It can be hard to make statistics about the Australia's population interesting and engaging. I like to think of Geography as a hands-on subject where students can get outside and learn about the world, and for me examining statistics just doesn't do it for me. A couple of ideas to make it a little more engaging are:
- students conducting class surveys on some of the characteristics explored in the census,
- teaming up with a sister school through Skype or other forms of videoconferencing and exploring the similarities and differences within your classrooms, towns and regions. This would work best if comparing an urban and regional school.
- supporting the information about the statistics by examining similar data in visual forms such as infographics.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has made learning all these facts and figures much more interesting in the past couple of years by creating ABS Spotlight and Run That Town.
ABS Spotlight is an online, interactive activity which asks students to input some basic information about themselves and compares this information with the rest of Australia's population. It has been built using Flash so it works best on PC, but they have also created a non-Flash version which is slightly less interactive and visual, so it will also work on iPads.
Run That Town operates in a similar way to games like Sim City in that students make planning decisions based on information that is provided throughout the running of the game. Students can examine census information, newspaper articles, assess development proposals for the town of their choice. The real innovation with this game is that students are accessing real data about a real suburb or town within Australia. This is a great example of blurring the lines between game-based learning and real-life application of knowledge. The game can be accessed through the Apple's App store.
They have also released ABS Mobile an app available for Ios devices (iPhone, iPad and iPod). You are able to access the most up to date census data on suburbs.
If Australia Were 100 People is another smaller interactive resource from the ABS based around health statistics. It is quite short (around a minute or so), but it might still be worth exploring.
There is also a great PowerPoint from a GTANSW presentation by Pat Beeson on different resources from the ABS and ideas on how to deliver the information. You can also find a range of lesson activities from the ABS in the Education Services section.
For more infographics and student resources visit the Communities section of the www.9Geography.hsieteachers.com site.
Deputy Principal at a Sydney high school. Coordinating author of the new Geoactive book series.
Student resource sites: