How we use Facebook

This post was prompted by #GeoEdChat this week where many of the participants used social media with their classes but I was the only one using facebook.

Our Department facebook page was started in 2009 (2 years before I joined the school). This decision was made as our students were already all on facebook so it provided a ready means of communication. The page was created as a person that they could become friends with. Students could then share field trip photos by tagging us in or posting on our page. The Department could also communicate with students with important meetings set up as events, reminders about forms as our status and an easy way to share resources such as links to revision videos. Students have also used it to ask questions when studying at home and requesting extra tutorial sessions. This page has also helped with students who want to be friends with teachers online. It provides a way for them to get that interaction without getting access to teachers personal holiday photos etc. Continue reading

Why are concepts important?

I have been having some great discussions this week with Stephen Matthews (@srmdrummer) around teaching geographic concepts that have made me revisit my philosophy and teaching approach. This video of Sir Ken Robinson talking about subjects as disciplines provides a good example of the discussions we have had:

I believe that Geography is concerned with social issues and that geographic educators should be equipping their students to take action in society. Increasingly global issues such as climate change, globalisation, sustainability and social justice are making headlines and Geography should assist students with their understanding of these issues. Continue reading

Geographic Concepts

Step Up 4: Miami Heat (2012) Poster

To introduce my Geography classes to our key geographic concepts we have watched Step Up 4: Miami Heat (called Step Up Revolution originally) this week.

Before watching we did a concept and definition mix and match activity where the concepts and a definition were on laminated cards. Once all pairs/groups had sorted the definitions together the students wrote the concepts down in their books leaving about 3-4 lines after each one. Continue reading

Geographic Significance of Current Events

Had my second lesson of the year with my Year 11 Geography class today so decided to introduce them to the idea of geographic significance at the same time as doing some basic world mapping.

I gave the class a blank world map and brought up the World page of the New Zealand Herald website on the screen. First of all we read the introductions to each story locating and labelling the countries involved on a map for a bit of basic world geography (amazing how many students know the names of countries in the news but have no idea where these are e.g. Syria, North Korea).

Next we discussed the criteria for geographic significance that we would use to differentiate between the stories:

Criteria for Geographic Significance

Criteria for Geographic Significance

These criteria were obtained from Teaching about Geographical Thinking by Kamilla Bahbahani and Niem Tu Huynh.

We then read back over some of the stories collaboraitively sourcing examples of stories that demonstrate each of the criteria well. Students then had to choose two news stories that they felt are geographically significant and justify their decision.

Will pick this up over the rest of the year with getting the students to source information about geographically significant events as I feel this is incredibly important in helping them to develop the ability to think geographically. We will also use this to help decide which case studies we will focus on in our various topics this year.

Getting to know your learners

Mark Osborne made a comment at ICOT that “Each year your class are different so your lessons should be different.” I have kept that in mind as my first classes approach this year and tomorrow I meet my 4 classes for the first time. Here’s how I will start to find out about the learners in my classes this year. Continue reading


I may be biased but I feel that #GeoEdChat may be the best innovation of 2013 (well maybe so far!).

Based upon the large range of twitter chats that already occur, a group got together, led by Dan @RavenEllison to fill the gap in Geography chats.

A website has been set up ( and the chats will be hosted in a different timezone/region  each week so all parts of the world gain equal access.

A moderator takes control for each week and sets a poll of topics they are interested in. A week before the chat they will post a blog on the website with their thinkpiece to stimulate the chat when it occurs.

The first chat is happening 8pm London time February 6th and will discuss how geography can be at the centre of your school. The thinkpiece for this is by David Rogers, who will be moderating the chat, and has just been posted online now for reading and discussion beforehand. Have a read and then vote in the polls for the upcoming chats.

Intro week activities

The following are some start of year exploration activities that I am integrating into my Introduction to Geography and Social Studies lessons over the first 2 weeks of school this year. Many of these activities were inspired by the Hangout for Geography Awareness Week which focused on exploration.

Continue reading