A workshop from the 'post-modern' group John Morgan introduced a 16-19 level activity about the Monsanto Issue. It used texts for inquiry and values inquiry and developed a post-modern approach.
The texts are 'second-hand' and highly mediated, and the students are encouraged to ask critical questions about power e.g. Monsanto's web site uses advertisements that transmit MNC's power.
The wide range of texts suggest there is no one 'reality' to the Monsanto Issue.
Students de-code the messages in the text - which shout loudest? What perspectives are missing? Who produces/reads the text? What links have the texts to gender/class/race? John Huckle provided an example of possible work with KS2 students on Disneyland and its construction of nature. This 'hyper-reality' dissolves authenticity and continuity.
Discussion of these activities led to further clarification of the way "texts" position the reader in the world, and how post-modern approaches lead the students to challenge the "modern" assumption that beneath the images there is a "truth" or reality to be searched out.
All the texts may have equal worth or worthlessness.
References: Adam Lent, "The New Politics", Pluto 1998.
Shirley Steinberg and Joe Kinchelar, "Students as Researchers: creating classrooms that matter", Falmer Press, 1998 Saturday morning Presentations by groups Children and learning group Linda Thompson and John Morris reported on work in progress questioning students about school geography and abut their needs and preferences.
Results so far gave rise to discussion about the place of such questioning - it should be standard practice followed by de-briefing and discussion with the students, and was valuable educationally to broaden their perspectives and make the teaching and learning aims and strategies much more explicit. This work is continuing.
Alternative texts group Susan Bermingham reported on a scheme of work with Year 8 students using sets of photographs as alternative texts. Contrasting photos of Sao Paulo and then 'negative' images of the students' home town were explored and questioned. Discussions were concerned with where these places were, what are they 'really' like, who took the photographs and why. The students began to critically deconstruct the images.
Sophie Yangopoulos, unable to be present at the last minute, sent ideas and commentary on work about the issues of overseas aid, using alternative text, including cartoons, from groups with various views and positions on "aid".
Concepts group John Hopkin reported on work by Lucy Kirkham, Margaret Mackintosh, Jeff Serf and himself on the concepts central to several 'other' educations and their overlaps with school geography.
"Dialogue" group Roger Carter reported on progress setting up discussions between people from different phases and sectors of education, for publication in Teaching Geography.
Other work in progress Chris Durbin reported on "GeoVisions in Staffordshire" and his work with Staffordshire teachers. Many ideas for developing the spiritual dimension in school geography arose. Fundamental to work of this kind is the release from central control in the classroom for times of silence, stillness and thought.
Simon Chandler from the "Thinking Skills" project in the North East gave us a summary of the activities of their ongoing group of about 18 teachers based partly on David Leat's work. There are many points of contact with GeoVisions approaches. Reference: David Leat (ed.) "Thinking Through Geography", Chris Kington Publishing, 1998.
Saturday afternoon The last part of Saturday morning and the afternoon session were devoted to discussion of the future.
After April 1999 the priorities of GeoVisions should be: a] completing work and tasks begun, and making the results of these accessible to as many geography educators as possible;