TABLE 8.5 Assessment of GIS in Terms of Its Appropriateness to Meet Student Needs





Be developmentally and educationally appropriate




Be accessible to and supportive of the full range of learners




Be customizable




functionality, and creating a more intuitive interface. However, teachers have neither the time nor the expertise to undertake such major customization efforts to meet the needs of their students. Even if teachers had the time and expertise to customize the GIS software, customization would be occurring at the wrong scale, at the retail or school scale, not the wholesale or vendor scale. For wholesale, systemic change, GIS vendors have to develop products that can be readily deployed by the K–12 community.

Table 8.5 gives the committee’s assessment of GIS as a support system for spatial thinking in terms of its appropriateness to meet student needs. Existing GIS rate poorly on the criterion “be developmentally and educationally appropriate.” Because users can in principle customize GIS and because GIS has the potential to reach the full range of learners, it fares better on the other two criteria.

8.3.3 Matching the Educational Context

This subsection considers the capacity of GIS to match the needs and constraints of the educational context. The criteria considered are (see Section 6.5): (8) be flexible enough to be effective in a variety of school contexts and enable a range of modes of use; (9) be quick and intuitive for students and teachers to learn to use; and (10) be robust and realistic in terms of the expectations placed on teachers and the demands on school infrastructure. A summary and an overall assessment of the capacity of GIS to match the educational context follow the discussion.

8. Be Flexible Enough to Be Effective in a Variety of School Contexts and Enable a Range of Modes of Use. A system to support spatial thinking in the K–12 context must have the flexibility to be effective in a variety of configurations because there is no common or universal mode of use. While some students find themselves learning in classrooms with only one computer, others report to classrooms with multiple computer stations. Many schools have computer laboratories where teachers can take their classes for a single lesson, whereas other schools restrict laboratories for use by certain departments. With so many different possibilities, an effective support system must be adaptable in terms of delivery and use. GIS has this essential quality.

Before the popularization of the Internet and the web in the mid-1990s, the traditional mode of GIS use was a single user seated at a desk. The user treated the GIS as a calculating machine designed to perform the kinds of analyses that the user found too difficult, tedious, or time-consuming to perform by hand. However, collaborative technologies are now available to support the widespread sharing of spatial data, map views, and projects via the Internet.

Collaborative technologies raise interesting prospects for the support of interactions at a distance, between students in different locations, or between students and stakeholders interested in

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