Saturday, July 25, 2009

GIS for Schools: GIS in secondary school

ESRI (UK) today announced ‘GIS for Schools’, a new programme offering improved access to GIS technology to help teachers meet curriculum requirements and make lessons more engaging. Designed to help students learn more effectively, the CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) initiative has been designed to overcome the barriers to teachers using GIS in schools. So far 35 schools have signed-up to the new scheme.

Already used in a number of schools around the UK, GIS became part of the national curriculum for Geography at GCSE and A-level in 2008 and its uptake in schools is expected to rise. Most teachers do not have time or budget to become trained GIS experts and need to apply new technologies mandated by the curriculum as easily as possible. ESRI (UK)’s new programme makes GIS straightforward to use through online lesson plans and short video tutorials, mapped directly to the curriculum. Containing all necessary software, maps, data, lesson plans and online tutorials for an annual cost of £250, GIS for Schools costs less than half the normal price for the ESRI software alone.

"As one of the UK’s largest GIS companies we recognised that many schools were struggling to get started with GIS, particularly as it’s now on the curriculum in England and Wales. GIS helps students learn more effectively and we’ve created the scheme to make it more available to them. Our vision is to get GIS into every secondary school over the next five years,” explained Richard Waite, Managing Director, ESRI (UK). “It’s not a money-making venture for us – this is about helping teachers to help children learn more effectively. Future plans include similar schemes for primary schools and universities and expanding the programme across other subjects such as history and biology."

Historically, GIS has not been easily accessible to teachers, with many software companies just offering standard software at discounted prices. ESRI (UK)’s GIS for Schools not only offers vastly discounted software, but includes the necessary resources wrapped around it, so teachers can take advantage of its benefits quickly and easily. GIS in the classroom can be used in a variety of ways from plotting information sources on a map, to examining population migration or urban redevelopment.

“GIS helps students to have an increased understanding of geography, make more informed decisions and it brings the subject to life,” commented David Lambert, Professor of Geography Education & Chief Executive of the Geographical Association. “A modern method which aids geographical investigation, students relate well to GIS. It not only develops their ICT abilities but the mental skills need for problem-solving and understanding of relationships in the environment, better preparing them for future employment or Higher Education."

"GIS for Schools is perfect for us, as the package addresses all of our concerns with getting up to speed with GIS, in support of the curriculum,” said Steve Yetman, Teacher of Geography and ICT at the Royal Grammar School in Guildford. “Having all the elements of GIS software, data, lesson plans and mini training videos combined, at such a good price, make it a great way to start applying it in the classroom sooner rather than later."

At the centre of GIS for Schools is a new website:, where schools sign-up to the scheme and receive access to resources such as lesson plans and tutorials downloadable as pod-casts. ESRI (UK)’s long-term objective is to build an online GIS community and create a forum where teachers submit their own lesson plans, swap advice and discuss problems.

Key features of GIS for Schools:

* ESRI (UK) software is easy to install and use, teachers don’t need IT support
* A more basic version of software is available for KS3 and KS4 while a more advanced version caters to A-level for more sophisticated GIS analysis
* New data bundle designed for schools to use with the GIS software, consists of OS map data, census data, aerial photography – saves schools paying for data separately
* Fast-start online lesson plans show how to teach topics using software and map data
* Short online video tutorials link with lesson plans and curriculum to support self-learning


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