Friday, November 11, 2011

A vision by the system: visualising data

Left image, Mt Wellington early morning, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.
Right Image: Constitution Dock, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.

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'

A systems initiative to support data visualization in the classroom

Last week I attended another Education Services Australia (ESA) Data Visualisation Workshop in Melbourne. This is the fourth workshop I have been involved with on this ESA project to create a platform and resources for teachers to use in the classroom whilst teaching topics/subjects requiring the use, analysis and visualisation of data. This is a highly significant initiative for the area of spatial education because of the projects promotion of grahicacy, data visualization and the use of spatial technology in our schools. The system 'buy-in' to the area many of us have been working on for years will be a great catalyst for the diffusion of the skills, tools and analysis of spatial literacy in our schools. Whilst interested in the data aspect of the project, my major interest in the project is the development by the education bureaucracy in Australia of a spatial platform with supporting spatial data for use in the classroom. As mentioned before, Data Genie and Spatial Genie are now operational on the Internet and teachers are able to access the program and associated data for classroom use. The workshop was attended by data and spatial education relevant learning area representatives and institutions such as the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute, Academy of Science, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSRIO), Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), representatives from jurisdictions such as myself and Queensland Education, ESA and ACARA. I was also at the meeting representing AGTA, as was Mick Law from the Queensland Geography Teachers' Association. The workshop was aimed at outlining ESA’s plans to develop on-line professional learning resources for teachers and to develop learning infrastructures and resources around key spatial and data Internet sites. Most importantly, the resources are to be linked directly into the Australian Curriculum for History, Mathematics, Science and Geography through the Australian Curriculum Connect project. Interestingly it was commented by the ESA representatives at the meeting that there are hardly any geography learning objects available through delivery systems such as Scootle and that this is an area where there needs to be significant investment over the next 18 months. Work was also conducted on further development on the functionality of Spatial Genie and what else needs to be done to develop strategic partnerships with and between ESA and spatial software providers.

Whilst the day was interesting to explore issues of resource development and preferred pedagogies using data, I was particularly interested in some of the spatial sites demonstrated by Michael Gehling, ESA project officer for this initiative. Here are some of the sites providing free platforms, data sources and spatial representations that may be of interest to the spatial educator;

* Tableausoftware
A great resource to help people see and understand data.
Free trial

* Atlas of Living Australia
The Atlas of Living Australia is a joint initiative to build a national database of our flora and fauna. The project brings together a huge array of information on Australia’s biodiversity, accessible through a single website. Partners in this collaborative project include CSIRO, museums, herbaria, other biological collections, the Australian Government and the community.

* Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Science
The Land Use of Australia, Version 4, 2005-06, is a land use map of Australia for the year 2005-06. The non-agricultural land uses are drawn from existing digital maps covering six themes: topographic features, catchment scale land use, protected areas, world heritage areas, tenure and forest cover.

* Australian Natural Resources Data Library and Atlas
The Australian Natural Resources Atlas was developed by the National Land and Water Resources Audit to provide online access to information to support natural resource management. The Atlas is managed and maintained within the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. The Atlas comprises of a number of tools and information on Australia's natural resources:
• Australia's Resources Online: Generate a report containing the latest available data on Australia's natural resources against the Natural Resource Management Monitoring and Evaluation framework.
• Map Maker: View and query the data from the Atlas or make a map of a region of interest
The information in the Atlas is organised by topic and geography. There are eleven topics to choose from in the Atlas:
• Agriculture: agricultural resources
• Coasts: coastal environments.
• Dryland salinity: causes and impacts of dryland salinity
• Irrigation: sustainable irrigation
• Land: land resources
• Natural resource economics: economics and natural resource management
• People: Australians and the management of natural resources
• Rangelands: monitoring the status and trends in the rangelands
• Soils: Australian soil properties
• Vegetation and biodiversity: biological resources
• Water: use, availability, quality and management
With maps and data scattered throughout, this is a great site for the geographer. The social atlas is particular useful for the geographer

* Mapserver
MapServer is an Open Source platform for publishing spatial data and interactive mapping applications to the web. Download at

* Google Fusion Tables
Gather, visualize and share your data online
Google Fusion Tables is a modern data management and publishing web application that makes it easy to host, manage, collaborate on, visualize, and publish data tables online. Visualize and publish your data as maps, timelines and charts, host your data tables online and combine data from multiple people.
Have a look at the Google Fusion Example gallery to see the potential of this free site.

* uDig
uDig is an open source (LGPL) desktop application framework, built with Eclipse Rich Client (RCP) technology. Just download the platform at and use the Quick start to get underway.

* Grass GIS
Commonly referred to as GRASS, this is free Geographic Information System (GIS) software used for geospatial data management and analysis, image processing, graphics/maps production, spatial modeling, and visualization. GRASS is currently used in academic and commercial settings around the world, as well as by many governmental agencies and environmental consulting companies.

* Data Worldbank
Browse, map, graph, or download data by country, topic on over 4000 indicators. A rich source of spatial data.

* Sentinel site: Bushfire warning live by GIS
A site from Geoscience Australia with layers that can be manipulated, topographic down to 250K topo and Bureau of Meteorology Infrared layers. KML files can also be downloaded to use in Google Earth.

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