Tag Archives: Curriculum
In my last post, I made the case that Jukes, McCain, Crocket, and Prensky’s book Understanding the Digital Generation holds key lessons for those of us who are involved in teaching with GIS and teaching about GIS. Yet the characteristics of these digital learners that I described in that post are not the only instructive elements of the book. The authors’ discussion of changes in the 21st Century world of work I believe are helpful for curriculum developers, instructors, and administrators who seek to embed the geographic perspective, spatial content, and geotechnology skills into instruction at all levels.
Jukes et al. say that to prepare for the 21st Century world of work, while we will continue to teach many traditional skills, there will be a shift in emphasis on the importance of those skills. The authors go on to say that we must adjust teaching to match the new world of technology. New skills must be considered as part of the basic literacy skills of any student. Why have these skills received a promotion? Quite simply, because of technology.
The authors prefer the word “fluency” over literacy because for them it conveys a sense of lifelong learning, such as becoming fluent in a language–in this case, the language of technology. There are five types of fluencies that are important: (1) Solution fluency: This is whole brain thinking, including creativity and problem solving applied in real time. (2) Information fluency: The ability to access digital information sources to retrieve desired information and assess and critically evaluate the quality of information. (3) Collaboration fluency: This “teamworking proficiency” is the “ability to work cooperatively with virtual and real partners in an online environment to create original digital products.” (4) Creativity fluency: The “process by which artistic proficiency adds meaning through design, art, and storytelling.” (5) Media fluency: The ability to look analytically at any communication media to interpret the real message, determine how the chosen media is being used to shape thinking, evaluate the efficacy of the message, and the ability to publish original digital products to match the media to the intended message.
My question for instructors: How have you observed students acquiring these five fluencies when you have taught GIS? My question for students: How has using GIS enabled you to prepare for the world of work?
I recently read the book Understanding the Digital Generation by Ian Jukes, Ted McCain, Lee Crockett, and Mark Prensky. I found it to be insightful but also quite appropriate for those involved with GIS in education.
What are the characteristics of digital learners according to these authors? Digital learners prefer receiving information quickly from multiple multimedia sources, not a slow and controlled release of information from limited sources. GIS has always been about layering of information from a variety of sources, from satellite imagery to stream gauges, from traffic cams to ecological monitoring stations, and more. Digital learners prefer processing pictures, sounds, color, and video before text. Digital learners prefer random access to hyperlinked multimedia information, rather than receiving information linearly, logically, and sequentially. GIS easily incorporates audio, video, photographs, links, and text. Furthermore, GIS has become a platform, accessible from a variety of devices–tablets, laptops, smartphones–and the maps and data sets created within a GIS are shareable.
Digital learners refer to network simultaneously with others, rather than working independently first before they network and interact with each other. Whether in education, health, natural resource management, planning, or in other fields, success with GIS is greatly enhanced by networking with peers.
Jukes et al. say that while many educators prefer teaching “just in case”, digital learners prefer learning “just in time.” We in GIS in education have always emphasized using the most appropriate tools for the job, and learning GIS functions in the context of solving specific problems.
Digital learners prefer instant gratification and immediate rewards. Those of us who labored through the early days of GIS marvel at how easy-to-use modern GIS has become. From creating spatial statistics to georegistering historical imagery, the modern GIS toolkit is vast and varied, accompanied by graphics, videos, and other resources designed to aid beginner and advanced users alike. Finally, digital learners prefer learning that is relevant, active, instantly useful, and fun. How can GIS, which was created to analyze 21st Century issues from energy to water to migration to natural hazards and more, not be relevant and useful? Teaching and learning with GIS is active, engaging, and yes, fun.
In short, I firmly believe that teaching and learning with GIS appeals to and is relevant to today’s digital learners. Can you find additional connect points between these authors’ statements and GIS in education?
Using topographic maps to study landforms has been a key part of Geography and Earth Science instruction for over a century. It has never been easier to do, thanks to the seamless USGS topographic maps for the USA and the base topographic map for the world available in ArcGIS Online. I have created a set of 12 questions and a map containing 20 landforms as a starting point for these investigations.
Remember the old days when the landform you were seeking to analyze seemed to inevitably fall across corners of 4 topographic paper map sheets? The USGS maps, originally published at 1:24,000, 1:100,000, and 1:250,000 scales, display seamlessly in ArcGIS Online – no more corners! The map above opens to the Ennis, Montana area, on the classic alluvial fan that has long been a staple with these sorts of investigations.
Questions include the following, which can be used as is or as a springboard for your own questions.
