Thursday, June 28, 2012

Ms Mind’s Wonderings: A Geonerd of the highest order!

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'

Ms Mind’s Wonderings: A Geonerd of the highest order!

On this blog over the years I have profiled individuals who are making a significant contribution to the mission of using technology in a meaningful way in the teaching of geography. These people have included George Dailey, Mick Law, Roger and Anita Palmer  and Joseph Kerski. I thought it was time to add to this list Bec Nicholas, an outstanding young (anyone under 35 teaching geography is young!) geography teacher from Queensland. As well as being AGTA Secretary, Bec is a dedicated and innovative teacher at a Brisbane secondary school. The purpose of this posting is not just to praise Bec but to guide the reader to her wonderful blog titled, Mind’s Wonderings. On her blog Bec documents all her links, resources, professional learning activities and thinking on the use of technology (not only spatial technology) in the geography classroom - in fact humanities classroom.  I had the good fortune last Friday of getting Bec to travel to Adelaide to present at a professional learning day for geography teachers. The evaluations of the day were almost 100% in agreement that the materials and manner she presented these materials was 10 out of 10. In fact, Bec puts all her presentations on the Mind’s Wonderings blog and it is certainly worth going to the blog to have a look. Bec ran through her top 10 Web 2.0 sites and gave some practical advice on how to use them in the classroom.

My mind boggles when I think about how exciting geography would be for students if we could clone such a Geonerd as Bec and plant them in geography classrooms around Australia.  I am sure, as the professional learning for geography rolls out around Australia, Bec will play a huge role in “turning-on” teachers to the range of tools available to the humanities teacher to motivate, engage and inspire students to do some great geography.  I really recommend that you have a look at the Mind’s Wonderings site and have a play with technology in the classroom in the Geonerd way.  Well done Bec, you are a star!

Follow Bec on Twitter - @geographynerd - or look at the GTAQ Facebook page for updates on great links for Geography teachers.
Here are just some of the sites Bec showcased in her whirlwind of ideas and “how cool is that” presentation. If you want more details on the sites listed and Bec’s thinking just go to Mind’s Wonderings blog.
Many of these sites use the basic skills and tools of a GIS program, but are available free and online.

Google Maps for Educators
Contour Education has a great links page but also a YouTube channel.

Bec’s Top 10 Web 2.0 Tools in the Geography Classroom

Monday, June 4, 2012


Image above: Morning rush hour in Sydney. In a hurry to somewhere. Every one of these people have a geographical story.

Related sites to the Spatialworlds project

Email contact

Where am I??
Melbourne, Australia: S: 37º 47' E: 144º 58'

'My story' by H............  Is this geography?

I am presently in Melbourne at the Asia Education Foundation Forum. Yesterday a film on Scootle was shown telling the story of a Vietnamese 'boat person' who came to Australia in 1978.  The story highlighted to me the place of storytelling  in getting a message across and to encourage students to ask 'rich' questions on a topic. 
As we know, history is full of stories and is an integral part of engaging history teaching but as  geography teachers we also tell stories to engage (even if our holiday adventures).  Maybe we should call it Geogstory to encourage teachers to tell geographical stories to engage and elucidate the geography they teach. Not just to tell stories but use stories to encourage geographical thinking.  Presently I am teaching new arrivals to Australia, many boat people of the 2010's.  Can their story be used for the study of geography?  Off course they can be and should be used to engage students.  As you read the geogstory below, ask yourself what aspects of geography does H.... log into with his story and what essential questions could be asked of the students after reading the story; what knowledge, understandings and skills would come out of an inquiry based on the story of H.....

Here is H.......'s story

Freedom was everything to me and I was always looking for it. I looked for the right to live with my culture, to speak and study in my mother tongue, to wear my traditional clothes, to have a right to choose my religion and many other thoughts. All of them were illegal for me. Even just to think about them. I found myself in a big prison, called Iran. When I realised I did not belong in that country (Iran), and that my country was occupied by Iran, I did choose my style of life “to become free”.

This drive and this impression lead me to fall into hazardous situations. At the beginning this idea and my involvement was exciting and was holy, but then it started to become difficult. Many times I encountered serious problems which could have sent me to unknown places. If I speak about jail or prison, they are well known by everyone, but there are many places in Iran which are unknown especially in Al Ahwaz. I felt always like a fugitive. I had to hide myself behind silence and doing nothing just to follow what they wanted. This situation annoyed me.

I had to choose between freedom and being a slave. Many of my friends escaped and some of them got into jail. Some of them also got into similar situations as me, they became fugitives. I found my live in danger and I had to decide quickly. Finally, I found there was no choice for me except to escape. I left my country (AL Ahwaz) seeking a safe place, in Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Indonesia, and at last I found it in Australia.

