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A weblog designed to share Geography resources with students and colleagues

Sunday, June 29, 2008

From lack of sleep springs....

Categories: Other

This is unusual. It's 6.45am on the second day of my summer holidays, and I've been up for two hours and awake for longer. Sick children are, I can only imagine, the equivalent of jet lag. I can take no comfort at all that my sleep was marginally better than my young daughters' , who seems to be handling the early rise a lot better :-0

I am not blogging to fill people in on the health status of my family, but I find myself in the strange situation of having some fleeting inspiration while trying to eek a couple of extra minutes out of my sleep this morning. My colleague, Miss Green is moving to pastures new next year and will be teaching in an international school in Spain. I suggested that we try to do some collaborative work between our schools, and felt that there would be different opportunities here than in our Malawi link , primarily because of access to IT facilities. Not being good with bits of paper, I'm blogging some of these ideas so that I don't forget them over the holidays.

1) Could we use twitter? I experimented with a few pupil comments while on the Alps trip and have watched Joe Dale use his twitter account to keep a trip log while in Brittany. I think there is a plethora of potential uses between schools. Posting ideas for collaboration with students 'following' could generate discussion on twitter itself. Although Miss Green's school is an international school, it is also predominantly Spanish children whose parents want them to gain experience in English as a foreign language. I've approached our MFL department about involvement in the link and thought that through twitter there could be daily exchanges in both Spanish (beneficial to our students) and English- Perhaps a translation exercise? If the schools were exchanging information about, say, their school days, the service could be used like a diary. In other instances, it could serve as a bulletin board to keep both schools informed of important events in each others calendars. I'm sure there are more uses which would evolve from initial experiments. I was initally sceptical about twitter- I don't really want to know who is painting their toenails or buying a mars bar, but after some thought, I can see that the scope for a web application such as this is huge.

2) Continue these conversations on flashmeeting? I have had this bookmarked for ages now, without ever having a viable reason to use it. I have watched people such as Ewan McIntosh comment on and use this and like the look of it, particularly as more than two people can participate in a webcam conversation. I also like the fact that the conversations can be recorded and played back. Imagine the scenario where students are swapping ideas in English and Spanish - and afterwards reviewing their grammar in collaboration with two stars and a wish. Even if the conversation is subject specific, for instance in my own subject Geography, just being able to go back and review the contents of the chat would be helpful for completion of link projects. Further to that, you are actually keeping evidence all the time should there be audit of your international education provision. I'm not sure how this would fit in with the International Schools Award, but it certainly couldn't hurt.

I wonder if anyone else has ideas as to how these or other applications could be used to help faciltate school linking? I was going to apologise to any students reading this post for its teachery nature, but then I reminded myself that its the holidays, and I can't imagine I'll be getting many visits (or making many myself) over the next six weeks... ;-)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Glaciation made easy

Categories: Glaciation
Hopefully, this powerpoint by Rob Chambers will fill in any blanks from our work on glaciation at Higher. Is it Friday yet?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Is this the right place?

Categories: Advanced Higher, Geography General, Glaciation

Having just watched a hugely boring game of football between Italy and Spain (had been really looking forward to it), it's now back to work, and thinking about tomorrow. I doubt from the incessant racket of rain from outside that I'll be able to take AH out, so I think tomorrow, I'll use the double period to do some map interpretation work. This is really the first time you'll have used an atlas with your O.S. maps. I was using Google Earth earlier looking at the site for T in the Park in Balado. I remember going to Balado in the first year after T in the Park moved from Hamilton and thinking how out of the way it was. I was reminded of this tonight and thought this might be a good starting point for map interpretation- Why did T in the Park move? Compare the sites and give positives and negatives for both. We'll use Google Earth, the atlases and some O.S. I know the answer, but I'm not telling...

Higher will begin with some images, hopefully be able to use Miss Green's whiteboard and copy the screen after labelling. We'll then do some diagrams, firstly for a landscape of glacial erosion, then for individual features - corrie, arete, pyramidal peak, u-shaped valley, hanging valley, roche moutonnee- probably taking us beyond this period. I'm adapting the speed dating for s3...

I'm kind of stuck with s2. I want to carry on researching your movies, but I'm also really keen to do some work with a class before the summer break for our Malawi link. I might then tomorrow involve you in an activity where you decide as a class the ten questions you'd like to ask those students in our partner school, which hopefully, we can then forward. I'm also keen to get a photo diary started which we can send to them, but this will require consents. I'll put this to the class tomorrow, and we'll see where we go from there.

Holiday head almost screwed on...

