Saturday, April 30, 2011

George Dailey: A man on a mission!

Left image: Beaches of Northern France.
Right image: Somme Valley, Northern France.

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'

George "GIS" Dailey

Over recent years many geographers in Australia have come to know George Dailey, ESRI Education Manager in the US. George has been a great supporter of GIS in schools in Australia and has been the ‘go to guy’ for many of us. George was the keynote at the AGTA conference in Launceston in 2006.
In this posting I thought it worthy of pointing Spatialworlds blog followers to the excellent ESRI blog in the US which George, Joseph and Charlie Fitzpatrick(Co-Manager, ESRI Schools Program) are responsible for the blog. The blog is a great resource for those interested in spatial technology and should be accessed regularly to keep up with the latest development in GIS in the US and beyond.

The most recent posting from George relates to the Texas wildfires presently occurring in the US (the post includes a pathway to a wildfire map application). George works hard keeping the blog up-to-date so that he can log into current happenings around the world. With such events the blog posts show the role of spatial technology in aiding, saving, informing and generally responding to events. The blog has been going since January 2007 and if you work your way through the archives you will see an enormous amount of fantastic GIS in education ideas, lessons, resources and general thinking. George, Joseph and Charlie also invite educators from around the world to submit to the blog. Just contact the blog team at
if you have an idea to submit

Here are just a few blog posting from the last few months!

* Video Series of a GIS Institute for Educators

* Videos on GIS in School Instruction

* Analyzing Change Over Time Using Topographic Maps and Imagery with GIS

* Landsat data in ArcGIS Online

* Importance of Getting Out Into the Field

* What Should I Do For My GIS Project?

* WebGIS = Launchpad for Critical Thinking

* Web & Mobile Tools for Teaching About the Earthquake in Japan

* Mapping St Patrick’s Day with GIS

* Easy Ways For New GIS Teachers To Get A Little Help

* Mapping Sports Allegiances with GIS

* Exploring Tragedy

* Got Questions? Choosing GIS as a Career

* Teaching the GeoNews Using GIS Technologies and the Spatial Perspective

* Using ArcGIS Online to Analyze the Toxic Spill in Hungary

* Ten Tested, Tried, and Terrific Web GIS Resources

* Mapping Fresh Water

* Studying Landscape Change Using ArcGIS Online


The ESRI Community blog is also now conducting regular Webinars on-line, which can be viewed via the blog. For example on May 11th, Joseph Kerski conducted a Webinar on Web-based GIS ideas that you can use in the classroom tomorrow!

“Explore engaging, one-day, classroom activities that use cutting-edge Geo-Web 2.0 tools. We're highlighting the web-based mapping tools that will inspire students to learn, even with the last days of school fast approaching. Join Dr. Joseph Kerski, 2011 NCGE President and an ESRI Education Manager as he leads this webinar. The face-paced, intriguing nature of the Geo-Web 2.0 Tools will be sure to turn your students' minds to learning before they can grab their flip flops and plan their summer vacations.”

Keep an eye out for upcoming Webinars. Here are a few other webinars from earlier in the year.

* Recorded Webinar: An Overview of Spatial Cognition Research

* Webinar: 10 Tips for Easy Web Mapping in the Classroom Tomorrow

What an amazing resource for teachers interested in introducing GIS into their classroom. To keep up to date with the blog consider registering an RSS feed.

I look forward to continue following the work of George and others in the US who have a mission to introduce GIS into schools in a meaningful way. Follow George’s Twitter if interested in seeing what he is up to. Needless to say George Dailey is an inspiration to those working in GIS in Education.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Worth a look

Left image: Seoul pollution.
Right image: Traffic on the Thames.

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'

We are but a pale blue dot!

An old piece from Carl Sagan but worth visiting every once and while to remind us about being just a pale blue dot – should be our world view!!

Natural Disaster mitigation

An interesting resource on what is being done re: disaster mitigation and preparedness around the world.

As the website says:
“Natural disasters can strike at any time, many of them without warning, so being prepared ahead of time is the way individuals and governments can save lives and protect property. Because the potential for natural disasters is spread around the world, emergency preparedness is important to everyone. The Internet makes it possible to find easily accessible resources about all types of disaster preparedness. State, county and local governments and organizations offer their constituents information on preparing for disasters that might affect them directly, while the federal government and national organizations address emergency preparedness for the country as a whole. International organizations, like the World Health Organization, offer information about events that have the potential for worldwide significance. Online resources make it possible to get the vital information needed to prepare for these natural disasters that can't be controlled.”

Thanks to Brooke and Abby from Deleware for passing on this great resource.


A GIS platform with potential for adaptation

This site has a great potential for use in the classroom. Have a look at it and think about how it could be applied as a GIS platform for schools. Enter the site as guest. More about this later.

McKinsey Global Institute

The McKinsey Global Institute is a great resource for articles on a diversity of geographical topics. The site also contains podcasts and vodcasts of high quality.

