9) have addressed some of the design and implementation problems identified here. The point remains, however, that the frameworks for analysis, presented in Chapter 6, are an appropriate way for analyzing any high-tech support system for spatial thinking. Moreover, the types of problems identified by the committee will probably exist until GIS is designed from scratch with students and teachers in mind.

It must be stressed that GIS was not designed with educational applications in mind. It is a working system for the handling and analysis of geospatial data, designed by and for experts. It is an “industrial-strength” system that far exceeds the needs and capabilities of most teachers and students (indeed, most users). Nevertheless, GIS has been and is being used in educational settings, and ESRI itself has been very supportive of such efforts. Thus, the committee’s analysis reflects a transitional stage in the evolution of GIS software. Just as specialized versions have been developed for specific user communities, such as business logistics or infrastructure design, the committee fully expects that versions will be developed with education in mind. These analyses are intended to aid in such development.

This chapter examines the strengths and weaknesses of currently available off-the-shelf versions of GIS as a learning environment. In making its judgment on the capacity (Section 8.2), design (Section 8.3), and implementation (Section 8.4) of GIS as a support system for spatial thinking in the K–12 environment, the committee relies on primarily oral presentations and written statements from system designers, researchers, and school and university educators (Appendix B). Each section follows a similar format. In the case of system capabilities, for example, there are three requirements: the capacity to spatialize, to visualize, and to perform functions. Each requirement is analyzed, and the committee’s observations are summarized in two ways: (1) by means of a list of observations and (2) by means of an assessment table at the end of each section. Based on the results of this analysis of the current status of GIS in K–12 education, Section 8.5 examines organizational models for redesigning GIS software to fit the needs, constraints, and opportunities of the K–12 context.


For current GIS software products to support the teaching and learning of spatial thinking in the K–12 context, they must have the capacity to (1) spatialize data sets by providing spatial data

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement