GIS in AP Human Geography: a Means of Developing Students’ Spatial Thinking?

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Geography education is undergoing change in K-12 education due in part to the introduction of geospatial technologies, including geographic information systems (GIS). Although active engagement in GIS mapping would seem to enhance students’ spatial thinking, little is known about the mapping strategies that students employ or about changes in their geographic knowledge that would result. This study, set in a high school Advanced Placement human geography class, sought to contribute to these areas of inquiry. Participants performed a web-based GIS task focused on global population and migration. Attention in the study was on (a) the strategies students employed when investigating ... continued below

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vi, 150 pages : color illustrations

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Webster, Megan L. May 2015.

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  • Webster, Megan L.

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Description

Geography education is undergoing change in K-12 education due in part to the introduction of geospatial technologies, including geographic information systems (GIS). Although active engagement in GIS mapping would seem to enhance students’ spatial thinking, little is known about the mapping strategies that students employ or about changes in their geographic knowledge that would result. This study, set in a high school Advanced Placement human geography class, sought to contribute to these areas of inquiry. Participants performed a web-based GIS task focused on global population and migration. Attention in the study was on (a) the strategies students employed when investigating geographic phenomena using GIS, (b) changes in their cognitive maps, as assessed through sketch maps, resulting from the activity, (c) the relationship between GIS maps and sketch maps, and (d) the ways in which a subset of students serving as case studies explained the nature of their mapping. The study employed screen-captures, video-recordings, observations, pre- and post-study sketch maps, and interviews. Analyses of the GIS process revealed that, in creating their maps, the students used a number of strategies, which included searching, layering, removing layers of data, adjusting transparency, editing, and noting. Although searching and layering were employed by all students, there was variability across students in use of the other strategies. With respect to changes in their spatial thinking, analyses of the sketch maps showed increases in elaboration and accuracy in terms of migration patterns. When GIS maps were compared to sketch maps, analyses showed relations for many students. The six students who served as case studies revealed major connections between personal interests and the reasoning employed in mapping. They also described their entry points into the process. The study shows how real-time data collection, including screen captures, as well as more static measures, specifically sketch maps, can provide insights into the spatial thinking of students while using GIS. It provides some support to educational approaches to geography in which students become creators of maps, not simply users of maps, and suggests that, through their own mapping process, students expand their cognitive maps and enhance their spatial thinking.

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vi, 150 pages : color illustrations

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  • May 2015

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  • Feb. 9, 2016, 4:37 p.m.

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  • April 3, 2017, 8:46 a.m.

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Webster, Megan L. GIS in AP Human Geography: a Means of Developing Students’ Spatial Thinking?, dissertation, May 2015; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc801894/: accessed November 12, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .