Monday, November 28, 2011

Everyone is a Geographer!

Left image: Rural landscape from the air, Port Lincoln, South Austraia.
Right image: Early morning over Hobart, Tasmania.

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 impact of the Geospatial Revolution on geography in the community

How amazing is the Geospatial Revolution? Everyone I now is a geographer via the use of Google Earth, Google maps etc on their computer/iPad and the use of the plethora of Apps on their iPhones. People who say they know nothing about geography or spatial technology are in fact, the users of spatial technology, appliers of geographic skills and acquirers of geographic knowledge. This indeed is a revolution!! In this posting, first of many I think, I will identify some of my favourite geography orientated apps and those of others. Where will it stop, this Geospatial Revolution?

Apps you must have!!

To find the app listed below just go to the App Store on the iPhone or your computer and search.

Most of those listed are free or only 99 cents. Great value to play by oneself or adapt as a classroom activity using your SmartBoard or other sharing devices.

* Living Earth HD
A world clock, weather and alarm all in one. Includes a stunning live 3D simulation of the Earth.

Gives you access to the iPhone’s GPS functionality. Includes street and topographic maps.

* Global Navigator
GPS navigation all over the world using Google Map with up to date maps and satellite images.

* iMapMyRUN and iMapMyRIDE
Map your run, ride and workout – logs distance, route, calories, elevation and much more. A runners best friend!! Voice prompts give you updates on your progress.

* GolfLogix: Golf GPS
Maps your game on the course, providing course imagery and tracking.

* Navfree GPS Live Australia and New Zealand
A navigation app that offers turn-by-turn navigation using high quality open-source map data.

* MetroView GPS Navigation
A complete Turn-By-Turn Navigation solution with Speed Alert.

* World Geography Trivia
Geography trivia with animations and sounds.

* Geogame World Series
The ultimate geography game to test your knowledge and help you learn.

* World Countries ALL-IN-ONE
19 educational geographic apps in one app: Countries factbooks, Wikitravel, phots, news and much more.

* iWorldQuiz
You are given a location to find and after guessing you will be scored according to speed and accuracy.

* Where Around The World
The goal of this app is to chase down and catch criminals by solving geography trivia clues and mini-puzzles.

* The Amazing Hunt Around the World
A puzzle game to solve real world puzzles and riddles by visiting real-world scary locations.

Maps come to life using ArcGIS online – a great way to discover and use maps.

* Quakefeed – World Earthquakes
Using ESRI base maps, see the earthquakes of the past 7 days with a magnitude greater than 2.5.

* Maps+
Browse Google maps to find out where you are, search the map, get directions with route alternatives, use location alarms etc.

* City Walks
Maps of 470 cities worldwide.

* History: Maps of World
A fun and educational collection of high resolution historical maps.

* Around me
Enables you to quickly find out information about your surroundings.

* World MapView
Up-to date World Maps on the iPhone.

* Your World
This app challenges you to learn where the countries of the world are located by placing them onto a 3D earth.

* Toilet Map (one of many around the world)
This app shows you where the closest toilet is to your location in London.

Thanks to Roger and Anita for the following apps – their favourites on their GISetc website

* SkySafari
The basic version of SkySafari 3 shows you 120,000 stars, plus 220 of the best-known star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies in the sky. It displays the Solar System’s major planets and moons using NASA spacecraft imagery, and includes the best-known asteroids and comets.

* Oh! Ranger
Although American in content it is a great App as an example of the power of spatial technology. “Oh, Ranger!" is a virtual guide to the outdoors.

* Geo Walk – 3D World Fact Book
Let’s say you want to find out what there is to know about Africa. Spin the globe until you find it and you will see African sights only. If you are interested in architectural wonders of the world – category filter will help! Try the Quiz afterwards to feel that you are getting smarter by the minute!

* Skyview
Skyview is a stargazing app that implements augmented reality to “explore the universe.”

* Geology AZ is the Arizona version of the first GIS (geographical information system) for the iPhone. This initial release focuses on the geology of the Grand Canyon state, and related data.

