Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Geography in a connected primary school curriculum

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'

YouTube video of the trial at .

Is connected curriculum the way to go for geography in the primary school

Listen to Sue Toone, Principal of Nuriootpa Primary School, talk about the connected curriculum Geography trial conducted at her school in October 2011.

The trial focussed on the integration of the draft Australian Curriculum: Geography into the schools connected curriculum. A thematic curriculum focussed in 2011 on the theme of Past, Present and Future, with geography being integrated into the learning modules from Foundation to Year 7.

Thanks to the generosity of the Nuriootpa Primary School students and teachers in giving permission for their teaching materials and reflections to be part of this blog. In particular, thanks to Principal Sue Toone for supporting the Australian Curriculum: Geography trial at Nuriootpa Primary School.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Bits and pieces worth a look

Images: City spaces for the people in two large cities: left image: San Diego, US and right image: Brussells,Belgium.

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

* The Maplecroft site: employing spatial technologies and maps to assess risk. As a follow up to the “Risky Geography” Spatialworlds posting this site just confirms the potential of examining risk as a concept in geography classrooms.
The site contains over 500 risk indices and indicators, 100+ interactive maps, plus scorecards, briefings and in-depth reports for all countries and risk issues. Every week there is a new map of interest to the geographer.
The site also has a mapmaker.
The Maplecroft blog is also full of some great geographical information.

* Harking back to another posting, this time on saving the humanities, the site “4Humanities: Advocating for humanities" provides more great discussion on the need for humanities education in our schools.
The article titled “On the Value of the Humanities” by Martha Nussbaum and John Armstrong is of particular interest.
The articles published in The Australian by philosophers John Armstrong and Martha Nussbaum make the case for the value of the humanities and for the need to speak to a mass audience about this value. Nussbaum, a professor at the University of Chicago and author of the recent book "Not For Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities", makes the case that the humanities are more important than ever in the 21st Century.

* Finds home! Here is a great human interest story involving spatial technology.
Read the story of an Indian man living in Australia being reunited with his birth family after 25 years with the help of vague childhood memories — and Google Earth.

* The World Water Day site is also a valuable resource for the geography teacher. The site will keep you informed on issues related to this years World Water Day theme of 'Water and Food Security' by watching interviews, documentaries and animations.

* Never get sick of this site! AirPano is a noncommercial project focused on high resolution 3D aerial panoramas. AirPano team is the group of russian photographers and panorama enthusiasts. During the next 2-3 years they plan to shoot the aerial panoramas and create the virtual 3D tours of the most interesting places of the planet.

* Another 360 site, this time of South Africa. This Virtual Tour Guide site gives 360° views of different areas in South Africa. It takes a little navigation but there are some great views, eg the Amphitheatre from the Sentinel in the ‘berg, the red desert near Port Edward (thought to be the world’s smallest desert) etc.

* A great new resource called Global Words was released last week.
The twelve units of work in Global Words have been produced by World Vision Australia and the Primary English Teaching Association Australia (PETAA) to integrate the teaching and learning of English and global citizenship education.
At the centre of both global citizenship education and the study of English is the aim of supporting students to become ethical, thoughtful and informed citizens, predisposed to take action for change. These units, and the supporting resources of Global Words, aim to build the essential knowledge, skills and values young people need to participate actively, critically and creatively as global citizens. A resource certainly worth looking at for geography.

* Indigenous languages map of Australia
The ABC language map is based on language data gathered by Aboriginal Studies Press, AIATSIS and Auslig/Sinclair, Knight, Merz, (1996). The map attempts to represent all of the language or tribal or nation groups of Indigenous people of Australia.
The Indigenous Language Map is just one representation of other map sources that are available for describing Aboriginal Australia. This map indicates only the general location of larger groupings of people which may include smaller groups such as clans, dialects or individual languages in a group. Boundaries are not intended to be exact.

* Another GIS option worth looking at
'A Gentle Introduction to GIS' at
It uses Quantum GIS, which is free and open source and includes screencasts. The whole thing is downloadable so you can work with it offline.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Making technology meaningful

Images above: The TPACK and GIS learning theory model.

