cluster map

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

February updates ,conversations and resources

Ongoing discussion of the state of Geographic Education in Ontario & Canada

“Sometimes, I think War is God’s way of teaching us Geography”

Paul Rodriguez- author Manchester U. K. 2012

Stay tuned for a survey on Geo- spatial Technologies Usage in our Schools

The purpose of this survey is to gauge the level of usage and support for Geo-Spatial technologies within the Toronto District and other school boards throughout Ontario.

It will be sent you on its own letterhead.

It is very short and will help in the supports for the new curriculum. Thanks Mark

The Next part may not be for all, however many of you have offered many thoughts, ideas and suggestions regarding the state of Geographic education within Ontario, Canada , and around the world. To this end over the last month many people in various educational, scholarly and real world positions have weighed in on this topic. Feel free to digest and comment on these if you see fit. However if this is not your concern please feel free to skip and go right to the resources section.

What is the Right Question to Further Geography Education?

Sociologist Judith Adler of Memorial University (Newfoundland and Labrador) got famous, or infamous, on January 15. Her discussion of her college students' inability to locate countries on the map in an essay on the website (or perhaps it first appeared in the National Post, I can't tell) prompted the usual response. "We need more geography." "Students need to memorize things."

Then there was a thoughtful essay from Esri's Joseph Kerski arguing that perhaps we are asking the wrong question. His argument, as I understand it, is that we should not be asking students to locate counties as part of teaching and learning geography. Instead, we should be asking them to think about the how and why, and perhaps the "so what" of geography.

The real tragedy is not that students don’t know where the Atlantic Ocean is, but how oceans function, why oceans are important to the health and climate of the planet, how oceans support economies, about coral reefs and other ocean life, about threats to the ocean, and so on. The tragedy is that very little of what I consider to be true geoliteracy is being rigorously taught and engaged with around the world: Core geographic content (such as sustainability, biodiversity, climate, natural hazards, energy, and water), the spatial perspective (such as holistic, critical, and spatial thinking about scale, processes, and relationships) and geographic skills (such as working with imagery, GIS, GPS, databases, and mobile applications). While there are many fine exceptions, we need a much greater global adoption, beginning with valuing geography and geospatial as fundamental to every student’s 21st Century education.

I agree. My editorial in Directions Magazine this week argues that learning "where everything is" should not be the goal of, nor nor  definition of, our discipline.

What should that goal and definition be? I'm still working on that, but I'm sure it revolves around "doing geography" and using its principles to understand the world around us. Let me give you an example from my own life and my own geography.

Over the weekend a friend asked: "Why is the Walgreens going in right across the street from the CVS in Porter Square [Cambridge, MA]? They sell the same things!" I noted that just one "square" away, in Davis Square, Somerville, the CVS went in across the street from the Rite Aid, yet another pharmacy.

I'd noticed the groundbreaking for the new store and pondered the same question. I'm not a business geographer, so I did some research and found two very different explanations.

One, via Lakeview News, is from an article about a Michigan version of the same exact question, just with CVS following Walgreens. It suggests the paired locations are not really about the local geography, but perhaps some distant market area.

“Walgreens has a reputation for spotting the best locations while CVS/pharmacy always follows and copies them,” said Ahmed Maamoun, an assistant professor of Marketing in the Labovitz School of Business & Economics at the University of Minnesota Duluth. 

Maamoun said that the strategy of similar businesses clustering together is a common phenomenon.“The strategy aims at making it more difficult for the competitor to gain market share, revenues, or profits that could be used to undermine the other rival in other markets,” Maamoun said.

It is found not only among drug store chains but also other retail formats such as Wal-Mart and Target, Sam’s Club and Costco, Home Depot and Lowe’s, Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts.

The other argument, and this is the one I remember from geography class, was about a rising tide raising all boats. If someone is looking for a car, they'll travel farther and be more likely to look at/buy a car at the dealer next door, than to travel miles to that other dealer. Hence many cities have a version of the "auto-mile" and the strip of fast food joints. Here's one of the papers that does the math to support that argument.


