GIS in the Geography classroom? A personal review of Digimap for Schools

Below is a personal review of Digimap for Schools by Megan Roodt.  Megan is an NQT and has been very generous in sparing some time to write and share this review with us.  Thanks Megan.

 

The Geography National Curriculum for England states that students should be taught to “use Geographical Information Systems (GIS) to view, analyse and interpret places and data,” (DfE, 2013) however, whilst it can be agreed that proficiency in GIS is a valuable skill of Geographers, implementing its effective use in the classroom can be both ambitious and daunting to teachers and students. So firstly, why would the Department for Education signpost the use of GIS in the Geography National Curriculum? GIS has revolutionised the way in which we view land on Earth, (Heywood et al., 2011) and has been noted as one of the 25 most important developments for human impact in the 20th Century due to its powerful analytical abilities, (Fargher, 2013) thus students who are familiar with its uses not only have a better understanding of their environment but are better equipped to enter the technological business world, (Butt, 2002; Demirci, 2008). Traditionally, GIS software was quite complex with time-consuming downloads and processing; indeed, GIS was not initially created for use in the classroom but rather as a decision-making tool to be used by government and business. Unfortunately, such characteristics made the use of GIS unsuitable for the contemporary Geography classroom that is under increasing curriculum and timetabling pressures. So how do we then, as teaching practitioners, effectively implement GIS in our classrooms in a way that both fulfils the criteria of the National Curriculum and acts as a tool to promote learning among our students?

Digimap for Schools may very well offer the solution to this problem. As a collaborative venture between EDINA, JISC Collections and Ordnance Survey, Digimap for Schools offers an online mapping service to both students and teachers, (Digimap for Schools, 2017). The online nature of this service instantly makes it incredibly time-effective to implement in the classroom; there is no need for downloading software or mobile apps, maps can be accessed at any time and on various platforms (e.g. laptops, iPads or mobile phones) and all that students require is internet access. A far cry to the bulky and time-consuming GIS software that I became familiar with at university!

During a GIS club run by the Geography Department at The Mountbatten School, students were asked to create a proposal to identify the best locations for bins and recycling centres on the school grounds. Using Digimap for Schools, students collected raw data which was uploaded to their own maps. Students then used buffers and their personal understanding of various environmental and human factors to analyse and interpret the data to make justified decisions which would then better inform their proposal. Something that soon became apparent was that the way in which Digimap for Schools is set up can allow for a brilliant example of differentiation by outcome in that students had complete control over what went onto their maps and what functions they were going to use to make their decisions. The only premise was that their decision would need to be justified; both an important command word in the new GCSE specification and a skill to be used throughout personal and professional life.

The user-friendly layout of Digimap for Schools meant that students quickly became not only familiar with the functions available but also confident in its uses. As such, students could complete complex GIS functions in a short period of time and view the results instantly which further motivated them to challenge their data by processing alternative solutions which only made for better informed decisions. Other features of Digimap for Schools that students really enjoyed included being able to upload their own images to maps, annotating their choices and using historical maps and aerial images to view their map area in different settings.

From a teacher’s perspective, the service is very simple to use and, as many classrooms and IT suites are now fitted with interactive whiteboards, it is easy to demonstrate to students how to perform functions on Digimap for Schools. Digimap for Schools offers a simple yet effective service that makes the use of GIS both effective and enjoyable in the classroom whilst fulfilling the requirement stated on the National Curriculum.

Overall, I would highly recommend the use of Digimap for Schools in the Geography classroom as I’ve experienced its value as an efficient tool in promoting geographical enquiry and independent decision-making; it has a layout that students quickly become familiar with, the outputs of functions are immediate which allow students time to process and manipulate data as they feel appropriate and it is a service that puts as much emphasis on the process as it does on the output which, in my opinion, provides an authentic learning experience for both students and teachers.

Digimap_MBmap

References:

Butt, G., 2002. “Chapter 10: The Role of ICT in the Teaching and Learning of Geography” in Reflective Teaching of Geography 11 – 18: Meeting standards and applying research. Continuum: London.