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'

Making technology meaningful in the geography classroom

Over the years I have often mentioned in geography workshops that if we use technology it needs to be meaningful for learning - not just for technology sake. This week I have been working with students at Flinders University in Adelaide, exploring the area of ICT in the classroom in terms of enhancing learning. Considerable research has been conducted in recent years about the value of GIS in the classroom in terms of improving learning. All of us who use GIS with our students are convinced that it does, but it seems that the research jury is still deliberating. The naysayers in terms of the mandatory use of GIS in the classroom jump on this lack of research validation\verification of the value of GIS for learning. I think it is really more a reflection of the stage we are at in the acquisition of quantative data on the matter and those willing and able to research the impact of GIS on learning.

What did attract my attention when preparing the workshops with the students, was the TPACK model.

The Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) conceptual framework espoused by Mishra and Koehler (2006), underpins much of the national directions for describing use of ICT in learning.

The TPACK framework “attempts to capture some of the essential qualities of teacher knowledge required for technology integration in teaching, while addressing the complex, multifaceted, and situated nature of this knowledge”. Specifically it highlights the complex relationships between three forms of knowledge: Pedagogical knowledge (PK), content knowledge (TK); and technological knowledge (TK).

When TPACK is applied to the use of spatial technologies in the classroom such as GIS it all makes sense. The TPACK model highlights that an idea for using ICT in classrooms must have a sound curriculum fit and meet the pedagogical needs for implementing the idea. Technological Pedagogical Knowledge (TPK)is about the special pedagogical considerations for using technology within your teaching strategies or perhaps for considering new pedagogical approaches afforded by the qualities of the software – what new things can you do, pedagogically?
TPACK is a way of describing how technology pedagogy and content fit together to enable powerful learning. Maybe our “gut feeling” about how good and meaningful for learning GIS is in the classroom can be seen a little clearer though the TPACK framework.

Whilst not wanting to get bogged down in models and theory, maybe the TPACK offers a structure for those wishing to use GIS to develop a learning model to provide the much needed curriculum and pedagogical validation for the use of GIS in the classroom. In fact, way back in 2002 I developed a Spatial Learning Model for the use of GIS in the classroom (see above and attached Powerpoint) which, whilst not using the TPACK terms, was trying to develop a framework to describe the use of GIS in the classroom. Here is a brief summary of the model.

GIS Skill Development
Objective: Students learn the manipulation and potential of the GIS software.
Activity: Demonstration of GIS skills and student self-progression through GIS Skill Development activities. Development of hypothesis methodology introduced.
Outcomes: Students engage with the processes of GIS and develop skills that can be used for a wide variety of applications.

Spatial context
Objective: Students introduced to Geographical concepts such as global referencing, scale, projections, symbols, directions and GIS application concepts such as, geo-referencing, proximity, adjacency, buffering, over-layering etc.
Activity: Experiences and learning involving written material, Internet, workplace visits, videos, quest speakers/demonstrators, examples of GIS work
Outcomes: Students have a spatial context and concepts within which to use GIS skills.

Objective: To provide the opportunity for students to apply their GIS skills in a meaningful way via project development and application.
Activity: Student generated applications of skills and concepts. Students to develop a spatial enquiry in response to a problem or issue and to apply GIS skills to explore and develop possible ways forward.
Outcomes: Students have an understanding of the “real-life” application of GIS to solve/explore spatial questions.

Spatial Understanding
Objective: To reflect on process for the purpose of developing an understanding of spatial trends/processes that enhanced or constrained the spatial decision making of the completed project.
Activity: Students to undertake a report on the developed GIS application that involved analysis of spatial patterns and processes. Report to involve a degree of future projection involving recommendations/social action as outcomes. This stage could include elements of testing to ascertain the levels of understanding of spatial concepts.
Outcomes: Students to have an awareness of spatial concepts such as distribution, patterning, trending, agglomeration, proximity and interdependency as a result of their project analysis.

Combining the TPACK and GIS learning model could provide the much needed framework when we get to the implementation of spatial technology in the Australian Curriculum: Geography

Saturday, March 17, 2012

A case study of using spatial technology in a primary school

YouTube video of the trial

Go to and listen to Adrian Camac and other Victor Harbor Primary School teachers talk about the Years 2, 5 and 7 Geography trial focussing on inquiry and the use of spatial technology across the school.

It can be done in a primary school!

In the last posting the meaningful use of spatial technology in the classroom was explored. This posting focusses on the work of Victor Harbor Primary School teachers and students in 2011 who participated in a trial of the draft Australian Curriculum: Geography. In a previous posting during September last year I described the anxiety experienced by a group of teachers at Victor Harbor Primary School trying to load and learn the AEJEE program. This is the end result of the trial. The YouTube video is the documentation of this trial. Quite a success story!

