Thursday, 6 July 2017

Ideal scenery

Check out this Robert MacFarlane tweet, and the replies that follow for a whole host of ideas on different people's ideal landscapes... Some wonderful images and brief descriptions ideal for sharing...


Sunday, 2 July 2017

Islands: a Radio 4 season

A series of programmes which are being played in a series on Island life. This is available to listen to again for a month or so, so if you're reading this after Summer 2017 you may not be able to hear some or all of them.
Thanks to the wonderful artist Ellis O' Connor for the tipoff to this on Twitter.
If you're interested in the idea of islands, then these will be well worth following. A list of some of the programmes is here.
I'm particularly interested in the sharing of some stories by George Mackay Brown, who is forever connected with the town of Stromness on Orkney.
Some will also be interested in a repeat of Bill Bryson's 'Notes from a Small Island', which is available in five episodes.

This connects with the work I am going to be doing over the summer with Peter Knight, funded by an Innovative Geography Teaching Grant. You will see our work on this developing on this website.

Image: Copyright BBC - used to publicise the Islands season - reminiscent of Roger Dean's Yes album covers...

Around the World in 80 Days

A few days ago, Mark Beaumont visited the Reform Club. He was paying homage to Phileas Fogg: the hero of Jules Verne's 'Around the World in 80 Days'.
The reason was that after his earlier record breaking circumnavigation by bike, Mark headed off earlier today on an attempt to go around the world in 80 days.


I will be introducing the journey to our students tomorrow, so that they can hopefully follow the journey over the summer, and there will be some rewards for those who show some evidence of this on their return in September, by which time Mark will hopefully be well on his way... what an epic journey and physical and mental effort lies ahead of him...

To follow the journey, see Mark Beaumont on Facebook, or follow @MrMarkBeaumont on Twitter.

The main website for the journey is at Artemis World Cycle.
Here's the route:
Images: Copyright Mark Beaumont on Facebook/Twitter / The Guardian

For teachers wanting to introduce students to the journey, Mark has teamed up with Twinkl Resources, who have created a series of resources. These are a mixture of FREE and subscriber only, and are attractively presented and linked to some useful curriculum areas.

Mark is raising money for Orkid Studio.


Orkidstudio works to benefit communities through innovative architecture, construction and social enterprise.

We believe that creativity has the power to inspire and instil pride within people regardless of race, nationality or circumstance and we use architecture, design and enterprise as tools for relieving poverty and transforming lives.

Our build projects focus on the process of design and construction rather than just the final product. We believe this process is a powerful tool for affecting social change and empowering people through the sharing of skills and knowledge on site.

With a strong belief in the power of enterprise to affect social change, we work on projects and with partners that support and drive the local economy. We engage local resources and women in construction to create high quality built spaces that promote health, education and equality.

Mark's hoping to raise £10 for every mile that he cycles.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

The Second Brightest Star

A surprise new album from Big Big Train, to be released on Friday, just 2 months after the previous one...
Liking this first track, and the theme of the album

“Our writing over this period has focused on the English landscape, the people that work on the land and their folklore stories."
This album:
“explore landscapes, rivers and meeting places and take the listener on voyages of discovery across the world and to the stars.”

Also looking forward to seeing them live later in the year...

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Lauret Savoy on landscape


Lauret Savoy, author of Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape, talks with Associate Editor Sergei Lobanov-Rostovsky about seeing with new eyes, how landscape leaves its traces on us, and the unvoiced history of the American continent.
Savoy argues that contending with both the beauty of American landscape and the violence of American history requires recognizing that the power to segregate memory has worked in concert with the power to segregate people throughout American history, and how a fragmented understanding of human experience on this continent has led to an artificial separation between ideas about nature and ideas of race, concepts that were intimately connected even before this nation began.

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.

Update
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...


Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Fieldwork Questionnaire

One of the things launched at the GA conference was a questionnaire on fieldwork and outdoor learning which was developed by Philip Monk and other colleagues on the Fieldwork and Outdoor Learning Special Interest Group.

There's no better way to see the landscape than by being out in it.

If you had time to fill the survey in, that would help to inform the GA's future support for Fieldwork and Outdoor Learning.
It's embedded below as well if you had time to help out.


One of the really useful resources that I picked up at the conference was from the Field Studies Council, and is a guide to GIS.

They also offer a range of CPD courses for teachers at a low price.


Sunday, 23 April 2017

Using ArcGIS Online to explore landscapes...

We have been using ArcGIS Online in school for several years now, and ESRI UK have kindly given us a free subscription for the last few years so that we can share our work.

At the end of the Awards presentation at this week's GA Conference Stuart Bonthrone, the MD of Esri UK stood up and made an announcement which was in some ways inevitable after events previously in the USA, and also very welcome.


Stuart announced that from immediate effect, ArcGIS Online will be free to all UK schools.

Under the heading of "The Science of Where", Stuart then played a short video featuring the inspirational work of Thierry Torres and colleagues at Dover Grammar School.


If you want to know more, and sign up your school, head for the ESRI UK Schools page.



I also had the chance to meet Steve Richardson, who is being employed to produce new resources and materials for teachers to encourage more use of the tool in classes.
There are already over 60 resources available, with plenty more to come.