* iRecycle
Recycling is the easiest and most accessible way to get people plugged into sustainability.

* Project Noah
Project Noah’s ultimate goal is to build the go-to platform for documenting all the world’s organisms and through doing this we hope to develop an effective way to measure Mother Nature’s pulse.

* My Radar
This free radar app will center over your location and provide you with accurate, real time weather scans.

This listing is really just the tip of the “app iceberg”. The potential for the teaching of geography in the classroom (and student homework) is unlimited. The iPhone apps related to geography, which are many, is a gift for the geography teacher wanting to engage students in geographical skills and thinking. Why not use what is second nature for students, their iPhone. In fact, as I mentioned earlier in the posting, our community has become geographically/spatially literate via Google Maps/Earth and the iPhone apps without realising it - this includes students in geography classes, no longer satisfied with hand-drawn maps and black-line master.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Opening up the open source option!

Images: Student 3D work using ArcView 3x

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'

Open Source GIS, which one??

Access to software such as open source (the license shall not require a royalty or other fee), is becoming a viable alternative for schools to expensive stand-alone vendor products. In previous Spatialworlds posting we have highlighted the availability of free GIS on-line products such as ESRI ArcGIS on-line , Spatial Genie , QGIS and GRASS.

It seems that on a monthly basis the number of such software choices is growing. Basic GIS open source programs can provide basic GIS functionality, including data input, map display, spatial query, attribute query and spatial analysis. There are also open source programs for remote sensing and 3D visualization.

In this posting I wish to highlight the importance of this trend to the achievability of using GIS in the classroom and some of the open source products I have not previously mentioned. An excellent spatial blog from Direction Magazine is planning to review many of these on-line open source GIS platforms in coming months. It is worth keeping an eye on this site if you are considering exploring the option of open source GIS.

These programs are proving to be popular for a range of reasons:
* they are a real option for the teacher who would like to explore the possibility of teaching GIS but does not have immediate financial support from their school to purchase GIS software.
* the software is an excellent option if students would like to install and try GIS software on their home computers.
* the immediacy of such software is attractive for the teacher who would like to use GIS with their students tomorrow (commercial GIS software will require more than one week to finalize the licensing with vendors. You can download and use open source software immediately).
* it is the way to go for schools with computers that are using non-Windows operating systems, such as MacOSX or Linux

Here are a few of the open source options we have not previously discussed.

* uDig is an open source desktop application framework, built with Eclipse Rich Client (RCP) technology. The uDig program can be downloaded from the site, as can free data and walk throughs to support the use of the program.

* gvSIG is another open source geographic information system (GIS), that is a desktop application designed for capturing, storing, handling, analyzing and deploying any kind of referenced geographic information in order to solve complex management and planning problems. gvSIG is known for having a user-friendly interface, being able to access the most common formats, both vector and raster ones. It features a wide range of tools for working with geographic-like information (query tools, layout creation, geoprocessing, networks, etc).

* The OpenGeo Suite combines the power of open source plus the reliability and support of a single, stable vendor behind a full stack of software. The OpenGeo Suite offers a fully-integrated open source geospatial platform for serving maps and data through web applications, mobile devices, and desktop clients. The OpenGeo Suite Enterprise Edition is comprised of tested, integrated and supported geospatial components GeoServer, OpenLayers, GeoWebCache, PostGIS and GeoExt

* GISVM is a free and ready to use anywhere Geographic Information System Virtual Machine. It is now available in three main versions; A full-feature GIS Desktop Workstation, a base GIS Desktop Virtual Machine and a full-feature GIS Server based exclusively on free Server GIS software:

The Open Source Foundation

While talking about open source GIS it is worth mentioning the Open Source Software for Geospatial initiative organized by Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo). This is a foundation created to support the collaborative development of open source geospatial software, and promote its widespread use. The recent 2011 FOSS4G conference in Denver was focused on free and open source geospatial software. Open source is becoming so popular that the list of FOSS4G sponsors has been growing rapidly. Sponsors today include names such as ESRI, Google, MapQuest and USGIF.

