in this fifty-eighth episode of ventriloquy, i bring you the recording of my presentation today - on podcasts in geography - at the IGU-CGE symposium.
this conference has easily been the most enjoyable that i have attended, not only because the quality of the papers presented has been consistently high, and has represented a rare breadth of views from many countries, but also because of the many new friends that i have made.
one of the many highlights of the day was the launch of a book edited by Professor John Lidstone of the Queensland University of Technology, entitled 'Cultural issues of our time'. Within its two hundred pages are numerous fascinating case studies, ranging from multiethnicity in Singapore, to one entitled 'The cultural geography of homosexuality in the United States'.
later that morning, Dr Margaret Robertson, of La Trobe University, presented a paper on 'Constructing futures: connected, 'always on' and mobile space'. one of the concepts introduced by Margaret in this PDA-based project was that of the 'digital learn-space', by which she referred to a "web space [which] includes inbuilt data recording for analysis and the basis for a continuing community based online access portal". a key feature of this digital learn-space (otherwise termed a 'cool' space) is that it takes into account the increasing role of learner collaboration outside of the formal school curriculum (be it in temporal or spatial terms). that is to say, to my eyes at least, once again this concept of the quantum classroom® recurs, in which the actions of learners in their local space are at once impacting upon other players operating at other spatial scales.
Professor Sirpa Tani, of the University of Helsinki, gave a presentation on 'How to deal with cultural and social sustainability in education?: A case study of urban space, everyday life and young people'. she helped me appreciate that there were, in her words, "multiple meanings of the environment" - from the environment as entity, to the lived environment, to a socio-culturally constructed environment. there are clear links between these distinctions and my own doctoral research, as well as in terms of the consequences for any programme which purports to teach 'environmental education'. in fact, Professor Tani herself cautioned that too often, environmental education is often confused with education for sustainable development.
in the afternoon, Mrs Elaine Cowan, of the University of Aberdeen, shared a fascinating half-hour on 'Location, location, location: Scottish initial-teacher-education students' mental maps'. modelled on a study by Professor Simon Catling from 2004, Mrs Cowan described how she carried out an activity which is very similar to one which i myself have done as a diagnostic for many years. a critical difference was that Catling's (and consequently her) methodology included a component in which students were prescribed a series of locations to identify. of relevance to my own research was her finding that her teacher-trainees preferred to identify countries, continents, towns, oceans / seas, islands, regions, and finally mountains, in that order. of course, whether they were accurate in identifying their preferred locations, was another matter entirely :-)
this presentation led very neatly into Dr Patrick Wiegand's paper entitled 'Better maps, better teaching'. Dr Wiegand, from the University of Leeds, started off by distinguishing between map-using and map-reading, and further between uni-dimensional scaling (which he claims many children can perform with relatively little difficulty) and multi-dimensional scaling (for example, scale changes involving both length and breadth). hen then went on to identify a number of learning difficulties, with respect to map-reading. these include the terminology associated with scales, numbers in ratios, and finally both linear and areal referents. is it any wonder, then, that so many novices to geography find maps such a challenging skill, bearing in mind that it would seem to require proficiency not only in spatial awareness, but also in terms of literacy and numeracy? one of the key messages that Dr Wiegand put across was therefore that we, as teachers, should not hesitate to scaffold the learning process - particularly with regards mapping skills - in ways that are congruent with research in spatial cognition.
Dr Wiegand's paper was followed by a talk by Professor Gabriele Obermaier, of the University of Bayreuth. this was entitled 'topographical knowledge and skills'. Professor Obermaier made reference to the work of several German authors, such as Fuchs and Kirchberg (1980) and Kross (1995), in her interesting division of 'orientation competence' into the four components of basic orientation knowledge (such as the position of continents and oceans), orientation grids (climatic and vegetative zones), topographical skills (orientation in the field), and perception of space (the realization that space is always perceived subjectively and selectively).
as for my presentation itself, you can catch it here, as a 21.3 MB download. i would like to thank especially Professor Sarah Bednarz, of the Texas A & M University, for doing such an excellent job chairing the session that i was presenting at, as well as for all the encouragement she has given me. thank you, Sarah! your encouragement means a great deal to me :-)
[update: many thanks to astinus for referencing this post over at EduBlog.NET :-) ]