Finally, check out the GeoMentors programme, which pairs up schools with GIS professionals.

Sign up your school now

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Sense of Place

Havergey by John Burnside from Roseanne Watt on Vimeo.
"On the small and remote island of Havergey, a few years from now, a community of survivors from a great human catastrophe has created new lives and a new world in a landscape renewed after millennia of human exploitation. To this strange new land comes a traveller from our own time, bewildered by what he finds, and an object of curiosity for the inhabitants, especially the one assigned to watch over him, as he spends his first weeks on the island in Quarantine. Left alone with a history of the community and its roots, he uncovers truths and new mysteries about the people he has encountered, their forebears and the last throes of the old world. In this new novella, the acclaimed poet, novelist and critic brings his unique sensibility to the idea of utopia. A timely reminder about how precious and precarious our world is, it’s also a rejection of the idea of human supremacy over landscape and wildlife."

Published by Little Toller Books, April 2017
https://www.littletoller.co.uk/shop/books/little-toller/havergey/


So many books, so little time...

Friday, 31 March 2017

Trace

Recommended read for those exploring our connections with landscape and changes through history...

River Tees StoryMap

Excellent work by Steve Richardson adds another dimension to previous work I've done using Google Earth and GeoGraph to tell the changing story of a river...
Fits with some of the ideas in 'Fieldwork through Enquiry' as well.


Friday, 10 March 2017

Lego-ifier

Mapping tool which turns world maps into Lego... really excellent...
Nice work by John Nelson and Vanni Zhang.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Robert MacFarlane is now on Twitter

Robert MacFarlane's work and influence has featured here many times. He joined Twitter in February 2017, and already has over 4500 followers.
Follow Robert for landscape words and images and related news.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Place based research

One of the sessions at the recent GTE Conference that I most wanted to see was Emma Rawlings-Smith's presentation on her research so far into how place is represented in textbooks. I was interviewed by Emma last year as part of this research, with respect to how we wrote the AQA 'A' Level textbook for CUP and the OCR 'A' and 'B' books for Hodder.

Emma has a blog which is used to show her progress in her research.

The blog is called GeoPlaces and is on the Weebly platform.

The blog is connected with her PhD research. It's also very useful to connect the academic ideas on place with the teaching that is involved in the new 'A' level Changing Places topic. Emma interviewed me on my decision-making process when writing and editing the draft of this chapter in the Cambridge University Press textbook.
There is a useful set of resources here.

Finally on Changing Places, you may want to see an article by Richard Phillips in the latest Geography Review magazine, which looks at Changing Places in the context of Hackney. You can follow him on Twitter too.

You could also usefully watch Alan Smith's TED talk below:

Sunday, 8 January 2017

East of Elveden

I've mentioned this blog before, but there have been some excellent recent additions which explore some aspects of local landscapes, and have given me some inspiration for recent writing and thinking about place.

It describes itself as offering:

Hidden places, secret histories and unsung geography from the east of England and beyond

Follow Laurence Mitchell on Twitter too

Ladybirds and landscapes

Now this is JUST my sort of thing...

Saturday, 7 January 2017

London's Protected Views

This was the title of my KS3 Landscapes Toolkit book on Landscapes. A few copies are still left, and you can buy one from the GA website.

A view is something which can add so much to a person's well being, and also add value to a property: a view of the sea adds tens of thousands to the value of a house for example.
This article describes the potential damaging of a view of London that has been in existence for hundreds of years, and which was thought to be protected: a view of St. Paul's Cathedral.
If one goes to the top of the new Tate Modern extension, one can see a wonderful view across to the Cathedral.

But you can also see the proliferation of tall buildings, some of which are not to everyone's taste.

There are some views of St. Pauls Cathedral, the Monument, Tower of London and other buildings which can't be blocked as they are protected.

The views and directions can be seen on this map, and there's also an interactive version on the link above.
 

I also wrote about this idea for the work that I did as a way of using GIS, but it never really got developed to the same degree as was originally planned.

Here's a statement from St. Paul's cathedral.
The Leadenhall Building's 'cheese grater' shape was apparently so that a classic view to the cathedral was not impinged upon.
This is shown in the London View Management Plan.

Image: Alan Parkinson

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

UK's Geology and Landscape

An article in the Independent on the UK's natural wonders.

"It's geology that has created our diverse and extraordinary natural wonders. We owe the creation of vertiginous cliffs and sea stacks to deposits of sandstone and chalk; soft limestone has been etched and scoured to carve craggy gorges, coastal arches and echoing caverns; and sculpted from extrusions of volcanic basalt are the weirdly geometric columns of causeways and sea caves".

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

New VR article in Independent Education Today journal

A few months ago, I was asked to write an article on the visit that Shailey Minocha and colleague Ana from the Open University, as part of their work with Google Expeditions.
I submitted the article and forgot about it.


It's now available to view online as it's been published in the latest issue of 'Independent Education Today'
They got my job title a little wrong, but otherwise the article was just about as I wrote it.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Christmas reading...

For those interested in landscapes, this book is recommended...
More to come on this as I get further into it, and start to use it for curriculum making...