I am sure this is just the tip of the iceberg and in the future (if not already), open source software will be the way to go for GIS in schools.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

AGTA 2013: It's all happening!

Left image:Yorke Peninsula, South Australia.
Right Image: Adelaide coastline, 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'

“Without geography, the world would be a mystery to us.”
David Lambert CEO, Geography Association of the UK

In regards to curriculum, David Lambert writes:

“A curriculum shaped by whim, the topics in the news and contemporary themes of "relevance" - or, worse still, policy imperatives laid down by the Government - is likely to be incoherent, shallow and like junk food: deeply unsatisfying after the initial fat and sugar rush.
A person growing up in the 21st century as a global citizen (and all that implies) is at a disadvantage without geographical knowledge - economically, culturally and politically. How can we make any of the personal decisions that already confront us every day about energy, food and water security without geographical knowledge? Understanding geographical perspectives contributes to our capabilities as educated individuals and members of society.”

Why am I quoting David Lambert? It seems like yesterday that I was talking about AGTA 2011 and the arrival of Dr Rita Gardner, Director of the RGS to be our keynote.

Well time has moved forward and we are now well into planning for AGTA 2013 in Perth, Western Australia. Only last night I got the good news that David Lambert and Simon Catling have accepted AGTA’s invitation to be keynotes at AGTA 2013.

As some of the most respected and influential educators in the area of school geography, I thought it worth profiling them in this posting and commence my work convincing anyone who visits this blog to get to Perth in January 2013 to join us at AGTA 2013 – it should be a great experience in many ways.

The Australian Geography Teachers Association (AGTA) conference for 2013, known as AGTA 2013 is to be held in Perth from January 7-10, 2013. For more information on the conference and expressions of interest to present just go to the AGTA site at

So why David and Simon as keynotes? I think the background on them that follows speaks for itself. Their CV’s shows that with both presenting, AGTA 2013 covers the needs of geography from F-12 in a way that maybe previous conference neglected.

With the Australian Curriculum: Geography being written and to be implemented for all years from F-12, then we must tackle the challenges of primary implementation. It is hoped that this broader focus for AGTA 2013 will attract primary educators who may have seen the work of AGTA in the past secondary-centric. With the investment in bringing Simon, a primary geography educator of enormous influence and David, one who has been intimately involved in the implementation of the UK National Curriculum for Geography from Reception to Year 12, we hope this view may change for this conference.

Professor David Lambert

In his book, “Global Perspectives in the Geography Curriculum”, David said:

“a decline in the subject's popularity in the early 1990s prompted attempts to make geography more 'relevant' to pupils.”

In many ways this has been David’s mission as he has guided the work of the GA in the UK - with considerable success.

These quotes from a recent article by David in the Telegraph are worth highlighting here to give a taste of the inspiring talk we will hear in Perth in 2013;

“Geography is the subject that contributes more than any other to young people’s knowledge of the world. Geography is not just important on its own account. It is a linking discipline, connecting to science, to the arts, to history and languages. In primary schools where geography in strong, the subject can help to knit the curriculum together as well as satisfy pupils' curiosity about people and places. In senior schools, geography offers the opportunity to develop a broader and very contemporary skill-set. It also helps many students to keep their options open, rather than having to narrow their courses down to either the sciences or the arts. Geography straddles both, using diverse sources and data, and asking challenging and engaging questions about the change pupils can see in the world around them.
In schools where geography teaching is weak – and especially where it is handled by non-specialists – children are denied these crucial elements of a broad and balanced education that will benefit them throughout their lives. Instead, they will have a narrower conception of the world, and will have missed out on the fieldwork that could teach them about the power of learning directly in particular places and environments.
In the end, geography isn't just about reciting a list of capital cities – although that can be an impressive party trick. It is the subject that contributes more than any other to young people's knowledge of the world, their understanding of the relationships between people and places, and their ability and propensity to think critically and creatively about the ways in which we affect the planet we live on.”

So who is David Lambert?