Use the bookmarks to zoom to the 1:24,000-scale map. Measure the distance between each contour line. Determine the contour interval by reading the numbers on the contours. Calculate the slope in percentage and in degrees. Calculate the slope of the fan again using the 1:100,000 scale map. Is this measurement different than the measurement you calculated using the 1:24,000 scale map? Explain a few reasons for possible differences. Calculate the slope in another location on the fan. Is the slope similar to your other reading? Why are slopes so constant on an alluvial fan?
Calculate the area of the alluvial fan using the square mile grid shown on the topographic map as a guide, and the scale bar in the lower left of your ArcGIS Online map window. Then compare this measurement against what you get by using the measure tool above the map. Be sure to indicate the units you are using. Name 3 differences in the type and number of features shown on USGS maps at the 3 different scales. Why do these differences exist?
Examine the following features, each of which is accessible through the Bookmarks above the map. For each landform, indicate: What is the name of the landform? What is the location of the landform? How did the landform form? What did the landform and area look like 100 years ago? 1000 years ago? Why? What will the landfrom and area look like 100 years from now? 1000 years from now? Why? Would you classify the landform as rapidly changing or slowly changing? Why? How has the landform influenced human activity and settlement in this area? How have humans modified the landform, if at all, in this area? What is the climate and vegetation like in this area? Can you find the same landforms in other areas? If so, where are they?
The 20 landforms included in the map and lesson are a tombolo, a col, a salt dome, lava beds, marine terraces, the Llano Estacado, sand hills, drumlins, moraines, a caldera, an estuary, karst, a water gap, a tarn, an arete, a structural dome, a slow moving landslide, trellis drainage, an oxbow lake, and an inselberg. The lesson also includes comparison of landscapes shaped by the public land survey system, long lots, and metes and bounds.
You can use ArcGIS Online to draw your own points, lines, and areas on the topographic map using “Add” and “Create Editable Layer.” Link your features to text, photos, and videos. Save your map (requires either a personal or an organizational ArcGIS Online account). You can also add USGS topographic maps to any ArcGIS Online map through the “Add” function by searching for “USA Topo.” You can also use the Add tool to add climate, weather, ecoregions, and other layers to help you understand the interaction between climate and landforms.
Working outside the USA? Then make sure your base map is set to “Topographic” and you can explore landforms using a topographic map base all around the world!
To encourage students to think critically about two sides of an issue, to think spatially and geographically, and to use web-based GIS as a key part of analyzing an issue, I created a map and a lesson about a proposed new road through the Serengeti.
The lesson is inside the metadata for the map, which includes background information and readings, and 15 questions that invite students to critically assess the issue and its geographic implications. These questions include describing the issue, the physical and cultural setting of the issue in Tanzania, analyzing the distance, ecoregions, and landforms that each of the proposed routes traverse, and assessing the merits and impacts of each. Students are then asked to create an ArcGIS presentation to communicate what they have learned.
You and your students can use ArcGIS Online to analyze other issues that you choose or that they choose. And from an instructional standpoint, embedding the lesson in the map’s metadata is an easy and quick way of creating a “one stop shop” for everything you need to teach about that issue.
How might you use this technique of coupling a web map with the map’s metadata for instruction?
Ten new hands-on activities that accompany the Esri Press book The GIS Guide to Public Domain Data book that Jill Clark and I authored have been posted to the web, along with the data and the answer keys, on the Spatial Reserves site.
Look in the section “exercises and data for the book.” The activities are available through Scribd or through Google Docs. The data for the exercises are stored on ArcGIS Online. We contribute to the blog weekly, expanding on issues raised in the exercises and the book, such as data sources, data quality, data formats, fee vs. free, legal issues, volunteered geographic information, cloud GIS, and much more.
The activities cover a wide variety of scales, themes, and issues, and include:
Activity 1: Assessing the Impacts of potential climate change on coasts, ecoregions, population, and land cover, globally.
Activity 2: Siting an internet café in Orange County, California.
Activity 3: Siting a fire tower in the Loess Hills, Nebraska.
Activity 4: Analyzing floods and floodplains along the Front Range, Colorado.
Activity 5: Assessing potential hurricane hazards in Texas.
Activity 6: Analyzing land use and sustainability in Brazil.
Activity 7: Creating a map for an ecotourism company in New Zealand.
Activity 8: Assessing citizen science portals and analyzing citizen science data in invasive species.
Activity 9: Investigating 3 hazards of 2010: The Gulf of Mexico oil spill, Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland, and the Haiti earthquake.
Activity 10: Selecting the most suitable locations for tea cultivation in Kenya.
