Friday, September 30, 2011

More than a tool!











Left image: Working on GIS with geography teachers at the high school in Madang (learning AEJEE program to get started). One computer in the school and no Internet - a different education setting. Throw in a data projector and GIS can happen for classes. Hope to get one to the school next year to make it happen.
Right image: Daily market in Madang; smells, taste and life.

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
manning@chariot.net.au

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

Spatial applications is what it is all about!

When talking about spatial matters we often speak about spatial technology and applications. As mentioned in a previous posting there are some concise descriptions of spatial technology; but what is meant by the expression spatial applications? After searching for a concise definition of spatial applications I found the actual definition is quite fuzzy but for our purposes we can suggest that:
“Spatial applications refer to the use of spatial technology, skills and techniques to address a ‘real world’ issue, problem or phenomena. Another way of looking at it could be the applying of spatial tools, techniques and analysis to a wide range of environmental phenomena and human pursuits.”

Probably the best way to demonstrate what is meant by spatial applications is to showcase a range of uses of spatial technology.

“Spatial information is found within applications as diverse as ambulance dispatch services; bushfire management; and commercial asset mapping - these are all core business for the SI industry.”

In this posting I am going to profile several Internet sites which demonstrate powerfully the application of spatial technology. In fact, the reason most of us who are so keen to get spatial technologies, such as GIS, into schools is not just for students to play with the technological tool. Rather, we see the potential of spatial technology to apply the use of the technology, as an inquiry and/or problem solving tool, to various issues, problems and phenomena which they come across in their everyday life and study. As a result, it can be used in geography, science,
history and many other learning areas as a tool to enhance learning. Here are some applications via the CSRI SI, ESRI and GIS Zone sites.

1 The Cooperative Research Centre for Spatial Information (CSR SI)is a joint Australian venture of government, academic and private sector organisations using spatial technologies to solve complex problems of national significance. The site showcases the use of spatial technology for:

* Bike recreation
* Decision making and planning
* Disaster response i.e. Chrischurch example
* Health care
* Climate change impacts
* Mining
* Environmental mapping i.e turtles
* State planning

The site also contains some excellent videos on:

* Geospatial Industry
* Spatial and Government
* Spatial and Security
* Spatial and the world

2. The ESRI Australia site also profiles a diverse list of spatial application from bushfire management, cemetery mapping, local council asset management to cultural sensitive mapping

A few other ESRI sites also are useful to show the limitless application of spatial technology in our society

* Crime mapping
* Spatial applications case studies
*Law enforcement
*Industries using GIS
*Geotech


3. GIS Zone

This is a great site from the UK Ordnance Survey for students to get an understanding of the application of spatial technology to floods, shopping, wind power, ambulance services, farming and crime. Created as missions, this is by far the best “student friendly” site around to drive the point home in regards to spatial applications. The site is also supported with teacher notes and other GIS resources/knowledge for students.

4. GIS career sites

Sometimes the best way to show application is to profile those who work in the spatial industry. Here are several sites which may be useful to “join the dots” on this topic.
http://edcommunity.esri.com/im/videos/
http://geoinfo.sdsu.edu/hightech/GISCareerLinks_li.htm
http://gislounge.com/gis-career-resources/

Whilst talking about careers and spatial industry it is worth looking at the Surveying & Spatial Sciences Institute’s site.
The site gives a worthwhile insight into the industry applications of the technology.

I hope this posting has highlighted that the use of spatial technology in schools is more than playing with the tool. The focus in schools should be on the application of the tool for meaningful inquiry and/or problem solving as well as students being aware and proficient in the use of the technology. Only then can we truly justify the expense, teacher time and curriculum placement we require to integrate spatial technology in the classroom.

As the draft Australian Curriculum: Geography says:

“The unit provides the opportunity for students to use their geographical thinking, skills and technological tools to examine some environmental challenges that will affect their future lives, and to find out how geography contributes to the understanding and management of these challenges. Students are to recognise the value of spatial technology as a tool in geographical inquiry and in a wide range of practical applications”

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hurdles almost too high!












