Old Ways'. I am due to be in London I think on that day and will try to go along if the timings work.....

How do the landscapes we love shape the people we are? Why do we walk? Join celebrated travel writer Robert Macfarlane for an evening exploring geography, memory, pilgrimage and adventure. For several years and more than a thousand miles, Macfarlane has been following the vast network of old paths and routes that criss-cross Britain and its waters, and connect them to countries and continents beyond. His journeys have taken him from the chalk downs of southern England to the remote bird-islands of the Scottish north-west, from the disputed territories of Palestine to the pilgrimage routes of Spain and the sacred landscapes of the eastern Himalayas. Along the way – along the ways – he has walked stride for stride with a 5,000-year-old man near Liverpool, followed the 'deadliest path in Britain', sailed an open boat far out into the Atlantic along an ancient sea-road, and crossed paths with walkers of many kinds: wanderers, wayfarers, shamans, trespassers, poets, devouts, ghosts and dawdlers. 

Join us for what will be an enthralling account of the ghosts and voices that haunt old tracks, of songlines and their singers, of the stories our tracks keep and tell, and of rights of way and rites of way.

There is also live streaming on the page of the event if you can't make it...

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Beside the Seaside

Lesson 8 in 'Look at it this Way' is called 'Living on the Edge'. It explores the pros and cons of living near the coast...

This week there has been publicity of a report which confirmed something that a lot of us already knew - that being beside the seaside makes us cheerful...
I was fortunate to live within a mile of the sea for 12 years. Even now, it's only 20 minutes away - in fact we popped over earlier today...
Here's a picture of the Norfolk coast from my Flickr stream to cheer your day...

Image: Alan Parkinson

Thursday, 19 April 2012

The Yellowing...

We are coming into the period of the year when the countryside begins to turn yellow...
This is the field next to my son's Primary school - the distinctive flowers are beginning to appear all around the village...

Oilseed rape features in a mystery activity which can be found in Lesson 5 of 'Look at it this Way'.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week is just one of the features of the VITAL Geography Portal which I manage.
You can check it out and subscribe for just £10....

Here are the entries so far (A-G), some of which will shortly be archived...
The locations are the locations of images of each feature which appear on the portal page.

Gryke - the name for the gap between the blocks (clints) on a limestone pavement
Malham Cove, Yorkshire Dales
Fen - a tract of low-lying, marshy land, often drained by humans. Especially refers to the region around the Wash in Eastern England, with areas of Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire
The Cambridgeshire Fens
Erg - In the Sahara, that part of the desert whose surface is covered in sand (as opposed to the Hammada or rocky uplands, which have been swept clear of sand by the wind
Erg Chebbi, Morocco
Dirt  cone - a conical accumulation of detritus on a glacier surface - may be up to 2m in height and is often ice cored
Solheimajokull Glacier, Iceland - the black ash is from the Eyjafjallajokull eruption
Crepuscular rays: Rays of sunlight which shine through breaks in heavy cloud, also sometimes called Jacob's ladder and often seen at dawn or dusk
Lincolnshire Fens

Beach cusp: an accumulation of shingle on a beach which leads to regular scallop shaped indentations at the front of the beach.
Runswick Bay, East Yorkshire

Aretefrom the French - a sharp mountain ridge, often formed by the erosion of two adjoining corrie glaciers. A peak with three aretes radiating from its summit is called a pyramidal peak or horn (the Matterhorn is one of the best examples)
Coir' a' Ghrunnda, Isle of Skye.

What would you have as your geographical  WORDS OF THE WEEK for the remaining letters of the alphabet ?
A chance for you to get your favourite landscape feature or geography phrase in there - if you have a picture that I could use then so much the better :)

Also, watch out for some new Teachshares coming soon for discussing some of the key themes of geography education as we enter the Summer term...

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

New Robert Macfarlane book in June...

Another book to add to the list...

If this is anything like Robert's other books this will be superb....
Plenty on landscapes and human interactions...

Monday, 16 April 2012

Walking Home

Looking forward to the new Simon Armitage book on the Pennine Way...

One for the lessons on the Peak District in 'Look at it this Way'.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

GA Conference 2012

Good to see the toolkits for sale on the GA stand at the GA Conference... Head over to LIVING GEOGRAPHY for all the latest from the GA Conference 12th-14th April 2012....

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Urban Landscapes - walking....

If you can get through the language that is characteristic of Will Self pieces, there are some important geographical messages coming out here in this piece in The Guardian.

The recent URBAN EARTH : Degrees of London walk was another reminder of the power of walking as the participants walked into London from HeathrowAirport and other locations. Organised by Dan Raven Ellison of the Geography Collective, the people involved were asked to concentrate on particular things during the walk, as well as look at the city in unexpected ways.

While you're walking round the city, you might also be interested in a nice guide called SIDE WALKS. It's one of two nice travel guides produced by Kate Pocrass: an artist living in San Francisco.

Some of the ideas have a touch of our Mission:Explore about them. In fact one of the reviewers refers to some of the suggested activities as 'missions'.
I liked the idea of eating food in a particular shape, or capturing snippets of conversations that were overheard in speech bubbles.

The illustrations are really nice. I bought them earlier in the week from Stanfords, so if you're in London, check them out - they're near the giant world floor map...

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Digimap - new tools

On Wednesday 4th April, EDINA released Version 3 of Digimap for Schools, which included a number of new features and enhancements.

The new tools and enhancements have been developed directly as a result of valuable user feedback we gained from the user survey we ran last Autumn and from talking to teachers at conferences such as BETT and at training events.