I think my friend's question is a better one to ask (and explore) to expand geographic thinking than "Where is the Atlantic Ocean?"

Posted by Adena Schutzberg at 10:23 AM

Thinking about GIS or Whatever Happened to the Geography Teacher

Posted on January 25th, 2013 at 8:34 AM.

Written by Robert Maher

(This title borrows from Tomlinson’s book of the same name, as well as a new book by Donald Savoie ‘ Whatever happened to the music teacher’).

It is fifty years since Roger Tomlinson used the term ‘geographic information systems’ in response to a need by the federal government, expressed by Lee Pratt at the Canada Land Inventory.

It is only a few weeks since Donald Savoie published an opinion piece in the Globe and Mail (January 7/13) entitled ‘Running government like a business has been a dismal failure‘. Related to that article, Savoie mentions his new book, “Whatever happened to the music teacher? How governments decide and why’ It will be published in March 2013.

I am using these two sources to frame my questions:

What is the current status of GIS in Canada?

a.    What type of leadership is needed to help Canada be at the forefront in this field?

Tomlinson talks about the ‘three legs of the stool of future development: technology, people and data’. How has the technology changed? Is the technology of GIS readily available to Canadian citizens? What is the status of web or mobile GIS applications? How are we doing in the training of the next generation of GIS developers or users? Or we can paraphrase Savoie: ‘whatever happened to the Geography teacher?’

The reader will need to check out Savoie’s writing to obtain a full understanding of the question.

Finally, how are we doing in terms of open geographic information? Is government data (federal, provincial) readily available at the municipal level or to non-government organizations or to the citizens?

In Nova Scotia, I have raised these questions with civil servants, largely, in the context of open geography and the concept of a community information utility (CIU). Paul Beach at the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre made several presentations in Nova Scotia on this topic. It describes collaboration between government agencies, business and the community.

My position can be inferred from a couple of opinion pieces to the Chronicle Herald and the Annapolis Spectator here.


Given the concerns expressed by Savoie about the relationship between government and business, can we imagine, fifty years later a young innovator (Roger was under thirty at the time) receiving a positive reception from a likely similar youthful Lee Pratt ?

James Boxall, my colleague at Dalhousie University, has written in a previous GoGeomatics Canada article about the need for a ‘moonshot’. I would argue rather, that we need to support the grassroots. Canada today (fifty years later) remains a resource rich country, with a large geography, low population density and a diverse set of groups with legitimate land claims and a remarkable appreciation of the diverse landscape. The opportunity remains today because of our geography.

To my mind, we must see citizen groups have access to GIS, access to digital maps. The educational institutions need to encourage students to work on questions of public participatory GIS. There are pockets of activity across this large country. We need to support a network between the nodes, including local industry and government.

If Canadians can create innovative solutions that allow these different groups to share their understanding of the landscape, then I believe there is room for optimism. These technologies remain relevant today, just as GIS and Remote Sensing technologies were relevant in the 1960’s.


The Geography of Canada means that with climate change and other global economic and social forces, Canadian innovators will be required to face significant challenges. Leadership will not come from a single source but by collaboration between citizen groups, educational institutions, business and the government agencies. It must be a much more open and inclusive environment than being described by Savoie.

Collectively, we must answer the question ‘ whatever happened to the Geography teacher?’


Savoie, Donald 2013. Running government like a business has been a dismal failure. Globe and Mail. January 7.

Savoie, Donald, 2013. Whatever happened to the music teacher. How governments decide and why. To be published March. McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Tomlinson, Roger. 2007. Thinking about GIS. Third edition. Esri Press.


