TABLE 7.1 Comparison of the Current Capabilities of High-Tech Systems That Can Support Spatial Thinking

 

Geospatial Data Systems

GIS and remote-sensing analysis systems

Geoscience analytical systems

Computer-assisted design systems

Spatialization

Projection and registration in geographic space

O

Integrates heterogeneous data by registering or transforming them to a common spatial position and projection

Allows spatialization of nonspatial data

O

O

X

Visualization

Provides tools for high cartographic quality production

O

O

Supports explicit modeling of time, animation

X

O

X

Support for full multimedia (e.g., sound, video)

X

X

X

Performing Functions

Supports transformations

O

O

O

Supports operations

X

Supports spatial analysis

X

KEY: √ yes, in most cases; O yes, for some systems or to some extent; X no, in most cases.

explicitly geographic data handling and processing capacities in many of the systems. Although software vendors seem to have no coordinated plan, systems are converging toward common goals because of the needs of business, industry, and government. Users want flexible systems to handle data sets that come from multiple sources, at different scales, and with different accuracies.

As these systems become functionally more powerful and converge toward common goals, their capabilities will offer greater support for spatial thinking. Because of the diverse forms spatial thinking can take and the diverse contexts in which spatial thinking can occur, it is unlikely that a single system will be able to accommodate spatial thinking in all of its forms and contexts.

Even though spatial thinking may be too complex, challenging, and powerful for a single system to offer universal support, most current GIS software systems provide more support for spatial thinking than K–12 students will probably ever need. Indeed, estimates suggest that the range of functions available in GIS products is so extensive that even most professional GIS users access only 10 percent of their software’s functionality (Tomlinson, 2003).

7.3 THE NATURE AND FUNCTIONS OF GIS

In the 1970s and 1980s, GIS were viewed as computer-based toolboxes—as mapping tools (Burrough, 1986), spatial databases (Arnoff, 1989), decision support tools (Carter, 1989; Cowen, 1988), or spatial analytical tools (Parker, 1988). However, rapid developments of GIS technology have rendered the traditional, instrumental definitions of GIS inadequate to capture the essence of the technology and its social implications. GIS technology is becoming increasingly part of our daily lives (e.g., providing navigation aids for driving, walking, or public transport; generating location-specific delivery services such as local weather, traffic conditions, cultural events) (Cowen,



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