Tag Archives: Prince’s Teaching Institute

Prince’s Teaching Institute: Day 2 lectures


Day 2 dawned with an excellent buffet breakfast in the dining hall – great way to set yourself up for a hard day using those little grey cells!

Alan Kinder : Curriculum change

Alan, Geography Association Chief Executive, was commenting on the forthcoming KS3 and KS4 curriculum changes and the debate surrounding this. He was able to provide the latest news on this as well as how the GA has been involved in the consultation. First came the stats : nationally, History uptake at GCSE has approximately 35’000 more students, and at A level ~20’000 more students choosing the option compared to Geography. He noted that the decline has plateaued out and there is evidence of some increase but still has concerns ; that there are some signs of growth but we shouldn’t sit still yet. So as Geography teachers who love our subject (and want to keep our jobs!) there is even more need to ensure we adapt and modify the curriculum to make it engaging and relevant to our students – what suits one school is different to another. And don’t forget the up side : Geography is still one of the recommended subjects preferred by Russell Group top universities and one of the most employable subjects for graduates because it is a facilitating subject.

So, following the curriculum reviews, the GA is arguing for renewed focus on subject rigour : improved locational knowledge, a better balance between physical and human Geog, a sound understanding of the how and the why of processes and how these link to people and place at different scales. Those involved in converting the curriculum into working schemes of work must bear in mind that (as ever) the framework is still skeletal and it is our responsibility as teachers to subvert and use professional judgment to make it appropriate.

At KS4 Alan suggested the 2015 GCSE changes will see greater emphasis on extended writing within the programme, and on the application of knowledge, i.e. students will learn about an example coastline and then be assessed on a different area, therefore will be examined in terms of applying their knowledge to an unknown place and not using rote memory 🙂 There are lots of concerns about the format that fieldwork and the examination of fieldwork skills will take with the move to terminal exams : that the proposed terminal fieldwork skills exam is not a good or thorough enough tool for demonstrating field skills compared to extended controlled assessments.

So the message sparked debate, of course, and is essentially that of business as usual ; teachers to take and subvert the new KS3 curriculum to suit, but that this will always be driven by the requirements of the KS4 curriculum since this is what we are preparing for

Christian Nold : Emotional Mapping

This was one of the main highlights of the whole residential. Christian was speaking about emotional mapping, producing sensory maps based on perceptions and human emotional response to places based on senses / feelings / thoughts. He mentioned an activity I’ve used before and found really useful and insightful: maps from memory. The idea is you are blindfolded (safely, in pairs!) and explore a place so you can focus on your other senses only, then create a map from memory. E.g. make a sketch road map and then write descriptions over it to demonstrate not only what the physical features are but how you respond to them (e.g. ‘Fast cars keep zooming past on the dual carriageway, I feel nervous, I smell coffee’).

Christian has adapted a GPS unit to include bio sensors / neurophysiological sensors to map physical reactions as you move through an environment. He then uses this to create a bio map after uploading the information to Google Earth and producing polygons / graph overlays from the sensor information. You then have a conversation to interpret this afterwards; e.g. where spikes on the graph occur you can unpick what happened there, or why you felt that way and how the place made you feel.

Christian has used to create an emotional topography for Greenwich peninsula, Paris, etc,. And also the sensory journeys project with schools www.sensoryjourneys.net


It is all about relationships between individuals and places, which you can scale up to include large numbers of respondents and then have enough data to assess patterns – then this may lead to rethinking how places / spaces are actually perceived (could then inform built environment & area planning). You can find more information in Alan Parkinson and Paul Cornish’s review book.


During the lecture I was introduced to the Fieldnotes app for recording data which is geolocated. This app is quite expensive (and you could use the alternative Maverick app for adding placemarks to GE instead which is free) but basically means you can add text, code, photos, videos and they are tagged to a geographical location. This information can then be exported (along with images) as a .kmz file to Google Earth and then used with GE graphs to produce graphs and then overlay graphs onto the GE file. This is great for showing relationships between factors, e.g. The perception of place compared to traffic congestion etc,.

We then followed this up with another highlight : field trip! As good geographers we were very happy to get outside. And it helped that it was sunny. We visited Cambourne and were set a GCSE enquiry style project to test how distinctive the place is. Some members of the team had the adapted GPS unit (which measured pulse and sweat production through a fingertip attachment) while others used Fieldnotes or good old paper to record things like traffic/pedestrian surveys, quality of infrastructure, how the place made you feel, etc,. We had an hour or so wandering around in a haphazard manner (including the obligatory coffee shop) and the information was then uploaded later to the GE files and discussed. Funny how every participant noted that their mood / sense of place improved significantly when coffee and cake was nearby 😉

The follow-up challenge for me as far as I’m concerned is to see if we can hack a GPS unit to do this ourselves – and this is a project for the autumn with the help of the twitter community of hackers! We have done sense of place mapping just on paper in the past, but we have a keen group of digital leaders who would love to have a go at making an actual piece of tech we could use in school – but with a budget of course.

