Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Exploration time

Left image: Dallas skyline.
Right image: Adelaide from the air.

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'

Unlike the postings of recent weeks, this posting has no theme and just contains some great spatial and geographical sites to explore. They are sites related to GIS materials, great images, cultural diversity, mashables, time zones, population and global trends. Here they are:

* EarthPulse, a visual guide from National Geographic looking at global trends. EarthPulse explores these global connections with vivid and informative imagery, maps, diagrams, and inter-actives that illuminate where we are today, how we got here, and how our actions may affect the future of life on Earth. A great resource.

* Tag Galaxy: Can be used for conceptualizing and a visual association Tag Galaxy is a very good flash application that uses Papervision3D with beautiful transition effects to explore Flickr photos via virtual planetary systems. You enter a tag and related tags appear with beautiful planetary systems.

* Images and activities on yet another natural disaster. This site is a collection (comment, photos, maps... ...) of the recent tornado in Missouri.

* An article on a city built for a million people - but no one lives here: The Mongolian metropolis thrust into the 21st Century in a storm of steel and concrete

* The world at night – amazing night photos from around the world

* Free GIS theory course for secondary schools

* Some wonderful images of awesome earth: Grimsvotn, Iceland’s most active volcano is up to its old tricks.

* A website for population statistics, including population pyramids - just select the country and the year.

* A site looking at world demographics from 1950 to 2050.

* NationMaster, a massive central data source and a handy way to graphically compare nations. NationMaster is a vast compilation of data from such sources as the CIA World Factbook, UN, and OECD. Using the form above, you can generate maps and graphs on all kinds of statistics with ease.

* The World Factbook provides information on the history, people, government, economy, geography, communications, transportation, military, and transnational issues for 266 world entities. Our Reference tab includes: maps of the major world regions, as well as Flags of the World, a Physical Map of the World, a Political Map of the World, and a Standard Time Zones of the World map.

* Don’t Gross Out the World – A fun quiz on cultural diversity.

* Population Exposition – a creative interactive resource looking at population.

* A brief history of time – BBC news looks at time zones.

* The Mashable: a bit of everything is available from the Mashable website. Explore tab on Mashable makes it easy to discover and explore content on Mashable. Click on topics that interest you most to find relevant and resourceful stories. From guides to popular resource lists, Mashable Explore enables seamless discovery of stories that matter most to you

*Images of the globe – some great images of our world.

* Where are the limits of digital photography and its application to geography?
Sevilla 111 Gigapixels is a huge panoramic and interactive photograph of Seville city, which consists of 111 thousand million pixels. A new worldwide record since December 2010. Browsing the biggest photograph in the world from home and observe inch by inch La Giralda's belfry, La Torre del Oro's merlons, the details of the Cathedral's walls, and more than one thousand little details and corners of Seville is now possible thanks to the cutting-edge capture technologies and Internet, which allow us to immerse ourselves in this huge panoramic image and explore virtually all the places in the city, by scrolling and zooming in/out throughout it.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Are we there yet?

Left image: Korean food delight.
Right image: Wind farm in South Korea.

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??
Sydney: S: 34º 0' E: 151º 0'

Progress with the Australian Curriculum: geography

In a posting some time ago (September 2009) I gave a quick rundown about how the Australian Curriculum: geography was progressing. Much has transpired over the past 21 months. In this posting I will attempt to give a rundown of progress, where we are and what is to come before we have a curriculum for geography to play with in Australian schools.

Some background
The linked Powerpoint titled "Are we there yet?"
was presented at the recent (May 27th) GTASA conference in Adelaide. It contains a past, present and future focus regarding the AC: geography. As you will see from slide 39 we are in a targetted consultation stage of the process.
"During the first part of the writing stage from February-June 2011,
ACARA will be conducting targeted consultation processes with state
jurisdictions and geography teachers associations (coordinated by
AGTA). These bodies will be asked to respond to the work undertaken by
the writers re: scope and sequence in particular."

Where we have come from?

Following the outstanding work of the Toward a National Geography Curriculum project during 2008 and 2009, the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) commenced work on developing the geography curriculum for Australian schools. From October 2009-March 2010 an ACARA Reference Group comprising leading university and school geographers developed an initial advice paper to guide the development of the geography curriculum. Following a period of on-line consultation and a national forum of key geography stakeholders in 2010 another group of geographers were invited in May 2010 to work on a shape paper to be the basis of curriculum development for the scope and sequence. The Advisory group released the ACARA Shape Paper for geography in January 2010. Since February 2011 the ACARA Geography Advisory Panel and a group of appointed curriculum writers have been working on developing the rationale, aims and scope and sequence for the geography curriculum. Whilst this process may seem convoluted it is necessary to provide those involved with the time to work through some important questions relating to the teaching of geography in Australian schools. Only through such a thorough process can we be confident that all angles have been covered and the curriculum has had to time to grow and mature through discussions between those who should know what a 21st Century geography curriculum should look like.

To demonstrate the need for such a process, the following areas have been ones of contention (often referred to as hotspots) between those involved in developing the curriculum (some of which are still being debated after 18 months of intense work by advisory groups):

• What is Geography?
• The nature of place and space.
• What does Geography in schools look like?
• Defining the term environment.
• The balance between physical and human geography.
• The content v’s process debate.
• How important is the spatial concept in comparison to the concept of place?
• What are the core concepts?
• The nature of sustainability in geography.
• The degree of focus on sustainability in geography.
• The importance of the spatial perspective.
• Spatial technology and it’s use as a core issue.
• The mandating of fieldwork.
• The uniqueness of the inquiry process in geography.
• How should the curriculum be structured/formatted.