* What Matters
This section of the McKinsey site asks researchers, academics, journalists, policy makers and executives to address ten big questions, whose answers will shape our collective future. Topics such as climate change, globalization, cities and energy are particularly relevant to geography.

What Matters example

* How big can cities get?

* Pictures of cities from readers

* The article Urban world: Mapping the economic power of cities explores the shift of urban economic clout from West to East over the next 15 years. It focuses, in particular, on the 600 cities, many in emerging markets, that will account for more than 60 percent of global GDP growth over the period.

* Global cities of the future: An interactive map
Explore the cities and emerging urban clusters that will drive dramatic growth and demographic changes over the next generation.

The Geography pages

A useful teaching resource with heaps of links and information on a wide range of topics.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Joseph Kerski, a geographer with attitude

Images: Seal on Seal Rock, Victor Harbor, 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

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

Dr Joseph Kerski our “eccentric geography with substance" friend in the US

It is unusual for me to do a posting on an individual, but with his February 2011 appointment as President of the National Council for Geographic Education in the US I thought it warranted profiling the work of Joseph Kerski on geography - and most importantly spatial technology in schools. Joseph has been described by Matt Rosenberg from as a Geographer and World's Nerdiest Dad. A description he is quite proud of I am sure! When I first met Joseph he was off to visit yet another confluence with his 12 year old daughter after the NCGE conference - and she was extemely excited by the adventure (a geographers Disneyland it seemed). Joseph plans to get to as many as he can while on earth! I can imagine what my son would have said when he was 12 years old, if I said we are off to a visit a confluence!!

As mentioned above, I had the pleasure to spend some time with Joseph at the National Council for Geographic Education (NCGE) Conference at Oklahoma City in 2007. What a whirlwind? This posting will give you an idea of who Joseph Kerski is and what he means to geography in the US. He is a ‘geographer with attitude’ the students in your class will find fascinating! A real live eccentric geography fanatic!

It is great to hear that Joseph (his day time job is the Education Manager for ESRI US) is the new president of the NCGE, a non-profit organisation chartered in 1915 to serve geography teachers at all levels of education. Congrats Joseph. If anyone can get GIS into schools I am sure he will through his leadership role in the NCGE. As you will see from Joseph’s videos he is out there; enthusiastic and basically in love with geography (and not afraid to shout it from the highest building). Such enthusiasm is contagious!

Here are some fascinating and useful (and not so useful – what is with the lift?)You Tubes from Joseph.
* Why Geography Education Matters
* How can GIS be used as a powerful tool for teaching and learning Geography?
* Scale Matters
* What Is Geography? Why is it important not only to education in the 21st Century, but why is it important to our world?
* Why Teach and Learn with GIS and GPS Geotechnologies in Schools?
* Testing latitude-longitude spatial accuracy iPhone vs GPS receiver
* Why is Fieldwork Important to Geography?
* The lift?
* Light rail
* The giant globe and map at the Association of American Geographers Conference, 2011

More from Joseph

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Entwining history and geography

Images: Victor Harbor, 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

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

Geographical determinism?

Considering that the Australian Curriculum: history has already been published and that the Australian Curriculum: geography is soon to follow, I thought it would be useful to do some discussion and resourcing on the connections between history and geography. In particular, to look at the potential of integration for the two disciplines as a result of the close interconnections and interdependencies of the disciplines – such connections have become even more evident than ever with the emergence of spatial technology for historical research and hopefully for its application in education.

"...Geography is not just a physical stage for the historical drama, not just a set of facts about areas of the earth. It is a special way of looking at the world. Geography, like history, is an age-old and essential strategy for thinking about large and complex matters" Meinig 1987

In our world of simplistic divisions of knowledge there is always the danger that we see disciplines as quite separate and not connected. History and geography in schools need to be seen as entwined and interdependent. As a history and geography teacher such a synergy is logical and obvious. Whatever history I was teaching I would start with a geography lesson of the region studied or impacted upon (much to the disquiet of the students who thought they were doing history!).

…geography and history are complementary and interdependent, “bound together by the very nature of things.”

This relationship, Meinig states, “ implied by such common terms as space and time, area and era, places and events, pairs that are fundamentally inseparable. In practice the two fields are differentiated by the proportionate emphasis each gives to these terms.” Meinig 1987

This connection and interdependency of history and geography is particularly relevant as we move towards the development of disciplines in the Australian Curriculum. Curriculum separatism can be detrimental to the development of a student’s holistic understanding of an historical individual, group, event or phenomena. When implementing the Australian Curriculum in a crowded curriculum, such perception of connections between the disciplines is imperative when designing an integrated approach to the study of a region, theme or topic (particularly in primary schools).

