Wednesday, October 15, 2014

To go forth and explore - famous geographers

Image above: Famous geographers - what criteria? How many can you pick?

Related links to Spatialworlds
GeogSplace (a teaching blog for Year 12 geography)
Spatialworlds website

Australian Geography Teachers' Association website

Where am I??

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

To explore and discover to be geographically famous

The importance of the term explore in geography is fundamental to the spirit of geography.  In the Australian Curriculum: Geography it appears often and quite purposely as an important component of 'doing' geography.  As is said in the Rationale of the curriculum:

"Geography is a structured way of exploring, analysing and understanding the characteristics of the places that make up our world..."

I often ask participants in my workshops  to name a famous geographer. I am usually met with blank looks, and then they hook into the explorers. Yes but no is usually my answer. This posting focuses on who are the recognised famous geographers and who are the famous who have done amazing geographical things. 

"Things like natural ecosystems, physical features, migration patterns, ethnic distribution patterns, and other facets of human-environment interaction are all the province of the geographer. Today, not many people could name a famous geographer. In the past, when much of the world was still exotic and unexplored, geographers occupied a crucial role in society."                                 Caitlin Dempsey Morais, Editor of ESRI's GIS Loungewebsite

The following site is an interesting starting point for us to explore the famous geographer.

* List of famous geographers  

This list of notable geographers is in alphabetical order enabling sorting from reputable, prominent, and well known geographers to the lesser known geographers of today.  If you want to answer the question, "Who are the most famous geographers ever?" start your search . Regardless of this search facility, few of the names are in everyday currency in the general population, let alone with young people. The names normally forwarded when people are asked to list famous geographers tend to be famous explorers such as Cook, Mawson, Magellan, Dampier etc (none of who appear on the famous geographers list). These men were either adventurers, scientists, navigators, or surveyors (in the case of William Dampier, a pirate!). By not calling them recognised geographers is not denigrating their achievements but even they would not call themselves geographers. Regardless of the classification of their expertise or background, they most definitely did geographical things using amazing geographical knowledge and skills in their pursuits.  

One such person was Alexander Von Humboldt, who was a scientist. Humboldt set off and did some amazing geographical exploration and discoveries contributing to the geographical knowledge of the world.  Humboldt, the geologist turned geographer and South American explorer was a bit of an 18th century super scientist, traveling over 24,000 miles to understand the relationship between nature and habitat. In the video, George Mehler details Humboldt’s major accomplishments and why we should care about them today.  Also have  a look at the TEDEd lesson plan to accompany the video

* Another one of my geographical heroes is the 19th Century Russian, Nicholas Miklouho-Maclay - a name that never appears on the famous geographer list - in fact his name rarely appears anywhere! He really did some amazing exploration on the cultural geography front in New Guinea, Australia and Malaysia. Miklouho-Maclay was an explorer, ethnologist, anthropologist and biologist who became famous as the first scientist to settle among and study people who had never seen a white man. Miklouho-Maclay spent the major part of his life travelling and conducted research in the Middle East, Australia, New Guinea, Melanesia and Polynesia. His geographical story for such a short life (1846-88) is truly rivetting. 

Such scientists, explorers and adventurers from the past are certainly worthy of the famous geographer tag! They don't often turn up in the famous geographer lists but they added enormously to our geographical knowledge of the world. They are heroes for students to know about and admire in the spirit of geographical exploration. These are just two of thousands of biographical stories of geographical heroes. We should be profiling them in our geography classes as real life 'Indiana Jones' types, with incredible geographical adventures to capture the exploration imagination of our students.

* Here is another list which provides further insight into the famous geographers

* ESRI have another take on famous geographers

* By the way, the most famous former geography student is Prince William (the Duke of Cambridge) of the United Kingdom who studied geography at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland; having switched from studying the history of art. Yes, a future King Of England (and Australia unless...) will be a geography. Some other interesting famous geographers facts can be found on the University of Florida site (never knew that Mother Theresa was a geography teacher).

* The greatest journeys: Whilst on about exploration, here is an interesting interactive site which maps history's greatest journeys. This site is a great connecting history and geography resource.

