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Messages - Des

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General Discussion / Earth: Time Lapse View from Space
« on: November 14, 2011, 10:43:09 PM »
The following is a link to a time-lapse video shot from the International Space Station.

It's just five minutes' long, but the footage is great (even if the music isn't). If you have ever wondered what the aurora looks like from above, then now is your chance to find out. I think the video is also good for highlighting the impact of people on the planet; many of the night scenes show the bright lights of towns and cities to dramatic effect.


General Discussion / Re: You need to read this...
« on: September 18, 2011, 05:41:27 PM »
Surely the Government aren't going to have the Geography curriculum written by some American academic????? Then again with this lot...  :(

At the risk of being pedantic, Alex Standish is a British academic working in the U.S. But the point is still a good one; American degree programmes still include plenty of regional geography, and some of the physical geography specialisms you'd expect to see in British Geography degree programmes are more typically found in geology programmes. In other words, the remit of Geography in the US differs somewhat from that in this country, at least in H.E.. Given these differences, I have some reservations about both the process and outcome so far.

General Discussion / Re: You need to read this...
« on: September 17, 2011, 11:32:24 PM »
Regional geography has more or less disappeared from geography degree programmes in the UK, but it is still quite common in the US where Alex Standish works...which presumably must have influenced his views. Although I do have a bit of a soft spot for regional geography from my student days, I'm inclined to agree with those who fear that its reintroduction has the potential to scare pupils off.

General Discussion / Re: Am I being too political?
« on: September 17, 2011, 03:37:59 PM »
Oh... I really don't like the word 'balanced', as it implies that equal weight needs to be given to both sides of the issue. Being devil's advocate is a good approach, and it gets across that most issues are rarely 'black and white.' But that's not an excuse for lots of sitting on the fence either!

General Discussion / Re: Subduction and Convection Currents
« on: July 20, 2011, 05:30:25 PM »
@ Matt Brown

Indeed, but for clarity I think it's helpful to distinguish two questions here:
1) What drives the subduction process?
2) How is subduction initiated?

For subduction zones, the consensus in the literature is that the process (including rates) is primarily driven by so-called 'slab-pull'. This is largely the result of the descending plate being denser than the surrounding mantle. In detail, other mechanisms play a part, too, but these are relatively minor in comparison (and in the case of mantle processes, quite complex). Rates of plate motion are highest for those with a subduction boundary (e.g. Pacific plates) and lowest for those without (the Atlantic plates are good examples). Obviously other processes are responsible for plate motion but, in the case of those with subduction zones, slab pull is far and away the most important one.

So how is subduction initiated? Unfortunately this is one of the most poorly understood aspects of plate tectonics theory. It is most likely to involve the build-up and and transfer of stresses resulting from plate collisions, such as the collision of Africa and India into Eurasia. The problem with the latter example, though, is that in 50 Ma or more worth of collision, there is still no sign of a new subduction zone being initiated.

This is not my specialism, though, and others may be able to provide more detail.

General Discussion / Re: Subduction and Convection Currents
« on: July 18, 2011, 08:35:15 PM »
I wonder what other topics in the GCSE (and other) textbooks are no longer up to date?

General Discussion / Re: Subduction and Convection Currents
« on: July 18, 2011, 06:16:55 PM »
Your son is correct  :)

Is it possible that pupils who are taught this (current theory) are disadvantaged when it comes to their GCSEs? I don't teach in schools and so don't really know how it works.

General Discussion / Re: Forum upgrade completed
« on: June 04, 2011, 05:53:06 PM »
Me too.

General Discussion / Re: Tagxedo....a bit like wordle but with shape
« on: June 01, 2011, 09:51:51 PM »
Silverlight is Microsoft's equivalent of Flash. I resisted installing it for long enough, but I eventually relented when I found I couldn't access a particularly useful site without it.

General Discussion / Canopy in the Clouds - new online resource
« on: January 23, 2011, 11:49:26 AM »
Some of you may be interested in the 'Canopy in the Clouds' online resource. It's about a tropical montane cloud forest and, as such, is a relatively specialist resource. Nevertheless, it represents a good example of virtual fieldwork, with plenty of interactive panoramas, videos and other learning materials. There are also loads of teaching plans, assessments etc. These are pitched at US schools and so might need some modification (I don't teach in schools so I cannot judge).

The Project Description from the site is as follows:

Canopy in the Clouds is designed to partner emerging professionals in science, photography, and cinematography to create the next generation of environmental outreach materials. The project seeks to:

1.Promote conservation through educational media delivered in an innovative and engaging manner.
2.Inspire young scientists by sharing our passion and excitement for carrying out science.
3.Engage people in the beauty, biodiversity, and importance of tropical montane cloud forests from the perspective of the forest canopy

The URL for the site is:

General Discussion / Re: Core Knowledge in geography
« on: January 18, 2011, 03:01:37 PM »
An interesting project! I have requested access to the online document.

Thanks, BST. And just to finish off, it is worth stating that many universities (half or more) ARE nervous about what will happen in 2012. Will demand be affected by the new fees? How will deregulation of recruitment (institutions will be able to recruit as many students as they want/can) impact on individual universities? Will students expect more for their money (even though teaching budgets will be slashed)? And to leave on a slightly more controversial note, what percentage of student fee income will be diverted to compensate for shortfalls in research funding? Interesting times...

@BST -   :) No, both had decent predicted grades.

Universities across the sector are confident that they will be able to fill all their places for September 2011 entry. In addition to enhanced demand resulting from people trying to get in before the new fees regime is introduced in September 2012, there are also plenty of good students applying who were unable to secure a place this year (often because they aimed high, but didn't quite make it...). The biggest challenge for most universities will be making sure that they do not over-recruit (and hence face financial penalties from the Higher Education Funding Council for England - HEFCE). One way to limit demand is by issuing offers at the top end of the advertised range. For this year in particular, universities may also change their entry requirements during the course of the recruitment cycle. I am deeply uncomfortable with this, but I did hear of a few universities doing this last year - presumably to deal with higher than expected applications.

So, in summary, there will be even more competition for places during this year's recruitment cycle than last year. Those most likely to lose out will be: (i) weaker candidates, with 220 tariff points or less; (ii) strong candidates who do well, but not quite well enough for their preferred university. As for universities, they will be okay - as long as they do not over-recruit.

And I've just read another personal statement that starts off with the same quote...
The applicants are not from the same school.

" 'Geography opens our eyes; a landscape is no longer a static feature, but a complex battleground of physical and human interactions.' (Tony Cassidy)'"

The above is the opening sentence in a UCAS personal statement I have in front of me. I think it is nice that this applicant is quoting a geography teacher rather than, say, Al Gore or Michael Palin.  :)

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