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GIS in the classroom: David Scott – a GIS believer

Every year the K-12 group has the opportunity to meet interesting teachers who want to do cool things with their students using GIS. I had the good fortune to meet one such teacher in 2013. Find out what David Scott's been doing with ArcGIS Online in his geography and science classes.

I first met high school geography and science teacher David Scott at the Science Teachers' Association of Ontario Conference (STAO) in 2013. I remember his excitement as he approached the Esri Canada exhibit table. He’d been introduced to geographic information systems (GIS) while he was working on his undergrad degree at Nipissing University. David shared his interest in GIS with me and his belief that it’s valuable in education, allowing teachers to use it beyond the geography classroom.

David’s been teaching with GIS on and off for the last five years at Huntsville High School in Muskoka, Ontario. He began using ArcView 3.2 for a few years with his grade 9 geography classes. To explore Canadian geography, the students created maps of Canada and terrestrial ecozones. In addition, students in his environmental science classes used ArcView to map pipelines as a part of a project on environmental impact assessment.

During our first meeting, David was introduced to ArcGIS Online. He believed it would be a good alternative to the desktop software because it requires no set up time and the data is already included. I could see the wheels turning in his mind as he was thinking of ways he could include it in his teaching.

David Scott, a teacher who sees the value of GIS in education.

David’s been actively using ArcGIS Online for the past year now. He began with using Esri Canada resources, but now he’s moved on to creating his own activities. One of his activities was created for his Earth and Space Science students on weathering and erosion, where they use data readily available on craters to determine some of their characteristics, including their age. Most recently, students in his World Geography class used ArcGIS Online to explore a current border dispute. After researching the reasons and current location of borders, the students created a new border for the disputed area on their maps and defended their decision.

David would like to learn more about the deeper analytical abilities of ArcGIS Online, so he can include them in his teaching and he plans to expand the use of the online software to his grade 9 geography classes in the near future. Recently, he told me that GIS is the most effective way to study spatial information, find patterns and analyze data. He said his students love the interactive nature of the software and enjoy that they have full control of what their maps look like and how they are created.

Aging impact craters using ArcGIS Online, an activity created by David Scott for his Earth and Space Science students.

He has yet to implement ArcGIS for Desktop in his classes, as he believes ArcGIS Online has suited his needs, so far. However, he has set up two computer labs at the school with the desktop software installed and he plans to introduce it to his geography students, as they will be designing an independent geographic study before the end of the year.

We look forward to hearing more about David’s GIS adventures and hope that he continues the great work.

Read more stories about teachers who are using GIS in the classroom and share your GIS experiences with us.

About the Author

Angela Alexander is a K-12 Education Resource Developer on the Esri Canada Education and Research team. She has over six years of experience working with educators across Canada. Angela is responsible for producing geographic information system (GIS) and curriculum specific resources, conducting and creating custom workshops for educators and judging and developing the question for the annual GIS Skills Ontario competition in Waterloo, Ontario. Angela has a Bachelor’s degree in Geography and Sociology from the University of Western Ontario and completed the Applied Digital Geography and GIS certificate program at Ryerson University.

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