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The implementation and effectiveness of geographic information systems technology and methods in secondary education

, University of Colorado at Boulder, United States

University of Colorado at Boulder . Awarded


Geographic information systems (GIS) technology and methods have transformed decision-making in universities, government, and industry by bringing digital spatial data sets and geographic analysis to the desktop computer. Some educators consider GIS to be one of the most promising means for implementing educational reform. However, GIS technology has been adopted by only 1% of American high schools. The reasons behind the interest in GIS technology and methods, their slow implementation, their extent in the curriculum, and their effectiveness in teaching and learning are unclear.

To address these concerns, this research: (1) describes the geographic and curricular extent to which GIS technology and methods are being implemented in secondary education in the United States, (2) explains why and how GIS is being implemented, and (3) assesses the effects of inquiry-based lesson modules that use GIS technology on teaching and on the acquisition of standards-based geographic content and skills. A survey of high schools that own GIS software provided primary data to describe and explain the extent of the implementation. A set of pre- and post-test experiments and case studies in three Colorado high schools provided primary data for assessing the effects of GIS.

GIS provides the opportunity for issues-based, student-centered, standards-based, inquiry-oriented education, but its effectiveness is limited primarily by social and structural barriers. Technological barriers to the adoption of GIS, such as limited hardware and software, were found to be less significant than time required to develop GIS-based lesson modules, inadequate student access to computers, inadequate training, and pressure to teach a given amount of content during each term. GIS is being implemented primarily by veteran science teachers at public high schools who perceive that GIS provides real-world relevance, provides interdisciplinary education, and increases student interest. These teachers persist in developing and implementing inquiry-based GIS-based lesson modules despite perceived lack of time and training. Results of experiments with standardized and spatial analysis tests were mixed, although students using GIS performed significantly better on their assignments than those using traditional methods. Case studies showed that GIS changes teacher and student roles, communication, and methods of teaching and learning.


Kerski, J.J. The implementation and effectiveness of geographic information systems technology and methods in secondary education. Ph.D. thesis, University of Colorado at Boulder. Retrieved December 14, 2018 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 23, 2013. [Original Record]

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Cited By

  1. Reflections on editing the special CITE Issue - Geospatial technologies in teacher education

    Thomas Baker, Esri, United States; Elizabeth Langran, Marymount University, United States

    Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2016 (Mar 21, 2016) pp. 1631–1635

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