Professor David Lambert was a comprehensive school geography teacher before joining the Institute of Education in 1987. In 2002 he became Chief Executive of the Geographical Association, helping guide its development as a significant provider of CPD and a leader in funded curriculum development activity. From September 2007, he has combined this role with a return to the Institute of Education as Professor of Geography Education. His writing and research are concerned with curriculum development and assessment, and his overarching goal is to advance understanding of the role of geography in schools in relation to broad educational purposes
Of particular significance to our work with the Australian Curriculum: Geography is David’s thinking and work in his book “Teaching Geography 11-18: A Conceptual Approach”.

"This is a must read for all 11-18 geography educators. It argues for a new geography curriculum founded on a set of major concepts that are profoundly relevant to 21st century life. For years, books on 11-18 geography education have focussed on classroom techniques, new pedagogic technologies and alternative modes of student assessment.. It asks not only what geography is for, but bases its answer on a set of key concepts able to sustain an exciting and relevant curriculum. ".
Professor Noel Castree, University of Manchester, UK

This engaging and stimulating book from David aims to radically re-shape and sharpen debates in geography education by asking several key questions:
• What is the place of geography within the secondary school curriculum?
• To what extent does school geography reflect and engage with contemporary issues and theories from the wider subject?
• What are the issues, challenges and opportunities of a concept-led approach to teaching geography?
• What are the implications of ICT, media and technology for the future of geography teaching in schools?

These are questions that we in Australia developing the Australian Curriculum: Geography consistently ask. David has said to me that there are strong parallels between what they have been through with the National Curriculum for Geography in the UK and what we are presently immersed in with ACARA in Australia. His keynote I am sure will be a highlight at the conference and will further inform our approaches as we head towards the implementation stage in 2013.

I can’t resist putting this quote as a footnote to my comments on David.

"If we think education in its broadest sense is important, then geography is important too. Thinking geographically helps us understand ourselves in the world... or, as our manifesto says, helps us travel with a different view. If geography, as it is laid out in the manifesto, were not part of the curriculum then we'd risk turning out young people who were only partially educated."
- July 2009

Professor Simon Catling

Simon is the Professor in Primary Education in the School of Education - Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

Simon's academic and research interests are:
Young children’s geographies and their relationship to geographical education.
• Younger children’s ideas about geography.
• Geographical education and curriculum development in the Foundations Stage and Primary School curriculum.
• The representation of geography in commercial books on geography published for younger children.
• Student teachers’ geographical knowledge, understanding, values and attitudes.
• The role and value of geography professional learning for primary teachers.
Simon has written much on the subject of geography and map learning for teachers and children.

Simon’s specialist interest is in children’s geographical learning , a unique endeavour in the geographical education world and one which deserves continued attention. Recognised as the world leader in this area we are certainly fortunate to have Simon as our keynote at AGTA 2013. I plan to write more in reference to Simon's work and primary school geography in coming months.

Friday, November 11, 2011

A vision by the system: visualising data

Left image, Mt Wellington early morning, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.
Right Image: Constitution Dock, Hobart, Tasmania, 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'

A systems initiative to support data visualization in the classroom

Last week I attended another Education Services Australia (ESA) Data Visualisation Workshop in Melbourne. This is the fourth workshop I have been involved with on this ESA project to create a platform and resources for teachers to use in the classroom whilst teaching topics/subjects requiring the use, analysis and visualisation of data. This is a highly significant initiative for the area of spatial education because of the projects promotion of grahicacy, data visualization and the use of spatial technology in our schools. The system 'buy-in' to the area many of us have been working on for years will be a great catalyst for the diffusion of the skills, tools and analysis of spatial literacy in our schools. Whilst interested in the data aspect of the project, my major interest in the project is the development by the education bureaucracy in Australia of a spatial platform with supporting spatial data for use in the classroom. As mentioned before, Data Genie and Spatial Genie are now operational on the Internet and teachers are able to access the program and associated data for classroom use. The workshop was attended by data and spatial education relevant learning area representatives and institutions such as the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute, Academy of Science, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSRIO), Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), representatives from jurisdictions such as myself and Queensland Education, ESA and ACARA. I was also at the meeting representing AGTA, as was Mick Law from the Queensland Geography Teachers' Association. The workshop was aimed at outlining ESA’s plans to develop on-line professional learning resources for teachers and to develop learning infrastructures and resources around key spatial and data Internet sites. Most importantly, the resources are to be linked directly into the Australian Curriculum for History, Mathematics, Science and Geography through the Australian Curriculum Connect project. Interestingly it was commented by the ESA representatives at the meeting that there are hardly any geography learning objects available through delivery systems such as Scootle and that this is an area where there needs to be significant investment over the next 18 months. Work was also conducted on further development on the functionality of Spatial Genie and what else needs to be done to develop strategic partnerships with and between ESA and spatial software providers.

