Spatial Technologies and Fieldwork in 
Victorian Curriculum and VCE Geography

Spatial Technologies and Fieldwork in Geography

Fieldwork represents the best and most practical way for students to gain a rich, first-hand experience and understanding of the places and themes they are studying. Geographical fieldwork has a long history, and over time, the techniques employed to collect, organise, analyse, present and communicate data have adapted as technology has changed.

In recent decades, ‘spatial technologies’ have developed and evolved, making location and map-based information more accessible and useable. These technologies have particular relevance to geography, and indeed, geography is the natural home in the curriculum for their teaching and application. Spatial technologies include:

  • Satellite remote sensing (images and image processing) – provide a regular, detailed and different view of Earth for analysis
  • Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS, commonly known as GPS) – provide accurate location (and elevation) data
  • Geographic Information Systems (GIS) – allow for the creation and analysis of accurate digital maps

These three categories of spatial technologies are often integrated; satellite images in GIS with accurate location points from GNSS locating points and ensuring the accurate placement of the image.

What has changed rapidly over recent years is the accessibility of data and availability of spatial technology applications on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. People are often unaware that they are using these spatial technologies increasingly in everyday life taking the location-based functionality of their devices for granted. Geography students with a knowledge and appreciation of the capabilities of their devices can apply their use to fieldwork.

One of the key aspects of the three types of spatial technologies mentioned here is their ability to be integrated and mutually supportive. Google Earth – itself a simple GIS – integrates remotely sensed (satellite) data, digital map data (place names, transport networks) and the ability for a user to add location-accurate point, line (path) and area (polygon) data. As this application and its free data has global coverage and high resolution, it is perfectly suited to use with any fieldwork site at suitable scales.

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