An example of the impact of geography on history was highlighted in the 1940’s when geographical determinists looked at the rise and fall of the Roman Empire from 400-500. Much of the fall of the empire had to do with a regional drought which decreased the fertility of the land and agriculture output. The lack of food from this event strained the empire and exacerbated the political situation to the point of collapse. The entwinement of Roman geography and history was emphasised by historians when they pronounced that geographic location impacted on Roman civilization because where they were located made it easy for travel and trade. The story goes that Rome was located on the Tyrrhenian Sea and on the Tiber River, making it easy for them to get all around the European area; they were located on a place with fertile soil, which made it easy for farming and they were surrounded by mountains, which provided them with places to hide, and have protection.

From this beginning the theory of geographical determinism grew to encompass all environmental and geographic conditions and their impact on the social, political and economic forces of a society. It was believed that technology was the only way to mitigate risks associated with geographic determinism. In short, Geographical Determinism is the theory that the human habits, behaviour and characteristics of a particular culture are shaped by geographic conditions. The phrase was coined in the early 1900’s and in its extreme expression the theory asserts that the work of humans is controlled or "determined" by geographical conditions: climate, landforms, and the like. The debate on the veracity of the theory of Geographical determinism continued throughout the twentieth century. A more moderate view of Geographical determinism called Geographical possibilism (suggests that humans have a number of possibilities from which to select)has surfaced in recent years. This theory suggests that humans have a number of possibilities from which to select. I feel that the truth is to be found between the two theories.

Geographical determinism was picked up by the Russian Marxists in the 1920’s, where environment and its influence on the development of society was a dominant theme in Soviet geography. Interestingly the attempts by Russian geographers to develop a balanced assessment of the relationship between man and the physical environment were negated in the 1930's by a dogmatic pronouncement by Stalin which denied any environmental influence on the development of society. However, since the end of World War II a group of Russian geographers have attempted to reintroduce the theme of the geographical environment as an object of study for geography. The arguments of this group were strengthened by a pronouncement by the Communist Party in 1963, which rejected Stalin's earlier ruling and recognised that the geographical environment, although not a determining factor, does exercise a certain influence on the development of society.
Today Russian historians quite logically claim that the geography of Russia has been the major determinant of Russian history. For example

“Its location on a high northern latitude and far inland gave it a cold and dry climate. That, combined with large areas of poor or mediocre soils, made it a cold dry steppe in which it is difficult to survive, let alone prosper. Famine has affected Russia on an average of one year out of three throughout its history. Russia lies on the vast Eurasian Steppe with no formidable natural barriers, which has invited a number of invasions with tragic results. In its early history, the main threat would come from the nomadic tribes to the east, making Russia a battleground between nomads and farmers. Only more recently have Russia’s neighbors to the west been a serious threat, as seen by the loss of an estimated 27,000,000 people in World War II. Ironically, Russia’s harsh climate has saved it from invasion more than once. Napoleon and Hitler both found out the power of “General Winter” when they made the mistake of trying to conquer this vast northern giant. Russia’s inland location to the north and east of Europe has left it largely isolated from the mainstream of developments in Europe. Altogether, Russia’s geographic features have made it a harsh land facing constant invasions. As a result, Russians have historically been torn between needing and wanting foreign ideas with which they could better compete and survive on the one hand and a suspicion of foreigners bred by the continual threat of invasions they have faced on the other.”

This is a wonderful example of geographies impact on history but by no means unique. How could one study Australian history without recognising the impact of geography on our settlement, governance, national character, military involvement etc. As Blainey in his book Tyranny of Distance said way back in 1970:

“…geographical remoteness has been central to shaping our history and identity--and it will continue to form our future.”

Professor Iain Stewart in his series: The Earth Made Us repeatedly used examples of geographical determinism to explain the creation, life and death of civilisations i.e. Those along plate boundaries which were attracted to the locations due to the presence of water at plate boundaries, were also inevitably wiped out when the plates “did their thing”.

The concept that geography determines culture and in turn history goes all the way back to Hippocrates (c. 420 B.C) when in his discussion; “Airs, Waters and Places”, he contrasts the “easy-going Asiatics living in a very favourable region with the poor Europeans”, who had to work hard because of a deficit environment. Aristotle also played in this space in his Politics when he talked about the “brave but deficient in thinking Europeans from colder climates” contrasted with the “thoughtful and skillful Asians” without spirit because of their hot climate. He said that the Greeks being a blend of the two environments had the best of both worlds! Very dangerous generalisations which did much to discredit geographical determinism. Such deterministic views were often quoted by the racists of the 18th-20th Century to explain through environmental impacts a whole range of racial stereotypes and generalisations. Such associations did much to discredit the theories of geographical determinism in the 20th century.
However one would be foolhardy to totally deny that environment and in turn geography of a place does determine the nature of culture and in turn the unfolding of human history.

