Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Changing Educational paradigms & the role of Geography

Many of you will have seen this though provoking video which has been making it rounds on the web. I am just posting it to remind us all of what can be achieved and changed!

Thoughts and comments welcome.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Invenite geographiam


Thanks for visiting my blog - jsbgeography. I am currently a geography teacher, educator and collaborator as well as writer when i find the time.  I am really interested in anything geographical and hope this blog provides a place for students, educators and all people with an interest to discuss, share and think about some of the local and global issues that are going on.

Please add a comment to any blog or just follow me on twitter @jsbgeography & check out my scoop it page to keep up to date on the latest geography in the news!

Also for a great starting point on the status of Geography check out the following link to Google books:

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Geography matters on Google Books: Doreen Massey

A classic geographical text for all students wanting to expand their horizons  by  a very prominent geographer.

Abandoned places...spaces or places?

Geographers quite rightly tend to be obsessed with the concept of place and space. I stumbled across a series of interesting images and the following question arose - when places become defunct* are they still places per se or  over time do they lose their human attachment and just return to ordinary spaces/landscapes? Do landscapes have a social or even historical memory and how long can this last before e.g. do humans always have to inhabit places for them to be called a place?

*due to a natural or disaster, quasi natural disaster or simply that it becomes abandoned due to an industry shutting down.

American ruins

Pictured: Ashley, Pennsylvania
The Huber Coal Breaker, built in 1938. “Other coal breakers have been demolished,” Yves Marchand says. “It really is the last of its kind.” All those windows were there to let in as much natural light as possible. Today they are target practice for stone-throwers

American ruins

Pictured: Port Richmond, Pennsylvania A generator stands like a sculpture. In its day it was one of the most powerful in the world. It was housed, Meffre says, in a room “built to look like the main hall of a grand city station”

Robert Polidori's photographs of Pripyat and Chernobyl. 
Robert Polidori's photographs of Pripyat and Chernobyl. 

Non cognito, ergo sum -the power of unthinking

Sometimes thinking is a bad idea, especially for teachers. I am sure we have all been there, a colleague, possibly HOD or even Ofsted inform you of an impending and of course necessary lesson observation. Consequently over the course of the next few days, despite your 'years of experience' or the fact that you are used to being observed (often as an outstanding teacher, of course!) you spend countless hours planning and re-planning, trying to create the perfect lesson. But of course, there is no such thing when one works with children of any age, even in one of the best schools in the country where behaviour management is of no concern at all.

Of course my point is that sometimes thinking or 'over-thinking' can be bad and counter-productive - thus there is case for unthinking

Unthinking is "the ability to apply years of learning at the crucial moment by removing your thinking self from the equation" (I.Lesile, Intelligent Life, June 2012). A fundamental paradox of human psychology is that thinking too much (over-analysing) can be a bad thing - one loses their spontaneity & natural flair. Lesile's analogy to illustrate his point is the following:

If a rat is faced with a puzzle in which food is placed on the left 60% of the time and on the right 40% of the time, it will quickly deduce that the left side is more rewarding. Young children adopt the same strategy. When Yale undergraduates play the game, they try to figure out some underlying pattern (over-thinking) and end up doing worse than the rat of the child.

Thus as teachers, I am sure, like me, some of your best lessons have been the ones in which you had a rough idea but no real definitive plan or set outcome. Currently i am experimenting in the classroom with what i call 'collaborative'  or 'pupil-led teaching': an image is shown on the board and the pupils decide upon the investigative questions they want to explore - i think this is a great exercise to 'show off' the very essence of what Geography is all about - a subject of enquiry.

Coming back to the original purpose of my article the question which still needs to be addressed is: "How do you learn to unthink?"

In my opinion for what it's worth I think that in an age of microblogging, instant communication and access to vasts amounts of information within a few clicks, we can tend to over-analyse and think too much e.g. books on what makes us happy and how to teach the best lessons can, sometimes at least, heighten the problem - in short we need to put thinking in its place and remember that as teaching practitioners some of the best lessons are those that occur when we simply do and don't think!

Original article posting is here:

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Game based learning

My most popular blog post to date was on Sim City and Rostow's model of development and the similarities between the two. The video below, focused on 'game based learning' reminded me of how important games can be in teaching and learning. Risk is a fantastic game to teach pupils about geopolitics, strategy, warfare, resource allocation, team work etc etc and likewise the inspirational teacher (John Hunter) who set up this phenomenal 4-tiered political science board game just shows a) how engaged pupils (even very young) can get and b) how they can grasp, comprehend and discuss big ideas and have a refreshing take in their common aim of achieving world peace.

My challenge to all the teaching practitioners out there is how could one replicate this in the classroom - could it be done on a smaller scale? There is plenty of opportunity for debate here and cross-collaboration between schools both within the UK and further afield.

Let me know your thoughts...

Everything which is bad is good for you

Everything Bad is Good for You by Steven JohnsonSteven Johnson has written an interesting book entitled, ' How everything bad is good for you' - the notion that popular culture is making us smarter.It is interesting to note the extent to which Western culture can be demonized and as pessimists moan about the state of TV programming and the rise of social networks, this book takes quite a refreshing approch - i know i will be ordering my copy on the Kindle1

The New Yorker sums up the book quite well here as does the Guardian

How to learn from mistakes and take risks...

Geography is all about asking questions, learning to enquire and investigate the world around us but importantly (and often forgotten) it is a subject which is based upon students making mistakes and challenges their pre-conceived ideas.

I feel this is a great (no, inspiring) video to make educators/teachers think outside the box - please post your thoughts on the content of this video and how as geographers we could implement the ideas in our day-day teaching! I would be interested in any ideas posted on class based examples.