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A month ago, many geography teachers based here in the UK were devastated to see this message pop up on our Twitter feeds and emails:
For many, the GA Conference is a yearly pick-me-up. Not just for fresh ideas, teacher CPD and the latest research, but also for the geography community to get together and catch up, given that we come from all around the country and don’t get to see each other usually more than this once. But, everyone knows the decision was right and understandable, and of course, then the government made the COVID-19 lockdown pretty much compulsory. There will be no conference this year.
Well, not as we know it. The team at the Geographical Association were determined to put something in place – and now as I reflect at the end of day one of the GA’s ‘eConference’ 2020 – it’s clear it wasn’t just smashed together in haste just for appeasement nor out of a sense of loss. I have thoroughly enjoyed it. And the best thing? Having been streamed online directly through YouTube, the opening talks are immediately available to rewatch.
Opening Presidential Lecture: “Geography Really Matters” (Gill Miller)
Current GA President Gill Miller hit the perfect tone in the opening lecture. It could have been easy to allow the current circumstances to overwhelm the talk, not just COVID-19 but also international tensions, politics etc. But I felt Gill had the right dose of that while maintaining the bigger picture of why geography matters, now more than ever.
Gill did reference the coronavirus pandemic, as it is a perfect example of the interlinking nature of geography – and reminded us all that only two years ago the GAConf18 keynote speaker, Hannah Fry, talked about her work with the BBC on preparing for pandemics.
Panel Discussion: “Geography at Home”
With home-schooling and remote-learning replacing traditional schooling for the foreseeable future, this was a timely panel discussion conducted by Gill. The panel consisted of exceptionally experienced geography educators: Bob Digby, Alan Parkinson, Paula Owens and Simon Ward.
Those who know me very well professionally and personally know I wear my heart on my sleeve and I have no shame in saying that this had my heart pounding full of pride. The panellists not only represented the geography teaching community exceptionally well, but given the topic was mostly about supporting kids, parents and teachers who may be struggling during the lockdown, the panellists were positive, measured and grounded.
I strongly recommend that you share this talk with your friends and family who have kids, not just your colleagues. There are loads of good tips, words of encouragement and advice for parents as well as teachers. If any of you have any journalist friends, then this discussion needs to be picked up and amplified to a wider audience. I listened to this thinking this would be a brilliant podcast or radio phone-in.
Guest speakers: Patrick Rickles & Paul Rose
Either side of the panel discussion were talks by Patrick Rickles, who gave a fascinating insight into how GIS and geospatial data is used by government, and Paul Rose, a National Geographic’s Expedition Leader for “Pristine Seas“.
Reflection (virtual wine reception)
Admittedly, I’m suffering a little bit not being able to get out and about, and meet up with my dear geography colleagues. The conference is something I look forward to every year. So I put out this cheeky tweet – and was delighted that it led to some good-humoured banter and the virtual clinking of glasses! Do check out the responses and pictures for a bit of a giggle, but also to hear some people’s reflection of day one of GAeConf20!
And so, tomorrow the talks start – and I do hope for all the GA team’s efforts it goes well. I’ll be doing a talk at 11:30am for the ‘Beginning Teacher’ pathway, but also looking forward to the always-amazing TeachMeet – which is open to all. Do join us at 6pm BST…