"...history has a spatial dimension--the places where human actions occur. For example, aspects of the natural environment, such as climate and terrain, influence human behavior; and people affect the places they inhabit. Therefore, main ideas of geography, such as the location of places and relationships within places should be included as important parts of the study of history" Framework for the 1994 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) US history assessment.

The 2004 book: Historical GIS suggested the equation Place + Space + Time = historical understanding. This equation can also be written as X+Y+Z = historical understanding. Both are saying that there is a need for an understanding of place (X-Y coordinates) in cahoots with an understanding of change over time (Z factor) when teaching any historical topic, event or phenomena.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Thinking geography

Left image: Living space, Hong Kong.
Right image: Small doubledecker trams in Hong Kong

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'

Blog away!!

As mentioned on a previous Spatialworlds posting, blogs continue to be a powerful medium to pass on resources, clarify thoughts, generate discussion and to create a collaborative network of like-minded people. There are thousands of geography based blogs out in cyberspace, creating a resource for the classroom teacher beyond our imagination only a few years ago. The Geography Association (GA) in the UK has made an attempt to create a listing of some of the best geography blogs in the UK and beyond. I would suggest that the list is just the tip of the iceberg. From a rather large list I have selected the ones on geographical thinking and resources which would be good to follow if you want to keep up with the ever burgeoning number of resources and programs applicable to the teaching of geography. To see the full list, including a lot of school based student blogs go to the GA bloglist.

Anyway here are my favourites from the list:

Geography. Learning. Teaching
Digital Geography is all about using new technologies in the Geography curriculum.
Early years geography
Primary geography
Funky geography
Geographical contexts to everyday situations explained
geogalot is my blog about the use of ICT in Geography education and updates made to my online geography resources website -
Random musings from the GeographyPages bloke
• A blog to be a place where we can understand the wonderful world of Geography.
Geography songs
• Where would you be without geography?
Resources, games, videos and weblinks
Geogy follows the incredible world of geography and wants to share discoveries with you.
Give Geography its Place is a campaign to raise the profile of Geography in the media.
• The amazing things about Google Earth (not officially affiliated with Google
• A project funded by the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) with an Innovative Geography Teaching Grant to develop teaching ideas for using Google Earth in the Geography classroom
Independent geographers, to cause thought, connected thinking, and stimulate the public and to wear down public resistance to geography
• This humanities blog is designed with history and geography teachers in mind -
Using New Technologies in the Classroom
Space for a geography teacher to explore his ideas and experiences of ICT in my classroom
• The online musings of a geography teacher with an interest in the use of online technologies to enhance the teaching and learning of geography in schools.
Provocations on geography in education from David Lambert and John Morgan.
Dispatches from a Geographical life as Secondary Curriculum Development Leader of the Geographical Association. /
• A weblog designed to share Geography resources with students and colleagues
• Radical Geography, online deposit for my teaching resources
Ideas and resources to support geography teachers in updating their pedagogy and informing CPD choices
• These are some of the thoughts and ponderings of Tim Manson - an ICT-enabled Geography teacher from Ballymena, Northern Ireland

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Where are you?

Locational intelligence on visits

How do they work? There are some amazing spatial information gatherer and displayer programs available to log visits to websites and blogs.

Here are just three of the most popular.

* Revolver maps

A Revolver Map, an interactive visitor globe rendered by the Revolver Engine. Every visitor leaves an eternal dot on the globe, recent visitors are tagged by the labels showing flag, city and state. What a great example of spatial technology!

* Cluster maps

Cluster maps are basic dot maps which plot and quantify the hits on my blog. How amazing that the technology can record, plot, quantify and visually represent every person in the world who access my site. Cluster maps are free to add to websites and blogs and can be accessed via the cluster map site.

* Google Analytics

Google Analytics is an enterprise-class web analytics solution that gives rich insights into website traffic.

Everything you wanted to know about Geography but too afraid to ask!

Left image: Rural landscape near Clare, South Australia.
Right image: Aroona Valley, 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

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

10 ideas to get started teaching geography

"It is really important that all students study Geography at school. Geography not only gives better spatial awareness so we know where things are but deals with the big issues - the only subject that gives the full picture on sustainable living, fair trade, poverty, renewable energy, migration, urban regeneration, food miles, floods, droughts, hurricanes and hazard management."

What will we offer when a teacher says:
"I am teaching Australian Curriculum: geography next semester/year and I need some help. I did geography at school but geography seems to be different today! What can I look at and work on to prepare to teach geography next semester/year."

Here are some ideas to get started. It certainly is not a finite list but is the basis of some professional learning materials I am putting together for South Australian teachers when I get the question in coming months;

"How do I teach geography? I can learn the content OK but what does geographical thinking involve?"