My country AL Ahwaz was independent till 1925. On the 20th of April 1925, Reza shah Pahlavi Iran’s dictator, with the cooperation of the British, occupied AL Ahwaz. During those times many Ahwazians have been killed and many of them were sent to jail. Reza shah Pahlavi decided to change the AL Ahwaz geography from Arabic to Farsi. At that time the only power which could have helped Ahwazians were the powerful British, but they were the best friends of Reaza shah, so the Ahwazians lost their country because of the ambitions of Iran and Britain.

Syria. I remember my mother’s tears, when I said goodbye to her. I remember my siblings feeling sad and frustrated. All of them knew that I might never come back again. All of them knew that it could be our last meeting.

It is difficult for anybody to choose between bad and worse. I did choose the bad. I left my country, AL Ahwaz, forever because there was no way for me to go back again.

I left Al Ahwaz for Syria on the 27th of July 2007. It was tough for me to live in a country without enough money and relationships, except my family. Syria is an Arabic country so I made relations with some Syrians and also I found a few Ahwazians there. Both of them helped me to find a job early and I became familiar with the country’s laws and I established my new live. For two years, my situation was good and I learned many new things.

But suddenly everything changed. Many Ahwazians, including myself, found ourselves among Iran’s intelligence who were active In Syria. They forced us to go back for interrogations because we had asked for our rights. They asserted that Ahwazians living in Syria were the enemy of the God. Actually, this is the usually dangerous blame for Ahwazian who asked for freedom for their rights or for an independent country of AL Ahwaz. They asked the Syrian government to cooperate with them and they reached an agreement. Many Ahwazians were arrested by the Syrian government and sent back to Iran to jail. Some of them escaped to Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. I found Syria was not safe anymore and my life would be in danger, just as it had been in Iran and AL Ahwaz. So I decided to move to Turkey with my family. I went to Turkey on the 25th of October 2009 at midnight.

Turkey. We arrived to the border of Turkey at dawn. It was a cold wintry day. I noticed the difference between Syria and Turkey straight away. Turkey was something else to me. The language, the culture, the transport system, the nature, the weather and many other things were different to Syria and AlAhwaz. We went directly to the border city called Ghazi Antab. My friends were waiting for us. We stayed there nearly one month. Everything was expensive. Although during this short period I worked with a retailer we spent our money which I had brought with me from Syria. We found Turkey was not the right place for us to live. Life there was very hard. We looked for a way out. Following a friend’s advice and by borrowing some money we went to Indonesia. We had the idea that Indonesia was safe and a cheap country. The UNCHR in Jakarta was working very well for refugee people.

In Turkey I encountered two bad events.

The first one happened when I visited my old friend who had been just released from jail from Iran. He was a lawyer. I saw him in the capital Ankara. When I saw him I was in doubt whether this was my old friend who was name Abbas or not? On that point he called me by my name and said hello. He was wearing scruffy clothes. His hair was spiky and his face was covered by a beard. He was not in normal situation. He looked liked a crazy man. He explained to me when he was in jail they injected him with a medicine which resulted in him losing his mind and his talking for nearly two years. During this time his uncle looked after him and he did everything to return him back to normal situation and finally his uncle did his job very well. He stayed with me for two days. During this time he did many strange things. He was of an abnormal and unhealthy mind. He was ill. I am still very angry for him.

The second bad event. I lost my money which I had borrowed. Actually when we went to move to Indonesia we bought the tickets from a travel agency but they didn’t explain to us about the air plane rules or maybe they did but we didn’t understand them, so when we went to the airport they asked us about a letter from the Indonesia Embassy. When we said we didn’t have that letter they didn’t let us on the plane. We missed the plane and we lost our money. The next day we arranged with another agency and they supported us. In fact we borrowed more money again for a second time. We paid more money for both the letter and new tickets.

Indonesia was the last step and last place for us to keep ourselves safe from Iran’s Intelligence. I came from east Asia to west Asia which are completely different in most of things. They are different in culture, in language, in wearing clothes, in nature, in type of people, in population, in building and many other things. I found Indonesia safe and a cheap country. After nearly one month, we went to the UNHCR. Unfortunately UN was not looking after refugees as we had imagined. For example we had to wait for four months for first interview. This was a very long time for people seeking a safe place. We stayed approximately four months there and during this period I couldn’t find any job or a school for my son. We were disappointed with the UN. We found out that many people had been waiting for 10 years, some of them 8 to 9 years.

There and then we decided to cross the ocean by anything, even an unsafe boat. Finally I found the person who could arrange a boat trip to Australia.

None of us and other asylum seekers who came with us, knew how dangerous, terrible and stressful this journey was. We came by a small boat. We expected it to break up at any time. There was nothing. Just ocean and us and some birds. We were on the boat for six days. At the end our food was nearly finished, the boat broke and the water came inside. We wore the lifejackets and we tried to fix the problem. Fortunately we fixed the problem. On the sixth day of our journey, the Australian Navy saw us and they sent a team to help. At last we got help from the Australia Navy and they sent us to Christmas Island.

Thanks H.... for letting me use your brave and revealing story.  All the best for your new life in Adelaide. Yes, this is the rich geography of story telling ... or geogstory.