Sunday, August 16, 2015

The politics of geography curriculum

Related links to Spatialworlds
GeogSplace (a teaching blog for Year 12 geography)
Spatialworlds website

Australian Geography Teachers' Association website

The politics of curriculum still continue, with geography the "meat in the sandwich".

A previous Spatialworlds posting highlighted the challenge to humanities education in our schools - it seems that the debate is to continue in Australia.

Here are two very different stories about geography and its importance and place in the curriculum.

The negative story from Australia

 There should have been outrage about the proposed changes to the Australian Curriculum: Geography and the sense of pride in the story that we are getting back to the basics and not wasting time on 'fluffy' and useless subjects like geography. Again, humanities education is seen as a 'fringe dweller' of the real curriculum!

"History and geography will be scrapped as separate subjects in the new national primary curriculum and a new Humanities and Social Sciences subject will merge the existing topics of history, geography, civics and citizenship, and economics and business into a single learning area".  The back to basics focus will involve "Schools being mandated to teach phonics style reading as part of the curriculum."                                                                                               The Australian 8 August 2015    

The positive story from the UK

After the rather 'back to basics' and uninformed coverage in the Australian papers last week re: the changes to the Australian Curriculum: Geography, it was somewhat affirming to read the following editorial from The Guardian on Friday 14 August 2015. The Editorial provided data on the growth of geography as a subject in the UK and succinctly advocated for geography as a 'must-have subject' in the curriculum. It would be great to read such a positive article in the Australian media about geography in the curriculum.


The Guardian view on geography: it’s the must-have A-level

 From the Guardian on 14 August 2014

It used to be a Cinderella subject. Now, in a world that increasingly values people who can work across the physical and social sciences, geography’s all the rage

A star is born. Geography, for so long a Cinderella subject, the easy option for students who found physics or chemistry too daunting, is soaring in popularity. According to the Royal Geographical Society, 13% more took the subject at A-level this year than last, up to 37,100 – the biggest jump of any of the major subjects.
Part of the explanation is Michael Gove’s determination to make schools focus on more traditional academic subjects at GCSE and A-level, rather than general studies or critical thinking. That is good for those who can benefit from a narrower academic focus, but not so much for those who struggle. It may be, however, that the bigger reason is that geography is a subject for our times. It is inherently multidisciplinary in a world that increasingly values people who have the skills needed to work across the physical and social sciences. Geographers get to learn data analysis, and to read Robert Macfarlane. They learn geographic information systems. They can turn maps from a two-dimensional representation of a country’s physical contours into a tool that illustrates social attributes or attitudes: not just where people live, but how, what they think and how they vote. They learn about the physics of climate change, or the interaction of weather events and flood risk, or the way people’s behaviour is influenced by the space around them.

All these are not just intrinsically interesting and valuable. They also encourage ways of seeing and thinking that make geographers eminently employable, which is why, according to the latest information from the Higher Education Careers Services Unit, only 5.8% of geography graduates were still job-hunting six months after they graduated, against an average of 7.3%. So, year 9, globalisation: good or bad? And for whom?

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Locating in South Australia

 As the publicity blurb goes:

"Have you ever wanted to know where your nearest shipwreck is, or every earthquake location in SA since 1836? Maybe you want to check the high school zone of a house you want to buy … or want to know where the closest walking and bike trails are?  Or you know someone who wants to start a business on a road that has high traffic volume? You can check all of these things and more from the Location SA Map Viewer."

This brand new website (launched on June 28th, 2015) is a great resource for teachers in South Australia wanting to use spatial technology, combined with interesting local data -  however for spatial analysis purposes the site is highly relevant to teachers outside of South Australia as well. The wide range of Government spatial data has been combined on a single website, allowing easy access to everything from public transport to planning development zones and Marine Parks in one view. Location SA has data on landscape and water resources, environment and climate, land management, infrastructure and utilities, business and industry, society and events, and emergency and safety. The viewer can also be viewed as a road map, topographic map or satellite image.

The Location SA Map Viewer is part of the South Australian Government’s plans to proactively release data and make South Australia the best place to do business. Approximately 160 government data sets are currently available to view on the Map Viewer and more will be added soon.

This site is just another example of how spatial technology and associated data is becoming accessible to the classroom by being free, user friendly and visually uncluttered and attractive.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Economic thinking and geography

                                                                                         Copyright: Malcolm McInerney 2015

Image above: Thinking economically through the economic concepts of the Australian Curriculum: Economics and Business (not official ACARA work)

Related links to Spatialworlds
GeogSplace (a teaching blog for Year 12 geography)
Spatialworlds website

Australian Geography Teachers' Association website

Economics in geography

When writing the geography curriculum numerous discussions occurred on the need to have a commensurate amount of economic geography in the curriculum.  Lead writer Alaric Maude, a strong advocate for the economic branch of geography, highlighted the importance of students gaining an understanding of the economic aspect when studying geographical issues, events and phenomenon.  Whilst some may think economics is not geography, it certainly is a critical component of geographical thinking, whether studying development, industry, environmental protection, energy etc - in fact almost everything a geographer explores has an economic aspect. With the subject of Economics and Business as part of the HASS learning area it is certainly opportune to mention the integration possibilities of economics with the geography curriculum.  