Idea 1: Read the papers prepared for and by the Australian Curriculum body
• Shape Paper for the Australian Curriculum: geography. The paper able to be downloaded at provides broad direction on the purpose, structure and organisation of the geography curriculum and is designed to be read in conjunction with The Shape of the Australian Curriculum v2.0. It is intended to guide the writing of the geography curriculum from Foundation to Year 12.
• The Research Paper and Position Paper on geography produced by the Towards a National Geography Curriculum Project at
• Australia needs geography:
• The Australian Government commissioned 2008 Erebus International Report titled ‘Study into the Teaching of Geography in Years 3-10’.

Think about providing feedback to ACARA on the Australian Curriculum: geography as further papers are released. Geography teachers need to play an important role in providing feedback to ACARA to make sure we get the geography curriculum Australian students deserve.

Idea 2: Join the Geography Teachers Association (GTA) in your state or country.
Here are the relevant links to join up:
Geography Teachers Association of South Australia (GTASA)
Geography Teachers Association of Victoria (GTAV)
Geography Association of Western Australia (GAWA)
Geography Teachers Association of NSW (GTANSW)
Australian Capital Territory Geography Teachers (sub-branch of GTANSW)
Geography Teachers Association of Queensland (GTAQ)
Tasmanian Geography Teachers Association (TGTA)
• Australian teachers also think about joining the Geography Association (GA) in the UK as an overseas school
• or the GTA in your state/country.

Idea 3: Sign up!

Register on the GTASA site for newsletters, sign up on the “21st Century Geography in Australian classrooms” and follow the Spatialworlds blog.

Idea 4: View these sites:
Australian Teachers Association of Australia (AGTA) site.
GTAV site.
National Curriculum in the UK materials
Geography Association (GA) site.
In particular look at:
o (if primary)
o (if secondary)
• Juicy and Digital Geography, worthwhile “left field” geography blogs at and
Mind's Wonderings: The blog from Rebecca Nicholas (Queensland teacher) is a great resource to keep up to date with the latest developments in technology and the applications these have for education and teaching.

Idea 5: Think about attending the GTASA conference in Adelaide on May 27th 2011 and the 21-23 August GTAV conference in Melbourne.

Idea 6: Download the free AEJEE ArcGIS from Get started playing with GIS using this free ESRI program. Also view the previous Spatialworlds blog posting on free GIS software. There is also a free 14 day trial Webserver GIS available from eSpatial. The 14day trial gives instant access to all the standard functionality of a traditional desktop GIS.

Idea 7: To get inspired about what geography means to so many, watch the 2011 AGTA keynote presentations on the AGTA website.

Idea 8: Read the following articles
Primary school geography
Children Place and Environment (primary school): Simon Catling
Think Piece - Children's Worlds: Simon Catling

General articles on geographical thinking:
Geographic Inquiry: Thinking Geographically: ESRI
• Thinking Geographically: Peter Jackson and
• The edited pdf of the Spatialworlds blog focussing on geographical thinking.
The case for geography

Books to purchase

Idea 9: View the following geography Powerpoint presentations:

Idea 10: Watch the following You Tube Videos on Geography

• You Tube Videos on Geography

• You Tube Videos on National Curriculum for geography

You Tube videos on GIS

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Disaster, what disaster?

Images: Paris from the Eiffel Tower.

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'

Inquiring on disasters

In the last post I mentioned the recently published resource from DECS in South Australia titled, 'Understanding and responding to Natural Disasters' resource which employed inquiry questions to help student construct their understanding of the recent natural disasters across the globe.

The resource has been developed on the premise that:

“News images of disaster zones can have lasting effects on even the youngest children, according to an expert at the University of Western Sydney, who says children up to the age of 10 have not yet learnt to distance themselves from the distress of others, while most adults can choose to "switch off” their feeling state. The repetition of the same images greatly increases the chance it will negatively affect a child, as the reinforcement carries it deeper into their psyche. In these situations, it is recommended that parents acknowledge the issue and express sadness for the people affected”.
Quake images can shake a young child's psyche, The Age, 17 March 2011

Due to this view the resource sets out to provide guidance for parents, teachers and schools, with well considered geographcial inquiry questions and up-to-date resources to supprot student learning and understandings on the extent, nature and impact of disasters.

"To focus student inquiry regarding regional disasters, a range of inquiry questions were developed. The questions are predominately generic in nature (not only relating to the 2011 Japanese disaster) and provided opportunities for students to investigate the nature, causation and impact of regional disasters. Of special note is that several of the inquiry questions encourage students to explore the role of media in such events and the nature and likelihood of regional disasters in Australia.

In the resource, under each of the questions there are numerous Internet sites to provide guidance and information for student and teacher investigation. I have only hyperlinked one of these in this posting. To get the full listing just go to the DECS website.


What qualifies an event as a regional disaster?

What are possible regional disasters that can occur on planet Earth?

Are all regional disasters natural?

What causes earthquakes and tsunamis of the magnitude that recently hit Japan?

Could Australia be hit by an earthquake or tsunami of the magnitude experienced recently by Japan?

