Spatial technologies and teacher innovation: Bridging the gap between policy and practice in Australian geography classrooms

Year: 2017

Author: Coleman, Bianca

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The inclusion of spatial technologies in the curriculum presents an interesting dilemma for teachers, schools and policy-makers. In mandating the use of spatial technologies in Australian Curriculum: Geography, ACARA recognises the value of geographic information systems (GIS), Global Positioning System (GPS) enabled devices and interactive digital maps in enhancing students' geography content knowledge and spatial literacy (Alada?, 2010; Favier & van der Schee, 2014). Despite these positive educational outcomes, research examining the use of these technologies in schools continues to report low levels of spatial technology uptake (Hammond, Langran & Baker, 2014; Milson, Demirci & Kerski, 2012; Wheeler, Gordon-Brown, Peterson & Ward, 2010). Reporting some findings from a mixed-methods research study, this paper examines this tension between Australian education policy and the teaching practices utilised in geography classrooms.

In particular, this study found that the policy conditions that could enable teachers to meet the curriculum requirements are yet to be fully realised across Australia. Inconsistencies within state curriculum requirements and inequalities in technology provision policies constrain teachers' capacity to meet the curriculum demands. In response to these challenges, more innovative teachers are leveraging the spatial technology curriculum mandate to push for change in their schools. Making use of mobile phone technology and publicly available spatial data, these teachers work to overcome unsupportive conditions. The long-term viability of ACARA's mandate may be contingent upon the success of innovative geography teachers. This paper concludes with some evidence-based recommendations about education policy and teaching practice to help geography teachers and their schools to improve the use of spatial technologies in geography education.