Victor Harbor Primary School Australian Curriculum: Geography tial: A trial using Years 2, 5 and 7 of the October 2011 draft AC: Geography curriculum, with a focus on inquiry and the use of spatial technology across the school.

The trial focussed on the following areas relevant to the development of the ACARA Australian Curriculum: Geography curriculum – both areas frequently explored by the Spatialworlds blog:

* The meaningful integration of spatial technology skills for all year levels to enhance spatial thinking.
* The nature and uniqueness of inquiry learning in geography.

The trial used the draft Australian Curriculum: Geography curriculum for Years 2, 5 and 7

The Year 2 curriculum builds on student learning about places in earlier years by exploring people's connections with other places. Students then expand their geographical knowledge by finding out about these other places and using an increasing variety of information sources. Their spatial understanding is extended from reviewing the use of spaces to examining how distance influences the places they go to. The inquiry process continues to be guided and students are introduced to geographical tools and skills that help them answer their questions.

The Year 5 curriculum for geography has a focus on building students' ability to explain their world in a geographic way. It requires increased critical and analytical thinking. Students consider contemporary places and the functions they serve. This builds on their spatial knowledge of Australia in Year 4, by analysing the spatial distribution of human populations and activities, such as retailing and tourism at national and regional levels. The Inquiry and Skills strand builds on students' analytical, decision-making and evaluation skills. They draw conclusions on issues and consider different viewpoints when thinking about what could or should happen in the future. Students reflect on the effectiveness of their inquiry, how their thinking is different to that of others and how it has changed as a result of their learning.

Year 7 Unit: Why People Live where they do?

This unit focuses on investigating the reasons why people decide to live where they do, at a variety of scales and in the context of the environmental, economic, social and other factors that might influence decision making. The ability to choose where to live is not always available to people and it should be recognised that the unequal distributions and concentrations of populations has consequences. There is a specified focus on Australia, Asia and South America at particular points in the unit.

Thanks to the generosity of the Victory Harbor Primary School students and teachers in giving permission for their teaching materials and reflections to be part of this blog. In particular thanks to Adrian Camac, the lead teacher for the trial at Victor Harbor Primary School.

A personal journey: The meaningful use of technology in the classroom

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'


Going past the “wow” and "GLAT" factor with spatial technology!

As teachers in 2012 we are faced with a brave new world that is very different to what we expected in the 1970’s when many of us set out on our teaching career. How many of us in those distant days would have believed the nature of the world we now see as the norm. A world:
* where we can communicate by pictures and words across the world by the click of a mouse or the touch of a pad!
* where workers spend all day staring at a screen to earn their livelihood.
* where watching cricket on TV would more often involve watching computer simulations and GPS plots of ball trajectory and pathways than watching the real thing.
* where full length movies plus can fit on a 12cm disks.
* where going fishing would become a high technology activity using global positioning systems.
* where people would go everywhere from the golf course to the toilet with a telephone.
* where one can talk to a screen/pad and words appear and where words on the screen can talk back to us.
* where a computer the size of a coin can store and process data many times in excess of the computers in the 1970’s that filled rooms.
* where young people leaving school are likely to have a multiplicity of jobs and even professions in their working life due to rapidly changing technology

These technological developments are not isolated from schooling but have some dramatic implications for how we do what we do in the classroom. These emerging and evolving technologies of the past 30 years have left us with some fascinating conundrums as educators. The world of technology is all a bit like a fantastic toyshop full of wonderful playthings for us to hope for next Christmas. As with the toys in the shop we know that the toys of technology come at considerable cost, that they can be dangerous, they can be of limited usability, they break, we have no idea how they work, they take a while to learn how to use or build and can waste our time when we should be doing something more “useful”. Despite our reservations there is a “wow” factor that can overwhelm our reservations and drive us towards engaging in a particular technology. This engagement can be the result of a good news story from another school, a conference experience or just an advertisement floating through our staffroom pigeonhole. After due consideration we decide that the investment in the technological software and/or hardware will enhance student learning and we take the plunge. The magic gear arrives and with a sense of excitement we start playing with the purchase. In some cases it can almost be like Christmas morning with all the expectations and excitement of getting a new toy. After getting over the personal enjoyment of playing with the new purchase, one needs to turn to the reason the technology was primarily bought, not for the teacher’s enjoyment but to enhance student learning. Here is where the conundrum begins. As an individual it is easy to see the useability of the technology but how can it be turned into a meaningful educational tool. Yes, fun is not a dirty word but you have just spent half of your year’s budget on this technology and you assured the Principal that it would revolutionise education in your school to be a world never before seen. Moreover how do we make the technology go beyond the several lesson “wow” period and turn it into a long-term educational experience to enhance learning, as was the original intention. Having set the scene for the arrival of the technological wizardry in schools I would like to move onto my own experiences and to the issue of when the toyshop turns into a classroom of “good educational practice” or rather where does technology stop and meaningful and extended learning commence.