Whilst the day was interesting to explore issues of resource development and preferred pedagogies using data, I was particularly interested in some of the spatial sites demonstrated by Michael Gehling, ESA project officer for this initiative. Here are some of the sites providing free platforms, data sources and spatial representations that may be of interest to the spatial educator;

* Tableausoftware
A great resource to help people see and understand data.
Free trial

* Atlas of Living Australia
The Atlas of Living Australia is a joint initiative to build a national database of our flora and fauna. The project brings together a huge array of information on Australia’s biodiversity, accessible through a single website. Partners in this collaborative project include CSIRO, museums, herbaria, other biological collections, the Australian Government and the community.

* Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Science
The Land Use of Australia, Version 4, 2005-06, is a land use map of Australia for the year 2005-06. The non-agricultural land uses are drawn from existing digital maps covering six themes: topographic features, catchment scale land use, protected areas, world heritage areas, tenure and forest cover.

* Australian Natural Resources Data Library and Atlas
The Australian Natural Resources Atlas was developed by the National Land and Water Resources Audit to provide online access to information to support natural resource management. The Atlas is managed and maintained within the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. The Atlas comprises of a number of tools and information on Australia's natural resources:
• Australia's Resources Online: Generate a report containing the latest available data on Australia's natural resources against the Natural Resource Management Monitoring and Evaluation framework.
• Map Maker: View and query the data from the Atlas or make a map of a region of interest
The information in the Atlas is organised by topic and geography. There are eleven topics to choose from in the Atlas:
• Agriculture: agricultural resources
• Coasts: coastal environments.
• Dryland salinity: causes and impacts of dryland salinity
• Irrigation: sustainable irrigation
• Land: land resources
• Natural resource economics: economics and natural resource management
• People: Australians and the management of natural resources
• Rangelands: monitoring the status and trends in the rangelands
• Soils: Australian soil properties
• Vegetation and biodiversity: biological resources
• Water: use, availability, quality and management
With maps and data scattered throughout, this is a great site for the geographer. The social atlas is particular useful for the geographer

* Mapserver
MapServer is an Open Source platform for publishing spatial data and interactive mapping applications to the web. Download at

* Google Fusion Tables
Gather, visualize and share your data online
Google Fusion Tables is a modern data management and publishing web application that makes it easy to host, manage, collaborate on, visualize, and publish data tables online. Visualize and publish your data as maps, timelines and charts, host your data tables online and combine data from multiple people.
Have a look at the Google Fusion Example gallery to see the potential of this free site.

* uDig
uDig is an open source (LGPL) desktop application framework, built with Eclipse Rich Client (RCP) technology. Just download the platform at and use the Quick start to get underway.

* Grass GIS
Commonly referred to as GRASS, this is free Geographic Information System (GIS) software used for geospatial data management and analysis, image processing, graphics/maps production, spatial modeling, and visualization. GRASS is currently used in academic and commercial settings around the world, as well as by many governmental agencies and environmental consulting companies.

* Data Worldbank
Browse, map, graph, or download data by country, topic on over 4000 indicators. A rich source of spatial data.