Where are we?

The ACARA Geography Advisory panel is presently working on developing the rationale, aims, key concepts and scope and sequence for the geography curriculum. The panel of 16 geographers and curriculum officers from around Australia has met face to face three times in Sydney to discuss many of the hotspots mentioned above and to respond to the work of the 6 appointed curriculum writers (not named). It is envisaged this curriculum writing phase will be for about 20 months (February 2011-August 2012). These face-to face meetings have been supported by numerous teleconferences and a flurry of email and sharepoint discussions on the proposed aims, rationale, concepts and scope and sequence. The work of the panel has been primarily concerned with:

• making sure the rationale provides a coherent and relevant definition of school geography and the reasons why geography is important to the 21st Century citizen.
• writing a concise listing of aims for geography which are understandable, achievable, relevant and engaging for young people
• identification of key concepts (5-7 in number) from the expansive list in the shape paper.
• defining these key concepts and identifying the relationships between concepts
• developing a view on the progression of concepts F-12
• deciding on the structure of the scope and sequence
• developing a scope and sequence and the related progression of skills and understandings from F-12.

I assure you, no easy task. Despite the excellent communication between geographers across Australia, there are some differences in opinion and views which must be worked through to develop a coherent and not compromised final product. I am sure, with the help of geographers from around Australia via forums and on-line consultation, we will reach such an end in coming months. We all want the same thing – a relevant and inspiring geography curriculum so as to ensure students want to study geography beyond the years of compulsion.

Where to next?

Note the following sequence of events is the one proposed by ACARA as of May 2011. Naturally, depending on circumstances, it could change as time goes by.

* During the first part of the writing stage from February-June 2011, ACARA will be conducting targeted consultation processes with state jurisdictions and geography teachers associations (coordinated by AGTA). These bodies will be asked to respond to the work undertaken by the writers re: scope and sequence in particular.
* Following this targeted consultation, in August 2011 a National Forum of key stakeholders is tentatively planned to be held in Sydney to view and discuss the work to date. This should involve the viewing of the draft rationale, aims and a scope and sequence.
* It is hoped that a draft scope and sequence containing content descriptions (including elaborations) and achievement standards will be released in September 2011 for national consultation. This on-line consultation is tentatively planned to be held between September-December 2011. This consultation period will be followed by another phase of curriculum writing guided by the advice provided from the consultation.
* A second National Forum is tentatively planned for February 2012 to discuss the revisions post-on-line consultations in 2011.
* Another national on-line consultation is tentatively planned to be held between May-June 2012, followed by revisions by the writers.
* At this stage ACARA is saying that the Australian Curriculum: Geography will be published on-line during September 2012.

So in answer to the question of this blog posting; are we there yet? No! We have a long way to go and the involvement of geography teachers across Australia is critical if we are to get the product geography students (and teachers) in Australia deserve. It should be an interesting journey.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Free historical GIS downloads

Left image: Amien Cathedral.
Right image: Villers-Bretonneux, battlefields of 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??
Sydney: S: 34º 0' E: 151º 0'

The discussion in a recent Spatialworlds postings leads us to the question;

“how should curriculum developers and teachers proceed to connect geography with history in the curriculum?”

Curriculum writers could begin the connection by mapping geographical concepts against historical content and in fact even historical concepts. For example we could map for any historical topic the:

* five geographic themes, presented in the US guidelines for geographic education: location, place, relationships within places, movement, and regions (the National Council for Geographic Education, the Association of American Geographers, and the National Geographic Society have endorsed these five themes as foundations for geography education in schools)

* seven concepts of the UK National Curriculum for geography: place, space, scale, interdependence, physical and human processes, environmental interaction and sustainability development and cultural understanding and diversity.

Increasingly, concepts are being adopted by developers of curriculum to develop the contextual framework for a curriculum. In fact the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA)is presently looking at what are the key concepts (page 6 of January 2011 Shape paper for Geography)for the geography curriculum presently under development. It will be interesting how closely they reflect the US and UK ones listed above.

An example of how curriculum writers in California have linked history and geography (using the US geographical concepts) is seen in the following treatment of the voyages of Columbus

Each of the five major themes of geography education is stated and described below in connection with key questions about a major event in world history.

* Location: People and places are positioned variously on the Earth's surface. Where in the world are places located? What are the locations of places in Europe and the Caribbean region that were linked by the Columbian voyages? How did the relative location of these places affect the events of the Columbian voyages?

* Place: Physical and human characteristics distinguish one place from other places. What makes a place special? How have the distinguishing characteristics of a place, such as Cuba, Santo Domingo, or Spain, changed because of cataclysmic events of the Columbian voyages?

* Relationships within Places: The interactions of humans with their environments shape the characteristics of both people and the environment. How do people change the natural environment and how does the environment influence the activities of people? How did human-environment interactions affect the physical and
human characteristics of the Western hemisphere region during and after the Columbian voyages?

* Movement: Human interactions on the Earth--people, products, and information affect the characteristics of places. What are the global patterns of movement of people, products, microbes, domestic animals, seeds, and information that developed as a consequence of the Columbian voyages?

