Monday, October 09, 2006

An Article for the Pilot Newsletter

There are now over 70 schools where the Pilot GCSE is offered. I am aware of some of these, and am particularly grateful to Tony Cassidy and to Bob Lang for sending materials from their schools, and to the Geography departments of a number of Norfolk schools, including Notre Dame, Rosemary Musker and Thorpe St. Andrew School and Jonathan Hooton. However, I am still hopeful that there will be more schools who will get in touch, and get involved by blogging their progress or sharing their ideas.
Below is the text of an article I wrote for the Pilot Newsletter, which is published and distributed to all the relevant schools.

Pilot GCSE and

In 2000, I had an idea for a website. At that time, there were few specialist UK-based Geography education websites other than David Robinson and David Rayner’s. The original aim for the site was to store all the links I came across in my searching for web-based content, so that I would always know where to go. Each major topic had a page. As I found new material, or created a resource, I started to add it to the relevant ‘Geographypage’ and the website grew.

In the first year, my hit counter registered 1000 visitors (most of them me to see whether the hit counter had moved since I last visited), but over time, the site started to become more popular. It was listed by Google, and I started to add links to the growing range of Geography sites. I added some research findings, photo galleries, lesson plans, newspaper stories and schemes of work. The main aim of the website is to promote online collaboration: to save teachers ‘re-inventing the wheel’.

In recent years, I have received two Innovative Teaching Grants from the Royal Geographical Society to develop projects: one on blogging, and one on Google Earth and its applications in the classroom. These have fed into the growth of the site, which served half a million page views in 2005, and had 150 000 visitors in the first 2 months of 2006.

In November 2005 we heard that we had been successful in applying for the Pilot GCSE Geography course. I added a series of Pilot GCSE pages and started to trawl for other materials. I put out an appeal for resources to all the schools which were accepted on the 3rd tranche of the Pilot and received some interesting replies.

The Pilot GCSE requires the production of a range of new resources, although one aim of the new PILOT GCSE is to reduce the burden on teaching content. For me, the challenge is to introduce a creative range of new resources to facilitate students’ learning, while at the same time encouraging collaboration between schools.

The Staffordshire Learning Net has been a source of inspiration for many years, and there have been a number of threads on the Forum already relating to the Pilot.

I know that there are already many other schools who are sharing their resources. I would particularly like to mention Jane Watkins and colleagues at Notre Dame High School in Norwich, who presented a session at a recent network meeting I attended.

The Geographical Association has also been quick to support the Pilot GCSE course, adding many resources and ideas. They also sell the Cape Farewell resource: a ready-made scheme of work for the Extreme Environments topic.

Over the next 6 months I shall be adding resources and links to the relevant pages of GeographyPages. I would be happy to host any resources you feel able to share, or add links to websites which you find useful. I am looking forward to working with everyone, and to experiencing the surge in student interest which everyone involved with the Pilot has told me to expect.

Weblinks – the home of GeoBlogs and MiniGeogs Dame High School in Norwich – Tony Cassidy’s ‘Aladdin’s cave’ of creativity - the key online resource for Geography teachers - Geographical Association site, which features lots of excellent resources produced by Paula Cooper at King Edward VI 5 Ways school in Birmingham

A Parkinson is Head of Geography at King Edward VII School, King’s Lynn, Norfolk. He is a GA Teacher Consultant and a member of the GA's Secondary Phase Committee.


Zac Fountain said...

i think your blog is very interesting and contains a lot of information about the topics we are doing this year.

GeoBlogs said...

Thanks Zac. Good to see you reading through some of last year's posts.
Hopefully it will help when you get to the coursework stage.