About our Author: Robert Maher

Bob Maher obtained his Ph.D in Geography from the University of Western Ontario. He subsequently went to teach at Memorial University of Newfoundland, Department of Geography – Quantitative Methods, Computer Mapping and Biogeography. In 1980, he joined the faculty at the Nova Scotia Land Survey Institute and was instrumental in its transformation into the College of Geographic Sciences (COGS). Between 1988 – 1999, he was a GIS consultant in Indonesia, and worked for ESRI in the United States, and across Canada with universities and government agencies. He returned to COGS in 2000 taking up the position of Senior Research Scientist in the Applied Geomatics Research Group (AGRG). He retired from AGRG in 2011.

Lynn Moorman: Finding the Way with Geo-Literacy

Posted on December 19th, 2012 at 10:26 AM.

Written by GoGeomatics Canada

At first glance, navigating the world has never been easier. Getting from Point A to Point B is a snap; just pop an address into your Global Positioning System (GPS) or pull up a map on your smartphone or computer, and you’ll get directions to precisely where you want to go. No need to find a paper map, orient yourself on it or figure out how far and in what direction you need to go. Just follow the line on the screen or page, and you’ll get there — it seems so simple and effortless.

The only problem is, it isn’t simple, and it often requires an enormous amount of effort. As people become more and more reliant on technology to do their wayfinding for them, they are losing their basic geographic literacy — their capacity to take in geographic information, critically analyze it and make decisions.

For Lynn Moorman, an assistant professor of Earth Science and General Education at Mount Royal, giving students the tools to understand geography and to use that information to formulate complex ideas has become her career’s focus – and has made her a significant contributor to the cause of “geo-literacy” across Canada.

Taking the path of an educator

Moorman’s focus on geo-literacy combines her interest in both education and geography, and includes perspectives into the field’s pedagogy, cognitive science, educational technology, digital geography and spatial thinking.

Moorman studied physical geography and spatial analysis in her undergraduate and master’s degrees. Her interest in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and remote sensing — remotely collecting information from the earth like infrared and microwave energy via sensors on satellites and airplanes — led to participation in a number of exciting initiatives, including working with the Canadian Space Agency and living in North Vietnam, assisting with the mapping of the country’s farthest-flung regions.

Ultimately, her interest in helping people understand geographic information led her to return to Canada to develop new ways of teaching geography. In 1995 and 1996, she helped create Earth Observation, a course on interpreting geographic data that was integrated into Ontario’s grade nine curriculum. Once the program was developed, she was responsible for teaching it to teachers, an experience that changed her career and led her to join Mount Royal in 2010 as a professor.

Taking technology to teaching

Moorman’s background in the technology that underpins modern geography has made her an ideal candidate to educate students about the present and future of understanding the world geographically. Moorman is continuing her education, pursing a PhD in Educational Technologies at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan. Moorman’s PhD research has been funded by Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), The Killam Trusts, and Canadian Institute for Geomatics, University of Calgary and University of British Columbia.

“I know the technology side and I have an intuition about teaching, but taking that next step and working on my PhD in Education Technologies with a focus on geographic technologies has helped put it all together,” says Moorman. “My research has recently looked at the role of virtual globes like Google Earth in providing context for grade five and six STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education.

“Watching these students grow to understand and interpret the world around them using these technologies and watching that impact in other aspects of their education has been fascinating.”

Moorman is looking to help foster that understanding even further, working on a proposal to develop GIS-like software targeted for grades K-6 for the popular SMART boards developed in Calgary.

A fine Fellow

Moorman’s commitment to geo-literacy doesn’t stop with her research and teaching. She has also been a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographic Society since 2011, an Honorary Killam Scholar and is the Faculties of Education Representative for the Canadian Council for Geographic Education.

Her ongoing commitment to geographic education and supporting technology has been noticed, with a recent feature in Canadian Geographic magazine that highlights her strategy to not only enhance geographic education but to build Canadians’ capacity to think and reason geographically, making informed decisions about the environment, resources and populace.

“The biggest issue we face as educators is geographic awareness, getting people to look at problems with a geographic lens,” said Moorman. “While technologies are putting geographic information into our hands, these new maps are not static or permanent and need to be considered with a critical eye. We need to ask questions about all of this data we are getting before we use it — where is it coming from, how accurate is it, who owns it, and how do we use it most effectively?