* Regions: The earth can be divided into regions to help us understand similarities and differences of people and places. How did the Caribbean region form and change during and after the Columbian voyages? How did the regions of Western Europe and Western Africa change because of the Columbian voyages?

As can be seen above the geographic themes are indispensable aids to understanding of major event such as voyages of Columbus. Such a treatment of geographical concepts can be applied to whatever historical topics studied. Indeed, such a concept mapping exercise would be a very useful and indispensable activity when designing any of the following Australian history topics: the colonisation of Australia, World War 1, Australian migration in the 20th Century, Australian Federation etc. When we get the geographical concepts for the Australian Curriculum, such an activity would be an important developmental process for ensuring that geography and history are actually entwined and not seen as ‘silos of knowledge’ but one of mutual understanding and interdependence.

Here are a few more examples of how some teachers; both geography and history, are trying to reflect the entwinement of the two disciplines to create exciting, real world and valid studies with a touch of geographical determinism.

* http://library.thinkquest.org/C006628/

* http://www.nationalgeographic.com/xpeditions/lessons/17/g912/greece.html

* http://www.p12.nysed.gov/ciai/socst/pub/sscore2.pdf

* http://www.studentsfriend.com/onhist/combine.html

* http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa4033/is_200404/ai_n9373908/

* http://www.ericdigests.org/1993/history.htm

Adding to the geography conceptual mapping process discussed above, the capacity of GIS to use geographical concepts and data to elucidate historical understanding has the potential to encourage the integration of history and geography in the curriculum.

To support schools in using GIS in history teaching I wrote a resource in 2004 titled; Historical GIS: Place + Space +Time. A collection of articles re: historical GIS can be found at https://sites.google.com/site/malcolmmcinerney/historicalgis. Free activity downloads from the book can be downloaded at

Here are brief summaries of the free download activities using GIS in the study of history.

* CEMETERY: This exercise aims to create a historical representation of a cemetery using the hotlinking capabilities of ArcView. Hotlinks are a wonderful way to add interest and detail to a map depicting spatial events or temporal change. This exercise involves the plotting and description of graves in a cemetery.

* EXPLORERS: Traces the journeys of early Australian explorers and provides visual data of the journeys via hotlinks to paths and points.

* BUILDING HERITAGE: Maps the houses in a suburban street in terms of age, building type, heritage value, authenticity and state of repair.

* WW1 BATTLE: Creates a historical representation of a battlefield using the hotlinking capabilities of ArcView. This exercise involves the plotting and description of trench lines and battle hot spots. The example used in this exercise involves the tracing of a soldier’s journey during World War 1 providing photographs, certificates and other relevant images via hotlinks.

* CHANGE OVER TIME: Shows change over time by the importing of aerial photographs over a time period and then doing some basic line and polygon creation (heads up digitising of the image) so as to clearly to see spatial changes over time.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Z factor of time

Left image: Stonehenge, Salisbury Plains, England.
Right image: Chruchill statue, outside Parliament House, 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??
Sydney: S: 34º 0' E: 151º 0'

Historical GIS

The recognition of the entwinement of the disciplines of history and geography and the potential to link the study of history and geography has been given considerable impetus in recent years by the emergence of amazing enabling technology such as Geographical information Systems. In fact, rarely does a history documentary on TV go by without the use of spatial technology (hence geographical capacities) to demonstrate and visualise historical themes and events. The use of GIS in history is based on the premise that history is determined by space and place over time.

Geography is the study of spatial differentiation and history the study of temporal differentiation, so “if you can read it, why not visualise it via mapping it!!”

GIS provides the tools to combine history and geography to study patterns of change over space and time. Again, as Iain Stewart showed in his series,the world of the geologist, historian, geographer and anthropologist are all entwined and almost impossible to separate. As a result, GIS is becoming the meeting ground for these disciplines blurring the divisions even more.

As mentioned in a previous posting, geography is relevant to the teaching of history in the classroom. Recently there have been attempts to inject a sense of spatial perception into history teaching. History courses have always used maps to demonstrate events and concepts. What GIS can do is involve students in creating their own unique and original maps of an historical event or time. Such spatial literacy development and student involvement in the creation of spatial representations of historical events can only make history a more practical and relevant subject to students. The use of such high level spatial technology as GIS opens many opportunities to develop creative and innovative problems for students to solve via the development of spatial representations in the form of data linked maps or images.

The wonderful technology of GIS now allows the amateur ICT user to use a high level technological tool to map both simple and complex spatial representations and relationships.

Historical GIS is proving to be a valuable research method, a framework for digital archives and a means to bringing a geographical/spatial sensibility to the view of history. Historical data has the Z factor of time and GIS adds the x and y factor of place. GIS digitally links locations and their attributes (attached information) so that they can be displayed in maps and analyzed, by their geographical characteristics, such as location, distance, proximity, density and dispersal. GIS representation involves identifying the social, economic and physical characteristics of a place at a particular time in history.

In practical terms the use of GIS by history students can involve any of the following:

*Analyzing change in space over time.

*Attaching sources/data/images to location.

*Tracking movement over space.

* Searching databases over space.

