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On the Map with Ewan Geddes

This month’s On the Map features Ewan Geddes, a Geography teacher from Toronto. This post will highlight Ewan’s integration of ArcGIS in his grade nine Geography class through the eyes of four of his recent students. They share their experiences and takeaways using ArcGIS in the past school year.

We have known Ewan for over 15 years now, and he’s been an avid ArcGIS/ArcView user since 1998. We met him through the Ontario Association of Geographic and Environmental Education (OAGEE), where he’s been a past president and continues to be a member. He’s also a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographic Society (FRCGS), the Ontario Canadian Geographic Education Representative and a National Geographic Certified Educator.

Dedicated to using innovative technologies with his students, Ewan also works with other educators to bring innovation to their classrooms. He’s also been a leader in facilitating educator professional development on using spatial technology in teaching. To extend his students’ learning in spatial technologies, Ewan has encouraged them to explore important local issues for themselves and their community and to participate in regional competitions.

Ewan has been a big supporter of Esri Canada’s ArcGIS resources and workshops at professional development days and OAGEE conferences.  He’s always a pleasure to work with and we are thrilled to highlight him.

Image shows a man with a beard and eyeglasses, smiling.

“GIS is Geography in Action. Students have access to real-world data that allows them to develop potential solutions to problems. I like the accessibility of ArcGIS Online, especially now that many school boards have made the technology available to students via single sign on.” – Ewan Geddes on why GIS excites him.

Let’s find out what students Angelina Deng, Eunsung Tae, Crystal Wen, and Emily Wong have to say about their first-year learning ArcGIS with Mr. Geddes.

What grade are you in?

We had Mr. Geddes for Grade 9 geography, but we are now going into Grade 10 in September 2023.

What projects/activities did you do this past year with ArcGIS?

ArcGIS Survey123
We collected data around our communities using Survey123 (Unit 4 Livable Communities).  We measured the sustainability and livability of our community by inputting data. For example, amount of transit systems (bus stops, bike lanes, subway) and greenspaces (green roofs, parks, greenbelt).  It allowed us to explore ways to improve our community and make it more livable

ArcGIS StoryMaps
We used Story Maps to present our data and findings at the end of each unit. Especially the Culminating Activity: Making Toronto a World-Class City. We liked using it to showcase our learning because there were a lot of formatting options, it was easy to incorporate maps into the presentation, and  overall, we created something aesthetically pleasing.

Image shows four teenage girls smiling at the camera.

From L to R – Ewan’s students Crystal, Emily, Angelina and Eunsung.

ArcGIS Online
Throughout the school year, we have created many maps using ArcGIS Online. We learned to add layers of data, add our own map notes, and make buffers to analyse information. From all this, we were able to find interrelationships between the data which helped us expand our understanding. It allowed us to visualize where all the data were (what’s where?), making it easier to interpret the information.

Skills Ontario GIS Competition
Eunsung participated and won third place in the 2023 Skills ON GIS Competition, where she and her partner found two potential areas in Brampton, ON, for developing affordable housing targeting millennials. By incorporating information provided by Esri Canada Education, they created buffers, filtered and merged data, and clipped layers in ArcGIS Online. Finally, they created a story map to present their  future vision of Brampton.

Image shows two female students working on computers.

Every year, Ewan encourages his students to participate in the Skills Ontario competition. He emphasizes the  experience as a way to show career connections and real-world learning. This helps to get his students interested in it. Pictured here is Eunsung and her partner working through the Skills Ontario GIS question during the annual competition in May 2023.

Which one was your favorite project/activity?
Consumerism and Me (Unit 2 Resource Management) was our favourite assignment. It was to show the process of an item from extraction, production, distribution, consumption, and disposal. For this project, we were able to use ArcGIS Online and Story Maps. 

This project helped us understand how everyday objects are made from start to finish. It made us reflect on how the stages of the materials have a large effect on our lives and our planet. We enjoyed it because it opened our eyes to the process of consumerism and really made us think about what we are buying and if it is really worth all the damage.

Why do you enjoy using ArcGIS?

Diverse Applications

ArcGIS has many systems that cater to different areas such as ArcGIS Online, a mapping system and Survey123, a survey tool. This allows us to collect all kinds of data and research, both primary and secondary.

If we want the geographic perspectives of people in my community, Survey123 is the right application. After the data collection process, we can visualize my data in ArcGIS Online, and find patterns and trends on a map.

Easy Navigation

All apps in ArcGIS are straightforward and simple to use. There isn’t a steep learning curve in learning how to use the apps. However, we did get mixed up on how to filter a layer, but that was an easy fix as we either asked Mr. Geddes or did a search online.

Do you think you can use this in the future? Are you interested in pursuing a career/higher education program in GIS?

High School

We absolutely believe that we can use ArcGIS programs in the future, Angelina has used it out of geography class during another mandatory course in grade 10, Civics and Careers. In this class, she addressed the civic issue of over-logging by using Story Maps and ArcGIS Online.

There are many more apps and possibilities ArcGIS has to offer. We are excited to discover them during our high school years.

Careers with GIS

We aren’t necessarily interested in studying applied GIS, but GIS is a system that branches out to fields we’re interested in. For example, GIS is important for engineers, especially  civil engineers, to gather information on a project site. ArcGIS can also benefit us  if we wish to pursue a career in game development, especially the development of open-world type games.

What benefits do you think you gained from using ArcGIS?

ArcGIS has given us the ability to understand the world around us better. Mr. Geddes’ assignments and lessons had us use spatial significance to think and question why our community/city is the way it is. ArcGIS Online helped us see these interrelationships by mapping out different things.

Do you have a message for Mr. Geddes?

During the school year, we wrote a testimony on Mr. Geddes for the Gilles Gagnier Award. We talked about just how amazing a teacher he is, and we meant every word of it. We are forever grateful that in our first year of high school, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr. Geddes was there to teach and support us. Thank you, Mr. Geddes!

Ewan is truly the nicest teacher and he’s always happy to share his knowledge with others. You can connect with him @GeddesLife..

Thank you, Ewan for sharing your love for geography and GIS with your students and for moving geographical literacy forward in Ontario. Keep on mapping! 

About the Author

Angela Alexander is a K-12 Education Specialist in the Esri Canada Education and Research group. She has over 15 years of experience working with educators across Canada. Angela focuses on producing geographic information system (GIS) and curriculum-specific resources, and conducting and creating custom workshops for educators. She manages the GIS Ambassador Program and is the Technical Chair for the annual Skills Ontario GIS competition. Angela also writes monthly posts for the Esri Canada Education and Research blog, highlighting K-12 educators and partners, new ArcGIS resources and GIS-related events.

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