“If I know all the letters of the alphabet, am I literate? It isn’t until I put those letters in words, put them in a sequence make sense and use those words to express my view of the world that I can truly be considered literate. The same goes for geographic literacy; knowing a location is just the beginning, making informed decisions based on geographic data is the end. You have to start with the building blocks and work up to the fully articulated finished product.”

Taking geo-literacy to the next level

Fresh from her feature in Canadian Geographic, Moorman is off to Ottawa to attend the annual Royal Canadian Geographic Society College of Fellows Dinner in Ottawa. The dinner is part of a weeklong trip where she will meet her peers in the geographic community from all over Canada to work on the next steps for her geo-literacy project. She continues to focus on the latest tools and options available to teach geo-literacy in Canada. For Moorman, the same tools that have made maps an intrinsic part of our lives have created fundamental challenges.

“Mobile devices like smartphones and GPS are beneficial as they allow us to find something, but we also need to find out about the things that surround it and how they are connected. Some populations have become so reliant on GPS they are losing the ability to read a normal map. We can also use GIS as a great tool for critical thinking and project-based learning in the classroom, but there are obstacles like cost and resourcing that we need to concentrate on, as well as ensuring students just aren’t pushing buttons but are thoughtfully using the technology. I have every hope that we’ll be able to overcome these challenges and help keep Canadians literate in a geographic sense.”

— Colin Brandt, Oct. 25, 2012

Please find the original publication here courtesy of Mount Royal University


Events on the Horizon (what is coming up in the month of February)

  1. The eco-committee of ETT are inviting secondary teachers to join them on an after school hike/movie showing at Forest Valley Outdoor Ed. Centre on Wed., Feb 27 (see attachment). If you plan to go, ignore the instruction to register with ETT online. Just e-mail  Timothy
  2. This Thursday (Feb 7th) is the regular meeting of District 12's Eco-committee. The guest speaker will be Albert Koehl from Eco-Justice  (
    Meeting, as usual, is at the D12 building (library, 4th floor) on Bathurst St at St. Clair Ave. W
  3. Reminder- Social, World Studies and Humanities Professional Development Day

Over 30  workshops plus publishers & NGO’s display

Sign up on Key to Learn

Hello all, a reminder that registration is now open for the February 15 PD day. Registration will close on Friday February 8, 2013.


The link is http://zweblms/keytoLearnStaff/Register/index.asp?courseid=512314


Also, if you have a student teacher on orientation on  the 15th, please know they are more than welcome to join us, I only ask that you email to let us know so that we can have enough lunch for them.


  1. Winter Webinars Green Teacher

It's time again to restart our webinar series, so get ready to join us for one of these online professional development sessions covering some of the most innovative and fascinating topics in environmental education.


We've been keeping busy lately with the new Winter issue of our magazine, released just a few weeks ago. If you're a subscriber, you should have received your copy by now - let us know what you think! If you're not already a subscriber, what are you waiting for? Visit our website to subscribe or find out more.



Is Sustainability still a Possibility?

In Worldwatch Institute’s newest project, scientists, policy experts, and thought leaders tackle these questions, attempting to restore meaning to sustainability as more than just a marketing tool. Within this website, you’ll findState of the World 2013: Is Sustainability Still Possible?, which explores these questions in depth in over 30 articles. As well, you’ll find additional essays, videos, presentation materials, news updates, and additional translations of the report.

Very interesting set of ideas and blogs on the concepts and solutions of sustainability

Using iPads to give children a better understanding of the world

When I was working with Year 2 earlier this year I wanted to use the iPads to enhance their learning of their topic of "Our School," and "Location, Location, Location." The topics link really nice to each other as they firstly learn about their immediate location, the school surroundings and the history of the school

How to Organize & Find in Google Drive

A very useful web 2 tool

Great ICT scoop it site

NYPD to hide GPS chips in pill bottles

Need I say more!!


