Tuesday, May 6, 2008

AGTA 100 meeting in Melbourne

Spatial Worlds website
Melbourne, Australia: S: 37º 47' E: 144º 58'
Left image: The AGTA Board hard at work in Melbourne.
Right image: Nick Hutchinson, AGTA President cuts the AGTA 100th Birthday cake.

The Australian Geography Teachers Association (AGTA) conducted its 100th meeting of the Board in Melbourne on the weekend of May 3rd and 4th. The meeting involved GTA delegates from all the states and as always was a truly representative meeting of Geographers from around Australia.

For those not aware, AGTA is a body which seeks to:
• foster the teaching and learning of geography in Australian schools and enhance awareness of its applications in society
• promote and circulate the results of research into geography education
• maintain a professional network through which teachers of geography in Australia may express opinions on educational matters
• represent the interests of its member affiliates on national education decision making bodies.

In 2008 AGTA has a combined membership of 1721, which encompasses teachers and professionals who are members of affiliate Geography Teachers' Associations (GTA's) in New South Wales(476), Victoria(595), Queensland(228), Western Australia(250), South Australia(160) and Tasmania(12).
In this day of national curriculum discussions it is imperative that a body such as AGTA is in existence and most importantly healthy and active. As usual the meeting in Melbourne was full of information and pro-active plans to promote geography in Australia. Here are just some of the meetings discussions and actions:

1. An Australian Geography careers website has been developed by AGTA. Rob Berry, the web manager of the AGTA website has done a great job in putting together the Geocareers website at http://www.geocareers.net.au/index.htm. The site is a very ‘user friendly’ and useful site for learning about geographical careers. The Geocareers website contains resources links and case studies of young people who have done geography at school and see a link between what they learnt in geography and what they do in their job. A great site to pass on to the career counsellor/s and subject/career selection personnel in your school

2. AGTA Board members have represented Australian geography teachers on a range of national bodies since the last meeting of the Board (meets twice a year). AGTA is a member of the Australian Federation of Societies for the Studies of Society and Environment (AFSSSE at http://www.afssse.asn.au/ ), the Institute of Australian Geographers (IAG at http://www.iag.org.au/ ) the National Education Forum (NEF at http://www.nef.edu.au/home.html) and the Spatial Science Institute’s Spatial Education Advisory Committee (SEAC at http://www.spatialsciences.org.au/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=1)

3. In September 2008 AGTA is conducting its bi-annual conference in Queensland on the Sunshine Coast. The conference planning by the co-convenors, Rebecca Nicholas and David Lergessner is well underway and an exciting program has been developed for the week commencing September 29th. For information on the conference go to http://www.agta.asn.au/conf08/index.htm

4. A new publication titled ‘Keys to Fieldwork’ is presently being produced by AGTA. The book is being edited and written by members of the AGTA Board and is to be published by MacMillan. The book looks to be a great enabler of the fieldwork component in the teaching of geography in Australia and is due for release in October.

5. AGTA is working towards developing a strategic plan for the promotion of geography in Australian schools (and hopefully the community). AGTA is working with marketing professionals to develop a strategic plan to increase the profile and community awareness of what geography in the 21st Century involves. Hopefully such marketing of the ‘geography brand’ will aid the penetration of geography as a dynamic and critical subject area in the new national curriculum.

6. The National Geographic Channel Australian Geography Competition (http://www.rgsq.gil.com.au/agc.htm) was again conducted by the Queensland Royal Geography Association with the collaborative support of AGTA. The competition continues to grow and gain status in the Australian education scene. In 2008, 89,645 students from 819 schools participated in the competition. The winners for the 2008 competition will receive their awards in Sydney on June 16th.

7. Beijing Olympics materials: AGTA is presently producing resources in conjunction with the UK Geography Association to support the teaching of the geographical perspectives of the Beijing Olympics. These materials build on the successful AGTA Olympics kit which was developed for the Athens Olympics in 2004.

8. Each of the States reported on their happenings and initiatives. A lot seems to be going on in geography teaching in Australia. If interested go to http://www.agta.asn.au/htm_files/agta_news/AGTA_Geographia_Dec07.pdf to read the delegates reports in AGTA’s ‘Geographia’ publication.

9. AGTA’s annual journal titled ‘Geographic Education’ has recently be distributed nationally and internationally. The publication continues to receive good academic and school based feedback. A theme is presently being discussed for the 2008 publication. Go to http://www.agta.asn.au/htm_files/journal/index.htm if you are interested in subscribing – all AGTA affiliates receive a copy of the publication.

10. AGTA is involved as a partner in the Australian Research Council Linkages grant program to develop standards for geography teaching. The project involves video recording classroom teachers at work across Australia and for panels to view the videos and develop standards for teaching school geography. Volunteer teachers are presently being taped and panels established to carry out the process. AGTA considers such research will provide a rich resource and delineated standards for the advancement of geography teaching in schools in Australia. Contact Jeana Kriewaldt at http://www.findanexpert.unimelb.edu.au/researcher/person1729.html if you require more information on this project.

11. Significant discussions were conducted at the meeting in regards to the national curriculum and the place of geography. Most importantly there was discussion on what geography should look like when established as a subject in the national curriculum. Several delegates considered there is a need for members of the AGTA Board (and thus the states) to have considered discussions on what skills, knowledge and approaches should be advocated by AGTA as a united voice. Although the recent Erebus report (go to http://www.gtasa.asn.au/professional_development-information_to_forward to read the report) delineates many of these points, there is a need to distil what the report found in a considered manner to reach some form of consensus on AGTA as to the preferred geography model for schools.

As usual a very important meeting for geography teaching in Australian schools to ensure that the states are united in progressing the need for the teaching of geography in classrooms across Australia.


Joseph Kerski said...

Thanks Malcolm. We have recently exhibited and conducted workshops at the National Science Teachers Association, the Association of American Geographers, and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development in the past 6 weeks here in North America. In reviewing the conference programs at each event, I notice a growing number of spatial thinking and geotechnology sessions. It is inspiring to read about what you and others are doing to forge new ground with this in the Southern Hemisphere. I can't envision societies successfully reaching the other side of the 21st Century sustainably without engaging the next generation in thinking spatially and critically about their world and empowering them with the tools to help them make wise decisions about people and the planet.

Joseph Kerski, Geographer, ESRI

Nick Hutchinson said...

Thanks Malcolm. A really excellent report of the meeting. Very timely, since I need to prepare a report for the NEF meeting in Canberra next week.
Spatial worlds is amazing. Posted a link for my pre service Geog students last week.
Focusing on hazards in Australia next Monday.