Here are some more interesting links on Historical GIS





As Amy Hillier, University of Pennsylvania says in her paper “Placing History: How Maps, Spatial Data, and GIS are Changing Historical Scholarship”

“In the last decade, historical GIS has emerged as a promising new methodology for studying the past. Historical GIS is the use of geographic information systems software and allied geospatial methods for historical research and teaching. We now have the opportunity to use an array of tools to visualize historical information in a geographical context.”

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Fun is OK!

Left image: Hong Kong Harbour, Hong Kong Island side.
Right image: North coast Papua New Guinea from the air.

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 games in geography

Understanding play is critical to understanding learning
Play is the basis for cultivating imagination and innovation
Seely and Brown

So what about this play thing? For many educators play is recognized as a critical tool for children. They consider that through play they come to understand, experience, and know the world. However as we get older (and the teaching force fits into this category), play is seen as unimportant, trivial, or as a means of relaxation and learning switches to something you do in school where now you are taught.

“What we fail to fully grasp is that play is the way that children manage new, unexpected and changing conditions, exactly the situation we now all face in the fast-paced world of the 21st century. Play is more than a tool to manage change; it allows us to make new things familiar, to perfect new skills, to experiment with moves and crucially to embrace change —a key disposition for succeeding in the 21st century.”

Seely and Brown believe play as part of a new culture of learning does the above in four ways:
1) By thinking about the problem as a crisis in learning rather than teaching
2) By looking at the incredible power of new cultures of learning that are happening already and understanding what makes them successful
3) By tapping new resources: peer to peer learning, amplified by the power of the collective, which favors things like questing dispositions over transfer models of education and embraces play as a modality of exploration, experimentation, and engagement.
4) By understanding how to optimize the resources (and freedom) of large networks, while at the same time affording personal and individual agency constrained within a problem space created by a bounded learning environment.
Play provides freedom to act in new ways which are different from "everyday life" within a set of rules that constrain that freedom. Think of any game a kid creates of make-believe. It is both fantasy and it has to have rules (which may be arbitrary and even ridiculous), but what it results in is a world of imagination and something entirely new and innovative.

In short, play cultivates imagination and innovation, two capacities critical for individuals to function and be successful in the 21st Century.

Such consideration of play brings me to the idea of games and game-type activities (simulations, quizzes, puzzles etc) in the geography classroom. Here is just a selection of free game type activities/resources available on-line which could and in the view of Seely and Brown should be embraced by the geography classroom.

Fun is OK!

* Test your knowledge of world geography

* Games for Change curates digital and non-digital games that engage contemporary social issues in a meaningful way. These games have been created by cross-disciplinary teams from around the world.

Ideas to inspire: Online Geography Gaming: This site contains links and background to hundreds of online games and simulations for use in the geography classroom. The site also has ideas and links to ICT and on-line collaboration tools. An amazing one-stop shop for teachers to incorporate games and fun into the classroom for students to learn.

Here is a selection from the excellent Ideas to inspire site (28 out of the 102 profiled on the site)

* Electrocity

* Stop disasters

* 3rd World farmer

* Sim sweatshop

* Darfur is dying

* McDonalds game

* My Sus House

* My abodo

* Flood Sim

* Google Flight Sim

* Sporcle: Place based games

* Place games and quizzes

* Classic Sim City

* Oil and extraction

* Free poverty

* Global rich

* Trans Aid: transport issues and aid

* Refugees: Against all odds

* Climate change Pentathlon

* Food force: Humanitarian food game

*Race against global poverty

* Climate challenge

* Earthquake: make a quake

* Urban plan

*Environmental quiz game

* Shipping

* Virtual volcano

* Map Zone games

Online and just a click of the mouse

Left image:Aged Tia Chi at 6am in the morning! Beijing, China
Right image:Kindergarten in Beijing, China.

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'

Learning tools for the new culture of learning

As discussed in the previous posting, Seely and Brown consider that "a new culture of learning" is based on several basic assumptions about the world and how learning occurs:

• The world is changing faster than ever and our skill sets have a shorter life
• Understanding play is critical to understanding learning
• The world is getting more connected than ever before – can that be a resource?
• Challenges we face are multi-faceted requiring systems thinking & socio-technical sensibilities
• Skills are important but so are mind sets and dispositions
• Innovation is more important than ever – but turns on our ability to cultivate imagination
• A new culture of learning needs to leverage social & technical infrastructures in new ways
• Play is the basis for cultivating imagination and innovation

This thinking reminds me of the some of the statements of Guy Claxton, at a recent workshop I attended in Adelaide.Statements which resonate strongly when we consider the creative inquiry, student empowerment and curiosity capacity explicit and implicit in the use of spatial technology in the geography classroom:

21st Century learning should be focused on the development of quality of mind to the challenges of the times.”

“Ability to ask questions is of prime importance.”

“To aim at all times to develop a culture of inquisitiveness.”

“To know how to flounder intelligently is of prime importance in the future.”

“Gumption will be the most valued outcome of education.”

The online space has great potentials but also some serious challenges for education. In recent years, online education has become synonymous with online college courses from the likes of University of Phoenix and Online Graduate Programs. These types of for-profit institutions pose a threat to the sphere of education by dumbing down educational standards and increasingly treating students as commodities. Thankfully, there are still numerous efforts being made to provide rigorous online education, through initiatives like Stanford's Engineering Everywhere and MIT's OpenCourseware. Additionally, there are numerous online sources for learning tools, programs and technologies.