* Sentinel site: Bushfire warning live by GIS
A site from Geoscience Australia with layers that can be manipulated, topographic down to 250K topo and Bureau of Meteorology Infrared layers. KML files can also be downloaded to use in Google Earth.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Playing with profiling

Images: Granite Island, 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??
Melbourne, Australia: S: 37º 47' E: 144º 58'

Profiling the ‘GIS friendly teacher’

In previous postings I have explored the factors which are impeding the use of GIS in the classroom. Many of the factors such as data availability, software cost, network capacity and curriculum materials have been overcome in recent years. Basically I have surmised that the one remaining factor which is holding back the introduction of spatial technologies such as GIS in schools is ‘teacher factor’. In no way do I wish to be negative towards our teaching colleagues but when one considers the ease at which students pick up GIS, the only remaining impediment in many cases is the capacity and inclination of teachers to learn, feel comfortable with and integrate spatial technology into their teaching. One of the recommendations from my Churchill Fellowship report in 2007 was the suggestion that we need to build a profile for the 'GIS friendly teacher' so as to be able to identify the teachers most likely to take on the seemingly ominous learning curve to learn and integrate spatial technology into their teaching. I consider that such a profile is an important planning component as we develop face-face professional learning and professional on-line resources for teachers to support the introduction of GIS as one of the key skills of the Australian Curriculum: Geography.

It must be stated that the data acquisition, data retrieval, file management demands, often unforgiving procedures (no undo icon) and the multiplicity of functionality of the GIS software and processes makes it a unique type of technology and a demanding and risky business for teachers considering using GIS in the classroom setting.

In this posting I hope to flesh this out a bit more. Please note that these are only my observations of GIS friendly teachers after years working with and encouraging teachers to engage with spatial technology in their classroom – not based in research at all. I am sure such teacher profiling is a much needed structured study by some doctoral student somewhere in the world. A quantitative profiling study of GIS early adopters certainly would be useful to inform our work in this area in the future.

So what, according to my anecdotal and qualitative data, is the profile of the teacher most likely to be innovative and committed to use spatial technology in their classroom? Let’s for just a while forget about all the technical reasons that are put forward to explain the slow uptake of GIS in the classroom and let’s look at the very human personality traits of teachers which we must work with to make GIS in the classroom happen.

A GIS friendly teacher is:

• confident in their geographical thinking and understanding of geographical concepts
• one who needs to explore new ways for students to learn and grow
• committed to develop as a professional and learn ‘state of the art’ technology for learning in their area of study
• prepared to spend time on a regular basis to learn GIS over an extended time period
• prepared to develop a rudimentary understanding of the functional skills of GIS – either by following ‘how to do’ resources or attending professional learning activities on GIS
• able to spend time with students to develop core GIS skills and understandings so as to provide a foundation for using the technology
• prepared to be seen as not knowing the answer
• not afraid to be seen as making a mistake – a risk taker in the eyes of students and not the font of all knowledge
• comfortable with group work and a peer support ethos in their classroom
• prepared to reward student initiative and innovation – not always saying what is next – students have a degree of empowerment, often acted out as negotiating the curriculum processes
• comfortable to encourage students to find the solution/s and way forward when ‘stuck’ – not relying on the teacher to know the answer
• willing to let go of the talk and chalk approach and let students find out for themselves
• committed to learning through doing - using GIS as experiential learning
• aware of GIS applications in the real world, knows the relevance of GIS to society and can translate industry applications of GIS to classroom practice
• prepared to justify and even demand the use of ICT facilities in their school
• able to integrate the use of GIS into many areas of the curriculum they deliver – not an add-on but an integrative tool in their classroom
• prepared to engage the community and local area with the use of GIS in their classroom – they see a real world practical application of the technology for their students and classroom
• one who sees themselves as the facilitator of the learning process using GIS, to guide student reflection and analysis when using GIS
• prepared to be flexible, willing to change processes and direction in-tune with the capacity of the software i.e. being prepared to change and adapt when the software is not performing adequately or new potential of the software is discovered
• not constrained or compliant with system demands in terms of curriculum coverage or testing imperatives – an individual prepared to be a risk taker
• prepared to change pedagogy and approaches and move out of their comfort zone. Some would say that the use of a technology such as GIS is pedagogical change ‘through the back door.”
• one who sees the use of GIS as non-negotiable if we are teaching 21st Century geography.

