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Kamy Anderson
Kamy Anderson
Kamy Anderson is an eLearning advocate who has a passion for writing on innovative and emerging technologies in the areas of corporate training and education. He has years of experience working with learning management system and eLearning authoring tools. With his background in learning pedagogy, … More »

The Value of GIS in Education

April 29th, 2015 by Kamy Anderson

In a recent blog on this site, Matt Sheehan suggested that many people who are new to GIS don’t truly understand the value of the technology. He suggested several ways to demonstrate the value of GIS technology in the workplace, such as showing people how it can help them perform tasks more quickly and easily.

Another area where more work is needed to demonstrate the value of GIS is in education, especially in K-12. Last year in the National Geographic blog, National Geographic’s Vice President for Education Daniel C. Edelson called GIS the “missing educational technology.” While various initiatives have focused on how to use more technology in the classroom, Edelson wrote that applications like GIS tools are often left out.

The key to getting more GIS technology into K-12 and online classroom are demonstrating the value of the technology for teaching and learning. Here are five benefits that demonstrate the value of GIS in education.

1. GIS provides students with an interactive way to learn about the world.
Just like software that is used to model DNA or chemical compounds provides an interactive way to learn biology or chemistry, GIS technologies allow students to actively model and analyze geographic information.

Daniel C. Edelson writes: “GIS tools…provide powerful functions for asking questions and analyzing what-if scenarios.” Being able to manipulate and actively use these systems provides a much deeper understanding of geographic phenomena than can be obtained by simply reading static maps.

2. GIS can be used across the curriculum to provide a holistic view of how the world works.
The usefulness of GIS in education isn’t limited to geography classes. It can be used in earth science classes to predict the effects of weather phenomena, in history classes to model migrations and economic development, in civics classes to study cities, and in math classes to study statistics. It is becoming more common for these subjects to be taught in an interdisciplinary fashion, and GIS technologies can aid in this endeavor.

3. GIS brings learning out of the classroom and into the real world.
In the past, education tended to be fairly inward-gazing. Learning was done out of a textbook, and although real-world examples may have been used, they weren’t always the focus. Today, the learning landscape is much different. Education at all levels is turning more toward real-world problem-solving, and the emphasis is on application, not just theoretical information. GIS brings learning out of the classroom and gives students the opportunity to apply their knowledge to real problems that exist in the real world.

4. GIS teaches valuable technology skills.
Knowing how to use technology is a key 21st century competency, essential for success both in school and after graduation. Computers and mobile devices are being introduced at progressively earlier grades to ensure that students master this competency as soon as possible. GIS applications can be a fun, interactive, and powerful way to teach students the digital skills they need.

5. GIS empowers learners with skills that are in-demand in the workforce.
GIS technology is used being used more and more across many industries, from manufacturing to politics, and this trend will continue. By starting to learn GIS concepts and tools in school, students can gain the knowledge and skills they will need when it comes time for them to enter the workforce.

In the conclusion of his article, Edelson commented that GIS software is now usable enough for elementary school classrooms, and with web-based applications, no downloading or installation is required. The only thing left, he says, is the “obstacle of awareness.” This obstacle will only be overcome by demonstrating the clear value — for both teachers and students — of incorporating GIS tools and technologies into K-12 education.

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Category: Education

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