Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Times are a changing

Left image: CBD, Christchurch, New Zealand.
Right image: Arthur's Pass, New Zealand.

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
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Where am I??
Brisbane, Australia: S: 28º 28' E: 153º 02'

Times are a changing: Part 1
As mentioned in my last posting, things are changing rapidly in society and our world view. Such changes are not necessarily reflected in our education system and in turn reflected in curriculum and teaching. Before going into detail on the implications for geography curriculum and teaching in the 21st Century I have had a go at trying to delineate what the major changes are which have a socio-geographical basis.
Today I am in Brisbane and will be addressing the Royal Geographical Society of Queensland on 21st change and the challenge for geography educators to develop in the Australian Currciulum a world class, state of the art, contemporary and engaging geography for schools. Some of what I put in the next few blog entries are the basis of my talk. The changes and their nature are only my ideas and I would love to have any others add to my list and discuss the veracity of my discussion on the matter. Others may have a very different take on the changes we have lived through and face in the 21st Century.

The changes to the way of life and perceptions in the world of the 21st Century can be discussed under the broad headings of global perspective and globalization, environmental change, cultural interaction, technology pervasiveness and information access and the phenomena of change.

For this entry I will only explore the first three; changes in global perspectives, environmental challenges and cultural interaction.

* Changing global perspective and globalisation

The world is now one of:
• high connectivity due to communication technology and the ease of travel. Distance is no longer one of friction but ease. One can have a friend / business associate anywhere in the world and interact with them upon demand.
• homogeneity. The mobility of individuals, global markets and communication technologies has resulted in the world becoming more homogenous. The influence of multinational companies such as MacDonalds and US TV networks have resulted in a phenomenon called “Cultural Imperialism”. No matter where you are in the world, a little bit of home is available.
• places around the world are of ever increasing interdependence in terms of information, people, ideas, trade and exchange. Again, made possible by the reduction of the friction of distance and the growth of global markets. Australia’s increasing engagement with Asia is an outcome of this phenomena.
• increasing reliance on international markets. People need to be ready to move and interact with other nations. No country is an island with the products and materials we use coming from every corner of the globe. In turn our industry is dependent on overseas markets for their survival.
• diminishing size and power over the tyranny of distance. The power of technology not only shows you what something looks like but where exactly it is. In the 21st Century over 80% of data is attached to place. Such spatial awareness of where things are on the globe has changed individual’s perception of distance and accessibility. No longer is any place really out of our virtual reach. For example with the capacities of GPS we also expect to be taken somewhere with minimal spatial thinking. What is the impact of such technology having on our spatial, global and community sense?

* Environmental change

The world is now one of:

• environmental challenges. Communities are aware of the degradation of our land, air and biosphere. As a result there is an ever increasing awareness of the need to act and change aspects of our lifestyle. An aspect of this awareness is the knowledge that degradation does not respect national borders. For example China’s loss of bio-diversity is also other countries. Such awareness will result in increasing global co-operation and in turn connectivity and interdependencies. These events/phenomena are challenging societies, livelihoods locally and globally in the 21st Century. These issues range from climate change to migration, from energy resources to environmental hazards, from food production to water resources, and from the future of the countryside to the impact of globalisation on developing countries

* Cultural interaction

The world is now one of:

• increasing cultural diversity. The movement of people around the world for a range of reasons has resulted in most countries of the western world having highly multi-cultural populations. The need for inter-cultural understanding and cultural literacy has become an important component of citizenship and cultural competency.

• awareness of injustices and inequities. The society of the 21st Century is more aware of the minorities and their plight. Issues related to the indigenous community, the disabled, refugees and the homeless are highlighted by the media and socially there is a sensitivity to actions and remarks which may be deemed as racist or elitist. Recent outrage about racism in football codes around Australia indicates that attitudes do change and are changing. Although not a minority the increasing influence of women in Australia in the 21st Century cannot be denied. Although not universal, the issues of social justice and equity is a concept that has resonance in the 21st Century.

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