The opposite side of the coin: the geographically inept and challenged

* Geography gaffes - certainly not geographers of fame - some amazing media geographical bloopers

  * Everyone should be able to read a map
New research suggests that map reading is a dying skill in the age of the smartphone. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Geographical lesson starters

 Image above: An amazing adventure geography video.  The Ridge is the brand new film from Danny Macaskill... For the first time in one of his films Danny climbs aboard a mountain bike and returns to his native home of the Isle of Skye in Scotland to take on a death-defying ride along the notorious Cuillin Ridgeline.

Related links to Spatialworlds
GeogSplace (a teaching blog for Year 12 geography)
Spatialworlds website

Australian Geography Teachers' Association website

Where am I??

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

Just geographically interesting to look at as a lesson starter, maybe!

Unlike most Spatialworlds postings, this posting has no theme. Rather it is just a selection of some geographically interesting sites, such as the application of spatial technology, the cultural transitions to adulthood, mapping names over time in the UK, to some interesting social geography from Venezuela.

* Images of change from NASA

Each week the NASA State of Flux gallery features images of different locations on planet Earth, showing change over time periods ranging from centuries to days. Some of these effects are related to climate change, some are not. Some document the effects of urbanisation, or the ravage of natural hazards such as fires and floods. All show our planet in a state of flux.

For example, look at the changes above caused by the recent Volcanc eruption in Papua New Guinea. Mount Tavurvur, on Papua New Guinea's New Britain Island, erupted on August 29, 2014, throwing ash (gray-brown areas of September image) over surrounding areas. Its last major eruption was in 1994. Tavurvur is a stratovolcano, a volcano consisting of alternating layers of lava and ash, and is located along the eastern edge of the Rabaul Volcanic Complex. Simpson Harbor forms part of the much larger (mostly submerged) Rabaul Caldera.

An interesting spatial application on the flow and change of air traffic in the UK.  

Some interesting popular name maps in the US over time. Diversity and change in names is always fun to look at!

Some disturbing cultural geography

In Venezuela, women are confronted with a culture of increasingly enhanced physiques fueled by beauty pageants and plastic surgery.

Cultural diffference across space re: breastfeeding

Continuing the quirkiness of body perception theme from culture to culture, it is clear that breastfeeding can be a polarizing topic. Views vary not only from person to person, but also country to country, according to a new survey examining women's opinions on breastfeeding.

Population turn around on predictions

In a paper published recently in Science, demographers from several universities and the United Nations Population Division conclude that instead of leveling off in the second half of the 21st century, as the UN predicted less than a decade ago, the world's population will continue to grow beyond 2100.

Using spatial technology to fight crimes

Authorities use Google Earth to crack down on illegal activities. This is a useful platform to discuss the ethics involved in using geospatial technologies, the expectations of privacy and issues of governance.  This could also be used to discuss urban political geography and principles of planning.  What are the limits to the legal and ethical uses of technologies?

* The Burning Man festival - a unique cultural event transforming the landscape for a few days

The Burning Man Festival takes place at the end of August every year in the barren and remote Black Rock Desert of Nevada. The weeklong festival is described by its organisation as “an experiment in community, art, radical self-expression, and radical self-reliance.” Earth-bound photographers have chronicled the legacy of art, technology, design, and fashion at the event over the years, but Skybox wanted to know if they could capture the transformation of the city from space, with their constellation of SkySats.

Coming of age traditions around the world

The transition from childhood to adulthood -- the 'coming of age' of boys who become young men and girls who become young women -- is a significant stepping stone in everyone’s life. But the age at which this happens, and how a child celebrates their rite of passage into adolescence, depends entirely on where they live and what culture they grow up in.

Image above: In Vanuatu, a small island nation in the middle of the South Pacific, young boys come of age by jumping off of a 98-foot-tall tower with a bungee-like vine tied to their ankles.

* Fragile states

The Fragile States Index interactive index and map focuses on the indicators of risk and is based on thousands of articles and reports that are processed by the CAST Software from electronically available sources.

Weak and failing states pose a challenge to the international community. In today’s world, with its highly globalized economy, information systems and interlaced security, pressures on one fragile state can have serious repercussions not only for that state and its people, but also for its neighbors and other states halfway across the globe.  The Fragile States Index (FSI), produced by The Fund for Peace, is a critical tool in highlighting not only the normal pressures that all states experience, but also in identifying when those pressures are pushing a state towards the brink of failure.

