Sunday, January 4, 2009

The discomfort of not knowing!

Spatial Worlds Website

Picture descriptions:
Left image: The workshop participants.
Right image: Members of the organising committee and presenters at dinner on December 19th, 2008.

International Geo-spatial Information Technology Workshop for School Education

Hong Kong: N: 22º 12.646' E: 114º 01.775'

As a follow-up to my Churchill visit to Hong Kong in October 2007 I was invited to present a Demonstration Class at the International Geo-spatial Information Technology Workshop for School Education at the Baptist University in Hong Kong on December 19th, 2008. The workshop, attended by 60 Hong Kong Geography teachers was a great opportunity to meet with Hong Kong teachers interested in using spatial technology in their classrooms. As I reported in my October 2007 blog entry, the new Hong Kong curriculum has made the use of spatial technologies such as GIS an expectation for those teaching geography. Read more about the Hong Kong Curriculum at
This workshop was one of the numerous efforts to provide Hong Kong teachers with training and perspectives in relation to the use of GIS in the classroom. The day was action packed with my demonstration class titled ‘Getting a start with GIS skills on a meaningful task in the classroom‘ heading the program, followed by a diverse grouping of presentations including:
* Steve Dunn and Mark Smith, geography teachers from the Grammar School at Leeds presented classroom GIS activities using World, Brazilian and Hurricane data.
* Dr P.C.Lai from Hong Kong University presented a demonstration class on the use of GIS in the classroom setting while studying rainfall distribution and agricultural production in China.
* David Brian from the Chinese International School, Hong Kong presented a demonstration class on the use of GIS to study Air Quality.
The workshop was organised by Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong GIS Association, Hong Kong Polytechnic University and the Hong Kong Geographical Association. As always the workshop provided the opportunity to discuss the implementation of GIS in the classroom with the interested and passionate. An amazing outcome of the experience was that all those involved, whether from Leeds, Hong Kong or Australia were all saying the same things in relation to the approach we need to take with the introduction of GIS into schools. That is, for GIS to be a problem solving and creative tool for students to explore their world. Such an approach should embrace the philosophy of ‘the discomfort of not knowing’ when developing student tasks involving the use of spatial technologies. The technology should be the enabler for students to find out for themselves and in turn, ‘know’. For many of the teachers attending the workshop there was a degree of discomfort in not knowing the technology and all presenters did their best to ease any anxieties about using the technology and provided an impressive range of teaching materials and resources.
Here are a few of the resources provided on the day which may be of use to those interested in extending their use of GIS in the classroom.

Air quality in Hong Kong resources from the Chinese International School GIS classroom.
Those who have visited Hong Kong will be aware that Hong Kong is one of the most polluted cities in the world. Hence as a case study the mapping of pollution levels on a day to day basis from real time Internet data is a great GIS activity. These website provides all you need to undertake some great GIS classroom activities about air pollution and attempts to monitor and remedy.
Hong Kong Environmental protection Department at
Hong Kong clear the air website at

Steve and Mark are doing some great work on GIS in the classroom at Leeds Grammar.
In particular I found the use of some free Brazilian homicide data and the activities the lads have developed for their students to be a really an interesting approach. Steve and Mark have put many of their excellent classroom activities up on the ESRIUK website for teachers to use. Their approach was really inspiring and confirmed and affirmed my philosophy and approaches in using GIS in the classroom. I hope to catch up with Steve and Mark in the future to keep an eye on their great efforts in the UK. Australian teachers certainly would gain from their expertise and enthusiasm for the task.

Dr Lai and her graduates from Hong Kong University presented as excellent integrate activity using rainfall and agricultural production data.
The workshop produced maps to explore the relationship between rainfall distribution, rice production and wheat production. For more information on the work of Dr Lai and Hong Kong University in the area of GIS in schools go to the HKU website at
Some of the websites Dr Lai used were:
* Chinese Climate Data Centre at provides real time precipitation data for mapping.
* The Centre for Earth Science Information Network at provided comprehensive Chinese provincial data.
* Chinese grain production data at

Attending and presenting at this inaugural international gathering in Hong Kong of those involved in the implementation of GIS in Hong Kong classrooms was a great honour and a wonderful experience. Special thanks to Professor Zhou Qiming for his invitation to present and Matthew Pang for all his hard work in organizing the event and my participation.
I hope this link between Australian and Hong Kong Geographers continues to grow into the future. We face many of the same challengers and share similar approaches to the use of GIS in the classroom. It would be a pity not to learn from each other as we tackle the difficult task of implementing GIS in the classroom.