Simple geospatial technologies

Introduction

Recent developments in digital technology mean that the Internet is being used more and more to deliver complex spatial information. Simple geospatial technologies typically offer a basic 'front-end', online interface that allows users to interact (to varying degrees) with spatial data. Spatial data is numerical, visual or textual data that is linked to a place on the earth and can be displayed as such.

The video Introduction to geospatial technologies (duration, 02:09) provides more detail on the features of simple geospatial technologies. 

A number of factors can inhibit the take-up of spatial technologies in schools, such as access to hardware and software, intimidating software, insufficient time to learn how to use the software, and levels of technology training for teachers. Modern, online delivery of spatial information can support teachers and students to deal with all of these factors.

Classroom application

With regard to Bloom's Taxonomy (2001), simple geospatial technologies easily allow students to remember, understand and apply knowledge. In a geographical inquiry, simple geospatial technologies are best suited to examining the 'where' aspects of an issue, identifying patterns and creating simple maps or figures to represent those patterns. Bloom's Digital Taxonomy provides excellent information on how Bloom's Taxonomy fits in today's digital world.

Most simple geospatial technologies are based around a single theme or issue, for example, Geoscience Australia's Sentinel (a national bushfire monitoring system) and the World Resources Institute's Reefs at risk revisited map. They also provide the user with a limited set of tools to navigate and sometimes analyse data. Students can use the Reefs at risk revisited map, for example, to navigate to locations along the Great Barrier Reef to demonstrate 'remembering' skills, or reproduce a map of threats to reefs in an area to demonstrate 'understanding'. If students were to comment on how the threat level on the Great Barrier Reef changes as population increases, as evident on the satellite image, they would be 'applying' a knowledge. 

Simple geospatial technologies are most often used in the classroom to display patterns evident in a unit of work or issue while addressing lower-order thinking skills. 

Although limited, there are opportunities to address higher-order thinking skills with simple geospatial technologies. For instance, when viewing the distribution of bushfires in their area during different times of the year, students are 'analysing'. If students examine seasonal variations in the bushfire hazard across different parts of Australia while examining seasonal weather patterns, they are 'analysing' and 'evaluating'. For a classroom resource using this tool, see Contour Education's Simple geospatial technologies blog. 

On many occasions you will be able to use an Internet site with a data projector to give the entire class an opportunity to observe and comment on any relevant patterns in the data. The 'Resources' section below includes a list of resources that can be used to visualise information in front of the entire class with a data projector, or be used by individual students working through an activity or exercise. 

Interactive maps provides a regularly updated collection of online geospatial technologies.

SpatialGenie

SpatialGenie is a geospatial analysis tool that contains data relevant in the Australian context. It contains datasets on:

  • Australia's population
  • protected areas
  • environmental surveys such as hydrogeology and vegetation change over 200 years
  • hazard data (including live earthquake data from US Geological Survey)
  • 100 years of Australian cyclone tracks
  • earthquakes
  • landslides
  • volcanoes around the world
  • live bushfire hotspots in Australia. 

Access to the tool is free but requires registration. SpatialGenie contains curriculum documents for a range of subjects including geography.

Using simple geospatial technologies

The vast majority of simple geospatial technologies are online and use a familiar interface. Typically they will be freely accessible (sometimes via a free registration process) and they will have limited tools for the user. 

Most simple geospatial technology applications use Google Maps or Bing Maps as their base where navigation can be undertaken using the onscreen navigation tools or using the mouse. Students can learn how to access and browse these sites – click the mouse and drag the map across the screen to pan, scroll in or out with the scroll button on the mouse to zoom. 

Some of these applications also provide the user with limited tools to interact with the data in the map. The names of these tools will vary but there are some terms that are common to many applications. Look out for an Identify tool to allow you to view the data contained within a feature on the map, such as a point.

The Simple geospatial technologies blog provides classroom and professional learning resources for teachers using the Australian Curriculum: Geography.

Resources

Books and articles:

Churches, A. (2009). Bloom's Digital Taxonomy. Retrieved October 2012, from: https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=http%3A%2F%2Fedorigami.wikispaces.com%2Ffile%2Fview%2Fbloom%2527s%2BDigital%2Btaxonomy%2Bv3.01.pdf.

Video:

YouTube. Introduction to geospatial technologies (duration, 02:09). Retrieved January 2013, from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6IzhePkuxc.

Websites:

Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). Australian Curriculum: Geography. Retrieved May 2013, from: www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/Geography/Rationale.

Australian Government. Geoscience Australia. Sentinel. Retrieved October 2012, from: http://sentinel.ga.gov.au/acres/sentinel/index.shtml.

Contour Education. Interactive maps. Retrieved October 2012, from: http://www.contoureducation.com/links.

Contour Education. Simple geospatial technologies. This website has a blog and provides resources for use in the classroom and for professional learning. Retrieved October 2012, from: http://geogspacesimplegeospatial.blogspot.com.au/.

SpatialGenie. Retrieved October 2012, from: http://www.spatialgenie.edu.au/spatialgenie.

World Resources Institute. Reefs at risk revisited. Retrieved October 2012, from: http://www.wri.org/publication/reefs-at-risk-revisited.

Other relevant resources are contained in the sections above.