Left image: GIS students at a Washington School.
Right image: Students at work on GIS in a Toronto school, Canada.

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
manning@chariot.net.au

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

We are not computer whizzes but…

Working with spatial technology can throw up some challenges for teachers who are not ICT experts, and that is plenty of us. Even if the teacher is very proficient at ‘driving’ the software, that does not mean that they have the ICT expertise to fix the engine when there are problems. Once we decide to play in the spatial technology space we come across issues and problems which need to be mastered, whether that is operating the platform or installing programs. I came across one such problem this week which I thought it worth sharing. It is such a simple thing for the ICT savvy but often a hurdle too high for the classroom teacher.

As I mentioned in a previous blog, it is good to start with a simple and free program such as ESRI AEJEE to get teachers, especially in the primary school, engaged with GIS. Good plan but… The problem was that I had no trouble installing the program on computers running Microsoft XP but it just did not happen when trying to install on Windows Vista or Windows 7. Naturally that was the operating software at the primary school I was working in and I had a problem! Nothing is ever simple and straightforward when working with ICT! After much trial and error I did get the program loaded and was able to help the teachers to get started with GIS. I hope this blog entry saves you the anguish and the hours we spent solving this problem. I am sure an ICT person would have solved it in no time but for many of us that person is not around or just not savvy with the uniqueness of GIS software. Having said that, an ICT person was brought into the school and could not get the program working – answer was that the program did not work on the school network! However I knew it would but how!!

Here is the story of how to get out of the ‘paper bag’ when installing the ESRI AEJEE software.

1. Problem: program installed perfectly on Windows XP and previous Windows versions. On Vista and Windows 7 it seemed to install OK but had no functionality – that is, could not get up Attribute Tables or do Thematic mapping etc (could only view Shapefiles). On Windows 7 the installing process happened but then nothing – no AEJEE program!

2. After many hours of installing and not getting the program functional, even after the computer said it was installed, I decided to go to the ESRI Education Blog.I then found a posting and chatter about how to load the program on Vista.

3. Why didn’t I do it 20 hours earlier? Anyway, it told me to right click the ‘Install’ icon and open the ‘Compatability’ tab.

“In the Compatibility tab, check the box next to “Run this program in compatibility mode for” and select "Windows XP Service Pack 2" (or 3) if you are loading on XP and "Windows 2000" or "Vista Service Pack 2" if you are loading on Windows 7 (using the pull-down menu to select). Click on OK.

4. Now to install. Double-click on the installer and use the installation wizard to install the program. When installation is complete, you will find AEJEE under All Programs > AEJEE.”

5. Now go to "All Programs", find the AEJEE program and on the AEJEE icon right click - select "Properties" and then select the "Compatibility" tab - again configure the “Run this program in compatibility mode for” to select Windows 2000 or the "Vista Service Pack 2" for Windows 7 and XP Service pack 2 or 3for XP.

6. Now just open up AEJEE and it should work. You may have to play with the choice of compatibility mode but I assure you it works.

All was a sensational success after these ‘teething problems’ and I now have 5 keen and enthusiastic teachers from F-7 at the primary school, proficient in using GIS via AEJEE and ready to do some great spatial technology work with their students using the draft Australian Curriculum: Geography (once it is released on October 10th). It will be interesting to see what they come up with as F-7 teachers using GIS in their classroom. However without someone to come in and solve the problem they may have never got past the installation stage! We need support for teachers to embark on the GIS learning curve within the education and curriculum setting.

I have already talked about this in previous blog postings – I am sure there will be plenty more to say as we enter the implementation stage of the Australian Curriculum: Geography.

This is just one example of ICT anxiety, expertise problems and hurdles almost too high! We must reduce the hurdles and provide support to make spatial technology such as GIS happen in the classroom.

Hope this blog entry helps those thinking of using the ESRI AEJEE program. Go to http://edcommunity.esri.com/software/aejee/ to download. This is just one of many frustrating stories I am sure – do they all have happy endings?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Why don’t they get it?













