Friday, May 31, 2013

Making space for GeogSpace

GeogSpace now online

The GeogSpace resource has been developed by AGTA and is now online as a free standalone website open to the world. GeogSpace is the perfect support for classroom teachers engaging with the new geography Curriculum.  GeogSpace was launched today at the Geography Teachers Association of South Australia (GTASA) conference

Here are the GeogSpace launch and workshop presentations from the GTASA conference.

* Unpacking GeogSpace workshop

From the GeogSpace Home page

There has never been a more exciting time to study geography, with it being a subject vital to the education of every young Australian in the 21st century. GeogSpace has been designed to provide materials to support primary and secondary teachers in implementing the Australian Curriculum: Geography. It has been developed by AGTA's team of practising geography teachers, dedicated to ensuring all schools across Australia have access to a unique resource that reflects best practice using current technology and pedagogies.
GeogSpace offers quality primary and secondary geography resource materials for all teachers of geography, including those that are very experienced and those just commencing their involvement. The materials will support teachers to develop their knowledge, skills and pedagogical capacity to teach geography of the highest quality.
GeogSpace comprises two major resource sections, Core units and Support units.
Core units comprise illustrations of practice for stages of schooling described in the Australian Curriculum: Geography. The illustrations are provided for:
  • Years F–4
  • Years 5–6
  • Years 7–8
  • Years 9–10.
The illustrations are designed to provide classroom-ready ideas and resources that reflect the dynamism of this exciting learning area. Each illustration is linked to the Australian Curriculum: Geography and provides opportunities for students to actively engage in learning, whether it be through undertaking class research, practical activities, field investigations or through taking local action.
Core units have three sections for each of the stages of schooling:
  • Key understandings
  • Inquiry and skills
  • Exemplars
Support units provide illustrations of practice designed to support teachers' professional learning and provide guidance, information and resources in eight areas of geographical education:
  • Thinking geographically
  • Why teach geography?
  • Professional practice
  • Fieldwork
  • ICT in geography
  • Assessment in geography
  • Language of geography
  • Geographical inquiry
Naturally we are very excited about the resource and see the next few months as important to get the message out to Australian teachers (and beyond) about the sites availablity and develop professional learning opportunites to inservice the resource. So within a two weeks we have the currciulum released and the resources online. Now for the fun of geography growing in popularity in Australian schools! After over 4 years of planning and working on the Australian Curriculum: Geography, it is finally a reality.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Developing an understanding of development!

Where am I??
Adelaide, Australia: S: 34º 55' E: 138º 36'

Investigating development geography through data visualisations

This posting is about WorldMapper and Gapminder, two excellent data visualisation sites that can be used to identify the stage of development of a country and/or region. Both of these sites have been around for over 6 years, but they continue to be amazing free and user friendly tools for students to study development geography. Development geography has been a popular classroom topic over the years and continues to live in the Australian Curriculum: Geography in:
Year 6: A diverse and connected world.
Year 10: Geographies of human well-being.

Development geography is a branch of geography with reference to the standard of living and quality of life of its human inhabitants. In development geography, geographers study spatial patterns in development. They try to identify development status of a country/region by looking at economic, political, social and development indicators.

Development indicators are numerical data on the characteristics of a place which can be associated with development of a country. They include:
  • Economic indicators include GNP (Gross National Product) per capita, unemployment rates, energy consumption and percentage of GNP in primary industries. Of these, GNP/per capita statistics are the most used as they measure the value of all the goods and services produced in a country, excluding those produced by foreign companies, hence measuring the economic and industrial development of the country. GDP per capita is also a useful data source.
  • Social indications include access to clean water and sanitation (which indicate the level of infrastructure developed in the country) and adult literacy rate, measuring the resources the government has to meet the needs of the people. Indicators such as cars/TV/radios per thousand may also be use as social indicators.
  • Demographic indicators include birth rate, death rate, life expectancy, natural increase and fertility rate and age structure. Health indicators include nutrition (calories per day, calories from protein, percentage of population with malnutrition), infant mortality and population per doctor (indicate the availability of healthcare and sanitation facilities in a country). The GDI (Gender-related Development Index) measures gender equality in a country in terms of life expectancy, literacy rates, school attendance and income
  • Environmental indicators include how much a country does for the environment. A more developed and wealthier country has the luxury to spend some of it's money on protecting the environment.
A useful overall indicator is HPI. The HPI (Human Poverty Index) is used to calculate the percentage of people in a country who live in relative poverty. In order to better differentiate the number of people in abnormally poor living conditions the HPI-1 is used in developing countries, and the HPI-2 is used in developed countries. The HPI-1 is calculated based on the percentage of people not expected to survive to 40, the adult illiteracy rate, the percentage of people without access to safe water, health services and the percentage of children under 5 who are underweight. The HPI-2 is calculated based on the percentage of people who do not survive to 60, the adult functional illiteracy rate and the percentage of people living below 50% of median personal disposable income.