My story relates to the use of Geographic Information Systems in the teaching of Geography. GIS, as it is called, has been around since the mid 1990’s as a potential classroom technology but for me it all started back in 1997 when I visited the Geography Department at my old University with my Year 12 students. Looking forward to showing my students the light tables and cartographic drawing tables that we all slaved over in our undergraduate days, I was in for a rude shock. Instead, the Geography Department was room after room of computers. What the goodness was going on! Remember, personal computers had not been invented when I was at University in 1972. Whilst these white boxes dominating the Geography faculty did not surprise my students, I could see them thinking, aren’t we doing Geography at school? If so, why don’t we ever visit the computer rooms at school when it looks like “real” geographers use computers all the time? As a committed Luddite I was somewhat perplexed by the experience and went back to school the next day with a challenged perception of Geography in the classroom. In essence I was still teaching Geography the way my favourite teacher taught me in the 1960’s. Wasn’t it due to his influence that I decided to do Geography, so if it worked for me surely it was fine for my students? Despite this rationalisation in defence of teaching in the past I realised that things had to change, and fast, if I was to really be teaching Geography for the good of my students and their future prospects. So at that point my life changed and it never has been the same since! Now GIS dominates my teaching experience and hopefully has enhanced the quality of my teaching. However before finishing my story I need to relate the complexity of events that have led to my present contented state.
The journey has been torturous and painful but well worth it. The first step was to go to the toyshop or rather software providers and get the required GIS software. Believe me it was everything one could dream about as a Geographer! As map lovers, Geographers get extremely excited by normal maps but this toy called MapInfo enabled one to make personalised maps of a high quality using copious and varied data. No wonder the light tables had gone! This brave new world of mapmaking was unbelievable! Night after night of “playing” on the computer followed but I was still not ready to take it into the classroom. The learning curve for a non-ICT person was steep and easy to follow classroom orientated materials were not available. However I had financially and professionally committed myself to use GIS in the classroom. So what was needed was a “GIS for dummies” and I was the perfect dummy to write it. After a few false starts the document was ready to launch on my students. The first lesson was genuinely scary. As teachers we expect to be in control of process and content. My struggle with the technology meant that I was in a position of vulnerability. The students I was teaching were more technology savvy than me by far. What if I couldn’t help them when they were stuck? However what evolved over the next weeks was the most liberating teaching experience I had ever had! Although the facilitator of process I wasn’t the technological expert. I can genuinely say much of my “GIS for dummies” teaching course was developed from the question “how did you do that?” That was me asking that question and not the students! We were underway and the process went smoothly and the students learnt how to use the programme and gained the required GIS software skills. Tick to the technology part but had I enhanced their spatial learning. Wasn’t that the reason for the financial investment and the late nights? Rather I had to ask myself had I just bought a toy, played with it and now will I want another toy with all the new bells and whistles. Herein lay the conundrum. How could I turn this great technology that my students had mastered into a meaningful educational experience for their spatial learning. Had I used technology for the sake of it or could I turn it into a means to an end.
In review I had noticed some interesting by-products of the skill development process. Firstly the students had worked together extremely well in groups and peer tutoring was the norm for the class. Secondly the students no longer saw me as the source of definitive knowledge but a fellow learner with some useful spatial perceptions. Thirdly I had sensed a feeling of empowerment and ownership of learning amongst the students as a result of their mastering of the technology. As a result of these observations I decided to set in place a learning model for the use of GIS and the associated spatial learning that built on these quite unexpected student outcomes. If I was to make the use of the technology an educationally meaningful experience I needed the students to develop some relevant and achievable tasks to apply their skills. Before this stage of application a contextual stage needed to be delivered that transferred some of my spatial expertise to the students. Basic geographical skills and perspectives had to be taught before the issue to be explored was developed. Such traditional content was delivered via some good old fashioned map interpretation exercises and the use of the wonderful inter-active CD Roms and websites now available to the Geography teacher. However the GIS application topic that was the core business of the next stage had to be developed by the students. Topic ownership and relevance was crucial if the technology used was to be meaningful. Much to my surprise the students came up with some very creative ideas. As a teacher, normally being the provider of ideas, it was at times a painful experience watching the students try to come up with original ideas. But one thing was assured, when the pressure was on, all groups came up with something unique. They now had the skills, the spatial context and the idea. Once the parameters of the application studies were set, the students went out into the community to gather data and then back into the computer room to develop their spatial representations or rather maps. From there the final stage was to analyse the spatial representations in line with the original problem developed. Real, community based and relevant learning had happened via the use of the “wow” technology! As a Geography teacher, wasn’t my goal to teach students about the spatial world in a meaningful and enjoyable way?
In fact, the GIS process met this goal way beyond my expectations. Students had become involved in:
* Developing a geographical question and hypothesis.
* Selecting an area or site to conduct the fieldwork.
* Deciding what data was required.
* Going out and collecting original field data and acquiring data from organisations.
* Creating their own databases in preparation for map making.
* Creating a spatial representation of their data.
* Making valid analysis and conclusions about what the map showed in
relation to the question/problem established at the beginning of the project.

