Edible Geography

 Student work  Comments Off on Edible Geography
Mar 122013

There’s been some brilliant outcomes from the somewhat vague homework instruction to sum up recent learning about coastal landforms and processes as a plate of food.

Kai went down the traditional cake route, we ate Matt’s tasty  rotational slumping Victoria Sponge in the lesson and Laura demonstrated many variations of Coast Toast.

Here’s Emma’s brilliant idea… from her new blog.

Georgia was a little more forthright with her plate of baked potato and sausage

sausage stack
I’ll add a link with some other examples as they appear online. The students are currently switching over to WordPress from Posterous.

I think it would be right and proper to credit Tony Cassidy who’s pioneering work with Angel Cake laid the mashed potato foundation for sausage stacks. Anarchic home educator friend, Mark Tanner took things even further with electrically conductive, edible circuit boards (part of his masterplan to teach 4 year olds to eat the rich?)

You win some, lose some Tube

 video  Comments Off on You win some, lose some Tube
Feb 172013

I’d lost a video I made several years ago to introduce my Safer City GIS activity. I’ve just rewritten this but probably won’t be sharing the new version to prevent more of this kind of thing… (though at last a credit has been added.) Anyway it’s good to see the video back again in all it’s embarrassing, Kenny Loggins enhanced glory, as I’ve had a lot of requests over the past few years.

Comic Relief have also been in touch over the Rich and Famous in the Slums video that I edited and uploaded to YouTube two years ago. Several people have asked me what happened to the video, and the charity have been kind enough to explain the reasons why it can’t be posted online (which were far from obvious in the initial, rather terse takedown notice they sent me.) Here’s the official statement from Aleks at Comic Relief…


The Famous, Rich and in the Slums programme was created in collaboration with an external production company in order to communicate serious messages and raise as much money as possible. The contributors to the documentary allowed their lives to be filmed in order to help us do this on the condition that it should only be used by Comic Relief in the UK. We therefore cannot allow the programme to be uploaded onto websites like YouTube.

If you would like a copy of Famous, Rich and in the Slums to use educationally within your classroom then we can post you a copy to use on the understanding that it is only used for educational purposes and will not be uploaded onto the internet.  As we are a charity we kindly ask that you consider donating £10-£15 for a copy which will go towards helping projects such as the ones seen in the programme. You can do so at www.comicrelief.com/donate

Best wishes,

Aleks Leimanis
School & Youth manager
Comic Relief

Self-guided virtual field trips in Google Street View

 Google Maps, Student work  Comments Off on Self-guided virtual field trips in Google Street View
Feb 152013

I’m currently seeing some excellent work by Year 11 students who used Google Street View to identify and comment on different features of the flood prevention scheme at Boscastle. With almost ubiquitous coverage of the UK, there’s lots of opportunities to set students off on similar virtual voyages of discovery.

The original task was set on my GCSE Posterous. Here’s a really excellent example of a finished piece of work by Rowan…

Feb 062013

Ofsted visited back in November. It’s fair to say it didn’t go well, and I guess at some point I’ll be compelled to write about the experience of working in a school in Special Measures. I was observed on day two after the management specifically requested that I was visited. The inspector spent quite a bit of time in the room, disappearing for 20 minutes and reappearing at the end of the double lesson to see the final outcomes.

Horizon Inspector

Horizon Inspector NJ 2012

I was truly proud of the students that day. We took over the Learning Resource Centre and prepared for an investigation into Henry VIII and his relationships with those around him. The students devised and put on a roleplay in the style of This Is Your Life. Roles were differentiated, the kids researched independently, coached each other for accents, wrote scripts and had great fun performing the final piece – which they directed entirely themselves. They paid little attention to the inspector who made copious note while giggling away in the corner.
I knew that the lesson had gone pretty well so I went for my “feedback session” fairly confident that I had done my best to represent the department and the School as a whole. Spirits fell at Mr Inspector’s somewhat ominous opening question… “I expect you thought that was outstanding”? After a few excruciating minutes, I learned that a couple of boys with genuine difficulties in behaviour had drifted off task for a moment. (The fact that that the same boys had produced excellent work and had found the confidence to act in front of the rest of the class was lost to the inspector.) The student playing the key role had been improvising joyfully and brilliantly throughout the final performance, but it was suggested that a second student could have been deployed in a support role. I pointed out that this was exactly what I had done (and had film evidence) I confess that when the class were called to order at the end of the lesson, I probably had to wait for a couple of seconds. This fact was picked up on.  Shucks.