What regional disasters are most likely to occur in Australia?

What are the global impacts of regional disasters?

Are all places on the earth at the same risk of a disaster?

Are there different ways people respond to regional disasters?

How has the world responded to recent regional disasters?

What is involved in the recovery stage following a disaster?

During the rebuilding stage following a disaster are there measures that can be taken to reduce the impact of such events in the future?

How does media inform and impact on our understanding and view of a disaster?

Additional weblinks which may support the above inquiries


Organisations supporting the response to and understanding of regional disasters

* Global Education Centre
* AusAID
* World Vision
* Red Cross
* Australian Red Cross
* Save The Children
* CARE Australia
* Oxfam Cool Planet for Teachers
* United Nations

An intersting footnote to this posting is the 13/4/11 article in the Age newspaper in Australia. The Age article is on climate change and earthquakes and discusses the research which links the two. An interesting debate to follow - many of us I am sure have been wondering about the connection. The comments below the article show the need for some geographical knowledge and understanding but some of you may consider that it is 'left field' science . It will be interesting to see how the media continues to report the research.

Monday, April 11, 2011

It is more than telling!

Left image: Rocky coast, Rouen, France.
Right image: Photgraphic exhibition, Saturday morning in Hyde Park, Sydney.

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'

It is more than telling!

Inquiry (in UK they talk about enquiry) is a word that is frequently thrown around when 21st Century curriculum is being developed.

The thinking is that students will be more connected to their learning and engaged to explore if they are stimulated to think via a range of inquiry questions on a topic/area of study:

"Tell me and I forget, show me and I remember, involve me and I understand." Joe Exline

Inquiry implies involvement that leads to understanding. Furthermore, involvement in learning implies possessing skills and attitudes that enable students to seek resolutions to questions and issues while constructing new knowledge. Useful application of inquiry learning involves several factors: a context for questions, a framework for questions, a focus for questions, and different levels of questions.

An example of the telling v’s exploring and inquiring was highlighted recently when the Department of Education and Children’s Services (DECS) in South Australia decided that it would be useful for a resource to be produced for schools to support their response to the recent disasters. Instead of producing documents on the nature of earthquakes and tsunamis, the curriculum team developed a series of inquiry questions with associated links. The inquiry questions provided numerous points of entry to investigate the 2011 happenings of January (floods in Queensland), February (Christchurch earthquakes) and March (Japan earthquake and tsunamis). The questions were designed to guide the learning of students at a range of levels as opposed to a one-fit all information dissemination activity.

Inquiry Based Learning has fast become an accepted way for curriculum to be written, with student exploration, engagement and empowerment seen as positive outcomes.

However there needs to be a caveat to the use of Inquiry Based Learning in the curriculum. It is not a stand-alone approach but rather an approach which relies on an infrastructure of skills, thinking and foundation knowledge to ensure that the inquiry has rigour, veracity and sound conceptual understandings – it needs to be informed inquiry and not just ‘off-the top of the head emoting’ or ramblings based on minimal or uninformed, if not biased sources.

There is a potential for Inquiry Based Learning to be mis-used and abused by teachers without the skills, knowledge or understanding themselves on a particular geographical topic. To avoid such mis-use, the January 2011 Australian Curriculum shape paper for geography (page 21)attempted to develop a geography orientated inquiry process with rigour.

‘Geographical inquiry refers to the methodologies that geographers use to find new knowledge, or knowledge that is new to them, and the ways that they attempt to understand and explain what they have observed’

I am sure we will hear more of this geographically focussed inquiry methodology as the Australian Curriculum geography is written over coming months. Naturally spatial technologies such as GIS have a huge part to play in the development of a rigorous and valid inquiry methodology in geography. In the next posting I will give details of the DECS disaster resource and how the writers used ‘rich inquiry’ questions to guide the inquiry on natural disasters.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Where is it?

Left image: Crossing the Thames at Tower Bridge.
Right image: The Thames at night, London.

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'

Using spatial technology to track anything and everything

As with most new technological development we just take for granted that we now can do it, whatever it is. Sometimes we need to just stop and think, how does it work?; what is the technology behind the capacity?; and how amazing that we can do whatever it is. This came home to me recently when I needed to find out where a parcel I had purchased was. The TNT tracking that I was referred to showed me exactly where my parcel was and the estimated time of delivery. Such capacity to track goods, whether parcels, animals, ships, prisoners is because of spatial technologies, such as GPS in particular. Here are some sites which give an insight into how pervasive this ability to track has become in our society. Often without even thinking, we just expect to know where something is and how long it will take to arrive. The old excuse that “it is on the wharf” when we are waiting for goods just does not rub anymore (although the tracking may show that it is on the wharf!! – but at least we know that it is the truth!)