Whilst searching for learning tools, other than GIS, to use with students in the classroom to develop, as Seely and Brown call ‘The New Culture of Learning’, I came across the fantastic ‘one-stop-shop’ Directory of Learning Tools site. This site has over 2,000 tools for learning and working in education and the workplace

To aid the review of the products on the site, there is a special page showing social tools particularly targeted at (or very useful) for the primary, junior, middle and secondary school classroom. Note that free resources are marked with a yellow free star.

The site also has a Top 100 Tools for Learning list based on the contributions of learning professionals worldwide. Go to the link to see the alphabetical list of all the tools that have appeared on the Top 100 Tools list since 2008 with their ranking each year. Note that the majority of these great sites are free.

Some free sites of interest

I gleaned the list of sites and links below by looking for what I consider as useful for the geographical learning and most importantly are free to download and use.

* Wink is a Tutorial and Presentation creation software, primarily aimed at creating tutorials on how to use software (like a tutor for MS-Word/Excel etc). Using Wink you can capture screenshots, add explanations boxes, buttons, titles etc and generate a highly effective tutorial for your users. This tool is great to put together process sheets for students to use when learning GIS or undertaking a task.

* CourseLab is a powerful, yet easy-to-use, e-learning authoring tool that offers programming-free WYSIWYG environment for creating high-quality interactive e-learning content which can be published on the Internet, Learning Management Systems (LMS), CD-ROMsS and other devices.

* Audacity is an open source cross-platform sound editor and recorder suitable for podcasting.

* MOS Solo: The simplicity of an office programme using the power of a multimedia content generator.

* Free and open-source (Drupal-based) web service that provides teachers and learners with an integrated set of social media that each course can use for its own purposes—integrated forum, blog, comment, wiki, chat, social bookmarking, RSS, microblogging, widgets , and video commenting are the first set of tool
Open source, Download

* Authoring tool for elearning courses (Free, Pro and Enterprise versions)

* Create free educational games, quizzes, activities and diagrams in seconds! Host them on your own blog, website or intranet! No signup, no passwords, no charge!

* ClassMarker's secure, professional web-based testing service is an easy-to-use, customizable online quiz maker for business training & educational assessment with tests and quizzes graded instantly - saving hours of paperwork!

* The Xerte Project provides a full suite of open source tools for elearning developers and content authors producing interactive learning materials.

* iQuiz Maker is an easy way for you to create custom quizzes for the iQuiz game for the iPod. iQuiz Maker works seamlessly so you can write, create, package your very own quizzes. Download the free application today to begin putting the world to the test.

* Academic based social educational network and academic platform.

* Chamilo is a new project that opts for open source in a radical way. It aims at bringing you the best e-learning and collaboration platform in the open source world.

* CoFFEE: Plan, moderate and evaluate collaborative activities in a digital classroom using various tools, for brainstorming, mind mapping, voting and more.

* EctoLearning is a social, collaborative, online learning environment that directly addresses the needs of the modern learning environment by making the new communication skills and competencies for content creation and sharing central to the classroom experience.

* Lets instructors make lecture notes, audio and video available to their students - or the world - quickly and easily

* Perfect for making your own quiz, online tests, training, recruitment, exams, trivia or just plain fun quizzes!

* Quandary is an application for creating Web-based Action Mazes. An Action Maze is a kind of interactive case-study; the user is presented with a situation, and a number of choices as to a course of action to deal with it. On choosing one of the options, the resulting situation is then presented, again with a set of options. Working through this branching tree is like negotiating a maze, hence the name "Action Maze".

* Qedoc: Is quiz software that not only plays quizzes, interactive lessons and revision aids; it also helps teachers create their own learning content and work cooperatively with others in the process of authoring.

* QuizRevolution offers a rich solution to create online quizzes. Embed a great looking quiz widget in any website or blog without programming.

* Games creation: An academic social learning web site that provides an environment for collaborative online learning and free flashcards and quizzes built entirely by users.

* Create a online Jeopardy template without PowerPoint

* A toolkit for producing educational simulations. The tools are written in Java and allow the user to create Java applets which can be delivered through a standard web browser

* Easily develop and publish Simulated Conversation Interactions.

* Games templates for PowerPoint

* Create interactive stories, animations, etc

The next posting will showcase geography specific games, simulations and quizzes.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Not as we know it!

Left image: Peace and exercise amongst the rush, Seoul, South Korea.
Right image: Garlic galore, market in South Korea.

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'

Thinking about learning culture

"If we teach today's students as we taught yesterday's, we rob them of tomorrow"
John Dewey

Presently I am reading a great book from the US titled: A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change, written by Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown from the University of California.

“John Seely Brown and Douglas Thomas lay out a step by step argument for why learning is changing in the 21st century and what schools need to do to accommodate these new practices. Using vivid narratives of people, institutions, and practices at the heart of the changes and drawing from a growing body of literature outlining new pedagogical paradigms.”