Demirci, A., 2008. Evaluating the implementation and effectiveness of GIS-Based application in secondary school geography lessons. American Journal of Applied Sciences. 5(3): 169-178

Department for Education, 2013. The national curriculum in England. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/381754/SECONDARY_national_curriculum.pdf. Accessed: 10/08/2017

Digimap for Schools, 2017. Digimap for Schools: About. Available from: http://digimapforschools.edina.ac.uk/about

Fargher, M (2013) Geographic Information (GI) – how could it be used?’ ch 15 in Lambert, D & Jones, M (Eds) Debates in geography Education. Routledge: Oxon.

Heywood, I., Cornelius, S., Carver, S., 2011. An introduction to Geographical Information Systems. (4th ed.). Pearson Education Limited: Essex.

How much of Britain is built on?

We recently helped out the very talented Alasdair Rae from the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at the University of Sheffield with some research on the buildings of Great Britain. Here is his blog post which is a great work of GIS sleuthery: Buildings of Great Britain As mentioned in his post we assisted […]

SUNCAT updated

SUNCAT has been updated. Updates from the following libraries were loaded into the service over the past week. The dates displayed indicate when files were received by SUNCAT.

  • Aberystwyth University (01 Sep 17)
  • British Library (31 Aug 17)
  • CONSER (Not UK Holdings) (30 Aug 17)
  • Exeter University (01 Sep 17)
  • School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) (14 Aug 17)
  • Southampton University (26 Aug 17)

To check on the currency of other libraries on SUNCAT please check the updates page for further details.


Aerial Imagery in Digimap for Schools- Users Perspectives

In September 2016, Getmapping contributed their high-resolution aerial imagery data for free inclusion into the Digimap for Schools service.  This imagery has been hugely successful and has quickly attracted lots of attention and usage from our schools.  We asked some of our users to give us a little insight into how they are using this Aerial Imagery in their school activities.

We found that the aerial imagery was being used widely across Primary  schools in conjunction with the native functionality of Digimap for Schools e.g. adding photos and text to the maps and imagery to supplement and personalise it.

“Aerial photographs have been beneficial to compare Ordnance Survey maps with aerial images.  For example, we have used it when looking at river features in Year 5.  In the past, comparisons would have been made using Google maps but they haven’t been able to be annotated like you can on Digimaps.  We have also used it for Year 3 when looking at Stone Age features like Skara Brae Orkney Isles.  The children also enjoyed looking at aerial photos of the Jurassic Coast.”

Helen Kennedy
St. Katharine’s C.E. (V.A.) Primary School

Screen Shot 2017-09-04 at 16.16.48

 

The Secondary school students have also been finding that collating and overlaying images and text on the aerial imagery to be incredibly beneficial

“We use it for students in year 7 looking at school environments up to year 11 controlled assessments /new field work specs.  The aerial photography is useful for bringing a landscape to life from a map which many students find as a bewildering array of lines and colours.  Seeing the relief from a map takes some skill having an immediate photo makes this easier…same applies to land use. I use the annotation tools to highlight similar features on maps and then on a photos at the same scale. It stops students using google earth where there is too much temptation to go to street view !”

Robert Perry
Geography Teacher Chiltern Edge Community School

Many of those that responded cited it as incredibly beneficial in the delivery of GCSE and A-Level to those students at the higher age ranges, and an integral part of their fieldwork assessments.  We believe this usage can only increase with the new format of GCSE and A-Level Geography which now includes 2 independent field studies as part of the new curriculum.

“The Aerial Imagery function in Digimap for Schools has proved very useful for our GCSE and A-Level students in planning their fieldwork data collection.  Together with the ‘how to guides’ on land-use mapping, we are hoping for some excellent map based presentation this year.”

Mr S. Williams
Borden Grammar School

An example of how to Present data collected through a field study

An example of how to Present data collected through a field study

Below is a really nice testimonial of how teachers and pupils are using Digimap for Schools as a day to day resource in their teaching and learning.  Abingdon School is using the service and all of its features to enhance students understanding of the connections between the human and physical worlds. The service is dynamic enough to cater to all students within the school and unlike many textbooks is accessible to all students in the school.