Categories: Urban, Geography General
One full week to go. I think both students and teachers are just about ready ;-) I wonder if , come Wednesday through to Friday, there will be a sudden bout of student sickness showing up here (thanks to Noel Jenkins). I noticed an unfortunate teenager not far from where I stay has the whole range of illnesses. I wondered what all the sirens were earlier...I am feeling pretty unusual myself as I find the urge to post a link from The Sun newspaper showcasing "wacky" Gerard Brion, who takes Paris models to a new level. Something for the incoming s3 to live up to. I wonder if Matt, above, remembers such detail in the places he visits, or if his intensive dancing requires too much concentration? (link)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Dating on Ice

Categories: Glaciation

Just an idea I've messed about with in the last year, making this a bit more of a formal exercise

Read this document on Scribd: Glaciation Speed dating

Summer Solstice soon

Categories: Atmosphere
Almost the longest day (felt like that today), so have a look at the daylight map, a find through googlemapsmania. You can see the lights on elsewhere while the sun always shines in Greenland...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

AH tweeting...

Categories: Glaciation, Environmental Hazards, Advanced Higher, s1 and s2
I replied to a comment from Ollie Bray yesterday, and almost as soon as I had realised that some of the problems with twitter that I was worried about were very easily resolved. Basically, I texted to my account in class today to show the students how simple the workings of twitter are, before starting them off on their own accounts, setting updates to private and letting their initial messages appear on my mobile in class. I think that the class can see how easy it would be to use this while out in the field, and most importantly, their messages don't show up in my page unless I'm signed in, guaranteeing their privacy from internet browsers and releasing me/them from the need to exchange mobile numbers. Look forward to piloting this and seeing how it goes. Might begin with Ardentinny weekend for students to get used to it. Back to maps tomorrow.
Enjoyed Higher and s3 today, both doing glaciation. I promise to return to Jeff D tomorrow, but liked this corrie sketch movie (thanks to Miss Green), and will use it tomorrow with my other s3. I think Jeff will help me explain plucking and abrasion...s2 will hopefully get started on movies research, maybe through classroom in a box, maybe the library. Loads of people going early holidays this year, so I'm already thinking we'd better cram as much as possible into this week :-0

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

On the Tyne (no fog)

Categories: Glaciation, Advanced Higher, Geography General
Tyne Bridge
Been down in Newcastle today at a course aimed at helping us set up and maintain our Malawi school link. I feel as if I have more ideas than when I went, but will actually have to be a bit ruthless as to which ones I take to the Head, as the link could become hard to manage. Passed the Tyne Bridge while, in true geography teacher tradition, getting lost, and enjoyed the train journey down through Edinburgh and along the coast. I'm on my way back freeloading on National Express's wi-fi :-)
Tomorrow, I have two doubles, one with Higher, and one with Advanced. With Higher, we'll be looking at the formation of glaciers, and you should know what some of the terms below mean now;
warm based
cold based
In case you don't, or simply can't remember, I'm going to use the Bosson and ask a few questions- How can the Bosson be advancing yet apparently retreating at the same time? If ice freezes to objects, then how can ice move? How can ice turn a corner?
Bosson 2008
I also used Alan P's year in the life last session as an easy whiteboard drag and drop, and will probably do so again, and providing I've enough left over from the Alps tuck shop, will again use Mars Bars to show ice movement, crevasse formation etc. Who knows, I may even throw in a good old fashioned chalk board diagram (can't think of another way to show a bergschrund). We should then be ready to look at glacial erosion, which should be the easy bit for most of you. I'll probably ask one of you to give me the formation of a corrie, intermediate style, so that I can show you how to get better marks for the same question at Higher. I'm also flagging up the Fettes website just now, as it's also about our case study area for rural land resources.
With Advanced Higher, I'm trying to get you started thinking about studies and issues much earlier this year, so thought I'd do Ollie's online handout with you earlier, and may talk to you about the use of twitter for fieldwork safety and record keeping while out and about. After doing this, we'll get back to some of the mapping I left you.
s3 are just about ready to start Glaciation, so will ask the Jeff Daniels question....more tomorrow

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Into the abyss...