New tools and enhancements:

National Grid lines overlay - This new tool allows users to display National Grid lines on screen, over any map at any scale.  Being able to display National Grid lines on the screen is incredibly useful for teaching and learning about grid references.  Grid letters and numbers are displayed clearly, spacing and numbering is scale appropriate and automatically change as a user zooms in or out through the map views.  To view the National Grid line, simply click the button on toolbar.

View a bigger map - Users can now have their map fill their screen!  We have added a full screen option which hides the top, bottom and left-hand panels to enlarge the map area that is visible.  The top toolbar will still be visible to allow you to access the annotations, measuring and other tools.  Expanding the map looks particularly fantastic when teaching a class using a smartboard as so much more map can be seen in one go.  To toggle between the larger and smaller map, click the button in the top right of the toolbar (beside the Help icon)

Alternative print formats - We have added two new outputs for printable maps; JPG and PNG.  These are common image formats (similar to those used for digital photos) which means users can easily insert maps generated from Digimap for Schools into programmes  such as Microsoft Word and Powerpoint.  These new format options are available in the print options panel.

Annotations enhancements - Two new enhancements have been added to annotations; the ability to fade the background map and the option to change the orientation of the toolbar.  The Fade Map option fades the background map on screen and on printable maps to allow annotations that have been drawn on the map to stand out more clearly.  This is particularly useful when you are adding features to a map of a dense urban area.  The Fade Map option can be activated by clicking the new icon in the Annotations Toolbar.  In addition to the ability to view a bigger map, you can now reformat the layout of the Annotation Toolbar to make it vertical. This means it can now sit over the search/print panel without hiding any of the map.

Help and information for using these new tools and enhancements can be found in the help pages, which can be accessed in the service by clicking the Help icon on the top right above the main map window.

The resource pack I wrote for Secondary DIGIMAP subscribers is coming soon.

Don't forget to join the Digimap GROUP on the GA Ning too....

Sunday, 25 March 2012

OS Custom Made Maps

For £16.99 (or less with various discounts that you can find online), you could have your very own Custom Made OS map.

You can choose from a flat or a folded map.

You can choose a 1: 25000 or 1: 50000 scale

I recently won a competition organised by OS Leisure (follow their Twitter feed @osleisure for more) and the map opposite is the one that I ordered...

It's a rather wonderful thing... and unique...
A few people have mentioned my Toolkit book and the Landscape in a Box idea in the last few days...

Paul Berry from Devon mentioned it in a very nice blog post where he also expanded on it by bringing in a few other ideas that have also featured on these pages: Rory's Story Cubes and the use of tiny figures. At Glastonbury in 2010 when working with the Geography Collective, we played 'mini hide and seek' with tiny figures around the Children's field that we were working in, to play around with ideas of scale.

If you subscribe to Teaching Geography, you can get the original article.

Noel Jenkins has also posted another response to using Landscape in a Box, along with some soundscapes.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Discover:Explore launching today...

A new way to look at the Scottish landscape... As part of the Cultural Olympiad, the Geography Collective worked on a project called Discover:Explore. That project goes live today...

Are you ready to discover THE GREAT GLEN, with all its hidden places and extraordinary stories?
Discover Explore is an exciting new game that enables you to discover ‘fun’-tastic locations throughout the Great Glen, complete daredevil missions, reveal hidden stories and win super duper badges!
Would-be explorers begin online by searching for locations and missions set along the Great Glen in Scotland.  Location chosen, they download an explorer pack with all the missions and head off on an adventure to unlock the stories of that location and find the answer to the online questions.  On returning from the location, explorers must log back in to Discover Explore and upload their answers to the missions in order to win their badges!
More to come later, once the site is up and running.....

Image by Tom Morgan Jones

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

New Badger Book

At the start of the year, I spent rather longer than anticipated putting together a book for Badger Publishing. It brought together some of the ideas I'd been working on for a while, along with a few more that were kindly  lent to me by colleagues (who are all acknowledged in the book, and will also be listed here once I have my hands on a physical copy of the book....)

The book will be useful to those who are preparing students for external assessments, but I would say that a lot of the ideas are transferrable - they are basically good geography....

The book is now available to pre-order (it will be out in April)

GCSE Grade Boosters: Geography Contents

  • Introduction – what does a C grade geographer look like, and how can students raise their grade to a C and beyond.
  • Memorable geography – a range of geography activities which can be re-versioned for other topics or particular pupils; includes thinking graphs, lucky lines, maps from memory, and ideas funnel to name just a few.
  • Students as experts – establishing students as experts and joint creators of resources.
  • Enquiries – how to introduce, explore and communicate the Big Geographical Questions.
  • Controlled assessment – how to approach controlled assessment, complete with examples to illustrate the support that can be provided.
  • Revision techniques – graphic organisers, memory techniques and the power of blogging.
  • Help from the examiners – exam specs and question types – where and how marks are gained and lost.
  • Memorable vocabulary – key vocabulary for exam success plus techniques for learning it.
  • Exciting new tools – word clouds, triptico, google docs and google earth.
  • Geography after the exam – why a good grade in geography can take you places.

Author: Alan Parkinson an experienced and award-winning teacher with an international reputation for creative and innovative teaching. He has worked with thousands of teachers at hundreds of CPD events in the UK and Europe. This title draws extensively from the experience of successful schools around the country.
  • A wide range of activities to make the topics covered memorable. Activities can be used for class, group, pair and homework tasks. They can be versioned by you for other topics or particular pupils
  • Support for exam preparation including a distillation of examiners reports to pinpoint common errors and show
  • how easily marks are lost and gained, as well as revision and memory techniques that have been shown to work
  • Help with controlled assessment and how to approach it to get the best results
  • The key vocabulary for exam success plus techniques for learning it
  • 80 page photocopiable book with re-versionable activities on accompanying CD-ROM. 
A perfect gift for Easter.... :)