Professor Jonathan Bamber : Climate Change

One of the things I liked most about the PTI residential was that the lectures were like going back to Uni! Reminding us that we are intelligent individuals. Or that’s how I felt anyway. It’s easy to only think in terms of school curriculum, and it’s important to keep ourselves fresh and challenge ourselves with up-to-date developments in our subject and to keep being learners ourselves.

Bamber updated us on the scientific community’s concerns regarding the increase in ocean acidification as well as ocean salinity, and the impact of reduced permafrost and polar warming (and the potential impact of these combined). He commented on the increase in biological activity following melting of permafrost, which causes an increase in methane production which is one of highest contributing greenhouse gases.

The influence of the Arctic ice melt is much more significant than that of the Antarctic and yet this remains a common misconception. The Arctic is melting more rapidly and having more severe potential consequences (in terms of affecting the thermohaline conveyor and more rapid Northern European glacial melt). There are approximately 250million people living within 5m of the sea worldwide, including major cities like NYC, and many marginal native communities as well as important resources found in Arctic regions that are at risk of the impact of melting.

Bamber noted that of the two main contributors to sea level rise it is a 50/50 balance in terms of impact: the thermal expansion of existing seas, and the influence of freshwater melt with subsequent influx to oceans. With 90% of all freshwater stored in Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets it is clear why scientists are concerned about ice melt (and remember that freshwater has a different salinity and density to oceans which has implications for the conveyor system globally).

His concluding concerns were:
– predicted risk of there being no Arctic sea ice in summers by 2020
– that Alpine glaciers will largely be gone by 2100
– the risk of permafrost methane ‘bomb’
– a relative sea level rise of approx 1m possible by 2100

So it was a really intense day! Full of mind-bending thinking as well as how we can embed these issues within the relevant curriculum. It’s about us being able to remain cutting edge and then adapt this to suit.

‘Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably why so few people engage in it often’ (Henry Ford)

Prince’s Teaching Institute : The Opening Keynote

Prince's Teaching Institute

The summer school residential was opened and introduced by Bernice McCabe, the course Co-Director and Headmistress of North London Collegiate School. She explained that the aim of the PTI is that of ‘inspiration and empowerment’ – and I imagine quite a few of us in the auditorium inwardly smiled. She also mentioned that the PTI, amongst other official teaching organisations, are pushing government for the creation of an autonomous Royal College of Teaching akin to the other colleges that other professions already have, something to represent the people. If you are interested in sharing your views on this, take part in the consultation here

After outlining the plan for the course we were handed over to Lord Peter Hennessy, an Historian and journalist who also teaches at the University of London. As such, he  described himself as ‘one of us’.  The title of his talk was ‘Never lose a holy curiosity : Or how to get out of bed on a wet Monday in February’. To be honest, he could have said ‘in June’ judging by the weather that morning.

The phrase ‘Never lose a holy curiosity‘ was spoken by Einstein. Hennessy suggested it could be a call to arms for teachers, a banner to unite under. I would have to agree with a lot of what he said, after all, if we lose our initial enthusiasm and love for our subject, for learners and for learning then we lose our ability to enthuse others surely? Isn’t it easier if students can learn by example? Be inspired by osmosis? There is a danger that is we do lose our holy curiosity that those that we seek to inspire will notice, and will be the poorer served by us because of it.

Hennessy set us a question : What does get you out of bed? It’s worth thinking of this often. And if it’s not that you love your job then maybe something needs to change. Some say that we work in order to pay the bills. Now while this is true (we all have to live!) I would suggest that if your only intention is to earn money, possibly teaching isn’t the best way forward! I took a pay cut when I first started, and it was because I love the job that I stayed. Far too much hard work, long hours, and emotional investment otherwise! Anyway, I digress. But I do think it is something to ponder. How to keep your curiosity and how to pass it on.

“In the cycle in which we travel, we can only ever see one fraction of the curve”. The trick for educators, and for the next generation, is how to be able to get ahead of the curve and to be able to cope with whatever unknown is found beyond it. There is a danger otherwise of being overly present-centred. Our curriculum, teaching style and schools need to bring the best of the past, blended with the present, and looking to the future. We often say how we are educating children for jobs that don’t even exist yet, and that in learners’ lifetimes these jobs and environments are likely to change even more – meaning it is essential that we can be flexible; can adapt ourselves, our teaching and our curriculum to suit, that we encourage and seek to engender skills and understanding as well as knowledge, that whole life soft skills are developed. The whole package. After all (to quote a friend), I’m a teacher of children, not just Geography 😉

It was pointed out that university teaching expects that students will be able to not just have knowledge, but be able to think critically, to form opinions and justify, to reason logically and argue a case, to collect and synthesise information – and to be able to do all this independently or work collaboratively. Now I’m not saying every student should go to university, definitely not. But I would challenge you to find an employer who wouldn’t also like their workers to possess this skills, and these skills are also essential for building positive relationships, being a responsible citizen.

