Monday, November 23, 2009

No theme to this post, just some sites to play with!

Picture descriptions:
Images: Spatial technology everywhere when flying. Thank goodness!!

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

No theme to this post, just some sites to play with!

1. The Geographers Craft website
Some excellent teaching materials on GIS and the Geographers Craft from the University of Colorado. Some good information and notes for students on GIS applications and general modern day geographical skills.
The site is called the Geographer Craft and is at:
The section of the site relevant to GIS is:

2. The Mappery site is an inter-active map contribution site of real life maps. This site allows you to explore thousands of real life maps from around the world.
• tourism maps
• ski trail maps
• park maps
• college maps
• subway maps
• world maps
Also maps by country are avalialable and you can sign up for your own "map room" featuring maps and comments you add to the site.Great for a classroom activity and collecting map resources.

3. The future in spatial technologies in phones - GIS in action. Just imagine if students could develop maps from phones for various field trips etc.

4. Some amusing little Geography things from Youtube. Why not make it entertaining?

5. Have you registered on ‘My Wonderful World’ website yet to access great information and activities to promote spatial awareness?

6. Is this healthy? A young geography genius on Youtube!

7. Amazing collection of Google Earth images can be found at and

8. Not spatial but lets be a little green!

9. Some great GIS materials done by the Eastern Cape Dept of Land Affairs in South Africa. A ready made GIS course.

10. A website for geography teachers called GeoTube

11. A great site for video resources etc on geography from David Rayner in the UK.
Go to David’s sites at have a look:

12. This is a great geography relevant site that does a “mash up” of google earth maps and flickr images.

13. Satellite tracking site It apparently updates every 30 seconds and shows the path of each satellite etc. The site provides an enormous amount of real time data on the satellite and its path.

14.The use of spatial technology in newsroom communications Reuters AlertNet site: Alerting humanitarians to emergencies. It includes an interactive mapping tool (fed from MS Virtual Earth) and viewable by conflicts, storms, food security, health etc.

15. It is worth looking at the exciting materials and buzz on the ‘Geography Teaching Today’ website in the UK. The sections on resources for Early years and Primary, Middle and Senior are particularly useful.

16. The TED Talks website is a great source for little snippets on ideas and technology. Really worth a look to see what is posted. In particular the talks on mapping New York pre-settlement, Al Gore on climate change, the 1918 Flu The orb, data visualisation , tools for a better world and global issues much more.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Geographers, the locational sleuths

Picture descriptions:
Images: Data rich locations -just different intelligence required!

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

Locational intelligence and geography
As with any new term there are a range of term owners, all with their own interpretations. I thought it would be quite simple to do an entry on the ‘buzz word’ Location Intelligence. I thought I knew what it meant from my own extrapolation of what I know of geography, GIS and the word intelligence. However as I researched I came to realise that the term has a very business origin and hence many of the definitions and descriptions of the application of the term relates to the application of spatial technology for only business/insurance applications. One commentator said that:
“The first and most significant difference is that GIS starts with geography and location intelligence doesn't. Location intelligence starts with a business problem.”

This really got me thinking! So, what is being said is that we have to come up with the problem first and then look at what geography we have to access via technology such as GIS. This may seem a rather simplistic back to front approach but not all that different to what I have been advocating with the meaningful use of GIS in the classroom. That is, we must develop a context for the use of GIS before we start to just use the technology and expect the geography or GLAT (Gee look at that!) factor to provide deep learning for students. Although still business focussed the following descriptions of Locational Intelligence are getting closer to the classroom application for the term Locational Intelligence.
Location intelligence enables you to answer a fundamental, yet complex question faced by nearly all organisations: Where? It's a critical factor in countless strategic and operational decisions in business and the public sector. Associating your organisational data with location is the foundation for making critical decisions that improve performance.”
Location Intelligence is the capacity to organize and understand complex phenomena through the use of geographic relationships inherent in all information. By combining geographic- and location-related data with other business data, organizations can gain critical insights, make better decisions and optimize important processes and applications. Location Intelligence offers organizations opportunities to streamline their business processes and customer relationships to improve performance and results.”
But, my favourite description is about the providing of context:
“Providing context is what location intelligence is all about. But providing location context involves more than delivering a picture or a map. Location-enabled self-service portals or applications should have access to all the relevant content there is. Ensuring collection of all information relevant to the context of location requires the ability to query and present content.”

