Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Hong Kong: A similar story but very complex

During my stay in Hong Kong I have visited the Hong Kong International School and the Hong Kong University (HKU). Doctor Lai from the HKU Geography Department has been involved in encouraging schools to use GIS in their geography teaching since 1999. Her comments on the situation mirrors much of what has been happening with GIS implementation in Australia but naturally more complex because of issues of population size, the role of vendors and language barriers. More on that in a minute. Firstly some quick comments on my visit to the Hong Kong International School on Monday, October 9th.

On a previous visit to Hong Kong I made the acquaintance of Pauline Bunce a Geography teacher from Perth who teachers at the Hong Kong International School. Pauline is keen to embark on the GIS learning and implementation curve but as yet HKIS has not got GIS up and running. When she knew I was coming to Hong Kong Pauline asked if I would run a session with students showing them the applications and potential of GIS. So first thing on Tuesday morning I went out to HKIS to meet Pauline and her students. The sessions with the students were enjoyable but what did strike me was the resources and atmosphere in the school. It certainly was a different world, with coffee shops, refectory, full size pool, data projectors in the classrooms, incredible gymnasiums and an amazing view over the harbour from the classroom windows. A few photos from around the school are above.

Although not answering any of my project questions it did confirm to me that the implementation of spatial technology is not just about resources. Here is a school with all the 'bells and whistles' providing a great education for its students but the GIS learning curve is still to be negotiated. Implementation needs are really about teacher awareness and willingness to embrace the technology and its worth. Those in the know are convinced of its worth and in many cases presume all others are equally up to date with this societal and all-pervasive technological tool in our society. That certainly seems to be not the case with teachers around the world. Already on my trip I am hearing the same comments relating to the difficulty of teachers embracing the technology. Furthermore in many cases students are aware of the technology and indeed use it but are not aware of it societal use and application. It also seems that students are also not aware of how the technology can enhance their learning in a range of subjects. The trip to HKIS was an eye opener to how schools can be resourced and also confirmed my belief that the work ahead with implementation is to convince teachers and administrators in schools of the worth of spatial technology in the school setting. As I was to find out the next day, in Hong Kong they actually now have curriculum and resource support from the Hong Kong Education Bureau in real terms. However, as is the case in Australia many teachers are still needing to embrace the technology as something not only desirable but essential to the teaching of geography in the 21st Century.
Thanks to Pauline Bunce and the Hong Kong International School for having me visit and meet their students.

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