With development geography there are a range of classifications of development (some quite contentious and ever-changing in popularity). The most popular are the classifications of:
  • Undeveloped/Underdeveloped/developing/less developed/developed
  • Rich and poor countries
  • The haves and have nots
  • High to low human development (based on the HPI)
  • 1st, 2nd and 3rd world (rather unpopular classification today)
  • The North/South divide (see below)

No matter what the classification, when we view the indicators it seems that countries group into various development categories in a consistent way.

Now for the two sites that help students identify the indicators:

* Worldmapper
Worldmapper is a collection of world maps called cartograms, where territories are re-sized on each map according to a chosen criteria. Criteria relevant to development include: demography, income, wealth, poverty, health, education, death exports etc.

* Gapminder
Gapminder is a great visualisation over time which plots on a dynamic graph a range of criteria (many being development indicators). There is also an excellent section for teachers with ideas on using the site.

A footnote on the contestability of the term development from  

There is criticism of the use of the term ‘developing country’. The term implies inferiority of a 'developing country' or 'undeveloped country' compared to a developed country, which many countries dislike. It assumes a desire to ‘develop’ along the traditional 'Western' model of economic development, which a few countries, such as Cuba and Bhutan, choose not to follow.

The term 'developing' implies mobility and does not acknowledge that development may be in decline or static in some countries, particularly in southern African states worst affected by HIV/AIDS. In such cases, the term developing country may be considered a euphemism. The term implies homogeneity between such countries, which vary widely. The term also implies homogeneity within such countries when wealth (and health) of the most and least affluent groups varies widely. Similarly, the term 'developed country' incorrectly implies a lack of continuing economic development/growth in more-developed countries.

In general, development entails a modern infrastructure (both physical and institutional), and a move away from low value added sectors such as agriculture and natural resource extraction. Developed countries, in comparison, usually have economic systems based on continuous, self-sustaining economic growth in the tertiary sector of the economy and quaternary sector of the economy and high material standards of living. However, there are notable exceptions, as some countries considered developed have a significant component of primary industries in their national economies, e.g., Norway, Canada, Australia. The USA and Western Europe have a very important agricultural sector, and are major players in international agricultural markets. Also, natural resource extraction can be a very profitable industry (high value added), e.g., oil extraction.

Interestingly, an alternative measurement of that has been suggested is that of Gross national happiness. Measuring the actual satisfaction of people as opposed to how money orientated a country is.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The curriculum has landed!

We have the green light!
The Australian Geography Teachers Association (AGTA) and geography teachers in Australia started working towards the creation of the curriculum when AGTA, the Institute of Australian Geographers (IAG) and the Royal Geographical Society of Queensland (RGSQ) established the 'Towards a National Geography Curriculum' project way back in October 2008.  Since then there has been 4 advisory panels and over 10 writers who have crafted the many iterations of the curriculum leading to this final document. The publication of the curriculum is a very important day for geography in Australia because for the first time we have a geography curriculum for all of Australia - a 21st Century curriculum deserving plaudits as a world class geography curriculum. To view the curriculum go to the ACARA Australian Curriculum Portal at  The published on-line curriculum can be filtered and downloaded as required. A paper version of the curriculum can also be downloaded.
The next important event is the publication on 31 May of the ESA resources (GeogSpace) to support the Australian Curriculum: Geography. As mentioned in a previous Spatialworlds posting, the GeogSpace resource has been developed by AGTA and will be on-line as a standalone website called GeogSpace. We expect this resource to go live by the end of May and be the perfect support for classroom teachers engaging with the new geography Curriculum. More on that when it is launched. In the meantime keep an eye out for the GeogSpace  link coming alive
So at last the planets are lining up for the implementation of a national geography Curriculum. The next step is for geography teachers around Australia to offer professional learning for our teaching colleagues who are not geographers and require support in teaching this new discipline based conceptual geography curriculum - to help these teachers to think geographically.  This blog will certainly play a part in providing resources to support teachers to teach the curriculum with rigour, engagement and passion. It is an exciting time for geography in Australia schools.  We must not let this opportunity slip.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Interactive visualisations to teach population