Categories: s1 and s2, Glaciation, Environmental Hazards, Advanced Higher
I've stated before that the major thing about missing some time at school is that you never really know where your classes will be at when you return (despite the wwork you have left for them). I also hate improvising out of neccessity and would much rather have a safety net of a lesson beneath me so here are the plans for tomorrow:-
Advanced Higher - I feel that after last year, I'd like to get students thinking about the study and issues really early this year, so I'm going to pose a question tomorrow- If you could study only one geographical theme, what would it be? I want students to realise that AH is all about their choices and not a teacher led course. I'll then talk a little about course structure
Higher- Course structure, some work on weathering/ mass movements. Tempted to give out the Higher paper. After this year's Int 2, I'm sure some students would feel they had a better chance at the Higher!
s3- Quick revision of what's been done, some Alps chat (next group on the trip), and maybe a reprisal of last years glacial features exercise as a starter for the course
s2- I'm hoping there has been some movement on the Hazards work and that I can introduce the idea of a movie like two years ago. This will of course be much easier if classroom in a box has finally been sorted, as rumoured before I left for the Alps...

Alps Notebook

Categories: Geography General
Armed only with a phone and a memory like Swiss Cheese, I've attempted to chronicle our week in the French Alps, should act as a reference point throughout the year...
Sunday 8th June
Our trusty bus, Vivienne, and its drivers Terry and John ease us into Morillon around 1.30 pm. Having Miss Vollaire as a native French speaker makes our negotiations re: rooms etc with Jean Marc and the staff at Chalet des Pistes simple for once...

Chalet des Pistes, Morillon
With fire drills out of the way, its a quick tour of the village (decidedly cloudy today) before a visit to Lac Bleu, our leisure park for the week. Mr McKean provides the evening entertainment with his general knowledge quiz, with students happily displaying minimal geographical/ French knowledge ;-)
Monday 9th June
Up and out early for our first visit to Chamonix, a town we discover seems to have opened a week later (again) this year. The Montenvers takes us up to the Mer de Glace, which provides many of the students with their first real glimpse of a glacier. I think few of them realise the scale of this until we point out that the tiny black dots are people embarking on an ascent...
Mer de Glace from path descent
Unfortunately, neither the ice tunnels or the summer bobsleigh are open this week. However, the students seem to take this in their stride and head straight for the joys of McDonalds in Chamonix. Back to the Lac Bleu (torrential downpours not deterring our intrepid paddlers) and then a Euro 2008 spectacular. Magnificent face painting from Emma, Clare and Craig among others to get the party in the mood
Tuesday 10th June
On to Annecy, a place where I am beginning to think the sun always shines. Glorious weather yet again for our urban study. I take first watch at our meeting point as the other staff circulate the town, mixing shopping at the market with monitoring the pupils (who are shopping at the market anyway). Enjoy people watching, including a bizarre display of speed skating practise on very long roller blades
Lake front Annecy
In the afternoon, after a lazy lunch in the park, we're out on Lac du Annecy for some outstanding limestone scenery, paraglider heaven and a window on the lifestyle of the very rich along the shores
Lac du Annecy
Spot the Paragliders
Retail therapy and ten pin bowling follow, where Clare insists she's a novice while wrapping up the girls best score and Mr McKean prepares for a week of excuses for his non- performance... 'Disco' bus on the way home, where 'Ring of Fire', 'Amigo Charlie' and some woeful vocal performances entertain us.
Wednesday 11th June
The day it all goes wrong for me. We visit the Bosson Glacier, where again, the glacier snout is retreating rapidly. While we are at the viewing platform eating our packed lunches, a roar of thunder echoes across our head. As we anticipate the rain, Terry points out that the noise was in fact the side of the glacier collapsing. We see another couple of breaks as we watch global warming in action.
Bosson 2008
I make the biggest mistake of the week as I go back down from the glacier in the fast group. Paul W is down in 7 1/2 minutes. In my attempts to keep up, I put my legs in severe danger of non-use for the remainder of the trip. It is now Sunday and I'm struggling to bend my knees... Made worse afterwards when I attempt to play football and Roy, ehm, runs into my leg, which swells to double the size. The old pins are finally finished during silly games at night, including the 'bouncy'!
Thursday 12th June
Always my favourite day as we take our trip into Sixt fer a Cheval, which translates as 'horseshoe' , a direct reference to the fact we're walking into an enormous Corrie. Almost the whole physical element of the course could be taught in here, with braided rivers, intermittent limestone drainage, caverns, alluvial fans, hanging valleys, u-shaped valleys and just about everything else. Miss Beaton seems in a trance as we take in what's around us. The kids meanwhile head straight for the waterfall for a shower..
Waterfall Sixt
We all do our photos of groups etc and some of the staff indulge in photo opportunities too...
Me on the bridge at Sixt fer a Cheval
Afterwards, its back to the park in Morillon to reacquaint our party with the extremely jovial owner of the high ropes adventure park. Most of the students go for the 'black' course, which takes them about thirty to forty feet into the canopy and has some epic zip slides across the lake. The staff follow, petrified, as Mrs Lindsay photographs their cowardice from below
Me on High Ropes 1
Thursday night, as always, is disco night at the hotel, and Mr M gamely wrestles with the mixing decks, with every new tune being preceded by 'Amigo Charlie'. Mrs Lindsay threatens to storm the dance floor a few times, but fortunately, the pupils manage to keep it fairly full, with Miss Beaton and Miss Vollaire ably handing their frequent sorties to the tuck shop. An abrupt halt mid song brings the curtain down on our last night in the hotel
Friday 13th June/Saturday 14th June
Travelling on this most superstitious of days is fortunately a pleasant experience due to our wonderful drivers and a dose of pupil exhaustion. Melanie, with Sarah, Zoe and Jenny's help had earlier given a French thank you speech to hotel staff. Ferry early at Calais, where Craig's classmates rally round to buy him half the duty free shop for his birthday. I keep the gift and fall asleep, hence stopping the gift giving until the morning as opposed to midnight as planned. We get back home at 8.30 to the strains of '500 miles' , slightly less than half of what we've travelled in 23 hours. On reflection, it's been another great bunch of students and another fantastic trip. Thanks to all who participated!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Twitter with us on the Alps trip