How might you use these activities, blog, and book in your teaching GIS and learning GIS?
STEM education is everywhere
STEM education and workforce development programs seem nearly ubiquitous across the United States. Across industry, nearly every science and technology company of any stature has some form of STEM education initiative (from Raytheon and Microsoft to Bayer and Toyota) . Across government, most federal agencies (especially those with a science and technology focus) have a STEM initiative, like that of NASA, EPA, National Park Service, and many more. Non-profits from the 4-H and National Girls Collaborative Project to the National Institute of Building Sciences and the National Science Teachers Association are growing STEM across multiple facets of education.
GIS is STEM
Whether the data and analysis are rooted in a particular discipline of science or engineering, or students are learning about GIS technology itself, GIS drives STEM. What’s more, the mathematics of GIS data and geoprocessing range from the straightforward to quite advanced, as colleagues are noting in a forthcoming spatial mathematics book.
The value of GIS as a tool for critical data analysis cannot be overstated. In the forthcoming, Next Generation Science Standards, the emphasis on data analysis as a key part of “science and engineering practice” is central to the standards and to K12 science education in the US. Mapping data is useful – but analyzing it is even more powerful for problem-based and inquiry learning at any level or discipline.
Learn more about how schools and clubs are already using GIS to advance STEM education.
- Tom Baker, Esri Education Manager
A recent article in Canada’s National Post newspaper expressed dismay that despite the arrival of a globalized society, university students cannot locate the Atlantic Ocean on a world map.
My colleague and chair of Canadian Geographic Education Connie Wyatt Anderson wrote a response to this article, stating that this lack of geographic content knowledge is the result of decades of “the erosion of geography as a curriculum staple.” She called on parents, curriculum developers, education authorities, and educators to be advocates to return geography to its rightful place throughout the educational system.
The National Post article reflects something that we in the geography and GIS education community have become used to and frankly, rather tired of. We are now in the 30th year after the first of the dismal reports from National Geographic and the National Assessment of Educational Progress about geographic illiteracy. While I salute the Post for caring about geography education, these types of articles and reports about students not knowing where Alberta or Addis Ababa are interesting and well-intentioned, but I think are asking the wrong question.
Yes, it is unfortunate that some students do not know the location of major oceans, continents, or countries, let alone the location of their own ecoregion, watershed, or neighborhood in their own city. We can bemoan what we consider the lack of core content knowledge not only in geography but in any other discipline. But now more than ever, students can look up that information in a flash. Yes, they need to be critical consumers of that data when they look it up, most certainly. However, in a book I recently read entitled Understanding the Digital Generation, the authors claim that the model of the educator dispensing facts for students is increasingly out of touch not only with societal needs, but out of touch with how students learn. The results are increasing disengagement by students to their own education, and a tragic under-utilization of their talents and skills.
The real tragedy is not that students don’t know where the Atlantic Ocean is, but how oceans function, why oceans are important to the health and climate of the planet, how oceans support economies, about coral reefs and other ocean life, about threats to the ocean, and so on. The tragedy is that very little of what I consider to be true geoliteracy is being rigorously taught and engaged with around the world: Core geographic content (such as sustainability, biodiversity, climate, natural hazards, energy, and water), the spatial perspective (such as holistic, critical, and spatial thinking about scale, processes, and relationships) and geographic skills (such as working with imagery, GIS, GPS, databases, and mobile applications). While there are many fine exceptions, we need a much greater global adoption, beginning with valuing geography and geospatial as fundamental to every student’s 21st Century education.
As a consequence, I am concerned that the the key issues of the 21st Century will not be well understood and be able to be grappled with graduating students as our future decision makers. I firmly believe that geotechnologies have a key role to play to help enable effective teaching and learning of the above three pillars through inquiry. And then along the way, students will also be learning core content; even the location of the Atlantic Ocean!
Do you think we are asking the wrong question?
A new set of activities about the Earth have been added to ArcLessons that promote geoliteracy through earth investigations as quizzes and matching activities. Each of them model “What’s Where?” “Why is it there?”, and “So what?” The first was created by a colleague at the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo in Texas, entitled, “Where in Indian Country?” In it, clues about physical and cultural geography are used to match satellite images with monuments, each of which is significant to Native Americans. Monuments speak to history and landscape, representing wars, warriors, gods, and animals; some are natural wonders of spiritual significance. A brief description of each of 15 monuments is included on the slides. Through this activity, you are thinking spatially and considering geography, culture, climate, landforms, land use, and other factors.