* What does the Earth look like?

This video covers various topics important to mapping and satellite imagery.  There is so much more to the world and space than what we can see see.  Chromoscope, referenced in the video, simulates other forms of energy on the electromagnetic spectrum besides just visible light.  This type of information is at the core of the science behind all of our satellite imagery.  This video also covers many map projection issues and highlights online resources to understand map distortion including:

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Grammar and vocabulary of geography

Image above:The Kids World Citizen site posting on fundamental geographical knowledge all students (and teachers) should have.

Related links to Spatialworlds
GeogSplace (a teaching blog for Year 12 geography)
Spatialworlds website

Australian Geography Teachers' Association website

Where am I??

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

Knowledge required for understanding

 "If we were to imagine learning to think geographically to be a bit like learning a language, then we need both geographical vocabulary and grammar in order to do this. The subject's 'core knowledge' can be thought of as geography's vocabulary – the extensive, factual basis of the 'world subject'. If core knowledge is geography's vocabulary, geography's conceptual framework forms its grammar."                                                                         David Lambert

This posting is dedicated to the thinking of David Lambert, former Geography Association of the UK CEO and presently the Professor of Geography Education at the Institute of Education, University of London. In his numerous articles David has referred to the grammar and vocabulary of geography. I have found this way of thinking extremely useful when working with teachers not fully acquitted with the nuances of geographical education. David's approach to professional learning through this analogy is quite fascinating and very helpful in structural learning approaches with teachers. In a nutshell, the analogy is that the conceptual thinking of geography can be viewed as the grammar of geography and the exhaustive knowledge, language and skills of geography as the vocabulary.  Without the so called vocabulary, as teachers we are restricted in developing deep geographical understandings through the thinking in geography, the grammar. 

Some associated thinking on the need to teach the vocabulary of geography relates to the area of citizenship education. Some argue, and I agree, such basic geographical knowledge, understandings and skills are imperative for young adults to know, so that they can navigate society as a citizen. In a previous Spatialworlds blog I explored this idea in a posting called Spatial citizenship.  

A slide from my Geographical Knowledge workshop

I consider such a view as extremely pertinent to where we are at with the professional learning of teachers in geography in Australia.  Teachers are engaging with the structure and content of the curriculum, but without sound geographical knowledge and skills they are limited in developing the deep geographical understandings and thinking which is implicit in the Australian Curriculum: Geography Achievement Standards. In fact, I think the application of the Achievement Standards is virtually impossible without the grammar and vocabulary as enunciated by David.

So what is the 
vocabulary of geography? In recent months I have started conducting geographical knowledge workshops with teachers as a follow-up to the geographical grammar (thinking) workshops I have been conducting since 2012. Interestingly I came across a blog posting from the other side of the world today which eerily reflected almost exactly the workshops I have been conducting. Such a coincidence was affirming that there is some core knowledge that geography educators can relate to as foundation and essential knowledge as the vocabulary building stones.

Here is a slide showing a broad outline of what I cover in the geographical 
vocabulary workshop  

Now have a look at the blog posting on the area of essential geographical knowledge (vocabulary) from the Kid World Citizen site - interestingly similar!
Having said all of that, the challenge for geography educators involved in conducting professional learning for teachers is to present such material 
in an interesting and accessible manner, in a short timespan and not to come across to adult learners as treating them like Geographical ignoramus’s’!

Download the attached flyer from Dropbox if you or any of your colleagues are interested in attending any of the Geographical Grammar and Knowledge workshops in South Australia during the remainder of this year or in 2015. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Maps to explain economic geography

 Image above: Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of countries.

Related links to Spatialworlds
GeogSplace (a teaching blog for Year 12 geography)
Spatialworlds website

Australian Geography Teachers' Association website

Where am I??

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

Global economy through maps

Many consider that the area of economic geography is an oft neglected aspect of geography courses. A concerted effort was made to integrate components of economic geography into the Australian Curriculum: Geography. The following resources mapping economic factors/phenomena across the globe is very useful  for those components of the curriculum. The 38 maps on the global economy showcased in this Spatialworlds posting provide some surprises and  certainly some great fodder for discussion.