Finally, Hennessy made a brief foray into the turbulent discussion on the role and format of assessment. And after airing his views on this ended with a thoughtful comment: that the best way to measure the success of learning is not a formative exam (this perhaps only measuring the success of short-term memory), but the sustained desire to learn. That if in years to come our students still have a desire to devote their time, money and effort to still learning then we will know we have been a success. If they still have their holy curiosity.

“History never repeats itself, but sometimes it rhymes” (Mark Twain)

Prince’s Teaching Institute Summer School – Introduction


This week I was fortunate enough to take part in the Prince’s Teaching Institute summer school residential for Geography, History, English and Languages. The PTI first started in 2006 to continue the work of the Prince of Wales’ Education Summer Schools and perform a CPD role. The focus is very much on reinvigorating teachers through experiencing academic lectures, keynotes, workshops…and providing amazing food in the beautiful setting of Homerton College, University of Cambridge.

Homerton College, Cambridge
Homerton College, Cambridge

The three day summer school (which runs for various subjects at different times of year) is very much run for teacher, by teachers. High profile, contemporary, leading edge academic lecturers provide a reminder of why we fell in love with our subjects and wanted to teach them in the first place – taking us back to the undergraduate days. Workshops provide time in smaller groups chaired by Teacher Leaders (subject specialist teachers who have taken part in the work of the PTI before and are coming back to offer expertise and facilitate / host). During these sessions (which were sadly, in my opinion, too brief) we had some time to share best practice which was excellent and insightful, and to reflect a little on the sessions we had seen and consider ways to utilise in school. We also had a field trip day (it is Geography after all). The days were very intensive; packed, insightful and intellectually stimulating, and each ended with a formal meal in the college Hall (with pre-dinner cocktails on the lawn of course) including an after-dinner speech by celebrity speakers – in our case Michael Wood & David Aaronovitch.

I came away from the event feeling uplifted and enthusiastic. Don’t get me wrong – I hadn’t been feeling ‘in a rut’ or forgotten my love of the job before, but I had been feeling overwhelmed by the day-to-day and increasingly apprehensive about taking over the department. So this was refreshing, a total immersion in just good positive learning. And you know how sometimes on courses you get the feeling that some colleagues don’t really want to be there (“Oh, I just got sent by my boss”), or you hear the cynicism in their tone (“It’s a lovely idea but that would never work in my school”)? Well there was none of that. Everyone I met was positive, excited, keen. They loved their subject but more importantly they loved teaching and learning. They were lifelong learners themselves. They were keen to try something different. Yes, we had differing opinions on the curriculum or the role of technology or what is the most important thing in school etc., but we all had a common purpose. The vibe was fantastic. It was cathartic for me personally as, having recently suffered a bereavement that has shaken me, being submersed in this delightful bubble for a time was great. So all that needs to happen now is for all those little bubbles of individual teachers, and the bigger bubbles of their departments, to all coalesce so that great teaching and learning is occurring consistently throughout. Not much to ask for huh? 😉

Ok, this post has already become longer than planned and I haven’t really said much. What I planned is to outline what I shall cover. There is simply too much to say in one post, and I need to get it all out. So I plan to break up the three days into separate posts.

1) The opening keynote by Lord Hennessy

2) The Pupil Panel discussion

3) Day 1 lectures: Professor Iain Stewart, Dr Kendra Strauss, Professor Hazel Barrett

4) Day 2 lectures: Alan Kinder, Christian Nold, Professor Jonathan Bamber

5) Day 3 lectures: Dr Jonathan Darling, Professor Klaus Dodds

6) The group workshops & reflections

7) The fieldwork activity & follow-up

8) The closing Educators questioning panel

Quite a lot to tackle then, so I better get started. I’ll finish with a quote from Prince Charles in the opening of the delegate pack:

“If the world in which our children will live is to be one in which truly civilised values can flourish it will need a breadth of knowledge and understanding of the kind that only a good, rounded education can provide”

Prince’s Teaching Institute – Mobile Device presentation

Prince's Teaching InstituteI’ve just completed the three day Prince’s Teaching Institute (PTI) residential subject Summer School at Homerton College in Cambridge. My mind is buzzing with the whole process and I shall spend the weekend writing pieces to reflect on it all. In the meantime, below is the presentation slides for a talk I was asked to give. It draws heavily on other similar presentations from David Rogers or both of us and was just to summarise the mobile@priory policy, the use of mobiles/technology/BYOD in learning, and to share some example activities. I’ve just added the presentation so that it is accessible to those who were there really, but if you want more information on any of the example activities shown in the slides then get in touch, or see my post on the Bett presentation here .

Cogito ergo sum (Descartes)