Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Wherever you go, there you are!

Image above: The video called 'Move' - 3 guys, 44 days, 11 countries, 18 flights, 38 thousand miles, an exploding volcano, 2 cameras and almost a terabyte of footage...

Related links to Spatialworlds  
Spatialworlds website

Australian Geography Teachers' Association website

Where am I??  

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

Geography and travel

Over recent months I have been finishing my workshops with the  Where the hell is Matt? videos. Matthew "Matt" Harding is a traveller and now an Internet celebrity who in his videos dances in front of landmarks and street scenes in various international locations. When experiencing the sheer joy of life as Matt dances in the places around the world, it got me thinking about the relationship between travel, geography and geographers. All the geographers I know love travelling and seeing the world that they spend a lot of their time teaching about.  In fact, I believe the power of travel is fundamental to many of the aims of geography teaching. Linking geography to travel and experiences on the move enhances students understanding of the processes of the earth, broadens their perception of their world, stimulates a students geographical imagination and develops a more globalised and non-ethnocentric view of the world amongst students. Travel takes a student beyond the me!! I know we cannot take our classes on excursions around the world (unless you are very lucky!) but with the power of the Internet, image capture and spatial technology we can travel virtually to anywhere in the world (knowing without going) and take in the sites and even interact with people in those places. We also know that geography teachers love telling geogstories of their travels and even showing and using those slides (now thousands of digital images). Why not?... geography should be about story telling, as is history.

Such views are not new as indicated in the following quotes over the years from famous people from all fields of human endeavour.

Some great quotes about the power of travel: 

"Wherever you go, there you are."    Jon Kabat-Zinn

"To travel is to live."  Hans Christian Anderson

"Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow." Anita Desai

"Travel is a fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow mindedness. Broad, wholesome, charitible views of men and things cannot be aquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime." Mark Twain

"The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page." 360AD  Augustine of Hippo

"Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see teh place you came from with new eyes and extra colours. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving." Terry Pratchett

"I travel not to go anywhere but to go . I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move." Robert Louis Stevenson

"Travel makes you modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world." Gustave Flaubert

"Ones destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things." Henry Miller

Continuing with the travel theme and the potential for the geography classroom here are some video treasures from some young people living the travel dream through film

Rick Mereki is an independent film-maker based in Melbourne,  Australia. He shot to fame in August 2011 after releasing several short films that he created with Tim White and Andrew Lees. The films were seen to be some of the fastest growing viral videos in Vimeo's history.

Here are the films on Vimeo:

MOVE is an excellent video that inspires students to see the world and learn about the people and cultures from far of places.
* LEARN   
* EAT  

Making a Travel Wishlist

In a more traditional travel sense the attached images of Icons of place on the travel bucket list site are a great discussion starter on travel for students.  Why not get students to make their very own travel wish list with the reasons why? 

The antipathy of learning through travel - ethnocentric news coverage.

On the other side of the travel coin, this Ted Talk on Geo-ignorance in relation to geographical news coverage is an important discussion point to open the eyes of students to the western-centric and ethno-centric nature of the news they are fed on a daily basis. 

As the Ted Talk says:

"The U.S. News is remarkably USA-centric, so in the era of globalization and the fragmentation of  information, most American TV viewers know less about the world than they did 40 years ago."

I would like to think a student studying geography and experiencing travel though their virtual experiences and development of their geographical imagination can counter the impact of such news coverage. Sadly in the United States geography is not big in schools. A 2013 National Geographic survey found that:
  • 20%of Americans think Sudan is in Asia
  • Half of young Americans can’t find  New York on a map
  • Only 37% of Americans can find Iraq on a map

Mark Twain did famously say in 1880:
"God created war so that Americans would learn geography." 

I am not sure that in Australia our students or the public in general are much better geographically informed than the US. Hopefully with all students in Australia now doing geography from at least Foundation to Year 8 will improve our geographic capacities as a people.

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