Applying GIS to K-12

(written by Intro to GIS student E. L.)

While surfing the World Wide Web for high school curriculum information, I came across a research done by Steve Wanner and Joseph J. Kerski about the effectiveness of geographic information systems (GIS) in high school education. They point out that:

Concrete evidence of the effectiveness of geographic information systems in the curriculum is lacking. Research concerning the effectiveness of GIS technology and methods has been confined chiefly to anecdotal evidence from classroom observation. Experiments conducted in geography and special education courses in Boulder High School, Boulder Colorado, USA, provide some of the first empirical and case study data as to the effectiveness of GIS in teaching spatial and temporal relationships. Preliminary evidence suggests that students working with GIS demonstrate increased use of maps as analytical tools.

As a future teacher, I asked myself whether or not I will ever use GIS software in my classes and if GIS could be part of my curriculum. I strongly believe that GIS technology can be understood and used by high school students in geography classes. This research showed that the use of GIS technology in high school can be highly beneficial for both teacher and students. From my point of view, the only problem that would slow me from using GIS technology in my classes is money. I believe that using GIS in my classes will require extra money and I might not be able to gather the financial resources that will enable me to implement the technology. However, GIS seems to be a perfect teaching tool and a tool that will enable students to understand certain geographic concepts. I hope that GIS in high school is introduced as part of the geography curriculum in Quebec.

If I ever become a geography teacher, and let’s pretend that the Government of Quebec implements GIS in the curriculum, I would first introduce GIS to my students. I would give them a quick history as well as a demonstration of different features related to GIS. A good example would be using Goggle Earth and show the students different location on earth. I could even use Google Earth on a daily basis to assist me in visually showing my students geographic location related to the curriculum or activity that we would be doing in class. Also, I could produce user friendly maps using GIS applications that would enable me to set up class activities, tests and quizzes. Using GIS would certainly enhance the quality of the material that I would present to my students. Furthermore, I would set up a lab in which my students would become familiar with GIS programs such as Arc GIS. I would demonstrate how to use ArcGIS and then I would create simple assignments based on ArcGIS operations. Even though the complexity of my assignment wouldn’t be too high, I still believe that high school students are able to produce maps using the technology. All in all, there are many ways in which GIS can be use as a teaching tool in high school and I hope that I will see the day when I’ll be able to teach it at the high school level.

If you want more information about the effectiveness of GIS in high school, you can visit ESRI’s research web site, which contains all the results about the research discussed earlier. Increasinly, schools are moving towards implementing GIS in their curriculum. You can find information about this in the following websites. Enjoy!

Source: Visited on November 27, 2007

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