Saturday 9th June
I have chosen to start my diary (or blog as it might now be termed in the technological age) on the Saturday before we returned to school. There is a good reason for this as I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a day’s play at the Edgbaston test match courtesy of the Old Salopians. The OS Birmingham branch had arranged to hold a day for former pupils and their guests in the new Edgbaston Terrace hospitality area.
A great day was had by all, including some 30 OS’s, 3 staff, 1 present pupil (my son) and various other guests including 5 RAF Chinook pilots, who were flying to Afghanistan this week (one was a brother of a recent OS). After two days of washout, we had a full day’s play and saw the West Indies inch their way to 280-8.
Sunday 10th June
The day before the half term started was spent doing preparatory work for this week’s teaching (8 Lower 6th lessons) and doing my preparation for my external marking commitment. I am a senior examiner for Edexcel for their A level Geography qualification. This time round I am doing 2 units: Unit 2 – Geographical Investigations and Unit 4 – Geographical Research. My Sunday morning was spent practising with the mark scheme and marking some 120 test items online to ensure that my marking was up to speed. Apart from 2 items (2 questions out of 120) was within 1 mark of the score given by the Principal Examiner, so reasonably pleased with myself. I then had to embark on marking another 120 items that had to be completed within 48 hours.
Monday 11th June
An early start (0545) saw me complete my 120 items by breakfast – I find that I can mark far more effectively in the morning than I can late in the evening and this is the pattern I tend to work to when exam marking ( I also mark January modules as well most years).
Teaching first lesson on Monday was a bit of a shock as I hadn’t taught a lesson since the Monday before half term, though I had spent the week improving my knowledge of Google Earth and Google Sketch-Up (more of which later).
After lunch I got the news that I could now do another 40 of each question that will probably take me until the weekend. The afternoon was spent invigilating a 4th Form Maths exam that was relatively straightforward, followed by cricket practice with the 1st XI, who I help coach and analyse their performances (as well as tweet the latest school cricket news -@shrschcricket).
Tuesday 10th June
Another early start – this time at 4.15, though not to mark but to catch a train to Birmingham Airport to catch the 8am flight to Dublin. After I had spent a month as an ‘expert blogger’ for Hodder Education’s Geography website in April, I was invited by Google to attend their Geo Teachers Institute that was to be held in Dublin and London in June.
After some surfing on the net, it soon proved that the cost of getting to, and staying in Dublin would be significantly cheaper than London in this Olympic year. So it was in Dublin that I arrived soon after 9am, accompanied on Ryanair by about 40 Roman Catholic priests from the Midlands on their way to an International Ecumenical Conference for the day. I knew that nothing would happen to the flight and I was comforted further when they were all on the same bus to the City Centre as well!
My course was not due to start until around 5.30pm, so with a few hours to kill, I went off to re-acquaint myself with Dublin. I was last here in 2007 celebrating a significant birthday, before the banking crash. Then the city was a jungle of cranes (as seen from the vantage point of the Guinness Brewery); today many of the building projects have been finished but depressingly few of the office building seem to be occupied. My hotel is near to the Google complex in the Dublin Docklands and this area has undergone a massive transformation, similar to Canary Wharf. I snapped many photos that will feature in my talks and lessons about Urban Regeneration.
I eventually wound up in O’Connell Street and once again checked the General Post Office for the bullet holes left from the 1916 Easter Uprising, before repairing to a watering hole to take a small sample of the delights of Dublin’s finest and grab a sandwich. I had a brief walk around Temple Bar, Trinity College and Grafton Street, picking up some items that I was allowed to carry in my hand luggage. I am also fascinated my mass rapid transit systems, so I walked back to Tara Street and caught the DART (a tram that runs on rail tracks) back to the Docklands and my hotel to get ready for the course.
Wednesday 13th June
The day started early with an 8am start, fortunately the venue for the course was opposite the hotel in one of 4 office blocks that Google occupies in the Grand Canal Dock area of Dublin. Here I was introduced to the Google way of doing things. On every floor there were fridges stocked with healthy snacks and soft drinks, coffee machines and ‘chill out’ areas. These had bean bags and a different theme on each floor (see photo). The ‘music room’ that I saw on a later tour had guitars and a drum kit.
The first day was about Google Maps and Google Earth and we had various speakers and instructors covering different aspects and elements of the two applications. They came from as far away as Alaska and San Francisco, while the participants were from Ireland, Eastern Europe, the UK, Canada and the USA.
A colleague from the Geographical Association was also on the course and we spent the evening discussing a collaborative project that we are working on together. This was done obviously taking in a tour of Dublin City Centre, sampling Dublin’s finest export.
Dublin seems a lot more cosmopolitan than on my two previous visits. Last time I was here was at the start of the Eastern European Diaspora, but now there seems to be a lot of foreign students – many from South and East Asia, Africa and the Middle East. The Eastern Europeans are still here and appear to be most of the people employed in retail and tourism – an excellent geographical case study. This seems to have had a beneficial effect on the city as the number of ethnic restaurants has definitely increased. This has only confirmed my opinion that Dublin is still my favourite European city, even though it reminds me of Liverpool a lot!
Thursday 14th June
Thursday morning was spent looking at SketchUp, a design application that can be used for drawing 3D objects such as buildings that can be manipulated to place into Google Earth using photo-realistic imagery from Google Street View. After designing a barn (it should have been a kennel) and doing a 3D model of a Washington DC fire station, I felt happy that I had mastered SketchUp!
The afternoon was spent looking at advanced features on Google Earth, including programming that left my head spinning. The last hour was spent looking at other Google products such as Google Art Project – rather like Google Street View but for art galleries. Its worth checking out!
All too soon the course was over and I was on a coach heading out of town for the airport, along with about 1 million Dubliners who had the same idea to get home early to watch the Spain vs Ireland game. My flight back to Birmingham was trouble free even arriving ahead of schedule, though Arriva Trains Wales weren’t quite as efficient as Ryanair and after a cancelled train; I eventually made it home by 1am.
Friday 15th June
Friday was far more mundane and much more like a normal day, a double Lower 6th lesson and two lots of exam invigilation before cricket practice after school and evening of external marking.
Saturday 16th June
Overnight rain on Friday night that followed the deluge on Thursday put the school cricket in danger of being called off. Very early on, the away matches in Manchester were called off and the start of the 1st XI, who I work with, was delayed to 2pm. The later start enabled me to catch up with some admin, have a more leisurely lunch and be ready to greet our visitors, Manchester Grammar School (one of my previous employers!)
In the event, we lost the toss and made 208-5 off our allotted 40 overs in bowler friendly conditions and showers curtailed their innings, so they only faced 30 overs. As the school’s cricket analyst I was tasked to come up with a suitable target. We agreed a revised target of 157 (Duckworth-Lewis tables suggested a higher target and we felt that a lower total would be better, so simple run-rate calculation was made.)
MGS crawled to 101-5 and a win by 55 runs was duly recorded to maintain our excellent record, though sterner challenges lie ahead in the last few weeks of term.