Shipping tracking
We can track shipping across the globe using the Sail WX site. This is a fantastic site that provides ship location, recent route, climatic conditions, average speed, water temperature, visibility, wind speed and distance travelled in the last 24 hours (even the ships call sign). The map also include the location of weather stations and buoys across the oceans. If you want to see a picture and details for the ship just Google the name i.e. Pacific Celebes and you get a fact sheet on the ship.

Googling may also take you to another excellent ship tracking site called Marine This site has a comprehensive section which provides the details and photographs of the ships which are tracked on the oceans. Ports around the globe are also described and plotted on the site – with a satellite image of each port.

People tracking
Until recently, tracking people with Global Positioning System technology
required purchasing expensive hardware and software. Now, complete solutions are available for keeping up with the whereabouts of family, friends and employees.
Recently two security researchers discovered that Apple’s iPhone keeps track of a user’s location and saves that information to a file that is stored both on the device and on a user’s computer when they sync or back it up in iTunes.

Tracking flights
Spatial technology also provides the capacity to view the flight paths of the major airlines worldwide in a 24-hour period. Watching it, you really get a sense of global travel patterns as streams of planes jump back and forth between continents, especially between Europe and North America, and Asia and North America.

Virtual tracking on the Internet
The Internet was built for convenience; not for security. Internet users can be tracked by spyware, scripts, and maybe even through a camera! With this kind of information, a person from anywhere on the planet can figure out who you are, where you live and much more personal information.

People tracking
Spatial gadgets can help individuals keep track of pets, children with Autism, adults with Alzheimer’s/Dementia, partially sighted, children and possessions etc

Such tracking capacity can be, for example through microchips, in your sneakers, under your skin or in your mobile.

Tracking offenders
Prolific offenders and paedophiles are to be monitored by new satellite technology under three pilot schemes beginning on Thursday. For some time now, law enforcement departments have been using GPS tracking to monitor the movements of certain paroled criminals, such as sex offenders, to ensure that they are not violating the terms of their parole. In fact mapping and tracking is even being used to predict crime.

Animal tracking
A wildlife-tracking satellite looking down on a wide area of the globe from its high vantage point is a useful tool for biologists, naturalists and conservationists working with animals, birds and fish in their natural environments.
GPS pet tracking is for cats and dogs that do get lost too. Thanks to the miniaturization of GPS receivers and mobile phone modems even they can carry devices that allow them to be tracked by the owner.

Parcel tracking
It is now an expectation that a parcel can be tracked. All delivery companies now offer tracking service.

Whilst tracking offers much to our way of life and speed of response and even safety, there are some privacy concerns which need to be always kept in mind. In fact many of us do not want others to know where we are 24/7. It seems that location in real time is one of the expectations of the 21st Century which we all are victims to – whether willingly by having a mobile on us at all times or unwittingly by the capacity of spatial technology to track and locate. As many of the crime shows on TV show, the ability to track grows everyday and the possibilities are limitless. Is this all for the better?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The place of place in geography

Images: Bustling London, April 2010.

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'

The place of place in geography

The need for geography to inform and provide spatial understanding and awareness of place and places in space (for all including world leaders plus celebrities) is more urgent than ever. Many in our society do not appreciate or see the role geography does and will continue to play in our world. Many people who work as geographers in a geographical way often do not say they are geographers – they see themselves as town planners, park rangers, weather forecasters, demographers or council officers but not geographers. It is always a thrill when the media and the community recognises what they are watching, reading or listening to is actually geography and/or the work of a geographer.
However for many in the community the knowledge of where a place is is what geography is about. This view is an anathema to the modern geographer who sees geography as …

“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. It also looks forward to explore ways of influencing and managing the future of places including their environmental, economic and social sustainability.“
(Australian Curriculum: geography Shape paper definition)

However it is hard to argue that knowledge of where things are is not at all important. Such knowledge helps us to perceive spatial relationships and interconnections, spatial variation and distribution and to analyse associations, impact and consequences.

We have moved in geography a long way from what Ptolemy was thinking in 150 when he said:

"The purpose of geography is to provide a view of the whole earth by mapping the location of places."
Ptolemy, 150

The study of place is much more complex that just where it is. However where it is is a starting point that we need to know.

Modern geographers see place as an area that is defined by everything in it. All places have features that give them personality and distinguish them from other places (population, climate, economy, vegetation, landforms, buildings/structures, soils, water resources, cultures and communities, landscape/topology and aesthetic quality). Increasingly geographers are also talking about the sense of place (a feeling or perception held by people - not by the place itself). It is often used in relation to those characteristics that make a place special or unique, as well as to those that foster a sense of authentic human attachment and belonging. Others, such as geographer Yi-Fu Tuan, have pointed to senses of place that are not inherently "positive," such as fear.

The 1994 US National Geography Standards attempted to shed light on what the geographically informed person should know and understand about place.
They were:
* The physical and human characteristics of places.
* That people create regions to interpret Earth's complexity.
* How culture and experience influence people's perception of places and regions.