Left image: Main sqaure, Brussells.
Right image: Along the Thames at night.

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
manning@chariot.net.au

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

Why is the spatial message not getting out into the community?

“It is estimated that the geospatial job market right now is growing by 35 percent annually.”

Dr. Christopher Sutton, professor of geography at Western Illinois University: Geography Matters! The Importance of Geographic Literacy in Liberal Arts Education.

“With the explosion of access to spatial data and spatially enabled tools, such as cellular phones and vehicle navigation systems, these technologies are also quickly becoming an essential part of everyday lives and have a rapidly growing need for a workforce skilled in Geospatial Technology” says Mr. Sarvis.

Such statements are frequently stated by those involved in the spatial industry or teachers promoting the use of geospatial technology and applications in education. It is as "clear as the nose on our face" that the spatial industry is a growing industry and deserves to have a place in the education of the young as a vocational entitlement and as a citizenship capacity builder. The question that keeps on being asked by some of us is; "why don't others get the fact that there is a huge industry linked to this technology we can and should be using in schools??"

One of the basic problems is that we have many terms for the same thing. Maybe we need to settle on a definition for what we are talking about and clearly articulate and promote the agreed definition consistently across the school, tertiary and industry sectors. I recently came across this definition from the Harrisburg University of Science and Technology in the central Pennsylvania region. It certainly is clear and concise as a description of the technologies and applications we are on about.

"Geospatial Technology is a collective term referring to technologies that collect, store, query, analyze, visualize and present spatial information. The three primary technologies that comprise Geospatial Technology are Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and Remote Sensing. With these core technologies spatial data can be captured and used across a wide variety of disciplines including environmental, commercial, political, social, medical, military, and emergency response. In fact over 80% of all data has a spatial component that can benefit from, and be integrated within, Geospatial Technology."

These issues came home to me with a bang on Thursday when I attended the
Surveying and Spatial Science Institutes National Spatial Education and Careers Summit in Canberra. The meeting was a think tank and planning event attended by the key stakeholders in the spatial inhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifdustry. Many of those attending have been working for years to get the community aware of the industry and the educational and career opportunities available. Unfortunately, I think all would agree, that despite the all pervasiveness of spatial information and technology available and readily used by the community, the community does not identify or indeed recognise that there is a spatial industry, let alone aware of the opportunities available. A previous Spatialworlds posting (after I had attended teh last SSSI Summit in April 2008) described the worth of the industry.

The discussion paper by the Cooperative Research Centre - Spatial Information (CRCSI) presented at this year’s summit may be useful for the spatial promoter to spruke when arguing for curriculum time or resources for geospatial technology and applications. Here are just several relevant extracts:

“The workforces of Australia and New Zealand are suffering from a critical shortage of spatial professionals. Both Australia and New Zealand tertiary education sectors that are not producing sufficient graduates to meet demand and are struggling to maintain adequate levels of funding for long term viability. This is compounding Australia and New Zealand’s long term skills shortage.

Recent estimates by the Spatial Industries Business Association (SIBA) Australia put the current labour shortage of spatial professionals in the Australian workforce at up to 3,000 to 4,000 people. The Allen Consulting Group (2010) estimated in a report to the Department of Sustainability and Environment that the number of full-time equivalents of spatial professionals in the Australian workforce was about 51,000 people and about 13,400 for New Zealand. The shortage of spatial professionals is compounded by two factors; an aging workforce and a lack of new graduates.

