I was recently looking at a variety of education blogs over the Easter break and I came upon a very interesting blog by Ewan McIntosh. Ewan is one of Europe’s foremost experts in digital media for public services, particularly in education. He is an enthusiastic educator with a passion for learning and development who wants to bring education into the 21st century.

He was a key player in setting up one of the most ambitious investment funds from a public service broadcaster in the UK (Channel4), himself making the call on investing over £1m in cutting edge and high impact digital media products. He is also the founder of 38minutes.co.uk, the creative industries platform for the North of the UK. His understanding and application of the latest web, mobile and games technology also continues to influence policy and practice in the world of education, where his personal passions lie.

Ewan founded TeachMeet in 2006 as a means of gathering enthusiastic but often unheard educators under one, beer-filled roof, to share the innovations going on in their classrooms. Senior education officials were always invited along to listen. No keynotes. No spotlight sessions. One teacher to another. Key to its success was gaining support from the education and publishing industry to sponsor drinks, food and a/v for a community that has gone from six educators to several thousand, going from Scotland to a worldwide phenomenon. Personally, I haven’t attended a TeachMeet event as yet (sorry!) but I would love to go to one soon. Talking and listening to other educators is a great way to develop yourself as a teacher and to improve your lessons and school. I have read a lot about TeachMeet in the past and I think it is time one came down to my area of the world! Anyone fancy organising a TeachMeet event down in Dorset?

The National Council for Geographic Education

I have recently found the National Council for Geographic Education website. It is a US-based site where they promote geography as a subject around the world. The site is very useful and is a good way to find out new subject material and activities for your lessons. Their blog is also an excellent way of exchanging ideas and thoughts on the world of geography. I have been in contact with Joseph Kerski (who co-runs the site), a passionate and enthusiastic promoter of geography – we need more educators like Joseph!

The NCGE are also hosting thei, National Conference on Geographic Education, an annual event where geography educators from across the USA and around the world meet to exchange ideas, research, resources, and best practices in geography education. The conference is filled with opportunities for participants to attend workshops, paper and poster sessions, field trips, and more. Long-time conference participants enjoy the collegial atmosphere of the conference, opportunities for networking and brainstorming, and endless prospects for professional development. The NCGE Conference in 2010 is in Savannah, Georgia in the USA from 29th September to 3rd October. If they are looking for anymore guest speakers I would love to take part!

The ‘Big’ Picture

On the 8-10th April the GA is holding its annual conference. This year it is held in the University of Derby. The theme for 2010 is ‘Geography: The Big Picture’ and focus’s on:

  • How changes in the primary curriculum following the Rose and Alexander Reviews will affect the broad picture of geographical education
  • How geography is perceived through images by the wider public
  • Creative use of images and maps
  • How geographical research can contribute to key global issues and debates

Young people need to become global citizens and encouraged to learn about their local area, their county, their country and about the world. Geography has for sometime been losing its position of importance. In KS3, 4 and 5 elements of geography are taught in other subject areas especially science.  With science as a core subject where is geography’s place? We need to define geography as a subject in its own right. The importance of geography needs to be made clear by the Department of Education. We need to reclaim our topics and rebrand ourselves as a twenty-first century subject.

With an ever-changing world geography must be at the forefront of educational thought. Being versatile, experimental, and very much of today it should be leading the future of education. As a teacher I have worked in several forward thinking schools where opportunities to attempt new ideas were welcomed. I am very lucky in this respect. I have been fortunate to have witnessed great teaching in my years as a teacher.

Why become a teacher?

Teaching in my opinion is the greatest role in life that someone can do. To actually see the look of wonder and understanding on someone’s face is something that cannot be bought. To pass on knowledge and see where it takes a young person in life is amazing. To actually help young people in life choose a path in the life with your encouragement and guidance is breathtaking.  Last year I wrote an article for Sec-Ed called ‘Proud to be a teacher!’, and it outlined my reasons why teaching is the best profession, this can be accessed here and via my blog here. Below are my ‘Top Ten Reasons to be a Teacher;’

  • To teach a subject you love and have a passion for
  • To help motivate and inspire young people to be passionate about learning
  • To learn more about your subject and you as a person
  • Teaching keeps your mind young
  • To work in a innovative environment
  • To be your own boss and develop your own lessons and SoWs
  • To work with a wide diversity of people from different environments
  • To make a difference and give something back to society
  • To learn from others especially the pupils
  • The long holidays

As Batman once said, ‘it isn’t what you say that defines you but what you do’ (Batman Begins, 2005).

