Asking Students about Sense of Place

photo by @peapilot

So, I have a presentation about how to connect to place next week. I will be talking to Grade 6 students about how to eventually take action, but how to be aware, and know a place before we take action. Before I really started putting together this presentation I asked my kids what they thought about what I was going to get into.

The major themes I want to get into are connection and isolation. The main things they wanted me to show and talk about are where are you (and how do you know) and what is around you (like animals and things like this).

I want to explore the tension between technology and the environment and how technology can connect and isolate. For instance, something like skype (I’m about to talk to my parents soon) connects me (seemingly) to my home, my home community and my life in Canada. However, sometimes, it can be isolating. Since Singapore could be almost any city (most major cities have similarities) could my instant connection to my old place, make it harder to connect to my new place (because I can easily leave using technology). There are a ton of apps that show us how things are around us too. Citizen science has taken us pretty far.

One of the talks that really got me going was is google maps isolating? Now we use maps that are so individual they have the opportunity to isolate from place, they only help us navigate to places. We don’t have to know a place, we don’t have to pay attention to the land or to signs, we just have to listen to when to turn.

I think that I can prepare some materials now.

Mapping and a sense of place

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I was reading this article on how mapping can help us better understand how people relate to space the other day. I’m trying hard to look for more quantitative methodologies when I’m doing my review. Right now I’m taking a quantitative class, and it really pushes me, so I want to see how people approach this idea of sense of place from a quantitative perspective.

I’m not sure the research really pushed my thinking further, but it was good to have more evidence that supported where I was going and what I was thinking.

Most interestingly, perhaps, is this idea that the closer people are to the environment, the less likely they perceive the government as willing or capable of helping.

One of the lines that really resonated with me from this reading was “ Where the attitude variables were concerned, on average, respondents tended not to trust the water authority or technology to solve stormwater pollution; felt that paying additional sums of money to fix the problem was more unfair than fair; and were pro-environmentally disposed.” (Jorgensen & Stedman, 2011) 

This idea really reminded me of Edward Abbey and the Monkey Wrench Gang. It seems like the more you believe in the Earth and the systems that work within it, the less likely we see hope coming from people being able to organise support or care for the Earth.

Maybe it was just a one off thing, but really got me thinking this week.

Jorgensen, B. S., & Stedman, R. C. (2011). Measuring the spatial component of sense of place: a methodology for research on the spatial dynamics of psychological experiences of places. Environment & Planning B: Planning & Design38(5), 795–81

Using New Media for place development

For my new media course, I still want to explore this idea of place and place making. I recently found this article, “A gateway to the global city: Mobile place-making practices by expats”

The major themes that seems to be prevalent in the literature like places matter, but people might matter more seem to prevail in this article. One of the things that really struck me while reading this was how we can almost be part of a place. When studying expats (like my interest in international teachers) I focused on people staying in the expat community not really having a sense of place. This article suggests they have a sense of place, although it may be slightly different.

Many of the expats in this article desired to have a more international experience, so while living in a place is important, knowing the people in that place wasn’t as important. They can be a part of the international community living in Paris, not really know any Parisians, and still (maybe) have a developed senes of place.

It will be interesting to see how these ideas progress and change along with my thinking. While it may not be the most engaging article for my research, I never thought about how participation in an online community, can bring me closer to understanding the international scene in a city, which will help me develop a sense of place (even if it’s not the “genus loci” sense of place).

Polson, E. (2015). A gateway to the global city: Mobile place-making practices by expats. new media & society, 17(4), 629-645.

Sense of Place in Australian Environmental Education Research: Distinctive, Missing or Displaced?

I’m trying to re-read articles and come up with some points so I have a better understanding of what I’m researching. I have more comprehensive notes, I just want to see how my thinking changes.

Some of the ideas from this article have jumped out at me differently than previous readings. “emplacement is not something people choose – it is, ontologically speaking, a condition of human being” (Trigger, 2008, p.301, in Stevenson, 2011).

As an expat. I’m not sure this is entirely true. While my birthplace was not chosen, I’ve been lucky enough to have the experience (at times) to choose my place. Stevenson (I think) argues more on my side, that we have a choice but mostly that choice is how we build our identity around our sense of place. Since a sense of place can be somewhat (depending on who we read) socially constructed, I wonder how this fits together.

I do agree, so far anyway, that we can’t really exist without place, we need to form some sort of relationship, regardless of how fleeting it might be, with the space we occupy. Regardless of where we are, this article suggests that place has some role to play on self identity.

As an expat, I also wonder about Gruenewald’s idea of globalisation as placelessness. This is a line I think I want to get more into as I wonder about the idea of displacement as being disempowering, which leads us do almost lack an identity?

These are my thoughts from relooking over this paper, hopefully I can be a little more disciplined and write more in the coming months.

Stevenson, R. B. (2011). Sense of Place in Australian Environmental Education Research: Distinctive, Missing or Displaced? Australian Journal Of Environmental Education,, 27(1), 46-55.

New Media?


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One of my courses this year is on New Media and the impact it has on education.

These are always interesting things to think about, but right now I’m in a class where many of the people who are working are in a school that has different views and ideas than our school has. Our underlying philosophy of education is somewhat different which means, we have different access to how they can use media.

One of the things that has always struck me as a digital literacy coach (although I’m not one anymore) is the idea that people really need to shift their thinking before they really dig deep into new media. We can’t really get into what Web 2.0 is if we don’t know how to act in a participatory way. If our whole world is top down, why does 2.0 matter?

Other people are concerned with the types of tools, and the idea of screen time. While I get that I can be wrong (and mostly likely am wrong about this and many things) I really believe, from my experience, that tools come after frameworks and thought shifts. If we don’t know how to build, why do we need a tool?

Anyway, some of the conversations are interesting, the course is structured in a way which allows students to feel the experience of participation (which was very uncomfortable for some). She believes, from what I gather, that we can shift thought through experiences. I agree, for the most part, but we need to reframe the conversation I think. The experiences have to be more focused on collaboration of anything, rather than just a digital tool.

My thoughts will likely change, but these are my wonderings for now.

The Need for Roots



I’ve just started this book, I’ve been trying to connect things to this idea of Sense of Place. One of the things that both this book and the Thomashow book brought up is the idea of how we use things we own to construct our own identities. The things we have make up who we are.

I wonder how we can start to transfer this, or start to notice that this might also be related to place, and how and where we are. I’m still working through this book, it’s complex and at times difficult to fully understand so I’m not sure where it will take me, so far I’ve been surprised.

I think what I would like to do is work the things activity into our class work on natural resources. Our central idea is that people can make choices to support the sustainability of Earth’s natural resources. I wonder if looking at what we have, and how that forms our identity can lead us to make more sustainable choices, or if that concept is a bit too abstract for ten year olds. Still wondering about it.

Reporting for learning

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It’s report time (hooray!).  At our school, we are always trying to make reports better for learning. At times this can make things a little more difficult for teachers, but we’re always hoping for the best for learning.

So, I am wondering about how are reports really helping students succeed.  The PD I’m getting and the books I’m reading suggest descriptive feedback is one of the best ways we can help students grow.  If this is true, does the mark really matter? And who does the mark matter for?  I understand that we need to have something standardised so students can go to other schools, university, etc.  so I guess when does the mark matter, and how do we best communicate it? 

Just some random thoughts before reports.