Where am I??
Adelaide, Australia: S: 34º 55' E: 138º 36'

Three good visualisations of data.

Here are some great interactive and dynamic sites to teach the area of population and migration. These are really fantastic data visualisations, perfect for a creative geography classroom to help students see the diversity of our world in terms of underdeveloped, developing, developed countries.

* The migration flow
This interactive migration map allows you to see for every country in the world either the top ten providing countries of lifetime migrants or the top ten receiving countries of lifetime migrants. On top of that, when you let your mouse hover over a country, you can see the total population, the GDP per capita, the HIV and Tuberculosis prevalences and the death rate of children under five.

* Population pyramids 

This interactive site enables you to see the age-sex pyramids for every country in the world. A great resource for comparison across the globe and awareness of diversity in age-sex structures between countries. The pyramids raise many question as to why they are the shape they are.

* World population data interactive map from the Population Reference Bureau. This site provides excellent data updates in tabular form, as well as a user friendly interactive data map for every region and country in the world.

* CIA World Fact Book
Whilst this site is not a visualisation, it does provide plenty of world data that would support the above population visualisations.

The fascination of Topophilia and place

Image above: The A life revealed - fascinating! National Geographic girl, her eyes have captivated the world since she appeared on the cover of National Geographic magazine in 1985. Now here is her story.   Interestingly the picture was almost not published!

Related links
Spatialworlds website
Australian Geography Teachers' Association website
'Towards a National Geography Curriculum' project website
Humsteach blog

GeogSplace blog
Geographical thinking
Spatial literacy
History and geography
Spatial Education and technology

Follow Spatialworlds on Twitter

Email contact:

Where am I??  

Adelaide, Australia: S: 34º 55' E: 138º 36'

A love of place: "...we are either place-oriented or people-oriented."

“People think that geography is about capitals, land forms, and so on. But it is also about place — its emotional tone, social meaning, and generative potential.” — Yi-Fu Tuan, Professor of Geography

Yi-Fu Tuan is a humanist geography, who popularised the term Topophilia in geography in the 1970s as a way to counter what humanists saw as a tendency to treat places as mere sites or locations. Instead, Yi-Fu as a humanist geographer argued, the places we inhabit have as many personalities as those whose lives have intersected with them, and the stories we tell about places often say as much about who we are, as about where our feet are planted.
Humanist geography is a branch of geography that studies how humans interact with space and their physical and social environments. It also looks at the spatial and temporal distribution of population as well as the organisation of the world’s societies. Most importantly though, humanistic geography stresses people’s perceptions, creativity, personal beliefs, and experiences in developing attitudes on their environments.
Time, age, sadness, loss, goodness, happiness, and the concept of home are all themes Yi-Fu Tuan explored at length in his more than 20 books, including his best known works, "Topophilia", “Space & Place,” and his most recent book, “Humanist Geography: An Individual’s Search for Meaning.”
I first came across the work of Yi-Fu Tuan as a geography student at Adelaide University when he visited Adelaide in 1973. His work fascinated me and really enriched my perception of what geographical thinking was about (beyond things, distribution and location). As we have been writing the Australian Curriculum: Geography and developing the concept of place in the curriculum, the work of Yi-Fu Tuan has again resonated with me. The recent article on Yi-Fu Tuan was a real insight into his thinking and commitment to the concept of place as part of modern geography.  Hence I thought it was time to do a Spatialworlds posting on topophilia in relation to the place of place in the new curriculum.