* The 38 maps to explain the global economy is a very powerful way to show the economic geography of the globe.

World export map

As the site says: "Commerce knits the modern world together in a way that nothing else quite does. Almost anything you own these days is the result of a complicated web of global interactions. And there's no better way to depict those interactions and the social and political circumstances that give rise to them than with a map or two. Some of the maps focus on the big picture while others illustrate finer details. The overall portrait that emerges is of a world that's more closely linked than ever before, but still riven by enormous geography-driven differences."

Unemployment in Europe

* The Anthropocene - a brave new world or the precursor to the end of the Earth as we know it?

Although not specifically on economic geography, the changes brought about during the Anthropocene will have significant impacts on the economic health of the Earth.
The video on the site is a 3-minute journey through the last 250 years of the earths history, from the start of the Industrial Revolution to the Rio+20 Summit. The film charts the growth of humanity into a global force on the equivalent scale to major geological processes.
The other videos on climate change, water and urbanisation on the 'Welcome to the Anthropocene' site are certainly worth a look.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The world but not as we know it!

Image above: The Mercator projection (black) overlayed on the Peters projection.

Related links to Spatialworlds
Spatialworlds website

Australian Geography Teachers' Association website

Where am I??

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

Our ever changing world

As I tend to do from time, I go scooping of sites for my geography classes and workshops. As a result I have added to my 'Just real interesting',   'Spatial literacy'   and   'Geographical Thinking' sites three scoops which highlight three aspects of our ever changing world; changing world population, the threat of Ebola and the projections of the globe we choose.
These are just three of 100's of fascinating geographical sites on the curated's related to geography.

* Check out this site on the changing nature of the world population.

What can the median age of a country tell us about its future?
Turns out, quite a bit. Using data from the CIA Factbook, this site has created graphics to show the median age of every country in the world. As the article says:

"There are 1.2 billion people between the ages of 15 and 24 in the world today — and that means that many countries have populations younger than ever before.
Some believe that this "youth bulge" helps fuel social unrest — particularly when combined with high levels of youth unemployment. Writing for the Guardian last year, John Podesta, director of the progressive Center for American Progress, warned that youth unemployment is a “global time bomb,” as long as today’s millennials remain “hampered by weak economies, discrimination, and inequality of opportunity.”
The world’s 15 youngest countries are all in Africa. Of the continent’s 200 million young people, about 75 million are unemployed. The world’s youngest country is Niger, with a median age of 15.1, and Uganda comes in at a close second at 15.5.
On the flip side, an aging population presents a different set of problems: Japan and Germany are tied for the world’s oldest countries, with median ages of 46.1. Germany’s declining birth rate might mean that its population will decrease by 19 percent, shrinking to 66 million by 2060. An aging population has a huge economic impact: in Germany, it has meant a labor shortage, leaving jobs unfilled."

The article asks, What will be the long-term impact of the world's shifting demographics?
Have a good look at the maps in this article to support the above geographical analysis.

* Why this Ebola outbreak became the worst we've ever seen

The 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed more people than sum total of all the previous outbreaks since the virus was first identified in 1976. This video explains how it got so bad and threatens to change the human geography of our world forever.

* Mapping projections

A really interesting blog on projections, containing some great visuals to show students that the world can be shown in many ways. Just like statistics, we can manipulate projections of the world to meet any agenda - why is England always in the centre of maps at the global scale and Australia to the East and out of the way? In particular the blog provides the opportunity to revisit that great scene from 'West Wing' when they are briefed on projections.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Geography of Wikipedia


  Image above: Europe at night - the concentration of light as well as information


The spatial examination of Wilipedia

Associate Professor Mark Graham from the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford  has used gotagging to reveal that Wikipedia is not quite so equal after all. Wikipedia is often seen as a great equaliser. Every day, hundreds of thousands of people collaborate on a seemingly endless range of topics by writing, editing and discussing articles, and uploading images and video content. 

