Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are fundamental tools for learning geography. They provide a means of enquiring into geography through mapping. By extending and deepening the way that maps are used to explore geographical issues, GIS can re-emphasise the spatial dimension of geography, which is one of the defining characteristics of our subject clarifying its unique role and importance in the school curriculum. Using GIS therefore encourages pupils to think spatially, or geographically.
This project sought to develop the curriculum in this area, through sharing and communicating GIS work, carried out in school with pupils.
Project activities and achievements
Spatially Speaking was joint funded by the BECTA ICT subject fund, and ESRI(UK), the commercial provider of ArcView GIS software. ESRI’s ArcView and associated ArcGIS packages, provide industrial power GIS. The decision was taken to focus on the ESRI product for two reasons. Firstly ESRI(UK) have a strong interest in and support for developing GIS for learning in school. Secondly, focusing on a single key GIS package allowed the team to work more closely and to share materials and understandings.
The aim of this project was to find how GIS can invigorate learning and teaching geography. Objectives included:
- Developing learning and teaching approaches (geography) with GIS
- Developing professional skills
- Developing support materials and resources
- Widening the Spatially Speaking project group
- Disseminating findings and outcomes to geography teachers and geography educator network
The project used the ‘local solutions’ approach to curriculum development through CPD. This involved recruiting a team of dynamic teachers, from a range of schools. The team came together at a creative planning meeting and each school wrote an action plan. Back in school, action research took place, with the plan worked upon and reviewed with the support of the team.
The outcome was CPD for the teachers involved and curriculum development, shared with the wider geography education community, through the GA website, Annual Conference and journals.
Mary Fargher, geography teacher and researcher into using GIS for teaching and learning, acted as an adviser to the project in its first year. Here she gives her thoughts on how the project links to research into pedagogies with GIS.