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BE INSPIRATION │ KNOWLEDGE


Are you geospatially aware?


In recent years, the situation of school geography has generally been harmed by low status and poor visibility. Curriculum pressures threatened its position in many countries, despite the fact that knowledge about the world we live in and human impacts on it has never been so important. We all use and need geographic media (geo- media) to help us make everyday decisions, so we need a modern, relevant geographical education in schools, colleges and lifelong learning. This article introduces some of the latest European initiatives and explains why geography really matters.


Digital Earth: A Geographical Perspective


In 1998, former US VP Al Gore presented a farsighted Digital Earth concept, whereby detailed geo-spatial information could be accessed from any place, at anytime, by anyone. Advances in IT and mobile communications make this a reality today. Interconnected digital archives from around the planet, with vast amounts of scientific, natural, and cultural information, can be displayed, visualised and used on phones, iPads and tablets. This should lead to a much better understanding of the ways we impact on the dynamic, natural processes of our planet.


Geographers play a vital role in making sense of Digital Earth, as without a strong geographical dimension, the benefits of using Digital Earth tools will be lost. Therefore EUROGEO (the European Association of Geographers) has been instrumental in the formation and development of a European network to connect Digital Earth centres of excellence using geo-media and geoinformation in school education www.digital-earth.eu, in re-branding the image of Geography as a subjectwww.geo-cube.eu and in lobbying for policy reform.


Increasingly, everyone has access to spatial information when making decisions see for example Eye on Earthwww.eyeonearth.org. Communicating the geographical has never been so easy. Internet and mobile communication technologies now bring “digital earth” tools and geo-spatial applications (like GPS and GIS) to everyone. Anyone can now freely create, publish, share and communicate their own ‘intelligent’ maps online try www.arcgis.com/explorer.


Digital Earth offers us impressive tools to visualise the Earth as a system, but we need ‘the geographical’ to help us avoid being blinded by its power and fulfil the potential.


Geographical skills help us unlock the diverse ways the world is portrayed. Through geographical education an understanding of the Earth its relationships, dimensionality and systems can be enabled to encourage people to think critically about their place in the world. These “world citizens” need sound geographic skills to meaningfully engage with issues that matter to them and then to communicate their own representations of the world they want to live in.


Research in Europe shows there has been little or no attention paid to these emerging approaches in education. Schools and colleges thus find it difficult to keep their curricula relevant to students and leading employers report having significant shortages in workers able to work with geo-spatial technologies. Most education systems appear to be too inflexible to meet the spatial needs of society today. However, in a few countries where innovation meets policy and practice (like Finland, Greece, India and Thailand) national geospatial education reforms are under way.


Geocube: Branding the way to Explore Geography To raise the profile of geographical education, the Geocube concept was created by members of EUROGEO as a promotional brand. The multi-lingual Web site was designed to introduce issues commonly dealt with by geographers and presents them in an interesting and striking way.


The six faces of the cube have the themes:


• Living Together • Earth From All Angles • Fascinating Earth • Shrinking Planet • Exploring Our World • Useful Geographies


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