Seminar – Spatial frames of reference to support learning about the landscape (Gary Priestnall)

Speaker: Dr Gary Priestnall, School of Geography, the University of Nottingham

N.B. This seminar is being jointly hosted by the OU’s Digital Humanities Group


This presentation will reflect upon experiences of using a range of geospatial technologies to portray landscape in such ways as to offer effective spatial frames of reference for learning. Three case studies of informal learning centred on cultural heritage and landscape will be introduced. They offer examples of different presentation techniques, one based on a computer monitor, one on a physical landscape model and one on a mobile device. The studies engage with the same geographic area, upland Cumbria in North West England, where surface relief is a dominant feature of the landscape. Each case study, however, uses different technologies appropriate to the contexts of display and a set of learning objectives. The presentation will summarise the affordances of each technique, present observations from their use and discuss some of the opportunities and design challenges that apply when utilising geospatial technology and digital landscape models for communicating spatial context.

Speaker bio:

Gary Priestnall is an Associate Professor within the School of Geography at the University of Nottingham. His research interests focus on digital geographic representation in a range of contexts, and utilising a range of technologies including virtual and augmented realities, GIS and location-aware mobile devices. Most recently he has begun to explore the power of physical landscape models augmented with projection for informal learning in heritage visitor spaces and in support of spatial decision making.

He developed various teaching and learning settings for digital geographic information as Director of the Nottingham arm of the Spatial Literacy in Teaching (SPLINT) Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. These included comparative techniques for augmenting the visitor experience undertaken as student-led fieldwork activities. Some of these techniques led to explorations of more scalable mobile solutions including direct line-of-sight interaction with the landscape using smartphones. Virtual globes such as Google Earth have been used both in teaching and learning contexts and in public displays such as the Edward Lear virtual tour at the Wordsworth Trust. Research into the Projection Augmented Relief Model (PARM) technique has included the development of interactives for informal learning in a museum context, for example the ‘Spots of Time’ display. He recently developed the public exhibition ‘The Grandest Views’ at Keswick Museum & Art Gallery, Cumbria, which explored the unique capabilities of physical landscape models by reconstructing parts of a Victorian model of the Lake District.