Monthly Archives: March 2015
A fascinating and practical book entitled Facilitating Seven Ways of Learning by James R. Davis and Bridget D. Arend is a resource for more purposeful, effective, and enjoyable university teaching. In addition, I believe that the seven ways presented by the authors provide a useful framework for instruction focused on spatial thinking and geotechnologies. The seven ways include behavioral learning, cognitive learning, learning through inquiry, learning with mental models, learning through groups and teams, learning through virtual realities, and experiential learning. Each way of learning is associated with intended learning outcomes, or what students learn, and is accomplished through specific methods. For example, the intended learning outcomes in learning through inquiry are developing critical, creative, and dialogical thinking, and is accomplished through question-driven inquiries and discussions.
As we have discussed numerous times in this blog, teaching and learning with GIS invites students to ask questions, solve real-world problems with real data, and think critically about why and how they are solving that problem. Every single one of the seven ways of learning identified in this book have been used by educators and students who analyze spatial relationships, patterns, and trends through GIS, as is evident in these and other case studies. Furthermore, all of the methods identified in the Seven Ways book, including tasks and procedures, practice exercises, presentations, explanations, inquiries, discussions, problems, case studies, labs, projects, group activities, team projects, role playing, simulations, games, internships, and service learning, are the “bread and butter” of teaching with GIS. No one single method is used, which illustrates the versatility of GIS in instruction to meet different learning objectives. We use all of them when we model effective teaching with GIS at our annual T3G instructor institutes.
I recently met with one of the authors, Dr. Arend, who is the Director of University Teaching at the Office of Teaching and Learning at the University of Denver, and I believe that the Seven Ways can be used effectively by instructors (1) to make a strong case to their administrators on campus that teaching and learning with GIS meets numerous instructional objectives and learning styles, and (2) as a guideline in their own instruction, to ensure that they take full advantage of the 7 ways, and the result will truly be more purposeful, effective, and enjoyable teaching!
How might you be able to use this book and framework in your own instruction?
In my last post, I described some simple but powerful activities that you can use with students to engage them in mathematics using ArcGIS Online. What else can you do with mathematics with ArcGIS Online? Using another activity I have written, I invite students to investigate global temperature extremes. The activity begins by asking two questions: (1) Can you work effectively with numbers so that they can understand extreme temperatures around the world? (2) Can you compare and interpret information so that you can understand patterns over space and time?
Students conduct seven mathematics investigations in this activity:
1. Analyze temperature extremes data around the world including the temperature reading and the date.
2. Examine the relationship between the location (primarily: Altitude and latitude) of the extreme temperatures and the value of the temperature, and whether that temperature was a high or a low extreme.
3. Order and compare numbers in temperature data tables and on maps.
4. Round numbers in temperature data tables and maps.
5. Visually represent numbers in temperature data tables and maps.
6. Add and subtract whole numbers and decimals.
7. Compare temperature extremes over time by constructing graphs.
The activity begins by asking the students to describe the hottest and then the coldest day they have experienced, and what they did to cool down or warm up. Next, using a map of temperatures plotted as points on a world map in ArcGIS Online, they describe the spatial pattern of global maximum and minimum temperature extremes. Then, exploring the attribute table in tandem with the map, they answer the following questions: ”What is the range of maximum temperatures shown on this map (between the lowest maximum and the highest maximum)? How many times hotter is the highest maximum temperature than the lowest maximum temperature? Round your final answer to the nearest degree. Show your work.”
Students then sort the table on latitude and graph the temperatures by latitude, and then create a histogram of temperature extremes by month of the year, using these graphs to make connections between the data, the map, climate, and seasons. They zoom in to selected extreme temperature locations and examine the effect of local topography and proximity to oceans on extreme temperatures. They also examine the temporal components of the data to determine the existence and length of heat waves and cold snaps.
What else could you do with this data or with other weather related data to connect science, geography, and mathematics using ArcGIS Online?
ArcGIS Online can be used for simple but powerful STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) activities from primary school to university level. These activities can involve measurement and fieldwork to foster understanding about geometric shapes, types of units, and numeric precision. As a secondary school example, you could ask students to open this map in ArcGIS Online. Use Bookmarks to zoom to one of the runways at the Abu Dhabi International Airport. Select Basemaps and change the basemap to Imagery. Find the longest runway at the airport—the one with the pushpin at one end. This runway is marked with the number “13” at one end and a “31” at the other end.
Measure from the white markings at the bottom of these numbers on each end of the runway, where the pavement begins. What is the distance in kilometers of this longest runway from end to end? What is the distance in meters of this longest runway from end to end (and show your work!).
Next, find your school building in ArcGIS Online by using the search tool for your city and zoom to your school. Use the measurement tool to measure the perimeter of your main school building in meters. Describe the shape of your school building using the concepts you have learned in mathematics class. Zoom in to the most detailed scale possible so that you can see individual structures. Next, at your school, get outside! Measure the perimeter of your school building with a tape measure, GPS, phone, or another device. What is its perimeter as you measured it (in meters)? What is the difference between the perimeter that you measured from the satellite image to the one you measured by hand? Why are the two numbers not exactly the same?
Use Bookmarks, access “Abu Dhabi area”, and change the basemap back to topographic. Zoom to the following shape in Abu Dhabi (shown below). What shape is it? Measure each side, in kilometers, with the measure tool. How long is each side? Is the shape a perfect square?
Given the length of each side, predict how much area the shape would have if it were a perfect square. Be sure to specify the square units that you are using. Next, test your hypothesis by using the Measure Area tool in ArcGIS Online and measure the total area of the shape, clicking on each corner to draw the shape for your area calculation. The shape is a type of polygon. What is the total area of the shape? Does the total area match the value that you predicted above? What is the perimeter of the shape?
One of the ways that spatial thinking with geotechnologies is being incorporated into teaching and learning is through relevant community-based projects and settings. One of the most compelling ones I have seen recently is the South Platte River Project at Englewood Public Schools in Colorado. As illustrated by the graphic below, the project brings together content and skills in mathematics, science, reading, writing, communications, and social studies. It engages students in piecing together the geography and history of their own local watershed in order to better understand the political, scientific, economic, and social impacts of water. The South Platte River runs through Englewood, but its small size makes it easily overlooked in the importance it has for the entire region. Water is a relevant issue not only to Colorado and many other semi-arid regions, but water quality and quantity are critical topics for the 21st Century, globally.
Ten 21st Century skills will be intentionally taught and practiced through this project, including critical thinking and problem solving, initiative and self direction, communication, collaboration, creativity and innovation, productivity and accountability, managing complexity, social and cross-cultural skills, prioritizing, planning, and managing for results, and leadership and responsibility. A motivation for the district in this effort is to replace the age old question asked by students, “Why do I need to know this?” with “How can I generate the information required to help me figure this out?”
The project is aligned to Colorado Academic Standards, and is designed to be used across all courses, grade levels, and content areas within the district’s schools. GIS and GPS will be used as key tools with the spatial thinking framework to examine and map water rights, identification of river basins, credible sources for research, interactions of organisms in a riparian ecosystem, chemical energy transfer, claim, evidence, and reasoning, argumentative writing, modeling population growth, collecting, organizing, and interpreting data, sustainable uses of water, river morphology, and living organisms. Students will be able to take advantage of new watershed and river trace data and tools in ArcGIS Online, but more importantly, consider economic, scientific, political, and geographic implications of water in their own community and around the world.
How might you use a local physical feature or issue to foster interdisciplinary education using geotechnologies?