Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Things to use, think about and just look at!

Field Papers: an amazing resource for the geography classroom.

This resource is worth a posting by itself. What a magnificent resource for the geography classroom. An answer to a geographer dreams! Field Papers allows you to print a multipage paper atlas of anywhere in the world and take it outside, offline, in the field. You can scribble on it, draw things, make notes.

When you upload a snapshot of your print to Field Papers does some magic on the server to put it back in the right spot on the map. You can transcribe your notes into digital form and share the result with your friends or download the notes for later analysis.

"You don't need a GPS to make a map or learn complicated desktop GIS software to use Field Papers. It's as easy as print, mark, scan."

This project is a continuation of Walking Papers, which was built for the OpenStreetMap (OSM) editing community. Field Papers allows you to print multiple-page atlases using several map styles (including satellite imagery and black and white cartography to save ink) and has built in note annotation tools with GIS format downloads. Field Papers also supports user accounts so you can save“your stuff” for later, or use the service anonymously.

21st Century Information fluency
Over recent years I have been doing quite a bit of work on the impact of the ballooning information Age on 21st Century learning, curriculum and pedagogy. The following links and video on Information Fluency just adds gristle to the argument that we should not be only focused on content in schools but primarily about how to access, critique and use the plethora of information out there in cyberspace.
Firstly watch this video on 21st Information Fluency; fascinating!
Digital Information Fluency (DIF) is the ability to find, evaluate and use digital information effectively, efficiently and ethically. DIF involves Internet search skills that start with understanding how digital information is different from print information, knowing how to use specialized tools for finding digital information and strengthening the dispositions needed in the digital information environment. As teachers and librarians develop these skills and teach them to students, students will become better equipped to achieve their information needs. In short, Information fluency is the ability to apply the skills associated with information literacy, computer literacy and critical thinking to address and solve information problems across disciplines, across academic levels, and across information format structures. Such a focus has a huge implication to what and how we teach in geography in schools

Food security
A unit on Food Security was met with mixed responses when it came out in the recent scope and sequence of the draft Australian Curriculum: Geography. It is really a ‘no-brainer’ that food security is one of the fundamental issues facing the world in the 21stCentury and should be part of the geography curriculum. These materials from the RIO+20 website may be able to convince some and support the inclusion of this topic in the curriculum.

As the site says

“It is time to rethink how we grow, share and consume our food. If done right, agriculture, forestry and fisheries can provide nutritious food for all and generate decent incomes, while supporting people-centred rural development and protecting the environment.”

While on the RIO+20: The Future We Want site , check out the tabs on Water, Disasters, Cities, Oceans and Energy. All great resources for the teaching of the Australian Curriculum: Geography.

Historical maps

The David Rumsey Historical Map Collection is an amazing collection of maps which can be used for historical geography. A very small sample ofhis collection is now contained inside ArcGIS Online.
While there also have a look at the World Maps-1790 and 1812 with sample explorer routes

The map gallery opens the door to a number of key geographic concepts and human and physical aspects of our world. Maps include ones relevant to Latitude and Longitude, Land Change, Gross national Income, Elevation, Political Borders, Rural-Urban Population, Topography, Population and Agricultural Land Use. .

ArcGIS on-line

Whilst visiting, go to ArcGIS on-line and start making maps.

Watch the video at ascertain the value of ArcGIS on-line for the geography classroom. For example, enter a search term (like World Bank), view the gallery, or make a map from scratch. A series of videos on the site will guide you through the processes to get started.

Now for some pure GLAT (Gee Look At That): Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower. Enjoy.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Now and You: Making Geography real for students

Authentic learning in the classroom with a guest
Authentic learning in the field

Related sites to the Spatialworlds project
Email contact
Where am I??
Melbourne, Australia: S: 37º 47' E: 144º 58'

The Now and You

One of the buzz words in pedagogy these days is "Authentic learning".  In the past we called it Experiential  Learning! Either way, it is to make the learning as real as possible for students - for students to see the relevance of what they are doing and their learning as relevant to their life's now and in the future.  Of all the subjects, geography with its feet firmly planted in the living and non-living world within which humans live and its currency (things happening now) is well placed to be seen as a subject well positioned to provide authentic learning opportunities for students. 

Sometimes we relate this topic to the area of careers using geography but we should also be cognisant to the fact that geography is one of the few subjects which use the world within which a student lives now as a laboratory for study. In the Educause paper, Authentic learning is defined as:

"Authentic learning typically focuses on real-world, complex problems and their solutions, using role-playing exercises, problem-based activities, case studies, and participation in virtual communities of practice."

The Educause Learning Initiative cited above goes on to link the potential of technology to enhance Authentic Learning.  The paper, titled "Authentic Learning for the 21st Century" says that:

"Learning-by-doing is generally considered the most effective way to learn. The Internet and a variety of emerging communication, visualization, and simulation technologies now make it possible to offer students authentic learning experiences ranging from experimentation to real-world problem solving. "

This is an excellent paper which affirms much of the discussion on this blog in regards to spatial technology and creative enquiry methods inherent in the use of technologies such as GIS.

The following quote is a geographical adaption to a piece from an Authentic Learning site:

Authentic learning says that...we should learn what happens in the "real world", and become "cognitive apprentices" to the experts. When we learn about geography, we learn to think like geographers. When we learn about the weather, we learn to use tools that a meteorologist would use. 

In regards to pedagogy, it is said that "Authentic learning, is a teaching method that allows students to explore, discuss, and meaningfully connect concepts and relationships that are relevant to the real-world and are meaningful to the students (Donovan, Bransford, &Pellegrino, 1999). Authentic instruction, which differs from traditional teaching methods, use teaching strategies such as: structuring learning around genuine tasks, employing scaffolding, engaging students in inquiry and social discourse, and providing ample resources from the school and community (Donovan et al., 1999; Roth, 1992)."

From the same site I found this list of Authentic Learning characteristics of considerable interest:
  • Learning is real-world oriented and has value beyond the school setting.
  • Learning is often interdisciplinary.
  • Students use higher-order thinking skills and learn concepts as well as basic facts.
  • The classroom is learner centered and allows for a variety of learning styles.
  • Students have ownership of their learning.
  • Instruction uses hand-on approaches and is accessible for all learners.
  • Learning is active and student driven.
  • Teachers act as coaches or learning facilitators. They are one of many resources students may turn to for learning. Parents, outside experts, and community members may all serve as sources for learning.
  • Scaffolding allows students to receive help when they need it and allows them to work freely when they can accomplish tasks on their own.
  • Learning uses real-time data, which students investigate and from which they draw conclusions.
  • Students often work together and have opportunities for discussion as they work to solve the problem.
  • Students produce a product that is directed toward a real audience.
All of these characteristics resonate with the use of spatial technologies in the classroom and with the 21st Century aims of the Australian Curriculum: Geography to make geography real and relevant to students - in the here and now.

Here is a great video on the work of geography and geographers which may be useful for teachers to use to get the message across that geography is about the 'now and you', as a person living in the world. As a way to convince the students that what they do in a geography class or in the field is authentic and real, a little bit of classroom focus on the work of the geographer would not go astray.  Here are some more "the work of the geographer" type of resources.