There is good evidence that the spatial industry, both domestically and internationally, is growing at a sustained rate of 10 to 15% per annum. ACIL Tasman (2008) estimated that the Australian spatial industry currently contributes about $10 billion to Australian GDP and in a similar study for New Zealand also in 2008 estimated the industry was contributing about $1.2 billion to the economy. There is substantial evidence that the spatial industry in Australia and New Zealand will continue to grow at its current rate for at least the next five driven by innovation in the technologies. This will be fuelled by new spatial technologies that are known to be on their way to market and by known lack of penetration of current technologies in many market areas in Australia and New Zealand. The skilled capacity shortage is therefore likely to worsen.
Despite this shortage the tertiary sector is not producing enough spatial science graduates to satisfy the needs of industry. Other than continuing to employ people from overseas, the only solution is for the academic institutions to increase their graduate output. Ironically many universities in Australia and New Zealand offering a professional education in the spatial sciences have been experiencing difficulty for many years in attracting adequate numbers of students into their programs from both secondary school leavers and mature age workers. This is true despite the strong external industry demand for graduates and the efforts of various groups and organisations to encourage secondary school students into spatial science programs at the tertiary level.
There is an expanding demand for people with spatial skills in a growing number of disciplines that are not explicitly spatial in their own right. This demand has sprung from the ‘mainstreaming’ of spatial information and the increasing dependence of industry and the community more broadly on spatial information for a wide range of business, social and personal activities. The increasing demand for spatial information throughout the community and across many industry sectors gives rise to an opportunity to “mainstream” spatial information education. Spatial skills, at varying levels, need to be taught to students in a wide variety of disciplines at university level.”


The forum heard that the reasons students are not choosing a career in spatial science are:
1. Ignorance of the diversity of the spatial profession and what it offers
2. Lack of attraction (e.g. popular appeal, job satisfaction, career esteem, ill defined industry
3. Perceived limited career prospects- through unwareness of the industry by careers and subject counsellors in schools
4. Lack of industry identity (what is it - surveying, geomatics, spatial science, geospatial science, spatial information science?)
5. Lower real wages than some of the better known alternatives such as engineering, planning and architecture

With an understanding of the human resources situation facing the spatial industry, the threats to spatial science departments in universities due to low enrolments, the low profile of spatial technology and geography in schools and the unfathomable lack of awareness of the industry and its opportunities in the community; the summit set about finding some answers.

I can't report that the answers were “nailed down” but they were certainly identified. Following the summit a high level group is to be formed to develop a strategic plan to address the situation. Naturally whatever plans are made the major task of this group will be to access funds to have people on the ground to actually carry through the strategies. The day was a very positive start and I look forward to hear about what is to happen next. I feel positive after the day. The summit was particularly interested in the Australian Curriculum: Geography and its engagement with the spatial industry and technology. We hope that the Australian Curriculum: Geography will give a “leg-up” in schools to the awareness of spatial technology and the associated industry. Throughout the curriculum in terms of skills and understandings, the concept of space and spatial technology are evident. As I said in the paper presented to the summit:

The curriculum is based around seven concepts, one of which is space. Two important components of the curriculum advocated by AGTA is the inclusion of the use of spatial technology and spatial analysis as key skills and the expectation that fieldwork is to be an integral part of a geographical education.

As quoted from the Australia Curriculum: Geography rationale:

“Fieldwork, the mapping and interpretation of spatial distributions, and the use of spatial technologies are fundamental geographical skills.

Of particular interest is the Year 10 unit on Challenges which provides the opportunity to use spatial technology and examine the relevance of geography to the spatial industry."

The unit provides the opportunity for students to use their geographical thinking, skills and technological tools to examine some environmental challenges that will affect their future lives, and to find out how geography contributes to the understanding and management of these challenges.”
“Students are to recognise the value of spatial technology as a tool in geographical inquiry and in a wide range of practical applications.”


In conclusion, the summit agreed that we need to address “... what can be done to lift awareness and appeal amongst school age children, their parents and teachers? This question needs more thought – not more of the same.”
Here’s hoping!!

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
manning@chariot.net.au

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?
http://www.rgs.org/GeographyToday/What+is+geography.htm
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hHFaMnbcTcs
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QwbToV-FvsU

Investigating geography
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XG3I1seYryY
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qIin5ds9ne8

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:
1.Where?
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.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pbgai3dK16Q
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SM4Q4yuSUPk

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
http://www.geographyjobs.com/
http://www.geog.mcgill.ca/other/jobsingeog.html
http://geography.about.com/od/careersingeography/a/jobsgeography.htm

Going places with geography
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=27p2k1oot80
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExB7-xzAVLc&feature=related

Specific career skills related to GIS
http://www.prweb.com/releases/GIS/Webinar/prweb8798132.htm

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!

