Tuesday, September 20, 2011

“I’m a geographer, frankly, I’m proud of that fact ..."

Left image: Duncan Chessell, adventurer and explorer; is he a geographer through action?
Right image:Are these characters geographers? The answer is yes; geography teachers at the January 2011 AGTA conference in Adelaide. What an advert for being a geographer!?

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

Nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be. John Lennon (a famous geographer?)

I read on a blog from a Geography Associate Professor in the US today that:

“I’m a geographer, frankly, I’m proud of that fact even if I have to explain when I meet someone exactly what it is a geographer does.”

I then came home and my son who is studying geography at Adelaide University told me he just does not know where it is taking him and he wants to do a course which he can see where he is going. Hence this blog entry! As geographers we face the challenge of explaining to the community and young people in our schools that modern geography is going places (sorry for the pun) and that if you do geography then there is an exciting future. For this blog I have gathered a range of Internet sites and YouTube videos to provide guidance for those asking:
* What is geography?
* Where can a geography qualification take me?

What is Geography?

Investigating geography

On a previous Spatialworlds blog posting I had a go at discussing the question; What makes geography geography? Interestingly, even this rather “safe” dissertation on what is geography is somewhat contentious when one considers the emphasis on Place in modern geography. As you can imagine my take was very much focussed on the spatial (as is the angle that from Harper College that I quote below).
As the work on the concepts in the Australian Curriculum: Geography has shown, the answer when defining modern geography lies in creating a conceptual basis that embraces the concepts of Place, Space, Environment and the other key concepts of Interconnection, Change, Sustainability and Scale. More on that in another posting when the scope and sequence is released next month.

When looking around for a definition of geography I came across the following very spatial angle from Harper College when they said:
Geographers try to answer three questions:
2.Why there?
3.Why do we care?

“Geographers can study anything that has a significant spatial component. Geographers concentrate on the "where" and by doing this they may be able to gain a better understanding of what is being studied than if the "where" were ignored. This is the "Spatial Perspective" that is peculiar to the study of geography. This perspective is useful in a wide variety of fields and therefore you have a wide variety of sub-disciplines in the field of geography (like political geography, cultural geography, physical geography, etc.). Businesses use geography when they decide WHERE to locate a new plant. Real estate developers use geography when they decide WHERE to build a new housing development. You have used geography when you decided WHERE to look for a job, or WHERE to go on vacation, or WHERE to go to school. If the WHERE is important, then geographers can study it.”

Whilst on the spatial and spatial literacy, here is the latest Powerpoint from Sarah Bednarz and Karen Kemp called ‘Understanding and Nurturing Spatial Literacy'. Challenging Questions.’ Worth a read and some of the thinking and questions are excellent.

As the Australian Curriculum: Geography has been written, we have also struggled with creating a concise and accurate definition of modern geography.

The January 2011 Australian Curriculum: Geography Shape Paper said:

“Geography is the investigation and understanding of the earth and its features and the distribution of life on earth, including human life and its impacts. It is the study of the many different “places”, or environments, which make up our world and is described as “the why of where”. Places are specific areas of the Earth’s surface, and can range from a locality to a country to a major world region. Geography answers our questions about why places have their particular environmental and human characteristics; how and why these characteristics vary from place to place; how places are connected, and how and why they are changing. Geography examines these questions on all scales, from the local to the global, and over time periods that range from a few years to thousands of years.”

When the draft scope and sequence is released by Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority(ACARA) on October 10th it will be interesting as to whether the definition has changed and if so, in what way/s. More on that on October 11th!! What is important, is that we must clearly articulate all the nuances and characteristics of modern geography before we can talk about where it takes us. Such clarity will help us enunciate all the areas of human endeavour which can be illuminated by geography and in turn be seen through the work of geographers.

So when my son comes home from cricket practice tonight (he thinks cricket will get him somewhere but geography won’t!! - who knows though!), I will point him in the direction of the great resources which have been developed by universities, geography associations and individuals around the world. It may not help to change his mind but could be useful for geography teachers struggling to promote geography in their school and amongst their students.

Profiles of geographers from the Royal Geographical Society
* Geographical
* New Vistas

From the Geographical Association in the UK

From the Association of American Geographers

Geography jobs

Going places with geography

Specific career skills related to GIS

The Australian Geography Teachers Association (AGTA) has also had a go at profiling geographers on the Geocareers website.

As the site says:
“The GeoCareers website is a resource especially designed to provide students with information about careers based on the study of Geography at secondary school or a tertiary institution such as a university or college.”

Finally, I came across this site of geography jokes. As they say; “any publicity is good publicity” but geography jokes just reinforce the old view of what geography is and what geographers do! But some are fun!

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