Friday, July 1, 2011

Pre-thinking on geographical thinking: preparing for inquiring

Left image: Madang in Papua New Guinea.
Right image: Satellite image of Madang PNG.

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??
Adelaide, Australia: S: 34º 55' E: 138º 36'

Using key geographical concepts for pre-thinking on Madang

In the Spatialworlds June 7th, 2011 posting titled ‘Thinking, not things to learn’ the key concepts in the draft Australian Curriculum for geography were discussed and their importance to develop geographical thinking in the classroom was discussed. This posting builds in practical terms on the discussion from that posting.

On Sunday, July 3rd I am heading to Madang in Papua New Guinea to deliver discarded textbooks to schools who have a severe shortage of reading and writing material. A teaching colleague of many years ago (1979) has arranged for 2 tons of discarded text books to be sent to Madang and we are going to spend the week delivering the books (and other bits and pieces) to the schools along the Papua New Guinea northern coast. Having never been to PNG, I thought it was a great opportunity to test the geographical concepts identified as core to geographical thinking and do some pre-thinking about how, as a geographer, I can explore this area of the world. How, as a geographer do I use the conceptual lens being developed for the Australian Curriculum: Geography to guide my geographical inquiry? More importantly to the development of the Australian Curriculum for geography; do the concepts ‘work’ in developing congruent, interesting and worthwhile geographical thinking? Will I be able to use the concepts for my ‘pre-thinking’ about PNG to guide my inquiry of the Madang area of PNG?

What follows are the pre-thinking steps I have developed for some recent presentations to teachers (primary and secondary) to get across the idea of a geographically thinking classroom (thinking before going or studying a geographical place, phenomena or event – in this case a place) using the key concepts to guide inquiry in the geography.

Step 1: Prior knowledge: What do I know about the place already?
Not a lot beyond tsunamis, earthquakes, cargo cult, World War 2 happenings, humid, wet, malaria, isolated cultures (National Geographic type of images), German colony, jungles, Bird of Paradise, mineral wealth, AIDS and Australian protectorate. A pretty jumbled list of perceptions and isolated information!

Step 2: Knowing without going.
Check out the spatial technology, visualisations and information available on the Internet to glean as much visuals and knowledge as you can about the place. Here are just a few of the sites I used:

Step 3: Question the concepts to prepare for geographical inquiry and thinking when there.
The following listing uses the Australian Curriculum: Geography concepts and a range of associated inquiry questions – not an exhaustive list but just a start prior to visiting or in the case of the classroom prior to the inquiry commencing.

Questions about:
• the site conditions of Madang: i.e. vegetation, rainfall, temperature, seasons, industry, settlement, transport, indigenous and non-indigenous population, agriculture, trade, government, hazards, cultural norms and customs, developments, iconic sites, health conditions, GDP, Income and living conditions, demographics (CDR/CBR/IMR/LE).
• Perception and identification of locals with place.

Questions about:
• where Madang is situated (location).
• distribution and related patterns of settlement, vegetation, rivers, industry, agriculture, transport networks etc

Questions about:
• the nature of the biophysical and non-biophysical environments.
• connections between human and physical environments
• degree of diversity
• threats to the environment
• sustainability

Questions about the nature of relationship between Madang and:
• its people and environment (interdependency)
• its hinterland
• Port Moresby
• Indonesia
• Australia
• Asian/Pacific countries

Questions about how Madang has changed over time focussing on:
• Pace and consistency of change
• Influences on change (Germany, World War 2, Australian mandatory control,
• Nature of change
• Impact of change on contemporary Madang
• Modelling the future

Questions about the environmental, social, political, cultural and economic sustainability of the Madang area.

Representation of the area (satellite imagery, maps), perceptions of distance, distance by modes of transport, view of the world by locals- global context), isolation issues etc.

Step 4: Go to the place and/or commence the geographical inquiry to find the answers to these questions inspired by the concepts and to view the place thorough the eyes of a geographer.

Future blog postings I am sure will be the result of my trip and I hope we will be able to build a view of Madang and PNG though the geographical inquiry lens using geographical thinking guided by the key concepts of the Australian Curriculum: Geography.

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