Tuesday, 30 May 2017

UK County Word Cloud Project

I've made quite a few word clouds of places over the years... they are a nice way to capture the thoughts of a group of people on a place, or something else... There are plenty of ways of making them, including WordFoto (one of my favourites), Word Art, Wordle (of course) and Tagxedo... (and that's just a few from many...)
Earlier today, I made a word cloud of Cornwall to go along with a writing project which I had started to develop. This was made with WordArt (formerly known as Tagul) and was based on the thoughts of around 40 people on Facebook and Twitter who shared about 250 words describing the county.

It occurred to me that it would be good to construct the UK (each of the counties) and put them all together to make a huge word cloud construction of the UK. At first, I thought I might just work my way around the country, starting with Cornwall and moving onto Devon. I started this process, and have some words in hand for Devon already.
I realised this would take me quite a long time to do (although it would be quite good to think about each county in turn...)
Instead, I worked out a method using a Google Form which would allow for anyone to choose any particular county. The responses to the form are then placed into a spreadsheet, which can then be filtered, and organised appropriately, and this will help to construct the set of word clouds in due course, which will then be added onto a county outline shape.

This is also going to be helpful to provide some guidance for those who might be putting together an entry for this year's Young Geographer of the Year competition by providing ideas for the physical, human and cultural geography of the UK's counties...

I will let this form run for a few months - I won't have time to construct the word clouds until the summer holidays, so will leave it for about 8 weeks and keep reminding you that it's around.
Thanks also to those who have already retweeted and shared the form.
You can enter your ideas into the form below, or go to the form separately here.

Coming soon: words by Robert MacFarlane

Monday, 15 May 2017

M&S Food Ads: Food and Landscapes

Marks and Spencers ads have been stylish for some time, and have also been remixed in the name of geography previously: "This is not just Geography, this is..."

The latest / current ad at the time of writing is excellent, and creates landscapes both urban and rural through the use of food - I like the balsamic wave, and the spaghetti marine life particularly.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Inspirational Landscapes - translated thanks to an RGS grant award

Good news earlier this week, as I heard that Peter Knight of Keele University and I are the recipients of a Royal Geographical Society Innovative Geography Teaching Grant to fund a joint project exploring landscapes and Changing Places.

Here's a bit of text from the application document that I put together.
Title of project:

Inspirational Places: Changing Places
'A’ level teachers are currently teaching new exam specifications for the first time. The addition of ‘new’ areas including Global Governance has caused some concern. One area frequently included in requests for support on online forums and Facebook support groups is the Changing Places topic. I worked on a chapter in the CUP ‘A’ level textbook on this topic, and enjoyed revisiting themes first introduced in the OCR Pilot GCSE course.
For some years, Dr. Peter Knight teaches a unit called ‘Inspirational Landscapes’ as a third year undergraduate module (level 6) as part of the BA and BSc Hons Geography degree pathways at Keele University. This introduces students to creative ways of interpreting, and (re)presenting place, with parallels to ideas on the new specifications. It is mentioned in this ‘Geographical’ article: http://geographical.co.uk/uk/uk/item/941-geographys-unique-appeal

Both applicants have a long-standing interest in work connecting academic and school geography contexts. The grant would provide an opportunity for them to team up.
The proposed output would be online resources to support teachers in their understanding of key themes in Changing Places, provide them with practical strategies and resources for teaching, and offer a bibliography of additional reading and resources for exploration and research.

Progress will be reported here, and over on LivingGeography as it takes shape.

Image: Alan Parkinson

Friday, 12 May 2017

New Google Earth

New Google Earth has been released, and there are some good (and not so good) elements. These are my initial thoughts on first look during this week.
The tool is an essential one for exploring landscapes.

It's now optimised for Chrome and also for DESKTOP machines, so won't work on my MacBook Air at the moment, which is a bit annoying... It also won't work on mobile devices. And it won't work on my classroom desktop machine which is an HP - just hangs and tells me it's loaded 0 of billions.... This is a little inconvenient, but at least you can still use older versions such as the Google Earth Pro I've been using for a few years.

It looks good if you can get it to work, and there are plenty of new features - some of which aren't too useful... but some of which will speed up its use: the search function is much improved for example.

The switch from 2D to 3D reveals (in many but not all locations) some interesting 3D renderings of aerial scenes. This was a bit random - switching from 2D to 3D provides a new Ken Burns style rotation, but it's hard to get the view to exactly as you want it, and then it tends to be quite a low level flat view, without the option to see distant landscapes. Having said that, the effect is really very impressive if you go to a location where it's enabled, which is not the whole of the UK yet it seems. Cities work well. Ely is still flat, and has lost other elements too, whereas Norwich and Sheffield work really well.

There also seems to be no way to switch the view from the default view using the shift / tab / cursor key combinations which worked in the past, and also with the option to set a particular view that the location would open in... Does anyone know how to do that?

There are some new stories which have been curated for the new Earth, such as HOME.
The HOME stories are also trailed in the Google Earth extension which I have on Chrome, which shows a new aerial view each time I open a window.
From an article on the launch:

Google Earth’s Gopal Shah said: ‘With the new Earth, we want to open up different lenses for you to see the world and learn a bit about how it all fits together; to open your mind with new stories while giving you a new perspective on the locations and experiences you cherish.
‘It’s everything you love about Google Earth, plus new ways for you to explore, learn and share. Zoom in and see what adventures await you in the new Google Earth.’
I've come to the conclusion that I'll probably carry on using the Google Earth Pro version that I have downloaded to my machine until the iOS version comes out, when hopefully the interface is back that makes it useful, and maybe other aspects have been amended from this current launch version.
I've not tried it with my 3D Space Explorer mouse yet either to see whether that works well.

The Google World Wonders site which I worked on a few years ago also seems to have disappeared... I luckily downloaded all the education packs several years ago, and have then on my Mac.

Does anybody else have any thoughts on the new Google Earth?

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

The Ice Man - Year 6 taster session

In the last few weeks of the Michaelmas Term, we welcomed some Year 6 students from outside of the school.
They were asked to use some ideas from my Ice Man book which I wrote a few years ago now for Collins. I did an activity where we looked at the story of the Ice Man and they created their own Ice men using cut outs from Wilko. They were also interested in the story of the Ice Man's death. This resulted in a nice display of their own Ice Men.
Otzi has been in the news again in the last few weeks because of new work by forensic police officers who have reopened this very 'cold case'.

The Old Ways

Another chance to hear a radio adaptation of Robert MacFarlane's 'The Old Ways'

Monday, 1 May 2017

Green Belts...

Green Belts have been in the news over the last few months because of suggestions that they might be built on in some situations as a result of a lack of affordable housing. and a 'broken' system for private rentals.

John Grindrod has a forthcoming book on these areas of land on the edge of our urban areas. It looks like being another great read, following on from his earlier book 'Concretopia'. I'll let you know what it's like once it comes out and I have the chance to read it. Out a month today...