Topophilia (From Greek topos "place" and -philia, "love of") is a strong sense of place, which often becomes mixed with the sense of cultural identity among certain peoples and a love of certain aspects of such a place.
The question asked in Yi-Fu Tuan,s book, "Topophilia: A Study of Environmental Perceptions, Attitudes, and Values" is what are the links between environment and world view? Topophilia, the affective bond between people and place, is the primary theme of Yi-Fu's work as he examines environmental perceptions and values at different levels: the species, the group, and the individual. Yi-Fu Tuan holds culture and environment and topophilia and environment as distinct in order to show how they mutually contribute to the formation of values.

"Topophilia" examines the search for environment in the city, suburb, countryside, and wilderness from a dialectical perspective, distinguishes different types of environmental experience, and describes their character."

During the 1960s and 1970s, the idea of place in determining people's behavior was at the forefront of human geography and replaced any attention previously given to space. In his 1977 article, "Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience," Tuan argued that to define space, one must be able to move from one place to another, but in order for a place to exist, it needs a space. Thus, Tuan concluded that these two ideas are dependent upon one another.
Whilst searching for materials on topophilia on the Internet I came across this interesting treatment of the term in film. Topophilia: a journey home, a rediscovered identity is a short film about our connection to the landscape we inhabit and the feeling it can inspire.

In short, topophilia is the affective bond between people and place. Topophilia is a very important term to explore as we look at the concept of place in the Australian Curriculum: Geography. As I have conducted professional learning on the concepts in the curriculum, the discussion often turns to the difference between space and place. To teach the Australian Curriculum: Geography well and as intended, there is a need for geography teachers to engage with the term Topophilia so that they can see that place and space are very different and that place is a very rich concept to enhance the teaching of geographical thinking in the classroom.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Internet sites: time is the essence

Image above: Students exploring  some of the great sites on the Internet for the teaching of humanities.

Related links
Spatialworlds website
Australian Geography Teachers' Association website
'Towards a National Geography Curriculum' project website
Humsteach blog

GeogSplace blog
Geographical thinking
Spatial literacy
History and geography
Spatial Education and technology

Follow Spatialworlds on Twitter

Email contact:

Where am I?? Adelaide, Australia: S: 34º 55' E: 138º 36'

So much, so little time!

I recently came across a listing of top sites for humanities educators from a site called GoEd

 I have edited the sites listed to be mainly relevant to geography teachers (but have included some sites which would be useful for teaching historical geography. All we need as teachers is the time to get familiar with each of these sites and we certainly would be having some creative teaching going on.

Web 2.0 Tools

Poll Everywhere
An inexpensive and quick alternative for clicker response systems. Create your first poll in 30 seconds without having to sign up. Your students simply text their answer to a predetermined number and, voila! Poll Anywhere is free if your class size is less than 40 students.

Use Animoto to easily create presentations and videos with your own images and music, or choose from a library of stock files. Teachers can apply for a free Animoto Plus account.

With a free option for K-12 teachers, Wikispaces is a great tool for making custom webpages that your students can edit together. You can manage privacy settings, create student accounts without email addresses, embed media and even customize the design of your Wiki pages.

Voicethread’s group conversations are stored and shared in one place, from anywhere in the world. It allows you to create multimedia slideshows with images, videos and documents. Others can view the slides and then leave text, audio or video comments.

Prezi is a really neat cloud-based presentation program that allows you to zoom in and out. If you don’t mind your slides being public, you can sign up for a free account with 100MB of storage.

Use IMDb, the internet movie database, to see if there are any movies that are relevant to the topic you’re teaching. If you find one, you can also check the rating to make sure it’s appropriate for your classroom.

As one of the largest and most popular flashcard creation websites around, Quizlet allows students and teachers to customize their own “sets” of flashcards. You can manage access to the flashcards you create and share them with your students.

SlideShare is one of the most popular ways to upload and share PowerPoint presentations and other documents. Again, this is a great tool for transferring documents between your home and school computer without having to carry around a flash drive.

ClassMarker is an online quiz and test creation website. As an educator, you get 100 free tests taken (and graded!) per month.

Informational Resources

CIA Factbook
The CIA World Factbook contains information on the communications, economy, geography, government, history, military, people, transnational issues and transportation for 267 world entities.

