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On the Map with Jean-Pierre Barrette

Jean-Pierre, an Ottawa-based teacher, discusses how he uses geographic information systems (GIS) in his grade 9 and 11 geography and environmental science courses.

Jean-Pierre was introduced to GIS in 2016 while he was working for Conseil scolaire catholique MonAvenir (MonAvenir Catholic School Board) in Toronto. At that time, a colleague presented him with an oil sands project using maps from the ArcGIS platform. The same year, he attended a workshop by Krista Amolins from the Esri Canada’s Education & Research team where she demonstrated the Map Viewer tools in ArcGIS Online.

It was after this introduction that Jean-Pierre started using GIS and created his own version of the oil sands activity, considering the impact on the environment and Aboriginal communities, for his grade 11 Spatial Technologies course.

Jean-Pierre, tell us about the activity you organized for your Grade 11 students.

For the original oil sands project in Canada, the grade 11 students in the Spatial Technologies course were required to create a map using ArcGIS Online. To do this, the students search for data in ArcGIS Online and add layers to their map featuring oil sand fields, pipeline routes and First Nations territories in Canada. The students are then tasked with modifying the pipeline symbols so that each pipeline has its own distinct colour.

The students must then research and identify this industry’s impact on the natural environment and on the First Nations territory, especially in connection with hunting and fishing traditions in the area surrounding bitumen extraction. In my version of this activity, I also asked the students to add a layer of oil wells in a marine environment as well as a layer of CO2 emissions released by the oil industry. This project ties in with the theme of environmental sustainability covered in the geography course.

This image is an excerpt from Jean-Pierre’s video where he demonstrates the oil sands project. In the bottom left-hand corner, Jean-Pierre is shown in a circle at shoulder level. He is speaking. His left hand is in the foreground, frozen in action as he makes gestures to support his message. Jean-Pierre is wearing a plain black sweater. He is Caucasian and bald with discreetly framed glasses. There is a white wall behind him. Next to the circle showing Jean-Pierre is a bar for video control. The bar features a square representing Stop, the video timer corresponding to 14:19, an arrow pointing to the left signifying reverse, two parallel lines signifying pause, and a trash can icon. This control bar is black, and the elements are white except for the square which is red. The control bar is behind the circle showing Jean-Pierre, with the oil sands mapping project within the ArcGIS Online Map Viewer interface. A white bar at the top of the page contains, from left to right, three small superimposed lines giving access to the menu, the title: Carte des sables bitumineux (Oil Sands Map), a pencil icon, the words: Ouvrir dans Map Viewer Classic (Open in Map Viewer Classic), a bell icon with the number 1 in a blue circle, a square made up of nine small three-by-three dots, an icon of a human silhouette, then the words: ''Jean_Pierre Barrette'' and ''barreje''.  On the far left, a vertical menu bar runs from the bottom of the image to the white bar. This menu bar contains nine different white icons on a black background.  When the second icon is selected, the words "Ajouter une couche" (Add a layer) are shown in a panel just below the white bar aligned with Jean-Pierre. Under these words is a portion of the map of Canada and the United States with a red line running through it. The featured section contains the Great Lakes, among others. The central section of the image is a map of Canada stretching from New Brunswick to Alberta, without going beyond Hudson's Bay to the north, and includes a good part of the southern United States. The mainland parts of the map are white, with some shading where there is topography. There are a few labels: Great Plains, St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit, Toronto, Washington, Philadelphia, Boston, Montréal, Lake Superior, Calgary, Edmonton, Canada, Hudson's Bay, Great Slave Lake. A line runs from the shores of the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick to just east of Edmonton and north of Calgary. There are burgundy and green spots on the territory. In a panel on the right are the words "Couches" in grey, "Transcanada East West Pipeline Proposal - Transcanada East West Pipeline Proposal" in white, "Aboriginal Land Types in Canada" in dark grey, "OilSandsProjectBoundaries" in dark grey, ''OSProjectPoints2015'' in dark grey, ’Afficher dans la légende de la carte’’ in black and ''Transcanada East West Pipeline Proposal - Transcanada East West Pipeline Proposal'' in black, followed by a dark orange line the same colour as the line on the map. The panel itself is black for two-thirds of the way up, and white for the last third. On the far right is a vertical menu bar like the one on the left, but this one is white with black icons. The first icon is selected, and its background is gray rather than white like the others. Nine icons are superimposed.

The video of Jean-Pierre Barrette's project on oil sands for the grade 11 course (in French)

What about the grade 9 Geography course?

This project can also be used for the grade 9 geography course, since it covers natural resources, primary industries and their sustainability, as well as the natural environment. For this course, I use maps and narrative maps such as the physiographic regions map (in French) and the hydrographic networks map.

For both grades 11 and 9, the educational approaches are to analyze the facts, demonstrate the challenges and prove the sustainability of the environment. The bolded verbs are the verbs promoted in the program for activities with students. They also represent the approach to be taken in culminating assessments such as projects and tests.

What were the students' reactions after using the tools?

For students who learn best through imagery, maps and concept networks, ArcGIS Online and Map Viewer are a gift, because all of the data is represented in a visual format as opposed to columns of written names and numbers in a document or spreadsheet application. These students find it easy to work with mapping tools.

For students who are more comfortable learning with numbers or text, using mapping tools is less intuitive. As a result, their reactions are less enthusiastic. The narrative maps in ArcGIS StoryMaps are well suited to the needs of this second group, as they focus more on context relating to geographic information than on map design and data processing.

Looking ahead, what are your plans for using GIS in the classroom?

I plan to transform my roadmaps for the oil sands project into narrative maps using ArcGIS StoryMaps. Also, for the oil sands project in my grade 11 and 9 geography classes, I would like the students to create reports in narrative map format by embedding their maps created in Map Viewer.

Together with a colleague, we also started using ArcGIS StoryMaps as an option for 9th graders as part of the final project about creating a sustainable community. This project consists of creating a community with all the potential variables to make it sustainable, for both people and the environment. The community must satisfy human needs, wants and desires, be efficient and ensure that people live in harmony. Their community must also include elements to protect the environment, reduce greenhouse gases and ensure that all these issues are organized and managed as effectively as possible. So far, the students have had to create physical displays for this project; I want to fully convert this project to a digital format. The narrative map and ArcGIS Online tools provide visual aids where students can present their work.

On a broader level in the school and in our school board, the current dream is to spark interest in using ArcGIS and ArcGIS StoryMaps as an everyday tool for learning in geography, environmental sciences and many other disciplines. My colleague and I are currently in discussions with management and the board to see if it would be possible to structure access to ArcGIS tools using single authentication. This would enable all students and teachers to have direct access to the tools without having to administer the creation of accounts.

Our thanks to Jean-Pierre for sharing his use of GIS with his students! We look forward to seeing how this develops over the years to come.

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This post was written in French by Arabelle Sauvé and can be viewed here.