GIS is an exciting area of geography offering the opportunity for incredible interactive resources to enthuse students and teachers. Students already embrace technology in their everyday lives and so the opportunity to interact with GIS inside the classroom can engage them in a manner they can relate to. From simply showing a map or story map to the whole class, through to individual students working with GIS tools themselves, there are a number of ways in which you can use GIS to provide a little something different in your lessons.
On Tuesday 17 May I was one of the lucky 3000 or so participants attending the biggest GIS conference in the UK – the Annual Conference for ESRI UK.
The opening plenary was an opportunity to learn about how GIS is used in the ‘real world’ outside of education: designers, National Trust property conservation, stopping pirates at sea and much more besides! GIS was identified as needing a shared vision and a culture of sharing and collaboration. It seems things are starting to really change as technology can now do things that would not have been dreamed of 10, 5, or even 2 years ago. This is enabling GIS to ‘light up the enterprise’ by spatially enabling it and providing solutions to the many and varied challenges of today’s world.
It was interesting to hear actual case studies where GIS is at work. For example designers Foster + Partners have designed a new transport system for Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. Previously only 12% of the population lived within a 10 minute walk of a Metro station but Foster + Partners use of GIS had led them to design a more pleasant pedestrian experience based on the old town of the classic Arabic city – all whilst making these stations mini hubs of activity and improving traffic, pollution, public spaces and much more besides.
There is also the incredibly exciting Drone2Map tool and delegates were given a live demonstration using an iPhone and a Sylvanian House! This accompanied a wonderful presentation showing how this technology has helped the Animal and Plant Health Agency and the National Trust with the conservation of Waddesdon Manor - all with sub 3 centimetre accuracy!
OCR was pleased to have a stand in the Educator Exhibition and it gave me the chance to spend the day learning about, discussing and showcasing the potential of GIS in the classroom. But what really struck me when I had conversations with a range of delegates from GIS developers, businesses and GIS users at the conference was just how much Geography is valued as a subject at this point in time. Geography was identified as the subject enabling students to gain the skills required for the world of work. It is also the subject that enables students to use and understand this spatial technology with an appreciation of what it is used for.
I was pleased to be able to speak to many delegates about opportunities for GIS within our new GCSEs, AS and A Level qualifications including the potential use of GIS within the new Independent Investigation at A Level. I was also able to showcase two story maps that we have created – one on Liverpool as a case study which was initially created for OCR’s GA conference case studies workshop. The second was a case study of the recent Ecuador earthquake. I also attended a very popular workshop with teachers where Jason Sawle (the GIS in Education Evangelist at Esri UK) and David Holmes ran through a number of useful and visually impressive ways in which GIS could be incorporated into the new curriculum.
The conference also afforded me the opportunity to discuss with Rafael Heath, of Royal High School Bath, his plans for this year’s November GIS event. He informed me that the theme for the 2016 Map Off is Climate Change. Participants will respond to a survey about their views relating to Global Warming and add their data to an online map which can then be analysed. Join the Great Geography Map Off and see what all of the fuss is about!
The ESRI conference is growing year on year and the potential of GIS is growing even faster. As Jason has told me before, ArcGIS online is the best free map resource you could wish for. When you can access multiple base maps (including OS maps) for free, a vast array of maps in the gallery and view 3D representations of landscapes throughout the world in the ‘scene’ mode it is hard to disagree! That doesn’t even go into the potential for using Story Maps (like the two we created) in the classroom.
It is a very exciting time for ESRI and GIS as a whole – why not translate that excitement into your classroom as well?