Earth Hour – Get Involved


Today, Saturday 27 March 2010 at 8.30pm, the WWF want a billion people around the world to switch off their lights for one hour – WWF’s Earth Hour. The idea is to raise awareness regarding climate change that is affecting our planet. The first Earth Hour was in 2007 in Sydney, Australia where 2.2 million people took part. Since then it has gone global, 50 million people in 2008 and over a billion in 2009. In 2009, 4000 cities in 88 countries took part. The message is clear, climate change is not about the country you are from but the planet you live on.  

The WWF works to create solutions to the most serious environmental problems facing our planet, so that people and nature can thrive. Climate change is the biggest threat of all. Impacts such as changing weather patterns, warming seas and melting ice threaten to devastate people and nature, and to jeopardise all our conservation successes.To tackle the threat, it’s vital that world leaders agree effective international action. The WWF want urgent global action to safeguard the natural world. We’re already seeing the impacts of climate change – from melting Arctic sea ice to flooding and droughts.  

Tidd Tower will be turning its lights off at 8.30pm tonight. To get involved go to the WWF Earth Hour website here

Assessing Your Subject Area

This week myself and the geography department have been looking at how effective we are as teachers, as a department and ways of moving forward. This is not always easy to do but a very important part of our role as teachers. It is vital that as practitioners we are reflective and build upon our strengths and areas for development. Every teacher is different and all add something to a school.

This week we have used Stoll and Fink’s analysis upon our department. It was originally used as a tool to look at whole school development but many practitioners are using it for subject areas.

Using the diagram above and the explanations below you have to try to judge your department/school on where you think you are. We tried to look at individual key stages as well.


  • Boosts student progress and achievement.
  • People work together and respond to change.
  • People know where they are going and have the will and the skill to get there.

Cruising Subject Area

  • Appear to have many of the qualities of an effective subject area.
  • Pupils achieve despite the teaching.
  • The people are responding well to change.

Strolling Subject Area

  • Neither particularly effective or ineffective.
  • Move at an adequate pace to cope with change.
  • Have ill-defined aims.
  • Conflict sometimes inhibits progress.

Struggling Subject Area

  • Ineffective and know it.
  • Expend energy trying to improve but results in “thrashing about”
  • They are willing to try anything and will ultimately succeed.

Sinking Subject Area

  • Staff are isolated.
  • There is an unwillingness to change either through ignorance or apathy.
  • There is a blame culture.
  • Student achievement is poor and failing.

It is not an easy task and you have to be very honest as a department. It is an ideal tool especially with self-evaluation high on the list of things Ofsted look at. It also gives you and your department to start thinking about what areas you might need to develop over the coming months or year. As a Head of Department it has made me realise where we need to go as a department and what our priorities are for the year ahead.

comicbrush: A Tool for the Classroom

Comic Brush is an online comic maker that I have recently found and used. Comic Brush is a very versatile and easy tool to use and seems well suited to the classroom. Rather than drawing a comic from scratch, Comic Brush lets you mix stock artwork from their fun collection of comic backgrounds, characters and props with photos of your friends, neighbourhood or school.You can add speech balloons, text, your own artwork and more, before printing or publishing your comic to the Web, social networking sites like Flickr, Facebook and MySpace, or a friend’s iPhone/Touch.

I have used Comic Brush for my Year 7 Settlement assessment on shanty towns. I have used the tool as a way of getting the pupils to start thinking about the push/pull factors involved in migration within developing countries. It is a different way of getting information put across to pupils or for them to present their work. For those who find literacy difficult or are visual learners, this is an ideal tool. It could be very useful as a data presentation method for controlled assessments using images the students had taken on their fieldtrip and explaining their findings. My first adventure into Comic Brush is below, enjoy!

Raising Your Game – Improving Your Subject Area

Last week I attended a course run by ASCL Management and Professional Services in London. The course focused upon what subject leaders can do to improve the quality of teaching and learning in their subject area. It provided a coherent insight and practical approach to improving the performance of colleagues, which will help raise the pupils’ achievement in your department.