I created an activity along similar lines that I call the “City and Country Ground Image Matching”. Can you use physical and cultural geography clues to match the ground photograph provided with its correct city and country? In so doing, you are thinking spatially and considering language, culture, climate, landforms, land use, transportation methods, and other factors to determine the correct answers.
I created an Earth Quiz using ArcGIS Explorer Online’s presentation mode. The Earth Quiz asks you to think spatially and creatively about the “whys of where” using maps and imagery for famous waterfalls, cities, coastlines, and other physical and cultural features. These include the famous “Earth eye” in Mauretania, the Dorset Coast in England, and other wonderful landscapes.
Along these same lines, my ArcGIS Explorer Online “Weird Earth” set, encourages the exploration of the planet using bizarre, unusual features. Through their intriguing nature, they help students to think spatially using a variety of themes and scales. One of my favorite things about “Weird Earth” is that not all of these mysteries can be explained!
These are only a sample of the earth-based activities that promote geoliteracy that are in the ArcLessons and that are on ArcGIS Online. Keep checking this blog for additional resources that appear weekly.
How are you using these resources in your instruction?
-Joseph Kerski, Esri Education Manager
In a recent essay, I asked “Is Everyone a Geographer?,”given the advent of easy-to-use geotechnologies that have enabled the general public to use many of the same tools and data that were formerly only used by GIS specialists and geographers. I received some intriguing responses as did a book in which my colleagues and I asked this same question, entitled Practicing Geography. In the essay I contended that geography is a three-legged stool, with supporting legs representing content knowledge, geographic skills, and the spatial perspective.
The advent of geotechnologies has elevated the importance of geography to a level unprecedented in the history of the discipline, reinvoking inherent tensions between the integrity of the field as a discrete academic discipline, on the one hand, and its generalist appeal on the other hand. Although this tension within geography is not new—William Morris Davis reacted to it over one hundred years ago—some say that geography has never been more prominent within the everyday human experience than it is today.
Personally, I’m not so sure about that. We spend so much time indoors these days. At one time we were all directly depending on the landscape for food, water, and shelter, we were very much attuned to local geography—where to plant, where not to plant, where the safe drinking water was, where we could set animal traps or fishing lures, and other actions that our very lives depended on. That has changed for many, though certainly not all, of the planet’s inhabitants. In the past, the ability to use “geographic data” depended on one’s five senses. I suppose we could have a lively debate on whether geography is more prominent in the human experience now or in the past. What is clear that the 21st Century certainly has seen society’s valuing geographic tools in everyday life. This is different in many ways from the previous 100 years, where the ability to use geographic data, in the form of increasingly sophisticated paper maps, and later, databases and software, did require extensive geographic training. Now, many of these tools are as common as the smartphone or the Internet itself.
The rise of geographic tools such as web GIS, GPS, data collection via smartphone, and easy-to-use GIS software means that we now have the capability of making decisions more rapidly and more wisely than ever before, and most importantly, use the spatial perspective in making those decisions. Geotechnologies have no curricular “home” in most educational systems at the present time. Thus, one challenge in education is convincing educational authorities and organizations, and even individual educators and parents, that these geographic tools enhance teaching and learning at all levels. They are valuable tools with which to learn history, earth and environmental science, biology, geography, mathematics, language arts, and many other subjects, encouraging holistic and critical thinking. However, they are also valuable to learn for their own sake, as technologies for an ever-expanding array of careers, from medicine to marketing, from engineering to ecology, from business to biology, from public safety to planning.
How can we connect the rise of geographic tools to the need to be using these tools throughout the educational system?
-Joseph Kerski, Esri Education Manager
A team of authors from the GIS Education Research Workgroup (http://edgis.org/research) have published a “Call for an Agenda and Center for GIS Education”. This open, peer-reviewed academic manuscript outlines the importance of GIS education and a rationale for concerted efforts to guide educational research in a systematic manner. The paper outlines recent, supporting research in learning, teacher training, and educational GIS technical development. With a particular eye toward pre-collegiate GIS in education teaching and learning, the paper proposes the creation of a robust and dynamic agenda while also proposing the establishment of a virtual organization to promote and shepherd work in the area.
Educational research supports every aspect of GIS in instruction. While there are many gaps in the research body, the use of GIS in pre-collegiate instruction is a reasonably well documented phenomenon, compared to many popular educational technologies. This document will substantially contribute to the catalyzing efforts to move research on GIS in education forward. The authors and the GIS Education Research Workgroup invite your comments and feedback.
Access the open article online at RIGEO, the Review of International Geographical Education Online at http://rigeo.org/component/content/article/82-vol2-no3-winter-2012.html