In short, the GIS friendly teacher is one who is committed to classroom and pedagogical change, able to see the real world relevance of the software to their learning area and students, prepared to learn to use the software beyond the cursory and willing to take a risk in the classroom.

As a posting my comments are generalisations and are in no way saying that to teach with GIS a teacher must be all of the above or even most of the above. Again, from my observations I do say that there are some commonalities between teachers who have been the early adopters with the use of spatial technology. Teacher uptake is certainly not based on age, socio-economic status of the student group, educational qualifications of the teacher, wealth of the school or other factors which are often identified as reasons for the embracing of various educational practices. I think it really comes down to the personality profile of the teacher and their comfort in particular pedagogical approaches using this unique software. The risk-taking innovative teacher prepared to change their pedagogy seems to be the profile. In fact, such a profile could be the case for any teacher prepared to move out of their comfort zone and embrace change. With GIS this change capacity is even further accentuated by the demands of the unique software and the implications for pedagogy the use of GIS demands.

Addressing this impediment is a tough one for those saying that GIS is a skill and tool that must be integrated into a 21st Century Geography curriculum. Awareness of the profile of the ‘GIS friendly teacher’ is important when we design programs to help all teachers be prepared to embark on the GIS learning curve and use GIS in their classroom. We need to design ‘smart’ professional learning and resources to support the ‘GIS friendly’ and ‘non-GIS friendly’ profiled teachers. We need to use the ‘GIS friendly’ early adopter teachers in this work to bring others along on the journey. For those who have made the journey and are using GIS in their classroom, there is no looking back. These teachers often say to me that they “could not imagine teaching geography without using spatial technology.”

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Our US GIS colleagues

Left image: Emus in a creek, Flinders Ranges, South Australia.
Right image: Rural South Australia, 100 kilometres North of Adelaide.

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'

In this posting I will profile the GIS site of Anita and Roger Palmer, GIS specialists in Dallas and good friends of Australian geography and geographers. Over the years Roger and Anita have been regular attendees at Australian Geography conferences and have been extremely supportive and innovative drivers of GIS in schools through the development of learning resources and workshops. The workshops they conduct when they visit are always “state of the art” and inspiring to those who attend. Back in 2007 I had the good fortune to spend several days with Roger and Anita visiting schools in the Dallas area. It was great to see the practical and real use of GIS in the classrooms we visited.

Roger and Anita also offer GIS Institutes annually with participants coming from the United States, Canada, England, and New Zealand. GISetc has developed a training model that is effective for beginners to advanced users of computer technology in geospatial and general technologies. I
I see that another of our US GIS colleagues, Barbaree Ash Duke is also a contributor to the site. Barbaree does some great work concerning GIS in the classroom and has a great blog called “GIS in Education and Curriculum Integration”. Barbaree’s blog is certainly worth following to go through her substantial archive.

Their website, is full of resources and good ideas to support the use of spatial technology in the classroom. As they say on the site, the mission of is to:

“provide cutting-edge GIS professional development, curriculum and software support to K-12 and post-secondary educators and students. Our goal is to advance education, improve quality of curricula, provide authentic research and learning projects, and to provide teacher training and skill development in an atmosphere of discovery.”

It certainly lives up to this aim by providing links to:

*free resources

* GIS games and fun

* Conference presentations

* GIS Happenings

* Books and resources via the shop

I have just highlighted a few of the free resource links from the site here to give a taste of the sites value to the GIS interested.

* Scary maps

* Exploring super cities

* 7 Million people

* Cartography and Indiana Jones

* Last month the extent of sea ice covering the Arctic Ocean declined to the second-lowest extent on record. Review satellite data from NASA, watch videos and read about the phenomenon.

I look forward to report more on Anita and Roger’s site in the future.