The aims and objectives of the day were:

  • to help improve learning and teaching in your subject area
  • to become familair with improvement strategies
  • to help integrate the improvment process
  • to understand ‘what effective teaching and learning looks like’
  • to develop skills to carry out effective lesson observations
  • to develop the skills of giving effective feedback and resolving conflict

The course was run by Geoff Barton, Headteacher at King Edward VI School in Suffolk and Peter Richards, a qualified SIP, teaching consultant and former Headteacher.

I found the course a great success and found both Geoff and Peter realists as professional teachers. They knew the rhetroric of being a successful subject leader and the reality. They were able to explain things very clearly and efficiently. The key question they kept referring to was; ‘Would you be happy for your child to be taught in the classroom?’. This was a brilliant way to question whether we were doing the right thing within our own subject areas.

It was clear by the end of the day that the five most important skills a great subject leader needs to develop were;

  • being visible,
  • optimistic,
  • working hard,
  • hungry for success
  • and resilient.

I could not argue with their thoughts and feeling throughout the day and found them brilliant speakers. It was an excellent course where I came away knowing more than before I went in. Both Geoff and Peter did try to link the course to Ofsted and what they were looking for as inspectors. For more information regarding the course please go to the ASCL website or Geoff Barton’s website.

From Slumdog to IT Surfer

The Guardian newspaper yesterday wrote a brilliant article in its education supplement about Professor Sugata Mitra. It was a follow-up on to an article written last year on Mitra’s Hole In The Wall learning project. The project itself was about installing computers with internet connection in Delhi slums for local children to discover. The project discovered that the children began to teach themselves English, computing and maths. This was all in a month after installing the computers. It was from this that inspired Vikus Swarup to write Q&A, the book that became the film Slumdog Millionaire.

The project was a success and over five hundred computers can be found in walls across India and Africa. Mitra is now a professor at Newcastle University and is working on a new project in the UK, where is helping youngsters use computers to carry out ‘self-activated learning’ in the classroom.

According to Mitra, ‘having watched hundreds of Indian children learning without teachers at the Hole In The Wall computers…children can work by themselves, if they want to.’

‘Most British children grow up with the internet and the means to learn what they want in minutes, and this challenges the traditional idea of school being about learning things that will come in handy in the future. They become disengaged.’

‘If you encourage individual learning, and give children interesting questions to look independently, the learning process is sparked by curiosity.’

Mitra is currently working with some schools in Tyneside where is challenging primary school children with GCSE questions. The children are able to choose which question they would like to research and they are able to use computers freely within the room. The results are very impressive according to the teachers at the schools concerned. Three months after the project the pupil’s knowledge and learning had improved from the tests given. 

It is a very interesting and thought-provoking article and I recommend all teachers to read it. The link to the article can be found hereMitra has plans to develop autonomous learning within all schools. It is a fantastic project that could improve a pupils’ learning and knowledge and possibly make learning fun for all! Perhaps the developed world can learn new ways of teaching from developing countries. As Henry Ford once said, ‘all of us are smarter than one of us’.

Plymouth University e-Learning Conference 8-9th April

My old university is holding it’s 5th e-Learning Conference. This year they will examine the theme of e-learning in a time of change, and will challenge notions of traditional boundaries, learning spaces and roles. The conference will focus on new practices, new technologies, new environments and new learning. The conference is taking place on Thursday 8th and friday 9th April.

The Plymouth e-Learning Conference is jointly organised by the Faculty of Education and EDaLT (Educational Development and Learning Technologies) at the University of Plymouth.

At the conference two keynote speakers will be attending; Josie Fraser and Donald Clark. Josie Fraser is well known in the field of social media and learning, and writes regularly about her research on her blog SocialTech. Josie spreads her time and energy across a wide variety of social media/networking spaces, where she can be found experimenting with all manner of emerging technologies. At the ALT-C 2008 Conference, she received the prestigious Learning Technologist of the Year award and continues to be at the forefront of learning technology development.

Donald Clark was CEO and one of the original founders of Epic Group plc, which established itself as the leading company in the UK e-learning market. He is now a board member of Ufi (LearnDirect), LINE Communications, Caspian Learning, Brighton Festival, and a school governor. He has produced over 40 papers, dozens of book reviews and many articles on e-learning. Donald has also won many awards for the design and implementation of e-learning, notably the ‘Outstanding Achievement in e-learning Award’.

It looks like a cracking conference and I look forward to hearing the thoughts and feelings that come out of it.