My next question is, can a location be intelligent? Or can a location be un-intelligent? If intelligence relates to being clever and with intellect, then the amount of data we can access connected to place can enhance our understanding of a place in functional and creative terms. I see much of what we have been doing with GIS in schools over the years is to show students that the data crunching and representational ability of GIS has increased our knowledge and understanding of place and places. An intelligent location is one which we can find heaps of data about and hence develop a range of problem solving scenarios for students to analyse. I like the term Locational Intelligence in its broader educational sense because it gives a life to a place and insinuated action and application in response, as if a place or location has a brain and unique quality. We all know that every place has a sense of uniqueness and this is determined by the data we need to uncover for such a place. An unintelligent location would be one which we cannot uncover adequate data – such a location is just place with no intelligence on it. So what is intelligence in the broader sense
“Intelligence is an umbrella term used to describe a property of the mind that encompasses many related abilities, such as the capacities to reason, to plan, to solve problems, to think abstractly, to comprehend ideas, to use language, and to learn.”
Although a general description of intelligence, this definition can be as equally applied to the use of GIS as a problem solving tool in the classroom!
As geographers we need to be intelligence gathers (overt and covert) on place. To carry the ‘CIA’ analogy even further we need to interrogate the data uncovered to ensure we have a real and objective understanding of the data collected – not false intelligence! Geographers are locational sleuths and we now have the tools to uncover a huge amount of locational data and in turn have an enormous amount of intelligence on a location. This broader conceptual definition of Locational Intelligence can be applied to the classroom as an action-based approach for learning:
Today, Location Intelligence is used by a broad range of human endeavours. Applications include:
• Communications & Telecommunications: Network planning and design, boundary identification, identifying new customer markets.
• Financial Services: Optimize branch locations, market analysis, share of wallet and cross-sell activities, mergers & acquisitions, industry sector analysis, risk management.
• Government: Census updates, law enforcement crime analysis, emergency response, environmental and land management, electoral redistricting, tax jurisdiction assignment, urban planning.
• Healthcare: Site selection, market segmentation, network analysis, growth assessments.
• Hotels & Restaurants: Customer profile analysis, site selection, target marketing, expansion planning.
• Insurance: Address validation, underwriting and risk management, claims management, marketing and sales analysis, market penetration studies.
• Media: Target market identification, subscriber demographics, media planning.
• Real Estate: Site reports, comprehensive site analysis, retail modeling, presentation quality maps.
• Retail: Site selection, maximize per-store sales, identify under-performing stores, market analysis
When you consider that as much as 85% of the enterprise data companies and governments use already have a reference to location, then Locational Intelligence using spatial technologies such as GIS is inevitably going to become a core skill and application in society when making critical decisions in terms of:
o Increasing revenue and optimising capital investments
o Improving planning and customer/social services
o Decreasing the impact of natural/human generated disasters and crime

The following ESRI Australia links on the practical application of GIS and Locational Intelligence give an excellent insight into the importance of Locational Intelligence in our society today.

Preparing for the population explosion
In 2050, it is estimated that Australia's population will explode to 35 million, with the world's population set to top 90 billion.
But how are government organisations, businesses, scientists and environmentalists preparing to meet this demand?
Find out how location intelligence is playing a key role in equipping our decision makers with comprehensive and accurate information to help better converse, sustain and manage the environmental challenges of a growing world.

Pandemic planning
From swine flu and the SARS virus to localised legionnaires disease outbreaks, a year doesn't seem to pass without a serious epidemic. But how does the world react to control the spread?
Get behind the scenes of how location intelligence is used for early detection, tracking, response and control of infectious disease outbreaks.

To follow-up this blog posting on Locational Intelligence consider visiting the ESRI spatial round table forum. Have your say on the hot topics in the spatial industry at. ESRI's Spatial Roundtable provides a great opportunity for you to share your points of view about concerns, trends, challenges, and technologies.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Time to talk about the big questions in Geography

Picture descriptions:
Images: Geographers talking in person over a wine. Google Groups not as much fun but probably more effective!