Categories: Geography General

As suggested some time ago on these pages, I'm going to try to send some updates from my mobile phone in the Alps to let others know what we are doing while on our field trip. This is mostly borne out of frustration at last years failed attempts to moblog, which became a retrospective exercise. Although there will be no photos until we're back, I'll put all the trip images which don't include students onto my flickr page (badge in the sidebar here for quick access) and you'll hopefully see that the twitter updates badge is just above this. I'll put some things on this myself, but all things well I'd like to let some pupils use this too and it would be nice if parents followed the news.

Don't look down...

Categories: Geography General
Off on our annual trip to the Alps with s3 on Saturday. This will be strange as it's the first year I'll have accompanied pupils who I'm not teaching as third year hasn't been on my timetable this session. I always forget how much the organisation comes to a head in the last couple of weeks, and although the upper school is on study leave at the moment and classes are infrequent, I'll be glad when we are on the bus and the paper trail is behind me! I will maybe put a Twitter panel on the blog only for the duration of the trip so that people can see what we're up to.
Anyway, two things that caught my attention below. I actually had a couple of teacher's believing that this was me videoing our Alps trip from last year... Thanks to Val Vannet through sln for the instant vertigo below.

On a similarly hard to watch note ( but for very different reasons), boingboing highlighted a video on the national geographic website showing another painful tribal ritual, this time in Papua New Guinea. It has similar meanings to the hair pulling ceremony that the s1 always seem to 'enjoy', but I'd only advise that you watch this if you have a good constitution. It's always interesting to see students react to these ceremonies and examining the boundaries of what societies find acceptable.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Glass domes, island life and the pursuit of happiness

Categories: Geography General, s1 and s2

Have spent my evening being gladly distracted by children, books (both mine) and some TV when I could and probably should have been working hard on a number of things. How and ever, I've now had time to read some of my regular pages and found a couple of interesting stories. Apparently, Vanuatu is the happiest place in the world. I am sure those of you, who like me, feel broke all too often will be pleased to realise that this happiness is down to not having to worry about money... only because they don't need to use it. Everything that one would need to survive is right on your doorstep. For those of you who don't know where Vanuatu is, here's a placemark that you can open in Google Earth, thanks to Ogle Earth.In a similar vein, here's a Robinson Crusoe type story about an extreme survival trip, which I found through boingboing. Ironically, read this just after watching Ray Mears go walkabout in Australia with the ultimate survival expert, the bushtucker man. I think I'll maybe do something with my s1 about what makes a place happy on the back of the first story.

I kept the same channel on after this and have sat watching a programme about Wild China, followed by Dimbleby's Russia,on just now and one of the books which awaits me after my birthday recently. I seemed to get a load of books vaguely about Eastern Europe- Palin's New Europe and Football Dynamo are ones I've been dipping into today. It's kind of triggered a new interest in a geographical region that I studied intensely at University in the Politics part of my joint degree (the other part was geography...).

Finally, I've been trying to tidy up some of the s2 Environmental Issues unit during study leave, which borrows one or two of the great ideas from Daniel Raven-Ellison's scheme of work for sustainable development. I was reminded of this when watching the Simpsons Movie tonight (another gift) when a huge glass dome was placed over Springfield. This might be a good clip to use as an introduction when doing the City Footprint exercise next year. So, after a period of seemingly avoiding work, there's a couple of stories to get a class discussion going and a resource for future use. Result! :-)