An interesting perspective on the use of GIS in the classroom and the associated spatial learning is the identification of the “good” spatial learner in GIS classes. The “expected” student achievers are not necessarily the ones who are the stars in the GIS class. In many cases the students who achieve the extraordinary spatial learning are those who struggle in the normal academic classes. It seems that the use of GIS unlocks the ability of students to employ their spatial cognition skills that have not previously been required in their learning. Conversely some of the more “academically” able students find only moderate success in the GIS class. It is interesting to explore the proposition that the use of GIS and the associated spatial learning is often neglected in the classroom. That is, a neglect of the area of spatial literacy that sees students developing a perception and understanding of their place in space. Maybe GIS is the vehicle to help teachers to develop and expand these skills that are not just innate but can and should be taught for a person to become an effective member of the global community. One could say that such a spatial skill is incredibly relevant to the concept of “Globalisation” that we as citizens are grappling with at the present moment. As one commentator observed:

“spatial thinking is an holistic system where all knowledge is interconnected in space.”
Quote from

Surely such a quality of learning and knowledge is desirable for young people needing to have a worldview and a spatial perspective to their everyday life and experiences.

The actual technology was merely the tool of learning and a means to an end and not an end in itself. The learning model gave a framework to structure the classroom experience but more importantly the students had become empowered by learning the technology and could do things that were only dreamt of back in the days of light tables. GIS projects exploring recycling rates in the council area, Streetscapes around the local areal and water quality in West Lakes have all won National environmental Spatial Industry awards over the past three years. However one shouldn’t just talk of the award winning projects. In the eyes of the majority of students their own original research was as important and impressive as those gaining community recognition. The GIS research work detailed below gives an insight into the originality, community orientation and diversity of content facilitated by the use of GIS technology.
Groups of students studying Geography in my classes have successfully investigated the spatial problems of:
* Where in the local area would the environmental health be the best?
* Where would be the best place in the local area to locate a Multi-Purpose Complex that included a health centre, cinema and restaurant?
* Whether there is a correlation between crime statistics and unemployment statistics.
* Where would be the suggested location in the local area for a family to build a house with specific requirements such as being within a kilometre of a high school, accessible to public transport but at least 2 kilometres away from public highways, within a kilometer of a park and within .5 kilometre of shopping facilities.
* Would the community facilities provided in a high socio-economic area be better than those offered in a lower socio-economic area?
* Whether the rubbish bins around the school are located to optimise collection?
* What are the football allegiances (AFL and SANFL) across the local area?
* Whether there is a difference in health and lifestyle factors such as smoking, drinking, food intake and exercise habits across the different socio-economic regions of the local area?
* Whether there is a difference in household energy consumption across the local area?

These examples show how GIS can develop high-level analytical skills amongst students by the exploration of some rather everyday local area topics. Not bad for students generally considered as not academic and/or not positively engaged in learning! What then did these students have going for them to make the conceptual “learning leap”? Basically, I consider that they had a technological skill that gave them a sense of empowerment and a strong sense of ownership of the learning process. In turn this enabled them to be pro-active in their learning by the using their surroundings to apply the skills of GIS.