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

Time to talk about the big questions in Geography
Several weeks ago I launched the Google Group titled "21st Century Geography in Australian classrooms". With so much happening with geography around Australia and the Web 2.0 capabilities constantly being talked about I thought it was time to establish a forum for geographers to discuss happenings and ideas. Hopefully the group will also provide the latest updates of the progress of the National Geography Curriculum and be a conduit for feedback and the clarification of ideas. On the Google Groups description I wrote:
"This group is to encourage teachers in Australia to discuss matters relevant to the teaching of 21st Century geography in Australian schools. The group aims to develop a network of like-minded teachers to promote geography in the curriculum. In particular, the incorporation of spatial technology and spatial literacy ideas into the geography curriculum."
After two weeks the "21st Century Geography in Australian schools" Google Group has 102 members and already there has been some really vigorous discussion on the topic of:
“So what are the big questions we should be posing in the geography classroom in the 21st Century? As people talk about and construct a possible geography curriculum for Australian students, it would be an interesting discussion to consider what would be the “die in the trenches” questions we would like students to be asked during their geographical education? The questions need to be “big” enough to enable a multiplicity of pathways for exploration by students and adequately provocative to engender issue based discussion, lateral thinking and creative enquiry. In the eyes of the proposer, the question should be considered to be a non-negotiable question to be explored in the national geography curriculum – somewhere and somehow! Ideally the final list compiled from the responses should cover all the branches of geography (not just the environment)”

Already we have the questions posed:
* Should Tourism be encouraged?
* What should the population of Australia be? What is sustainable and how should it be achieved?
* Globalisation - a necessary evil?
* Are soils more important than drainage basins?
* Is managed retreat the saviour of our coasts?
* Will migration save Australia?
* Are natural hazards unmanageable?
* What is the sustainability of farming in Australia?
* How should drainage basins/coastal areas be managed for a sustainable future?
* Should what is to be grown based on sustainability and not the free market economy?
* Does intercultural understanding require geographical knowledge?

We also have had some reservations expressed to the big question approach from some of the groups contributors. They are:
* It doesn't always matter what the actual content you are studying is, as long as in this case there is a local case study you can get the kids thinking about...
* Can geography as a discipline alone adequately address questions such as Australian (or world) population carrying capacity, growth, and what can be done about it because it has to include perspectives of ethics, politics, religion, culture, economics, history, philosophy, science, technology, media, sociology.
* I have deep reservations about issues based geography while I think its good to have the discussions surrounding globalisation, tourism etc. Geography is part of the puzzle in responding to these issues.
* I think questions date easily and are often value laden. Better for students to come up with their own questions, with relevant hints at the time, if needed.

All good discussion! As I said in an entry today, “I think these are discussions on the big questions we need to have before we develop the "will be taught" aspects of a curriculum. Why are we teaching geography? Do the courses we develop reflect the challenges of the 21st Century? What is the role of geography in a student developing as active citizens in the 21st Century? Maybe it is the discussion (not recession) Australia has to have!”

I look forward to the continuing discussion over the next months on the Google Group. In particular, I look forward to the discussions morph and expand as more and more Australian Geographers (and international) get involved. Hopefully the discussion informs and supports the development of the National Geography Curriculum. Most importantly the Google Group can provide a process of democratisation which gives more than just the perceived experts a voice.

If you want to join the “21st Century Geography in Australian schools" Google Group just go to

Whilst on the democratization process provided by Web 2.0 capability, have a look at the one hour documentary film titled "Us now" about the power of mass collaboration, Government and the Internet.

Other forums to join to discuss geography/matters spatial
Martin Pluss (GTANSW) has established a great Ning titled “Australian Geography teachers” To join this group just go to

South African geography teachers also have a Google Group going. It is interesting to see how many of the issues and concerns of these geographers in another part of the world have similar concerns and issues to us in Australia. Go to

The spatial round table forum
Have your say on the hot topics in the spatial industry at ESRI's Spatial Roundtable provides a great opportunity for you to share your points of view about concerns, trends, challenges, and technologies.

Some Wikispaces from Rob Marchetto (GTANSW)