Urban Growth and decline a #DERNSW Research project

In Early December I posted an initial outline of an action research project I’ve been working on.

The project addresses that part of the NSW Stage 5 Geography Syllabus in which Students learn about geographical issues affecting Australian environments.  There’s a variety of possible areas of study, and students must cover two of these.  At my school students learn about coastal management and urban growth and decline. We’re already well advanced in our study of coastal management,  this is a recurring issue in the eyes of the public and as case in point we’ve had several matters in the news quite recently, namely the plans to sink exHMAS Adelaide off Avoca, addressed elsewhere in this blog and the grounding of the Shen Neng 1 (深能一号)

Urban growth and decline
In week two of the new term we move onto urban growth and decline.  This topic addresses the four urban processes illustrated in the images below.

The main urban processes to be studied

The study begins in the local area and by exploring some models of urban development, then it focuses on the area of Darling Harbour, Barangaroo, Millers Pt, Walsh Bay and Circular Quay.

The field study area

Here there are several research questions to be addressed:

  • How is the Foreshore being used?
  • How has the land use changed and what is the impact on the biophysical and built environment?
  • What issues have arisen from Urban Growth & Decline?
  • Who is affected by these issues?
  • How are the issues being addressed?

Background work for this project has actually been in progress since last year and has involved basic work with students on the ABS website. It’s also involved some elementary work using Photoshop to produce choropleth maps from existing map outlines and the editing of maps from the Sydney Social Atlas. Students have also been introduced to the use of Adobe Portfolio for the presentation of documents and have been involved in ongoing use of OneNote as a digital notebook and as a tool for producing a multimedia resources.

A Delicious data base has been constructed using a common set of tags including – stage_5 geography urban urban_processes urban_renewal urban_decline urban_consolidation gentrification barangaroo video_clips.  This makes bookmarked sites easy to find and establishes their relevance to particular areas of the study with ease. Most colleagues and a large number of my own students are part of my Delicious bookmark network.

Screen capture of the SSC Leichhardt Geog Blog front page

A Blog, SSC Leichhardt Geography Blog has been established.  I’m most grateful to Adrian Shipp who’s allowed me to use a most effective image, that he shot from a domestic flight arriving in Sydney, as the banner for the Blog.  SSC Leichhardt Geog Blog is an edublogs.org Blog.  It was established before blogED was available and I’ll keep running with it.  Principally this Blog is for students to post questions and also for me to post articles, photographs, videos and PowerPoint presentations.

Differentiating the curriculum
Since I’m working with a comprehensive student group, course materials will be presented in one of three ways,

  • printed documents and PowerPoint presentations for use in class;
  • a basic set of documents, images and video clips for the school’s Moodle site; and,
  • PowerPoints, posts, images, maps and video-clips on the Blog site.

Using this approach there is inbuilt differentiation of the curriculum, in that students can choose their own level of involvement.

Student research
This unit of work culminates in a basic research project in which students will:

  1. Identify a research purpose and/or question.
  2. Develop questions to be investigation.
  3. Make a decision about appropriate primary and secondary data to be used.
  4. Organise tools and develop techniques to collect the data.
  5. Collect the data.
  6. Process and analyse the data.
  7. Communicate research findings.
  8. Consider and propose action where appropriate.

ICT Skills in the Geography Curriculum
The Geography (Mandatory) Stage 5 requires students to develop skills in the use of information and communication technologies and lists six areas in which they are to develop competencies.  Prior to the implementation of the Digital Education Revolution, it’s no doubt been difficult for schools to attainment of all of these areas of competence.  The digital competencies are listed in the Stage 5 Geography syllabus (page11).  In the interests of not infringing NSW Board of Studies copyright, here is the relevant section re-phrased:

  • creating a document using ICT that communicates geographical information
  • designing and creating a database
  • Using various applications to import data into research
  • communicating geographical information using presentation software that includes other media
  • develop a critical analysis of the veracity and ethics of websites
  • find, gather and interpret electronic information.

The project addresses all of these points.

The Wiki and ongoing student collaboration
The final communication of research findings will employ a Wiki.  There will be a team of students responsible for this and the intention is that it becomes an ongoing source of information on this unit of work that can be used by students from subsequent years, both as a model for their own field and research work, and also as a tool for longitudinal evaluation of the changing nature of urban processes in the study area.

I’ll write about each of the phases of the project in more detail, highlighting the digital competencies engaged and commenting on the use of Web2.o tools.

The project stages in overview
The following images offer a project overview.

Stage 1
Stage 2
Stage 3
Stage 3 Ongoing

The Blog that developed during this research project has been recycled and reused as a general Blog addressing the Stage 5 Year 10 Geography course in NSW. To visit the Blog follow this link.

8 thoughts on “Urban Growth and decline a #DERNSW Research project

  1. Interesting to see how the project has evolved. How are you breaking the time up between IT skills acquisition and the reaserch and analysis itself?

    I would also be interested in due course to see just how the use of the Wiki goes in practice. I simply don’t know enough about this at a personal level.


    1. My intention was to use a lot more digital tools in primary data collection, with or without a research project and research grant. Working off that intention I’ve embedded IT in every lesson since about the middle of last year. If this was averaged out it would be about 12% of the time that I’ve been actively teaching IT skills, but this has always been with content that forms part of the course work.

      Passively, my IT teaching has been far more extensive because I model a lot of this in the more teacher centred aspects of my work. This is easy to do using a data projector connected to the Internet. It’s been challenging because I’ve had to struggle to find rooms with Wireless Access Points (WAPs). Stage one of the WAP roll-out was limited, but the propagation from existing WAPs is extraordinary and not many teachers use digital technology as extensively as I do so I can usually catch a bit of footprint.

      I’ve also been liasing with the Technology teacher to identify students with strong skills who can take a leadership role. For example, we’ll need to collect a lot of primary data with digital cameras and video cameras. I don’t want to have to teach those skills from scratch. She’s given me a list of possible starters and I expect will be happy to use some of the raw material (primary data) that we collect in some of her own projects.

      The laptops come with a program called Audacity, for recording voice and music. It can be used to make podcasts. I intend using it to capture sound levels, as well, along different parts of the field study transect. I haven’t taught this yet, but my starting point will be to ask who’s already explored it and go from there.


  2. They’ve been working with a variety of applications (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Paint, Delicious) since Year 7 and now they’re in Year 10. The uptake of software like OneNote has been rapid since it contains elements that are common to other Microsoft apps. The main new area has been in the use of Photoshop. I haven’t introduced Adobe Premier, but a core group have been using that in Technology classes. It’s been possible to achieve some economies in teaching apps because of these overlaps and the earlier years of systematic exposure.


  3. Wow, great overview. It’s really starting to take shape! SSC Leichhardt Geog Blog is looking good too. Looks like it’s going to be an interesting term!


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