So in conclusion, where does technology stop and learning start? One can summate that it is when the toy turns into a tool or rather when the “wow” factor of using the toy is replaced by the “wow” factor of discovery and relevance engendered by using the tool. To my surprise I am not visiting toyshops any more because the GIS toy has turned into much more than a toy but rather one of the most enjoyable classroom experiences that myself and many other Geography teachers across Australia have experienced. The blackline master is being left behind as Geography reinvigorates itself and hopefully students will perceive that Geography is more than just drawing maps on light tables but a very real experience relevant to their everyday life.

By the way, GLAT stands for, "Gee Look At That!" The enemy of the meaningful use of technology in the classroom.

Here is a challenge! How can we move this site of amazing 360 degree images from GLAT to meaningful learning?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Inquiring about inquiry with the Australian Curriculum: Geography

Images above: Geography students at Orroroo Area School using inquiry whilst studying the Year 7 'Why people live where they do' unit of the Austrlaian Curriculum: 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'

Inquiry in geography

As mentioned in a previous posting called; "Its more than telling", inquiry is the preferred methodology in the Australian Curriculum: Geography. Here are the details of how inquiry is addressed in the draft curriculum document. Note, that inquiry in geography is different to that described in history and other learning areas; the same but different, to keep the disciplines distinctive when using inquiry!

Inquiry in geography: an attempt to articulate and show geographical distinctiveness

“... process of inquiry by which students learn new geographical knowledge and deepen their understanding. This is developed through investigations that involve observations or questions (for example, about environmental, social, cultural and economic features) the collection and interpretation of information to develop conclusions; and reflection on the overall process. Inquiries may be undertaken by individual students, or collaboratively, and may vary in scale, geographic context, and the time taken for the investigation.”

The process of geographical inquiry ... is described in the curriculum under five headings, which represent the stages of a complete investigation. Over each two-year band, students should learn the methods and skills specified. Every investigation need not follow every step; the inquiry process may follow loops, in which students go back to an earlier stage to ask more questions or to undertake more analysis. Furthermore, not all inquiry requires the collection and processing of information, as the starting point could be a concept, or an ethical or aesthetic issue, which can be explored verbally. Many inquiries should start from the observations, questions and curiosity of students.

Observing, questioning and planning: Developing questions about something that has been observed, experienced or thought about.

Collecting, evaluating and representing: Deciding how to investigate a question or find an answer to a problem, and identifying possible answers to test; collecting information from a variety of primary sources and secondary sources, such as text-based resources, statistics, images, maps, aerial photographs, satellite images, samples and objects, fieldwork, sketches, interviews, and reports; and evaluating information for reliability and bias.

Interpreting,  analysing and concluding: Making sense of the information gathered through textual analysis and interpretation, by processing it into maps, tables, graphs and diagrams. Identifying order, diversity, trends, patterns, anomalies, generalisations and cause and effect relationships, using quantitative and qualitative methods appropriate to the type of inquiry; and interpreting the results of this analysis and developing conclusions.

Communicating: Communicating the results of investigations using combinations of communication methods (verbal, audio, graphical, visual, mapping and text-based), which are appropriate to the subject matter, purpose and audience.

Reflecting and responding: Reflecting on the findings of the investigation and relating these findings to existing knowledge; reflecting on the process of the inquiry, and on the strengths and weaknesses of the method of investigation chosen; deciding what action is needed in response to the results of the investigation, by applying the criteria of environmental sustainability, economic costs and benefits, and social justice; and reflecting on the actions.

Whilst talking about inquiry in gegoraphy it is worth considering and even challenging the profile of inquiry as a pedagogical approach in geogrpahy.

In short, Inquiry learning is:

• research focussed
• real/authentic
• constructivist
• process based
• scaffolded
• about promoting, enhancing and guiding student learning
• the art of questioning – good questions based in discipline knowledge and understandings
• problem based learning

and …

• does not hand over responsibility for learning to the students
• provides searching questions and guidance
• promotes engagement
• involves the development of scenarios for stimulus
• involves inquiry based decision making

What does this all mean for the geography teacher designing programs using inquiry? It all sounds great but are there any downsides to inquiry based learning This is food for thought as we start designing professional learning for the teaching of the Australian Curriculum: Geography.