The book has got me thinking about all of the on-line resources available to teachers in the classroom to create collaborative, even fun activities for students in geography. I must admit sometimes when I was using games and collaborative tools in the classroom I felt a little uncomfortable that I was moving too far away from the traditional modes of teaching and learning. In fact, sometimes my feelings were of guilt that I was just letting the students go (away from my direction and structured learning) and seemingly having unadulterated fun as they learnt. This book has gone a long way to provide a rationale, based in research, for the use of games, on-line collaboration etc in geography and I am sure would be of interest to teachers wishing to push the on-line/collaborative/social networking/games boundaries in the traditional geography classroom. This builds on the various Spatialworlds blog postings last year which explored 21st Century change and the implications for the 21st Geography classroom. Here are a few excerpts from the book to give a ‘heads-up’ on what Seely and Thomas are saying.

“…schools in their current configuration simply cannot serve students in a time of huge, hairy, fast change”

“The role of educators needs to shift away from being expert in a particular area of knowledge, to becoming expert in the ability to create and shape new learning environments. …educators need to focus on getting students to “discover, explore, play, and develop, which is the primary reason I think that most of us got into the job of teaching.”

“We take it as a truism that kids learn about the world through play. In fact we encourage that kind of exploration. Imagination is more important than knowledge." In a networked world, information is always available and getting easier and easier to access. Imagination, what you actually do with that information, is the new challenge. As the world grows more complicated, more complex, and more fluid, opportunities for innovation, imagination, and play increase. Information and knowledge begin to function like currency: the more of it you have, the more opportunities you will have to do things.”

“In the 20th century learning is not a binary construction which pits how against what. Knowledge, now more than ever, is becoming a where rather than a what or how. Where something means or its context raises questions about institutions and agency, about reliability and credibility and it always invites us to interrogate the relationship between meaning and context.”

This summary from the Synchronous blog provides a really good summary of the relevance of the thinking in the book to K-12 education.

In a nutshell the book suggest that teachers should:
• put the emphasis on understanding and shaping the learning environment. A constructive learning environment is a collaboration between teachers and students where there is dialogue and time for modeling and practice
• use emerging technology to foster this conversation/collaboration. The tools include rich digital information resources, social media; keeping pace with the next genre of communication
• suspend judgment and embrace mistakes. This learning environment has no experts only lively researchers – playing and tinkering with tools and ideas
• acknowledge that students, teachers, information and communication sources, learning problems, and environmental pressure coexist and shape one another
• accept that we are all students and we do our best to think aloud (and document our process through reflection) as we problem solve and evolve our learning environment
• emphasise inquiry and the creation of better(rich) questions
• engage the learner with a problem to solve, a question to answer, a message to deliver
• embrace change and expect it to accelerate
• make the process learner centered. Learning to learn is not just about skills but the development of a disposition; of tacit learning (big idea), personal agency, and practice (Being In the content)
• mistakes are expected, they are a learning opportunity
• broaden the idea of technology. Technology is not a thing but infuses the learners practice. Reading, writing and the other (traditional literacies) are “technology”. Research, writing, mind maps, organization (all are technologies). This is important to remember as we shift the focus from technology as a physical thing.
Computers, cell phones and the like are devices which allow us to ask questions, when we care.”

Interestingly many of these suggested characteristics and ways of operating as a teacher are those identified previously on this blog when discussing and profiling the teacher most likely to take-up the use of spatial technology in their classroom. Such a technology embracing, risk-taking, reality grounded (meaningful use of student learning) and inquiry focussed, who create a collaborative learning environment (on-line and in the class) is the teacher who has been identified as most likely to be using spatial technology in their teaching.

“What if school wasn’t just preparation for real life; what if school is real life?” Chris Lehmann’s

Many educators consider the principle of education is to “… give a man a fish and feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime.” This adage assumes that there will always be an endless supply of fish to catch and that the techniques for catching them will last a lifetime. Here-in lies the danger of the accepted, true and tried teaching model employed by many in our schools — namely, the belief that most of what we know will remain relatively unchanged for a long enough period of time to be worth the effort of transferring it. Certainly there are some ideas, facts, and concepts for which this holds true. But the contention of Thomas and Brown is:

“... the pool of unchanging resources is shrinking, and that the pond is providing us with fewer and fewer things that we can even identify as fish anymore.”

Such a view has huge implications for the content identified in the Australian Curriculum: geography. Are we trying to identify fish which may well not be essential for the 21st Century citizen and for quality geographical learning in a world of constant change.

In the next few postings I will showcase some wonderful free on-line resources which provide an enormous number of web resources to enhance the use of digital media in the geography classroom. Such resources, encouraging collaboration, reality grounded inquiry and student-centred learning, as advocated by Thomas and Brown, goes some way towards geography classrooms in the future to not teach about the world as much as it is “learning within the world. To shift schools away from the mechanistic learning as a series of steps to be mastered” but to create a learning environment where “digital media provides access to a rich source of information and play.”

Friday, May 6, 2011

Watch this space: Part 3

Left images: Living space!! Click on the hyperlink to watch the video.
Right image: An urban place in the mountain space of South Korea.

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'

To have a fundamental understanding of space

"You cannot know who you are without knowing where you are."
Paul Shepard

So how about a definition of space in plain unambiguous language? Quite a task I have found! Here is an attempt based on what geographers around the world say and what geography curriculum's around the world say and imply.

Space is a concept relating to the study of an area at varying scales, from local to global.

When exploring a space geographers focus on:

• the location of places, people or geographical phenomena (human and natural) within and across a space (spatial location)

• the distribution and associations of places across and within a space. Related aspects to this character of space are distance, spacing and adjacency/proximity (spatial association and distribution).

