The case for spatial technology and literacy in Australian schools

 “GIS represents the single biggest contribution geographers have made to society and economy since the Age of Discovery” 

Wiegand Patrick, School of Education, University of Leeds

This is quite a claim but many of those using GIS who are aware of the power and potential of such spatial technologies have no doubt that the social, economic and even political impacts of the technology are still to be realised.   

Spatial literacy and associated geospatial technologies such as Geographical Information Systems (GIS), Satellite Remote Sensing (RS), 3D visualisations and Global Positioning Systems (GPS) have become increasingly important and pervasive in society over the past 10 years.  It can be reasonably stated that there is no field of human endeavour which has not been impacted upon by technologies such as GIS.  That is, except the field of education!  Much has been written and hypothesised about why this all pervasive and critical technology used in industry, government and the military has not been embraced by schools.  The uptake is disparate and totally based on individual teacher motivation and expertise as opposed to a coordinated system implementation of the technology.  Whilst such ‘grassroots’ implementation is a noble effort it is doomed to failure due to teacher ‘burnout’ and disillusionment.  Educationalists in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia are now convinced that for GIS in schools to happen, education systems need to take on the implementation of spatial technologies. Furthermore it is argued that it should be seen as a priority to prepare young people for the world of globalisation evident in the 21st Century.  Spatial technologies are the enabling tools which enhance student understanding of an ever shrinking world in spatial perception terms and in turn to understand the complexities of place and space. Many educationalists believe that for the geography to thrive and indeed survive in schools we must embrace the professional geography which GIS represents.

“If we do not put it at the core of our teaching then we can have little confidence that school geography will survive in the face of curriculum competition from information and communications technology, business studies and science.”

Dr Joseph Kerski in his 2001 paper stated emphatically that: 

“Some educators consider GIS to be one of the most promising means for implementing education reform” in US schools. 

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Visit the Spatialworlds blog to add your comments on Spatial Literacy


 Links to the Spatial Worlds website pages

1. Churchill project blog

2. The GIS skill development process 

3. 'Windows to the past' historical resource

4. Historical GIS resource

5. Using GIS in the teaching of Science

6. GIS and politics: Being a citizen

 7. Technology in SOSE

8. Virtual Tourism

9. GIS in the field

10. Spatial vocations