Monday January 14, 2013

Augmented reality? Sounds like The Matrix, we hear you cry! In fact, the Wachowski brothers’ movie was all about virtual reality; augmented reality is much less creepy and much more exciting (and useful) than that. Plus, it’s already here.

A Teacher's Ultimate Destination for Virtual Field Trips

Teachers can take their students on field trips across the country and around the world. They can explore the Library of Congress or Lincoln Memorial through interactive tours. A baby panda, mysterious octopus and curious orangutan are just a mouse click away by way of zoo and aquarium web cams like the AnimalCams at the National Zoological Park. Tech Robotics, the Paleontology Portal and Amusement Park Physics are just a few of the virtual science adventures that can spark the imagination of young minds. Virtual field trips open up the world and the universe to students and their teachers. Whether it's a teacher-guided group field trip or individual student projects, the wide array of virtual tours freely available online can add an exciting dimension to the classroom.

Mostly American but some Canadian and International – Good for T&T

Are We Losing The Race Against Climate Change?

China burns nearly as much coal as the rest of the world combined—and has 300 more coal plants in the works. But China also leads the world in solar panel exports and wind farms, and has a national climate change policy in place. Is the U.S. falling behind on climate? Ira Flatow and guests discuss how the world is tackling global warming—with or without us—and what it might take to change the climate on Capitol Hill.—this is a great audio piece from NPR Radio

Chris Hatfield Photo Album

If you're looking for specific photos I've posted, you can find all the updates organized in facebook albums

This is fantastic. Interactive, 360 degree audio/visual panorama from London's Shard.

Asking Geographic Questions

Geographic inquiry involves the ability and willingness to ask and answer questions about geospatial phenomena. The key geographic questions ask Where is it located? Why is it there? What is the significance of the location? As students pose additional questions, they seek responses that help to organize spatial understandings: What is this place like? With what is it associated? What are the consequences of its location and associations? As geospatial technologies advance, students will still need to be able to ask these basic questions to select and apply the appropriate technology to conduct geographical research, thereby gaining geospatial understanding.

You think Toronto's cold today? Welcome to the coldest village on earth. -50 anyone?

Jared Diamond on the Colbert Report

Lance Armstrong spends hours with Oprah, Stephen runs an Extra Special Report on Florida's mystery monkey, and Jared Diamond examines traditional New Guinea culture.

Decades of temperature change where you live mapped

How have temperatures changed where you live? This interactive graphic from the team at the New Scientisttakes the latest Nasa data and maps it for the latest surface temperature analysis, published today. Enter your address and see what's happened there
Who made this graphic? 
Chris AmicoPeter Aldhous and New Scientist
Where can I find it? 
New Scientist

The World at Night Through the Eyes of the Crowd

Ushahidi has just uploaded the location of all CrowdMap reports to DevSeed’sawesome MapBox and the result looks gorgeous. Click this link to view the map below in an interactive, full-browser window. Ushahidi doesn’t disclose the actual number of reports depicted, only the number of maps that said reports have been posted to and the number of countries that CrowdMaps have been launched for. But I’m hoping they’ll reveal that figure soon as well.

Map or Be Mapped: Otherwise You Don’t Exist

“There are hardly any street signs here. There are no official zip codes. No addresses. Just word of mouth” (1). Such is the fate of Brazil’s Mare shanty-town and that of most shantytowns around the world where the spoken word is king (and not necessarily benevolent). “The sprawling complex of slums, along with the rest of Rio de Janerio’s favelas, has hung in a sort of ‘legal invisibility’ since 1937, when a city ordinance ruled that however unsightly, favelas should be kept off maps because they were merely ‘temporary’” (2).


Need I say more. Fabulous minds on!!










Mark Lowry

Geography and Geotechnologies Instructional Leader

Social World Studies and Humanities

Toronto District School Board

1 Civic Centre Court

Toronto , On ,M9C 2B3

Tel; (416) 394-7269

Cell; (416) 576-4515

Fax; (416) 394-6420


twitter @geogmark




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