• the differences and variance within and across spaces (spatial variation)

• the patterning produced by the location of places, people and geographical phenomena within and across spaces (spatial patterns)

• interactions and flows within and across spaces (spatial movement and interaction)

examining spaces by asking questions such as why places are located where they are, what has caused the distribution and patterning of places across and within the space (spatial analysis)

• how and why the spatial characteristics of a space are changing and how will the change impact on the biophysical nature of the space – including the impact on humans and ecosystems (spatial change)

The resources and work of the GTAV on spatial concepts is a great adjunct to understanding these key components of the space (spatial) concept

In light of the recent blog postings on space, maybe the following definition could be proposed (I know it is contestable and again may be criticised as an over-simplification of an extremely complex concept):

Space is a concept relating to the study of an area of the earth at varying scales, from local to global. Within these spaces there are located places, people and geographical phenomena which the geographer may study. The studies may include plotting the location of natural and human places, description of the relationships, interactions, distributions and patterns between places and across the space, analyzing causation of locations and observed patterns and the identification of trends and projecting futures (modeling). Such literacy in relation to space is the language of spatial thinking.”
McInerney 2011 (in trepidation)

The US National Research Council report
defined spatial thinking as:

“the ability to understand spatial relationships, the knowledge of how geographic space is represented, and the ability to reason and make key decisions about spatial concepts.”

Confusing the boundary between place and space is that due to the nature of scale and perceptions, spaces may also exist within places!

To elucidate this confusion, Cresswell said in 2008:

“The definition of place, like any concept, is contested. At it heart, though, lies the notion of a meaningful segment of geographical space ….Places, then, are particular constellations that occupy a particular segment of space and sets of meanings attached to them. Place is a social construction, a physical location, a space occupied and associated with meaning, and as a set of political boundaries.”

Yes, there is a sense of nestling and twinning between place and space. This should not be a source of confusion but one of appreciation of the complexity of spatial understanding.

Spatial technologies such as GIS have been a great enabler for geographers to examine space and to develop spatial thinking to help students understand the concept of space in practical terms.

Increasingly the term spatial literacy is being used by educationalists to describe an individuals ability to perceive, analyse and even operate in a space.

Michael Goodchild in his article ‘The Fourth R? Rethinking GIS Education’ considers that:

“...spatial literacy is recognized along with other basic abilities—that maps, pictures, and spatial data need to rank with numbers, text, and logic as essential ways in which humans function.”

The US National Research Council, which advises the US Federal Government on critical issues in science and technology, issued in April, 2006 a report calling on schools to incorporate "spatial literacy" into their curricula by saying:

“Spatial thinking is an increasingly important skill for living and working in the 21st century, the council said, and geographic information system (GIS) technology can help schools teach this skill to their students. Spatial literacy will play an increasingly important role in today's information-based economy, and it should be incorporated into K-12 instruction”

Interestingly young people are using their spatial skills, as described above, when interacting with virtual spaces as they play a range of computer games.

There is an urgent need for schools to catch up with student spatial skills and tap into the interest of students in using and analyzing space. We need to use an innovative context to plug into student curiosity – geography and GIS offer this context for educators.

I am sure those writing the Australian Curriculum are working on a definition of space so that we do talk about it to ensure that teachers have an agreed understanding of what space is in geography. I wish them luck with the task.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Watch this space: Part 2

Images above: Wordles on a written defintion of the concept of space(left)and one on the geography rationale from the January 2011 ACARA Geography Shape paper(right)

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'

Curriculum space?

After struggling in the previous posting to come up with a concise and agreed definition of space, this posting will look at curriculums around the world to see if we can create a clear and useable definition of what geographical space is.

“…geography defines social space and territory, given its concern with boundaries (national and physical), zones of activity and notions of regionality: these are inevitably part of the process of identifying people with places, in terms of the identity and nature of a nation.”

“First, there are the visible landscapes and different ideas of territorial shape that allow us to make sense of space. Second, there is the knowledge gained through mobility and movement. Third, there is the knowledge gained through various representations. Together, these shape our understanding of space. These spatial imaginaries are not fixed – they change over time, and though they may be individually held, are often shared by large numbers of people, not least because they are shaped by institutions such as the media and education.”(Ross 2000)

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

Through completing the strand units of the geography curriculum the child should be enabled to
A sense of space
• acquire an understanding of the relative location and size of major natural and human features, the major features of the locality and county, some of the major features of Ireland and county, provincial and other boundaries in Ireland
* begin to develop an understanding of the names and relative location of some natural and human features of Europe and the world, a small number of major natural features, some countries, capitals, major cities and continental boundaries
• estimate and measure distances and establish cardinal directions during exploration of the locality
• develop some awareness of directions in wider environments
• use and record directions and routes on maps.

In the UK the National Curriculum for geography space is described as:

• Understanding the interactions between places and the networks created by flows of information, people and goods.
• Knowing where places and landscapes are located, why they are there, the patterns and distributions they create, how and why these are changing and the implications for people.

In the US there seems to be less agreement at a national level of what space is to the Geography educator but one attempt reads as follows:

In a geographic context, "space" is defined as a portion of Earth's surface. Location, place, area, region, territory, distribution, and pattern are all closely related spatial concepts.

