Monday, April 17, 2006

National Report Emphasizes Importance of GIS in Education

April 14, 2006

ESRI and Partners Lead in Development and Delivery

Redlands, California—A new report from the National Research Council (NRC) stresses the importance of spatial thinking in everyone's life. Learning to Think Spatially: GIS as a Support System in the K–12 Curriculum recommends embedding spatial thinking across the K–12 curriculum. According to the report, geographic information system (GIS) technology can play a powerful role in promoting spatial thinking.

The study, supported by grants from the USGS, NASA, National Geographic Society Education Foundation, National Science Foundation, and ESRI, began in 2000 and brought together experts in geographic education and educational psychology. The panel heard from key organizations and individuals active in GIS education and outreach including instructors and curriculum developers who promote integrative and problem-based inquiry approaches to education. As constant proponents of the value of GIS and geographic inquiry in education, ESRI and a number of educators who use ESRI technology gave substantial input.

"A blue ribbon committee has validated the importance of spatial thinking in everyday life and recommended its inclusion across the curriculum in all grades," says Charlie Fitzpatrick, comanager of the ESRI K–12 Education Program for ESRI. "We continually witness the power of spatial analysis and the value of integrating data to explore situations and solve problems," echoes George Dailey, ESRI K–12 Education Program comanager for ESRI. "The process is the same, whether it's a fifth grader using the National Geographic MapMachine to look at earth science topics or a wildland fire expert tracking a blaze with ArcGIS."

Ultimately, the NRC report had six formal recommendations:

* There should be a national commitment to the systematic educational efforts necessary to meet the goal of spatial literacy.
* There should be a coordinated effort among GIS designers, psychologists, and educators to redesign GIS to accommodate the needs of the K–12 education community.
* A federation of GIS education partners should be established.
* Working in collaboration, GIS system designers, educational IT specialists, and teachers should develop guidelines for a model GIS-enabled school.
* Working in collaboration, representatives of colleges of education and GIS educators should establish guidelines for pre- and in-service teacher training programs for teaching spatial thinking using GIS, and develop a model standards-based curriculum for teaching about GIS.
* A research program should be developed to see whether or not an understanding of GIS improves academic achievement across the curriculum.

ESRI and its educational business partners are committed to expanding spatial literacy via GIS technology. Through the production of standards-based curriculum materials and skills-oriented training packages, support of teacher professional development, and enhancement of both standard software and education-specific software, ESRI and its partners already have years of experience working toward the recommendations in the NRC report.

For more information about the NRC report, visit For information about ESRI and GIS education, visit



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