Monday, July 5, 2010

IAG Conference in Christchurch

Left image: What a setting to live in!
Right image: Rocks, snow and ice, perfect!

Related sites to the Spatialworlds project
Spatialworlds website
21st Century Geography Google Group
Australian Geography Teachers' Association website
'Towards a National Geography Curriculum' project website
Geography Teachers' Association of South Australia website
Email contact

Where am I?

Christchurch, New Zealand: S: 43º 32' E: 172º 37'

Growing the link between school and university geographers
Today I am in Christchurch, New Zealand to attend the Council meeting for the Institute of Australian Geographers (IAG). The IAG has been an important player with AGTA and the RGSQ in the work of the ‘Towards a National Geography Curriculum’ project and in turn the work of ACARA in developing an Australian Curriculum for geography. Several of the IAG Executive have been closely involved in the ACARA process. The IAG Secretary, Associate Professor Alaric Maude is the ACARA Lead Writer for geography and Professor Lesley Head (IAG Vice President) and Iain Hay (IAG President) have both been on the ACARA Advisory Panel. Their input is greatly valued by geography teachers in Australia and the involvement of the academic geography community in the development of a world class geography curriculum is extremely important.
The IAG conference is an interesting mix, with an amazing diversity of papers presented. Again it makes one ask the question; What is geography? As I did with the IAG Conference last year, here are some of what I consider the most interesting papers when considering the development of an energetic, diverse and creative geography curriculum for schools. In terms of topic, nothing is out of bounds, as long as the lens is spatial and the context geographical. Here are just a few examples:
* Urban regeneration, drinking and young citizens: Paradoxical tensions in the governance of inner-city night time spaces.
* Degrees of responsibility: How far will tourism corporates go to assist the poor and disadvantaged?
* A landscape of well-being – towards a theory of the landscape and human well-being.
* Environmental correlates of young people’s happiness.
* Young Australians in multigenerational household: trends, drivers and implications.
* Working holidays an experience or a path to migration?
* Utilising GIS in education.
* Senses of place and identity in contemporary rural Australia: Views from Ballarat.
* Beyond greenwash, creating sustainable communities.
* The changing landscape of cemeteries in Perth, WA
* Power and politics of water governance and development.
* (Dis)located bodies: Women and class in a changing rural Australia.
* Still getting away with it: revealing geographies of the super-rich.
* Cross-cultural boundary riding – Utilising Indigenous knowledge for environmental management.
* Urban homebodies: Spatiality of masculinity and domesticity in inner Sydney.

These are just a few of the workshops to show the diversity of what is seen as geography. Naturally the conference also had plenty of the more traditional geomorphologic, climatological and economic geographies presented but the list above shows the social and cultural richness and contemporary nature of the study of geography in our universities (and applicable to the study of geography in schools).
Unfortunately I cannot stay for the week to experience this wonderful geography with the 472 geographers attending the conference. My work here is to present to the IAG Council the development of the ACARA geography curriculum for Australia. More directly my attendance at the Council meeting was to garner the IAG’s support to ensure that ACARA and the Ministers of Education in Australia are aware of the importance of geography being a compulsory subject to Year 10. To this end the IAG Council is drafting a letter to both ACARA and the Ministers in each state requesting meetings to discuss their concerns if geography is relegated to an elective in Years 9 and 10.
My attendance at the meeting also gave me the opportunity to advertise the January 2011 AGTA conference and invite the participation of academic geographers in the event. I consider the time is perfect to get more academic geographers involved in AGTA’s activities promoting the professional learning for the Australian Curriculum: geography.

Whilst talking about the conference, it is worth reporting the nature of the keynote presented on Monday night by US academic Professor Lisa Parks. The focus of her talk was that the advent of Google Earth has made the earth a target to be destroyed as a result of the widespread availability of satellite imagery. Professor Parks considers that Google Earth has “shifted the focus from caring for the world to viewing it as a target”.
“Increasingly, states have used these images, which are so freely available to help destroy a societies and people’s lives through conflict, and these are the very same states that are benefiting from the rebuilding.”
Professor Parks raised the issues of who has the power to produce these images and the implications of the “knowledge acquired from these images”. She challenged the right of a companies such a Google to produce and censor the images – “that should be the responsibility of decisions made by state departments and diplomats”. In fact some imaging firms were selling photos of conflict zones “like digital real estate. Do such transactions represent the public interest or rather military and corporate interests?” I found this take on the power and implications of spatial technologies an interesting adjunct to one of my previous blog entries on the pervasiveness of spatial technology and its implications for good and evil in the world.
It certainly would have been a great conference to stay for – quite different to some of the more linear and conservative discipline perceptions we often have when teaching geography in schools. It is time to think laterally on the relevance of geography to young people. More on that in future blogs on 21st Century geography in our schools,

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