The UK National Geography Curriculum has a similar take on the concept of place:
* Understanding the physical and human characteristics of real places.
* Developing ‘geographical imaginations’ of places

This statement succinctly describes the place of place in modern geography:

The Irish National Curriculum attempts to provide clarification of the term place by stating:

Through completing the strand units of the geography curriculum the child should be enabled to have a sense of place, meaning to:
• explore and become familiar with the distinctive natural and human features of the locality, the county and Ireland
people and communities living and working in these areas
how literature, culture, language and customs reflect the nature of places
major natural features
settlement: homes, other buildings, open spaces
economic and leisure activities
townland, parish and county boundaries
major regions (e.g. Burren, Golden Vale)
transport and other links between these features
• become familiar with the distinctive natural and human features of some places in Europe and other parts of the world

“Any time a location is identified or given a name, it is separated from the undefined space that surrounds it. Some places, however, have been given stronger meanings, names or definitions by society than others. These are the places that are said to have a strong "Sense of Place." Cultural geographers, anthropologists, sociologists and urban planners study why certain places hold special meaning to particular people or peoples. Places said to have a strong "sense of place" have a strong identity and character that is deeply felt by local inhabitants and by many visitors. Sense of place … is dependent on human engagement for its existence. Such a feeling may be derived from the natural environment, but is more often made up of a mix of natural and cultural features in the landscape, and generally includes the people who occupy the place.”

In the age of GIS and the ability of creating or viewing a map with the click of a mouse, does it really matter whether we know by memory the places of the globe? Surely not! When the Australian Curriculum: geography refers to place there is no insinuation that students need to know places by memory. The study of place is way richer than just rote learning!

During the implementation of the Australian Curriculum: geography we will have a job of educating the community about modern geography and the place of place - that geography is learning about the location and character of places, scale, environments, physical and human processes and their relationships, sustainability, interconnections and interdependencies, spatial associations and arrangements and changes of places over time, not just where places are!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Where is what? So what!

Left image: Ferry berth in Circular Quay, Sydney
Right image: Train platform, somewhere in France.

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'

Where is what?

The following recent geography bloopers show that we have a long way to go to get the community and media (let alone our leaders and celebrities) to know the geography of the world in a traditional sense, let alone the modern study of place in geography.

* Miss Teen South Carolina in 2007 went viral with her geographical knowledge
* President George Bush claimed that "border relations between Canada and Mexico have never been better".
* Sarah Palin could see Russia!
* In a National Geographic survey in 2002, 85 per cent of young Americans could not find Israel, Iraq or Afghanistan; 30 per cent could not find the Pacific.
* Paul Martin, the Canadian PM suggested in April that the D-Day landings took place in Norway.
* In 2001, George Bush had to ask the teenage Welsh singer Charlotte Church which state Wales was in. (She replied: "It's a separate country next to England.")
* Norway's royal palace apologised to Portugal after Crown Prince Haakon claimed that Portugal was on the Mediterranean.
* Britney Spears was quoted as saying “I get to go to overseas places, like Canada”.
Geography is more than just about where things are on a map but it is a great starting point (or rather reference point) to know where things are before we embark on some modern day geography.
Here are some sites regarding the location of places which George and Britney, to name just a few should have visited to ‘grow’ their geographic knowledge of place (in the traditional sense).
* Geography game for iPhone/iPod Touch: Locate and discover awesome places of the world. Like in the spy movies!
* Map game on the Middle East
* Place name software
* US Geography
* National Geographic quiz
* Europe quiz
* Testing geographical knowledge
* Europe quiz
* Europe map match game

But does it matter if we know ‘by heart’ where something is on the globe? Did it really matter that George W did not have a sound grasp of where places were?
Matt Rosenberg in his article ‘Why Place Name Geography is Important’ reflected what many in our community and even schools consider what geography is about. Rosenberg argues that one of the core aspects of geographic knowledge remains the ability to identify places on a map.

“By learning the location and names of countries, states, and capital cities, the educated global citizen develops a better mental map of our world. It is this mental map that understands the relationship between places for security, resource, communication, and transportation purposes the knowledge of the absolute location of places on the map is vital in today's global society.“

Rosenberg believes that every citizen, at a minimum, should know the location of every country on the planet and that every home and classroom should have an atlas as well as a globe. Being able to locate places in the world news on a map of the planet is an important part of being part of our global society. Both an atlas and a globe provide varying perspectives on location.

“Once one knows the location of countries on the planet, one acquires a global perspective and understands the relative location of places. By taking this step, the entire planet benefits because we will have brought the entire world into our personal mental and will thus better understand our planet and its political divisions.”

Is he correct? Have the modern geographers with their concentration on physical and human processes and reliance on computers to create maps, “thrown out the baby with the bathwater”?

My next blog entry will examine the place of place in geography and does it really matter if we know by memory where a country, city etc are?