Wednesday, March 26, 2008

WALIS Forum in Perth: A spatial experience

Spatial Worlds website
Perth, Australia: S: 31º 57 E: 115º 52
Picture descriptions:
Left image: Coastal groynes off the coast near Rome, Italy.
Right image: Transport by scooter in Athens, Greece.

Last week I was fortunate to attend the West Australian Land and Information Systems (WALIS) Conference at the Perth Conference Centre. The WALIS conference for the first time had a teacher stream, coordinated by Phil Houweling from the John Calvin College in Perth. Phil did an amazing job creating, coordinating and conducting the teacher conference for over 70 teachers on spatial education. The keynote speakers were an amazing mix of Spatial Industry personnel speaking on topics as diverse as GPS on football players, defence force use of GIS, data servers, free on-line software and global warming. The conference really showed how ubiquitous and all pervasive spatial technology is now in our society. To get details of the program and speakers go to
As always one comes away from such a conference inspired and full of new ideas and resources. In this blog I will list some of the things which really made an impression on me. The great thing about spatial and schools is that you never know what will be next and what is available. As long as one does not get ‘technology anxiety’ it is really a great area to work in. After each of the points I have given credit to the source/speaker)

1. GIS is increasingly being seen as a great enabler to deal with world problems such as population growth, global warming, loss of biodiversity, resource shortages, security and social conflicts. To solve these problems we need information! GIS is an information system with an ever increasing ability to store data and analyse data. Hence its importance in producing dynamic maps (as opposed to static or dumb maps) with a deep link of information to space continues to increase every year. (Derek Milton: ESRI Australia)

2. Free GIS viewers/applications available on the net:
* National Geographic Map Machine at
* WA Atlas at
* Geoview WA at
* Cottlesloe Coast Care Association at
* Landgate map viewer at
* Transperth at * Bike Perth at
What is interesting with many of the sites above is the growth of community participation in the map environment on the internet. (Derek Milton: ESRI Australia)

3. Many of the references on the WA Sustainable Energy Association site ( have links to spatial applications. One of great interest at the present is which shows satellite images of the melting icesheets. (Ray Wills: CEO WA Sustainability Energy Association)

4. Some spatial quotes:
“Almost everything that happens, happens somewhere. Knowing where something happens is critically important” Longley 2001.
“The term spatialisation relates to being spatially aware and thinking spatially.” Bert Veenendaal, Curtin University.
“Kids have a different understanding of space and their world view is different to that of their teachers and parents due to the impact of blogs and access to other in space. What is the implication of this? Bert Veenendaal, Curtin University.

5. Some websites to get students thinking spatially:
* Newsmapping at
* Buztracker: world news mapped:
* Mapping sex offenders: Megans Law:
* Spatial Information Centre for education at
* Virus maps at
* Geoscience Australia, Tsunami risk at
* Toxic maps at
* Google maps mania, blogs showing the use of google maps by web users:
* To put together maps at
* Google gloves to navigate google earth:
* Spatial mashups galore at Websites from Ed Parsons, Google: sponsored by PSMA Australia

6. A useful resource at for bringing together all things related to spatial education is the newly developed 'National Education Spatial Portal for Spatial Information'.

7. Check out Microsoft’s answer to Google Earth at and
The Virtual Earth platform is an integrated set of services that combine ‘bird’s eye’, aerial and 3D imagery with mapping, location and search functionality. Of interest is that Virtual Earth platform is designed to be easily integrated with other components of Microsoft technology.
Many happy hours of spatial surfing on this list!!

8. An article of interest! The latest 'Position' magazine(page 38) has a very interesting article on the Spatial Industry titled "The Industry is worth billions". The article gives a real insight into the magnitude and potential of the industry and is well worth the read. If interested in this article and other articles on GIS applications in society, the magazine is worth subscibing to for your school. To subscribe email:

9. Teaching materials for using Google Earth at
* for primary activities at:
* for local area studies at

Well done to Phil for a conference so rich in ideas, resources and good geography networking.

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