Using your computer to discover an unequal world

Curriculum overview

The Australian Curriculum: Geography content description addressed in the illustration is:

  • The location of the major countries of the Asia region in relation to Australia and the geographical diversity within the region (ACHGK031)

Source: Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA).

Learning goals

This activity is designed to increase students' understanding of global inequalities through the analysis of statistics.

The illustration-specific learning goals include:

  • developing skills and experience in understanding tables of statistical information
  • developing experience in interpreting similar information in numerical, mapped and graph formats
  • developing abilities in making generalisations from numerical, mapped and graphed data.

Geographical understanding and context

Space is the central concept addressed in this illustration, especially as it relates to the spatial patterns of human development. Economic wealth is distributed unevenly across the world, both within nations and between nations. It is also easy for students to observe that wealth and development are unevenly distributed on a much smaller scale within the neighbourhoods that they can observe around them.

Understanding the concept of 'interconnections' is developed by exploring the diversities and similarities between nations. One of the aims of this exercise is to break down stereotypes by showing that, although development and wealth are unevenly distributed, there are very different patterns for different indicators.

Teaching approaches

This teaching illustration has three parts which can be used in sequence. 

1. Interpreting important statistics

The starting point for the first activity can be the attached table Comparative data (PDF, 390 KB). It gives a selection of statistics for Australia and 12 of its neighbours. The selected statistics are:

  • population total
  • population growth 
  • wealth indicator (average income)
  • health indicator (life expectancy)
  • education indicator (literacy rate)
  • quality of life indicator.

Social statistics such as these always vary from source to source. As a result, when students undertake research they will always find variations. The principal purpose of such data is to make comparisons.

To make this data understandable to students, only statistics for Australia and 12 countries of eastern Asia and the western Pacific are used. A chart could be drawn up showing the comparative figures for the selected countries. You could ask students to note the differences, similarities and correlations.

Another method of making the data understandable is to change the statistics into ranking lists. These lists on a world basis can be found in the sources given below.

2. Using Worldmapper

The second stage of the learning activity uses Worldmapper which shows maps of the world where the size of each country is drawn in proportion to whatever characteristic is chosen to be shown. To see some examples, try Total population, Toy exports and Living on over $200.

The maps of the world used in this activity are different in shape and format to those that most students would be familiar with. They are technically called cartograms, but it is not necessary for students to use this term. The skill to be developed is not their construction but their interpretation. Such maps are a highly visual representation of data.

Suggested maps for students to look at first are:

  • total population
  • living on over $200 a day
  • living on up to $10 a day
  • infant mortality
  • any of the animations which show how the world map becomes distorted by the chosen data.

3. Using Gapminder

The third section of this illustration uses animations of graphs showing the changes in population, social, economic and environmental data over time. The website used is Gapminder world. 

Once Gapminder world is loaded, the simplest demonstration is to choose 'time' on the x-axis, and any indicator on the y-axis. Tick 'Australia' and any other countries for comparison, then click on the start arrow and watch the animation.

Once they have seen what it will do, your students will want to enter other indicators and watch how they change in comparison to each other.

4. Extension activities

At any stage in these three learning activities, students can be asked to write or talk about some of the main patterns they have observed. Issues of diversity, disadvantage, ranking, correlations, causes, futures can all be observed.

What you need

A large and clear wall-map of the world.

Comparative data (PDF, 390 KB).

A number of websites have information sections which can support this illustration:

Population reference bureau. Population and economic data sheet. Retrieved September 2012, from: http://www.prb.org/pdf12/population-economic-development-2012.pdf.

Central Intelligence Agency. The world factbook provides data on GDP per capita (PPP). Retrieved September 2012, from: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2004rank.html.

Worldmapper. A website that displays maps of the world where the relative size of each country represents the relative size of the feature being displayed. Retrieved September 2012, from: http://www.worldmapper.org/

Gapminder world. A website which produces scatter graphs showing the comparison of any two economic and geographic characteristics of countries of the world. Retrieved September 2012, from: http://www.gapminder.org/world

Preparation: You need to view the websites listed and explore them to realise their potential.

Time frame: These learning activities could be used over a time period from a week to a number of weeks, depending on the interest of the students.

Curriculum connections

This illustration links with the content descriptions of the following Phase 1 Australian Curriculum. 

English

  • Understand the uses of objective and subjective language and bias (ACELA1517)
  • Identify and explain how analytical images like figures, tables, diagrams, maps and graphs contribute to our understanding of verbal information in factual and persuasive texts (ACELA1524)

Mathematics

  • Interpret and compare a range of data displays, including side-by-side column graphs for two categorical variables (ACMSP147
  • Interpret secondary data presented in digital media and elsewhere (ACMSP148

Science 

  • Compare data with predictions and use as evidence in developing explanations (ACSIS221)

History

  • Use a range of communication forms (oral, graphic, written) and digital technologies (ACHHS125)

Source: Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA).

Resources

Websites:

Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). Australian Curriculum: Geography. Retrieved May 2013, from: www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/Geography/Rationale

All other required resources are listed in the 'What you need' section above.