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Learning To Think Spatially
The federation should be flexible. Thus, the initial rules and procedures should not be overspecified.
The federation should manage the tensions that may arise from constituents with differing expectations (e.g., software companies, teachers).
Working in collaboration, GIS system designers, educational IT specialists, and teachers should develop guidelines for a model GIS-enabled school.
The guidelines should address software and hardware needs (including schedules for upgrades), local and global network design and access requirements, classroom layouts for different modes of instruction, and levels of technical support for hardware and software.
Working in collaboration, representatives of colleges of education and GIS educators should
establish guidelines for pre- and in-service teacher training programs for teaching spatial thinking using GIS; and
develop a model standards-based curriculum for teaching about GIS.
With funding from either a government agency (e.g., the National Science Foundation, the Department of Education) or a private philanthropy, a research program should be developed to determine whether or not an understanding of GIS improves academic achievement across the curriculum. Without credible assessment of results, the value of GIS and other support systems for spatial thinking cannot be evaluated.
This set of recommendations (2-6) contains overlaps and critical interdependencies. Thus, for example, the GIS redesign process must inform the development of guidelines for GIS-enabled schools. The model curriculum must be linked to assessment procedures and to the research program on the impact of GIS on academic achievement.
The premise for this report is the need for systemic educational change. Fundamental to that change is a national commitment to the goal of spatial literacy. Spatial thinking must be recognized as a fundamental and necessary part of the process of K–12 education. The committee does not view spatial thinking as one more piece to be added on to an already overburdened curricular structure. Instead, it sees spatial thinking as an integrator and a facilitator for problem solving across the curriculum. Spatial thinking does not and should not stand alone, but equally well, without explicit attention to it, we cannot meet our responsibility for equipping the next generation of students for life and work in the twenty-first century.