As Mark Graham says in his excellent paper;

Graham goes on to explain that "despite Wikipedia’s openness, there are fears that the platform is simply reproducing the most established worldviews. Knowledge created in the developed world appears to be growing at the expense of viewpoints coming from developing countries. Indeed, there are indications that global coverage in the encyclopedia is far from “equal”, with some parts of the world heavily represented on the platform, and others largely left out."

He found that Europe and North America account for a staggering 84% of the “geotagged” articles. Almost all of Africa is poorly represented in the encyclopedia, too. In fact, there are more Wikipedia articles written about Antarctica (14,959) than any country in Africa. And while there are just over 94,000 geotagged articles related to Japan, there are only 88,342 on the entire Middle East and North Africa region. 

The follwoing chloropleth maps clearly show the spatial inequity of Wikipedia articles ....and much more.

Total number of geotagged Wikipedia articles across 44 surveyed languages.  
All the maps shown on this posting are from: Graham, M., Hogan, B., Straumann, R. K., and Medhat, A. 2014. Uneven Geographies of User-Generated Information: Patterns of Increasing Informational Poverty. Annals of the Association of American Geographers

  Even though 60% of the world’s population is concentrated in Asia, less than 10% of Wikipedia articles relate to the region. The same is true in reverse for Europe, which is home to around 10% of the world’s population but accounts for nearly 60% of geotagged Wikipedia articles.

Number of regional geotagged articles and population. Graham, M., S. Hale & M. Stephens. 2011. Geographies of the World's Knowledge. Convoco! Edition.
There is also an imbalance in the languages used on Wikipedia.

Dominant language of Wikipedia articles (by country).

In total, there are more than 928,000 geotagged articles written in English, but only 3.23% of them are about Africa and 1.67% are about the Middle East and North Africa.

Number of geotagged articles in the English Wikipedia by country. 
As Graham perceptively says in relation to the importance of Place:

"All this matters because fundamentally different narratives can be, and are, created about places and topics in different languages."

The following maps shows that even in theArabic Wikipedia, there are geographical imbalances. There are a relatively high number of articles about Algeria and Syria, as well as about the US, Italy, Spain, Russia and Greece but substantially fewer about a number of Arabic speaking countries, including Egypt, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia.

Total number of geotagged articles in the Arabic Wikipedia by country
By mapping the geography of Wikipedia articles in both global and regional languages, we see that parts of the world, including the Middle East, are massively under-represented – not just in major world languages, but their own. Many people think that Wikipedia is a modern technological opportunity for anyone, anywhere to contribute information about our world to promote global/regional interconnection and global equity. However that doesn’t seem to be happening in practice. Wikipedia might not be reflecting the world through an equity and non-first world ethnocentric lens, but in fact creating new, uneven, geographies of information. This is another great example of how mapping something provides an insight into what actually is happening.

Thanks to Alaric Maude for pointing me towards this fascinating article on the geographies of Wikipedia.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Geography is ...?

Image above: A Slideshare for those introductory lessons

Some great resources on geography from teachers for teachers.

A great PowerPoint by Simon Jones to introduce students (and teachers) to geography. Simon is a teacher in the UK and does some great work that is is happy to share with teachers around the world. Here are his follow/contact details:

* Great current resources for the geography classroom from Seth Dixon

Seth Dixon from Geography Education! fame has put together a supplementary resource which links all his 'found' websites to geographical themes and/or places. His new site is designed for geography students and teachers to find interesting, current supplemental materials. To search for place-specific posts, browse the interactive map. To search for thematic posts, see . Also you can search for a keyword by clicking on the filter tab at the top of the page.

* Another resource from Simon Jones, called Geography soup, uses short films from Vimeo.

* An interesting thinking geography resource, this time for teachers planning a geography curriculum.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Eclectic bits and pieces

Image above:Timelapse capture from MarcoTomaselli

An eclectic collection of teaching resources for the geography classroom

There must be a few lessons amongst this eclectic collection of geography related resources? They range from social, cultural, spatial, physical, demographic, disaster geography .. plus much more. All worth a look and consideration as resources for the geography classroom. 

* Following the volcanic activity 

* Toilets!

* Astronauts images

* Religions of the world 

* World food issues 

* World population by 2050 

* Interactive world aging map 

* Wide angle view of the fragile Earth 

* If it were my home! 

* Great ICT geography resources