Monday, March 2, 2009

The spontaneity of Geography

Spatial Worlds Website

Picture descriptions:
Left Image: Living on the water and high rise buildings in Hong Kong.
Right image: Hong Kong at night.

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

With much talk happening in regards to core/foundation content for geography and the need to provide students with essential knowledge and skills it is important not to neglect one of the attractions of geography for students, and indeed teachers. That is, the spontaneity of the subject in the classroom. It would indeed be a tragedy if a teacher did not stop and embrace a current event because of the perceived need to get through the ‘content’ of the course. The Victorian bushfires are an excellent example of the potential of geography to provide classrooms the opportunity to explore causation, impact and most importantly provide the vehicle for teachers to debrief the students on the event. Such subject spontaneity is critical to keep the subject of geography relevant, useful and motivating for students. An ally to the opportunity for spontaneity is the capacity of spatial technologies to provide the medium for real- time data and visual representations as events unfold. Here are a few sites which over the years have provided an immediate and dynamic resource for teachers to respond to unfolding events. Needless to say, all rely heavily on the ability of spatial technology (particularly Google Earth and Google Maps and Flickr) to deliver current and accurate visualisations of place and space associated with the event. Such spontaneity and relevant tangential possibilities and the use of state of the art spatial technology should be a selling point for geography and not seen as an add-on hindering content delivery.

* Let’s start with the Victorian bushfire.
Within hours of such an event spatial sites appear often functional sites for emergency services and the community. Launched the Sunday, the day after Back Saturday, this Google Map that showed the extent of the Victorian bushfires (with associated photographs),145.360107&spn=5.467626,6.778564&z=7&msid=102713443485350180116.0004625c0e5a723331061

* Queensland floods: a study ready to goThe following sites provide an array of daily images, maps and commentary to aid the teacher covering the floods in Queensland during February 2009.$file/road-closure-map-090302-9am.pdf

A real time Swine flu website
The Flutracker website is a map and the data behind it compiled by a biomedical researcher in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, using technology provided by Rhiza Labs and Google. The map is compiled using data from official sources, news reports and user-contributions and updated multiple times per day.

* The use of spatial technology in newsroom communications
Reuters AlertNet site: Alerting humanitarians to emergencies
It includes an interactive mapping tool (fed from MS Virtual Earth) and viewable by conflicts, storms, food security, health etc.,AF,RU .
Another interesting approach to news and media is the mapping of news coverage around the world. The following sites provide some interesting spatial perspectives.
Newspaper coverage map sites.
Other world according to newspapers at
Newsmapping at
Buztracker: world news mapped:

* Earth Album is a great geography relevant site that does a "mash up" of google earth maps and flickr images This a great site for students investigating current information on countries

* Mind's Wonderings: Education and Technology
Rebecca Nicholas (Victorian geography teacher and AGTA Secretary) has decided that it is not hard to be enthusiastic about the developments in technology and the applications these have on education and teaching. Each new development sends her mind wandering and wondering about how she can use this to teach her kids to enhance their learning? Such musing has resulted in her Wondering minds blog. Rebecca’s site is a great resource with regular new spatial websites posted. Keep an eye on it!

An example of a site explored on Rebecca’s site is the Satellite tracking site It apparently updates every 30 seconds and shows the path of each satellite etc.
What a great site to create a sense of spontaneity and immediacy in the geography classroom.