#GeoEdChat 1: Putting geography at the centre of your school. A think piece by David Rogers.

The inaugural poll has closed.  The first #GeoEdChat on the 6th February will discuss how geography can be at the centre of your school.  The purpose of these ‘think pieces  is to provide some food for thought and a context on which to centre our discussions.  Feel free to add comments below.  This post is here to provoke reaction, generate discussion and get your goat up!

I’ve been teaching geography for almost ten years now and leading Priory Geography for five.  I’ve attended many CPD events, conferences and subject association meetings where the general consensus is that geography is being marginalised in schools.  My argument is that this is usually down to inaction within schools on the part of geography departments.

Let me explain.  If we are to move back into the spotlight, the fight is on two fronts.  The Subject Associations need to convince the politicians and policy makers that our subject should be on the curriculum.  In my view both the GA and RGS are doing a fine job at this scale.  The second front is to win the hearts and minds of our students, parents and leadership teams.  We can only do this through strong leadership from geography teachers at school level.  We need to win one school at a time.

At our school, geography has gone from a marginalised subject to one of the leading subjects in the school.  We deliver more progress, provide more opportunities for our students and are involved in whole school changes.  We weren’t asked to get involved and we didn’t ask for permission. We got on and did, employing a wide range of Guerilla tactics, subversion and sound curriculum design.

Our GCSE numbers have risen from 21 students in 2008 to 100 students in 2012.

We have been proactive, putting our necks above the parapet and being geographers driving change.  In the past five years, we have:

  • Produced a school wide mobile device policy;
  • Run the digital leaders programme;
  • Taken over BBC School Report;
  • Engaged teachers from across the school in guerilla learning and use our school grounds;
  • Gotten pupils, teachers and artists to co-plan lessons;
  • Led whole school off-timetable enquiry days;
  • Enabled children to develop campaigns and manifestos calling for school changes…

I could go on.  Most importantly, we transformed the curriculum so that most of our young people love geography, and let everyone know about it.

My message is simple: geographers need to be proactive, shake up the apple cart and get serious.  Or, allow the continued fossilisation and marginalisation of our subject by staying quiet.

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Welcome to #GeoEdChat

Welcome to #GeoEdChat, a new project to improve geography education through conversation.

Everyone who is interested in improving geography education, teaching and learning is welcome to join in. It’s our intention that #GeoEdChat will cross, shape and create  professional and geographical frontiers, resulting in new ideas, critical thinking and shared best practices.

Geography education, teaching and learning is of vital importance not only for individuals, but communities at all scales around the world. From finding the best place to eat, sleep, hide, find work, dance, give birth or be safe, to understanding the patterns and processes that affect and interconnect people, places, markets, habitats, cities, wildlife and ideas, good geographical thinking helps us to make sense of things and solve problems. By improving geography education we can make our lives and the planet better; a strong argument for geography and developing a #GeoEdChat.

Each Wednesday on Twitter using the hashtag #GeoEdChat, we’ll focus on a different topic that will be mediated by a different person. It will also take place in one of four different time zones so we can get as many geography educators involved as possible.

  • 20:00 London (UTC 0)  1st Wednesday of each month
  • 20:00 New York (UTC-5) 2nd Wednesday of each month
  • 20:00 Dhaka (UTC +6 3rd Wednesday of each month
  • 20:00 Sydney (UTC +10) 4th Wednesday of each month

This effectively means that #GeoEdChat will only take place in ‘your region’ once a month, but we’d encourage you to try and make the others if you can. You can see a break down of future chats and times as and when the take place here.

Each chat will consist of four stages that our moderators will guide us through.

  1. Vote #GeoEdChat community votes on the next topic for their time zone
  2. Blog – The guest moderator posts a “Think Piece” on this site
  3. Chat – #GeoEdChat on Twitter, led by the guest moderator in their time zone
  4. Blog – The moderator posts a #GeoEdChat summary

Click here to find out more about becoming a moderator of a future chat.

The first #GeoEdChat will be mediated by David Rogers, my friend and partner in guerrilla geography who describes himself on Twitter as a “Dad, Husband, Associate SLT, Head of Geography, Runner, Mission:Explorer, Adventurer, Author, Pedagogic Trouble Maker, Geek”. David teaches young people aged 11-16 and is a prolific geography education blogger. His first of three blog posts will follow this one and will ask you to vote on what the first #GeoEdChat should focus on. Please do have your say.

#GeoEdChat is an initiative that has been started by The Geography Collective. We do hope that other organisations around the world will support this effort and offer to become involved.

Please do help to make this experimental project a success by joining a chat.

Daniel @RavenEllison