Monday, September 12, 2011

All about spatial literacy... and free on-line













Left image: An English village streetscape in Suffolk, United Kingdom.
Right image: Somewhere but nowhere to go: milling around a Paris railway station.

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
manning@chariot.net.au

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


Have a play with these two – all about spatial literacy

ArcGIS Online - a way to go on-line
* ArcGIS Online is a cloud-based geospatial content management system for storing and managing maps, data, and other geospatial information. Built on Esri's cloud infrastructure, it gives you access to geographic content shared and registered by Esri and GIS users around the world.
With ArcGIS Online, you can
• Create and share maps that can be accessed by anyone through a browser, a mobile device, ArcGIS for Desktop, or a custom application.
• Access and discover thousands of free maps, datasets, services, tools and other geospatial content.
• Manage geospatial content through an easy-to-use catalog of items or groups.
• Share your content publically, with specific groups, or keep it private.

* Have a play with ArcGIS Explorer on-line. Well worth the time to see that here is a GIS viewer with street basemaps, satellite images, aerial photography and the capacity to digitise, import Shapefiles and much more. All on-line, with no required software to load up on your computer and all free – all you need is the internet to do some amazing GIS. This is the new world of GIS delivery; on-line and user-friendly. You will also find pre-made map projects on the Brisbane floods, active hazards in Japan, glacial retreat in Alaska, to name just a few.
* In particular make you own map following the instructions
* ‘How to us it’ videos are available free on the ESRI site to support your exploration of ArcGIS Explorer on-line.
* Think about signing in to the on-line ESRI environment to get even more functionality.
* Even go the extra yards and play with the featured maps and apps from the ArcGIS Community


A new dimension

A great resource for developing spatial awareness
. Interesting to apply to your area or known world landmarks. All about spatial literacy. In particular it is an interesting tool to incorporate spatial literacy and awareness with historical and contemporary things students are familiar with or studying.
Dimensions is an experimental prototype for the BBC. They want to bring home the human scale of events and places in history. The D-Day landing beaches measured from London to Norfolk in the UK. How far would the Titanic stretch down your street? Dimensions simply juxtaposes the size of historical events with your home and neighbourhood, overlaying important places, events and things on a satellite view of where you live. Certain "Dimensions" can be transformed into short walks, so you can get a physical appreciation of the distances involved.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Onward in the right direction with geography
















Worlds apart

Left image: Madang coast near Billi Billi.
Right image:Out of Wilpena Pound, Flinders Ranges, South 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
manning@chariot.net.au

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


Australian Curriculum: Geography on track

I thought it opportune to do a posting on where we are at with the Australian Curriculum: Geography. Over recent months, a group of 13 writers and advisors have been busy in Sydney, on-line and via teleconferencing developing the draft scope and sequence for the geography curriculum.

The draft follows the January 2011 Geography Shape paper and will outline the geography curriculum from Foundation to Year 12, including an introduction, concept outlines, content descriptions and elaborations for each year level, skills and inquiry progressions and achievement standards. At this stage the plan is for the draft to go on-line for consultation from October 10th until February 29th 2011. The on-line consultation period is a critical time for geographers in Australia to provide their views on the curriculum and participate in a real way in shaping the curriculum. After the consultation period ACARA will review the comments and the advisors and writers will redraft the curriculum in response. Presently the publication date is September 2012.

So we have just on a year to go! It feels to some of us like a curriculum marathon when one considers that we started on the process way back in October 2008 with the 'Towards a National Geography Curriculum' and commenced work with ACARA on the curriculum in September 2009.