The January 2011 ACARA Australian Curriculum Geography Shape Paper offers this description of space to the general discussion:

“Geography teaches students how spaces are organised and designed, and the
consequences of this for different groups of people. It explores the spatial distribution of phenomena.”

Geographers using the perspective of space “to study how the individual characteristics of places—such as climate, vegetation, economic activity or population vary across the surface of the earth.”

“The geographical knowledge and understanding related to space were identified as
• Observing how features are arranged in space
• Explaining why things are located where they are
• Investigating how places are connected to each other.”

Interestingly all geography curriculum around the world talk eloquently and frequently about space as a key concept but only a few actually define it in their curriculum documents. For example, New Zealand, South Africa, Hong Kong and the US did not state what this space thing is! These documents presume that the teachers reading the curriculum know what space is. Is this a reflection of geographers and curriculum writers treating “space somewhat as we treat sex. It is there but we don’t talk about it.”

This blog discussion and my discussions developing the Australian Curriculum for geography makes it very clear that even us geographers struggle to coherently, succinctly and accurately describe what space actually is (let alone how it differs from place). In the next posting I will have a go at creating a definition of space and develop elaborations which will support the area of spatial thinking.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Watch this space: Part 1

This is geography?

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'

Examining space

The term space is used in many ways and in many contexts in society. Despite this almost overuse of the term, we rarely sit down and intellectually discuss what space actually is. In 1959 Edward Hall, anthropologist and cross-cultural researcher said in his book “The Silent Language”:

“People have developed territoriality to an almost unbelievable extent … Yet we treat space somewhat as we treat sex. It is there but we don’t talk about it.”

People look quizzically at me when I have asked them; “What is the difference between place and space?” For many people the terms seem to be interchangeable but for geographers they are quite different concepts. In the Spatialworlds posting, ‘The place of place in Geography’ I had a go at defining and elaborating on the concept of place for geography. In this series of posts I will attempt to define and elaborate on the geographical concept of space and how space is different to place. In the discussional stages of developing the Australian Curriculum for geography we have had numerous discussions on the key geographical concepts and their differences. These discussions have been complex and at times frustrating in trying to ‘nail down’ the concepts. One thing I am confident of is that what I put into this posting can and will be disputed by some as inaccurate and/or oversimplified. Despite the trepidation of critique my major aim in these blog postings is to develop the context for the space concept and discuss in plain language the concept of space in geography (particularly for the non-geographer geography teacher). Naturally such attempts at simplifying and generalising can lead to 'half-truths' and even inaccuracies. Despite the danger of being accused of oversimplifying, it is important that teachers have a grasp of the space concept (and place) as they are the fundamental concepts we explore in geography. In particular, an understanding of space is critical if we are to enter the world of spatial thinking (if we are vague on what space is, how can we conduct spatial analysis?).

A general non-geographical definition of space is that it is:

“the boundless, three dimensional extent in which objects and events occur and have relative position and direction.”

How useful is this to the study of geography? Does this definition reflect what we see as space in geography?

To further complicate any attempt to clarify the concept of space, Masue wrote in 1983 that:

“geography has not as yet formulated an explicit and unambiguous definition of geographical space.”

One geographer in Dakota summed up space as “a portion of Earth's surface and that location, place, area, region, territory, distribution and pattern are all closely related spatial concepts.”

Such a definition of space aligns with the traditional dictionary definition that geographical space is:

“…is often considered as land, territory, regions or the totality of the landscape.”

“… a wide and open area, as of land, sky, or water with the associated terms being distance, expanse, expansion, extent, reach, spread, stretch, sweep.”

As Ross, an Irish geography states:

“The subject of geography necessarily defines social space and territory, given
its concern with boundaries (national and physical), zones of activity and
notions of regionality: these are inevitably part of the process of identifying
people with places, in terms of the identity and nature of a nation.” (Ross 2000)

Another source states:

“Geography is the branch of science concerned with identifying and describing the Earth, utilizing spatial awareness to try and understand why things exist in specific locations. Cartography is the mapping of spaces to allow better navigation, for visualization purposes and to act as a locational device.”

Murdoch in his post-structuralism paper further complicates the issue when he says that:

“space is not of structures but of relations. Thus a new geography of spatial relations has evolved.”

To further blur our understanding of space is an individuals or people’s perception of space (Hall called this proxemics, the study of our culturally determined perception and use of space).

The physicality and substantive nature of space is further challenged due to the impact of cyberspace and virtual spaces and by the impact of technology resulting it what is called the time-space compression.

When we research the general definition of space, we are taken down a range of paths, some related to physics; some to architecture/design; other to highly conceptualised geographical thinking on the nature and imaginings of space. Of particular interest was the fact that several of the dictionaries of geography widely used by geography students that I reviewed did not even contain a definition of space (or place). This is probably the most glaring example of how we have avoided actually creating an understandable and relevant definition of space for students and teachers of geography. Curriculum bodies just presume teachers have an understanding of what a statement such as the one from the Hong Kong Geography Curriculum below means:

“To describe and explain the interactions between human and the natural environment over space and time, and the patterns and impacts created by such
interactions … to explore variations in space, people and places.”

If we asked students to write down what space means in this statement, I am sure we will have a variety of interpretations.

Maybe a more relevant (and achievable) approach is to examine how geography curriculums, which have created a definition in their documents, have approached clarifying the concept of space. This will be the focus of the next posting.