The outcome of the lesson was Good. At the time I felt that I’d really let the school down. I was desperate to try and understand what more I could have done and particularly interested to know what Mr Inspector had been writing. A little research revealed that the Data Protection Act could be invoked to require Ofsted to release the evidence form used in my observation.

The procedure is very simple, and explained on the Ofsted site here. Simply email enquiries@ofsted.gov.uk and supply them with the following information…

Home address
Date of lesson
Time of lesson
Year group
Name of inspector
Details of lesson content

Include a photocopy of your driving license as proof of identy. There is no cost to you and the disclosure should take place within 40 days that Ofsted recieve the request. It’s important to do this quickly because the evidence base from a school inspection is usually destroyed six months after the publication of a report.
If one were feeling a little mischievous, and assuming that Ofsted inspect 6500 schools per year and look at around 30 lessons each time I calculate that if everyone took a couple of minutes to do the same, they’d be dealing with 250000 requests a year.

And here’s the actual Evidence form. I’ve read and re-read it. The focus was Challenge. I’m at a loss to understand how the challenge could have been higher, or that in reality I could ever teach better.


iPad shaker maker

 iPad  Comments Off on iPad shaker maker
Jan 312013

I use my iPad pretty intensively in the classroom, though as an Undistinguished Apple Educator, it tends to be plugged into the whiteboard via an old fashioned AV cable, streaming Spotify, rather than being deployed in high impact, outstanding feats of pedagogy. To be honest, most of the apps I tend to use have perfectly serviceable PC equivalents, though the iPad’s accelerometer does make it easy to replicate the function of a seismometer.


In a recent lesson I had introduced Charles Richter’s logarithmic scale for measuring earthquake magnitude. At this point, I’d usually reach for my iPhone, place it on the floor and invite the students to jump up and down in order to to illustrate how a seismometer works.

Today I used Seismometer 6th running on the iPad and plugged into the whiteboard. The app incorporates an alarm that can be set to different levels of vibration sensitivity. With the sensitivity  set to low, and the class gathered at the back of the room, the students found themselves unable to trip the alarm (as illustrated on the screen grab), no matter how much they jumped around. I let them take incremental steps towards the iPad until they were able to finally trip the alarm. This was an entirely unplanned discovery, but it worked well, emphasising the point that the closer one is to the epicentre of an earthquake, the greater the magnitude of shaking.

Another potential use of the app, is to monitor my old Shaker Maker activity to ensure that test buildings on a shaking table are subjected to similar amounts of vibration. It’s a great app for occasional use and at 99p is somewhat cheaper than the real thing.

bear house

Jan 192013

Year 7 have completed their landscapes in boxes. The creations ranged from amazing models of the local area to distant urban and rural scenes from diverse countries including Turkey Finland and Egypt. Look out for brilliant recreations of the Burj Dubai, the Glastonbury Festival and Pamukkale. The most innovative idea this year incorporated blancmange to represent glacial ice.

Work from 2012 and the background to this activity







Is the Earth overpopulated?

 Asides  Comments Off on Is the Earth overpopulated?
Jan 112013

Please take a second to answer the question I’ve set my year 9 class. Thanks to all those who’ve already contributed.

My Year 9 class is finishing off a sequence of lessons on the topic of population. To wrap things up, I’ve divided the class into groups and asked them to research the question of whether the world is overpopulated or not.

During the register I showed the class a similar graph to  one that featured in the first lesson. They had to figure out the translation from the Polish original.
We had a brief discussion about the concept of ecological footprints and carrying capacity (though I didn’t use that term) We calculated the ecological footprint of a member of the class.
I asked the question ‘Is the Earth overpopulated?” explaining that I had no idea what the answer was. The groups could answer the question in whatever format they choose, though I stressed the need for their opinion to be supported by facts.
To help them settle quicker, and to force a little accountability, I created some roles with badges made with the Big Huge Labs tool. Access to computers was restricted in order to encourage groups to devise more thoughtful questions for the Researcher.

Fortuitously, David Didau has been pondering on effective group work as I wrote this. I’ll refresh the post once the work is complete.