As mentioned in a previous Spatialworlds posting the identified concepts for the curriculum are: Place, Space, Environment, Interconnection, Change, Sustainability and Scale. Much work recently has gone into clarifying and producing the words to describe the concepts. These concepts have been critical as the curriculum is designed and written and will, I am sure, play an important part in the professional learning to be conducted as the curriculum is rolled out.

As for the focus for the year levels an effort has been made to give appropriate coverage for physical and human geography whilst keeping true to the holistic and integrated approach of geography. Naturally I cannot provide details of the year level focus in this blog but assure all readers of the Spatialworlds blog that every effort has been made to provide stimulating and engaging geography for each year level in-line with the capacities and interests of students as they progress through their schooling.

Over recent months there continues to be some hotspots for discussion which have provided for some lively and informed debate amongst the advisory group. Some of these have existed since we first started back in 2009; others have raised their head as the work has progressed. The hotspots involve questions about:

* The nature of place and space.
* The nature of sustainability in geography.
* Geography and citizenship capacity.
* The appropriateness of integrating fieldwork at each year level.
* The aim of engagement versus essential coverage.
* The physical/human geography balance.
* The vocational focus of geography.
* The role of geography to inform students understanding of the economy and the world of work.
* Spatial technology and its use as a core issue to be mandated in some way or not.
* The need for the language and terminology of the document to be understandable to non-geographers.
* Geography in the primary setting – suitability and achievability.
* What concepts and content should be included in a 21st Century curriculum of geography?

There is plenty of work still to go before the curriculum is published. I hope when geography teachers in October see the draft curriculum that they will consider that we are heading in the right direction in creating Australia’s first National Geography Curriculum. Many of us in geography associations around Australia are doing our best to ensure that the curriculum reflects worlds best practice, is relevant and engaging for students and meets the hefty expectations of geography teachers around Australia.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Genie is out of the bottle!




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
manning@chariot.net.au

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

Spatial Genie goes live

Check out Spatial Genie, an Australian education system developed GIS platform of massive significance to the promotion of GIS in Australian schools. Spatial Genie is a GIS platform from Education Services Australia (ESA) and is available for free use at http://www.spatialgenie.edu.au/spatialgenie/.

As mentioned in a previous Spatialworlds posting, ESA has morphed out of The Learning Federation, Curriculum Corporation and EDNA as the resource development arm of the Australian Curriculum initiative. The development of Spatial Genie by ESA is important because for the first time the education system in Australia, via ESA, has invested in the development and promotion of GIS in schools in a practical way. Although only the first version (with a few bugs still), Spatial Genie: Mark 1 is a great development and sets the scene for the continued development of a free, Australia-wide, system supported, data rich and customized to schools GIS platform.

Have a look at Spatial Genie and see how it may be used in your classroom. Michael Gehling at ESA would love to hear your views on how it has performed and what can be done to improve the platform for school use in the future. Regardless of some of the platform problems we may experience as Spatial Genie is developed and improved, this development is especially important for the geographer wishing to use GIS in their classroom because of the data access function of the product. ESA has worked hard at acquiring data from government and private providers for use in Spatial Genie. Such a data bank acquired by a government organization such as ESA is just what Australian geographers have been looking for to make data access, storage and configuration on a national scale a reality. In time Spatial genie will also have data associated student activities and support materials integrated into the site.

Spatial Genie has a huge potential to promote GIS in Australian Schools (and beyond) by providing a stepping stone for teachers to start using spatial data in an meaningful way via a free education system developed on-line platform. No longer can those skeptical or unfamiliar with the use of GIS say that there is no system support in Australia for the use of GIS or that it is too expensive, data is too hard to acquire and that GIS is not accessible for every classroom in Australia. Watch the Spatial Genie space as it continues to be more stable, improve functionality and gather data sets. Michael is presently working on the next stage of development for Spatial Genie in 2012.

Any feedback we can provide can only help to make this a world leading educational resource for geography (and the other subjects such as science, history and mathematics). Geographers in Australia should support this development as a move in the right direction to get spatial technology into every Australian school.


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