Google Scholar
Google Scholar is a simple search engine that specializes in scholarly literature. It allows you to search across many sources including articles, books, court opinions, online repositories, university libraries and more.

Wolfram Alpha
Wolfram Alpha is searchable database of information about government, historical events, political figures, important documents and more.

Current Events

Google News Archive

Time Magazine

New York Times

View today’s front page from more than 800 newspapers worldwide. Use this website to demonstrate how different cultures can perceive the same event.

A daily compilation of editorial cartoons from around the world that cover current issues and important figures.

Clay Bennett Cartoons Archive
Modern cartoons on a range of topics including individual liberties, global warming, lobby reform, congress and more.

Interactive Timelines

Search for pre-made, media-rich timelines or make your own using MP3 audio clips, YouTube videos and more.

X Timeline
Another website that makes it easy to create and share timelines with pictures and videos.

Time Toast
All you need is a valid email address to create interactive timelines that can be shared anywhere on the web.

Tiki Toki
Easily create stunning web-based, sharable timelines with images and video. Tiki Toki also has a group editing feature for collaboration.

With Dipity, you can find, create and embed interactive, customizable timelines.

Create your own sharable timeline with images, video, audio, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft PowerPoint and PDF files.

Printable Maps and Mapping Tools

Easily draw on Google Maps and then share with your students or post to your teacher blog.

QuickMap’s slogan is “Doodle on Google!” It’s another free and easy way to draw on Google Maps.

Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection
High-quality historic, thematic and topographic maps of the world including Africa, the Americas, Asia, Australia/Pacific, Europe, Middle East, Polar regions, Oceans and United States.

Printable World Maps
Free printable maps of the world’s countries. Each map is a blank outline.

Nat Geo Education: Mapping
Free, printable 1-page maps, printable large-format maps and an online interactive student map.

Mapping History
Animated socio and political maps of 18th and 19th century United States, Europe, Latin America and Africa.

Animaps letting you create maps with markers that move, images and text that pop up on cue, and lines and shapes that change over time. Your finalized Animap appears like a video that can be played, paused, slowed down and sped up.

BBC Dimensions
This website takes important places and events, and overlays them onto a map. Just type in a zip code. Use it to show your students how large something like the Great Wall of China or the battle of Stalingrad really is/was!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

More than trees and capes: Cultural geography

Image above: One place, two cultures. Cultural difference on the beach on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia.

Related links 
Spatialworlds website
Australian Geography Teachers' Association website
'Towards a National Geography Curriculum' project website
Humsteach blog

GeogSplace blog
Geographical thinking
Spatial literacy
History and geography
Spatial Education and technology

Follow Spatialworlds on Twitter

Email contact:

Where am I??
Adelaide, Australia: S: 34º 55' E: 138º 36'

Are these geography?

Breadth of subject matter is one of geographies great strengths but also greatest weakness. What topics are actually geography, compared to them being social studies or history? The following sites and articles are certainly interesting but are they geography? Yes they are about people from different places (local to global) and do help us reflect on some of the key concepts of geography but are they geography? The branches of geography called social geography and cultural geography are open to interpretation as to their geographical relevance. Some geographers see social and cultural geography being more social studies than geography, whilst other geographers see these branches as enriching to the perception of geography beyond the physical (real human geography) and certainly worthy of being studied in the geography curriculum. We certainly had debates about this as we wrote the Australian Curriculum: Geography over recent years. What is important in this discussion is that it is not the topic which makes anything geography but rather the geographical lens that the students (and teachers) use as they explore and examine a topic. This point of view certainly has been explored in previous Spatialworlds postings - "Geography: more than meets the eye", 'What makes geography geography" and "Geography is everywhere and everything"

So what is cultural geography and social geography?

"Cultural geography is the study of cultural products and norms and their variations across and relations to spaces and places. It focuses on describing and analyzing the ways language, religion, economy, government and other cultural phenomena vary or remain constant, from one place to another and on explaining how humans function spatially."

"Social geography is the branch of human geography that is most closely related to social theory in general and sociology in particular, dealing with the relation of social phenomena and its spatial components."

Now have a read of the following topics, put your 'geography hat' on and try to explain how these topics are geography (either social or cultural). Yes, geography is everything!!

Image from the Global Education resource titled, Thinking Globally.