 An Economics and Business Concept Wheel (not official ACARA work)

Just as is the case with the Geography curriculum, seven concepts can be identified as the 'thinking' core of the Australian Curriculum: Economics and Business. The concepts of Resources, Consumerism, Market, Globalisation, Choice, Work and Opportunity (and their embedded concepts as shown in the wheel below) can be seen throughout the Economics and Business curriculum and certainly resonate with the economic sustainability thinking in the geography curriculum. Whilst a work in progress and not official ACARA work, teachers are finding that the concept wheel below is an interesting way to conceptualise the Australian Curriculum: Economics and Business and to integrate the economics curriculum into the geography curriculum as they develop their learning programs. 

                                                                                                      Copyright: Malcolm McInerney 2015

At this stage it is worth looking at a definition of economic geography and see the synergy between economics and geography and that when thinking geographically it is impossible to not think economically.

Economic geography is the study of the location, distribution and spatial organization of economic activities across the world. .Economic geography has taken a variety of approaches to many different subject matters, including but not limited to the location of industries, economies of agglomeration (also known as "linkages"), transportation, international trade, development, real estate, gentrification, ethnic economies, gendered economies, core-periphery theory, the economics of urban form, the relationship between the environment and the economy (tying into a long history of geographers studying culture-environment interaction), and globalisation.

The Geography and Economics synergy
Whilst on about economics and geography the following information/resources are some good examples of how we must talk about geography when talking economics and vice versa.

* The top global economies: the world is a-changing

Just to get thinking going and elaborate my economic ignorance, this article from the Bloomberg Business site on the 20  fastest growing economies in 2015 was worth showcasing.

 The the 20  fastest growing economies in 2015

Summary of information:
Emerging markets in Asia and Africa still reign supreme: They're at the top of global growth projections over the next two years.
The world is expected to grow 3.2 percent in 2015 and 3.7 percent next year after expanding 3.3 percent in each of the past two years, according to a Bloomberg survey of economists. China, the Philippines, Kenya, India and Indonesia, which together make up about 16 percent of global gross domestic product, are all forecast to grow more than 5 percent in 2015.
By comparison, the U.S. and U.K., which combined account for about a quarter of global growth, are expected to grow 3.1 percent and 2.6 percent this year, respectively. The euro area probably will expand just 1.2 percent as European Central Bank President Mario

China still remains the fastest-growing G-20 nation, even though the Asian economy is no longer expanding at the pace it did a few years ago. China's economy grew 7.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014 from a year earlier, and is expected to slow to 7 percent in 2015.
To counter that slowdown, People's Bank of China policy makers are boosting monetary stimulus. The central bank cut its benchmark interest rate in November for the first time since 2012. This month officials lowered by 50 basis points the deposit reserve ratio, which is the amount of reserves that banks need to keep on hand.
Nigeria, Africa's largest economy, is projected to expand 4.9 percent this year, according to the Bloomberg survey. Kenya will probably grow 6 percent in 2015, even as unemployment and poverty remain stubbornly high, with over 40 percent of Kenyans living below the poverty line.
U.S. growth forecasts for 2015 are coalescing around 3 percent even as the dollar soars to its highest level in more than a decade. As growth picks up, the Federal Reserve is weighing whether to raise interest rates for the first time since 2006. Their benchmark federal funds rate has remained near zero since December 2008.

* The other side of the coin - The economics of poverty
The poverty education website at is a great resource to show the economic diversity across the glob and try to understand and explain the variance

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Citizen Geographer

Related links to Spatialworlds
GeogSplace (a teaching blog for Year 12 geography)
Spatialworlds website

Australian Geography Teachers' Association website

Citizenship and geography

Way back in October 2011 there was a Spatialworlds posting on the concept of 'spatial citizenship' and the importance of the study of geography in the curriculum. In essence the posting highlighted that, "because of the power of spatial thinking and pervasiveness of spatial technology in our society in the 21st Century it is in beholden upon education to ensure that young people are fully aware of and skilled in the way of spatial thinking and the use of technology which can impact greatly upon them as citizens".

With the implementation this year of the Australian Curriculum: Civics and Citizenship I thought it opportune to revisit the relationship between geography and citizenship. In fact, the fifth aim of the Australian Curriculum: Geography is to develop students as:

  ... informed, responsible and active citizens who can contribute to the development of an environmentally and economically sustainable, and socially just world.

With this thinking in mind, The Australian Geography Teachers Association (AGTA) has produced a resource for schools called "Being a Citizen".  The resources provides copious links and teaching materials to support the teaching of the Australian Curriculum: Civics and Citizenship. Just as is the case with the Geography curriculum, seven concepts can be identified as the basis of Civics and Citizenship thinking.  Geographers viewing this concept wheel can see that much of the discussional and inquiry work we do when investigating various geographical issues certainly resonates with the key concepts from the civics and citizenship subject. Whilst a work in progress and not official ACARA work, teachers are finding that the concept wheel below is an interesting way to conceptualise the Australian Curriculum: Civics and Citizenship as they develop their learning programs. 

Copyright: Malcolm McInerney 2015
The 'Being a Citizen' CD includes materials on;

  • Links to civics and citizenship teaching materials.
  • Political mapping classroom activities.
  • Social Issues worksheets and processes.
  • Links to curriculum documents and teaching materials on civics and citizenship.
  • Professional reading links on civics and citizenship education
The resource is available from AGTA at