“We are very pleased with the service and the aerial photography is an important part of how we can use Digimap for Schools in our lessons on a day to day basis.

Aerial Imagery has broadened the topics we can investigate with the students, from historical and modern land use mapping to investigating the course of a river, understanding coastal processes and the processes of glaciation within landscapes. 

The students find the sliding bar easy to use and like the option of choosing aerials with or without labels. They can now digitize and label geographical features from aerial photographs with ease. 

The ability to change transparency of aerial imagery and OS mapping to show both simultaneously, is an important tool, allowing students to better understand the connections between the human world and the physical landscape. 

All in all, Digimap for School is a vital tool for geographical study, we use all three mapping tools OS mapping, Historical Mapping and Aerial Mapping, with all ages from 11 to 17 year olds and they find using the service intuitive. In addition, this year will have our first batch of 6th Form students using the tool, in combination with a variety of other services, to aid and resource their independent investigations.”

Kimberly Briscoe
GIS Teaching Support Coordinator
Abingdon School

 

 

Coming soon: New Roam for Digimap

As mentioned at Geoforum earlier this year, we’re currently working hard on a new version of Digimap Roam. The new-look application will bring Digimap Roam, the online mapping tool in the Digimap family, bang up to date with the latest web technologies available. Whilst the functionality will remain the same, the look and feel of the […]

SUNCAT updated

SUNCAT has been updated. Updates from the following libraries were loaded into the service over the past week. The dates displayed indicate when files were received by SUNCAT.

  • Aberdeen University (03 Jul 17)
  • Bath University (01 Aug 17)
  • Brunel University London (09 Aug 17)
  • Dundee University (01 Aug 17)
  • Glasgow University (07 Aug 17)
  • London School of Economics and Political Science (01 Aug 17)
  • Queen’s University, Belfast (03 Aug 17)
  • Sheffield Hallam University (01 Aug 17)
  • Sheffield University (01 Aug 17)
  • Society of Antiquaries of London (04 Aug 17)
  • York University (01 Aug 17)

To check on the currency of other libraries on SUNCAT please check the updates page for further details.


SUNCAT updated

SUNCAT has been updated. Updates from the following libraries were loaded into the service over the past week and a half. The dates displayed indicate when files were received by SUNCAT.

  • Bristol University (03 Aug 17)
  • British Library (10 Aug 17)
  • CONSER (Not UK Holdings) (08 Aug 17)
  • Edinburgh Napier University (01 Aug 17)
  • Imperial College London (01 Aug 17)
  • King’s College London (01 Aug 17)
  • Kingston University (01 Aug 17)
  • Lancaster University (01 Aug 17)
  • London Library (02 Aug 17)
  • Manchester University (01 Aug 17)
  • National Archives (01 Aug 17)
  • National Library of Scotland (01 Aug 17)
  • National Library of Wales (01 Aug 17)
  • Natural History Museum (01 Aug 17)
  • Northumbria University (01 Aug 17)
  • Open University (01 Aug 17)
  • Southampton University (05 Aug 17)
  • Strathclyde University (01 Aug 17)
  • Sussex University (01 Aug 17)
  • Swansea University (01 Aug 17)
  • University of Wales Trinity Saint David (01 Aug 17)

To check on the currency of other libraries on SUNCAT please check the updates page for further details.


SUNCAT updated

SUNCAT has been updated. Updates from the following libraries were loaded into the service over the past week. The dates displayed indicate when files were received by SUNCAT.

  • Cambridge University (14 Jul 17)
  • CONSER (Not UK Holdings) (08 Aug 17)
  • De Montfort University (21 Jul 17)
  • Durham University (06 Jul 17)
  • Nottingham University (01 Aug 17)
  • Oxford University (22 Jul 17)
  • Reading University (10 Jul 17)
  • St. Andrews University (17 Jul 17)
  • Southampton University (29 Jul 17)

To check on the currency of other libraries on SUNCAT please check the updates page for further details.