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New Free GIS and Geography Teaching Resources

Thursday, September 6th 2012
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Summary:

It’s “back to school” time once again! K-12 and higher education faculty and those who lead informal programs are preparing for this year’s geography and GIS students. Executive Editor Adena Schutzberg found several resources geared more toward instructors, but valuable to students as well.

The resources below, mostly announced in the last few months, are geared more toward instructors, but are valuable to students as well.

1) Python is the hot new open source language used across geospatial technology, most notably in Esri products. Want to learn it for free? Check out the new course offered by Codecademy, the company that introduced CodeYear, a 12-month JavaScript course online for 2012. The fully online Python course uses Python 2.7.3.

2) Remember, back in 2010, when the National Research Council report titled “Understanding the Changing Planet: Strategic Directions in the Geographical Sciences” came out? The Association of American Geographers now offers a companion website, The Geographic Advantage.

This website provides 11 geographic investigations aligned to the geographic questions in the NRC Understanding Our Changing Planet report. The report focuses on the future directions in the geographical sciences and how these key questions will guide research to help us understand the planet on which we live.

The lesson plans include learning objectives, and reference publicly available interactive maps and videos.

3) Google World Wonders is a new site for learning about the world. Google’s press relations firm sent this description.

The Google World Wonders Project is a platform that brings world heritage sites of the modern and ancient world online. Using Google’s Street View technology, 3D modelling, photos, videos and in-depth information, you will be able to explore the world’s treasures from your classroom. There are many interesting geographical locations available to explore on the site, including the Banks of the Seine in Paris, Yosemite National Park in the USA and the Dorset & East Devon Coast. Viewing geographical locations as they are today can help your students to visualise and understand the significance of the subjects they’re studying. It really helps bring the subject to life.

Google is also offering three free and easy-to-use Geography resources, available to download from the site, which are designed to support teachers in delivering Geography in a fun, engaging and thought-provoking way. The resources are clear, well-structured and offer many ideas for using the Google World Wonders Project site in the classroom. The suggested activities are relevant for a variety of different locations and could be a useful inspiration for a range of geography topics.

4) EduContribution is a non-profit hoping to link up students with know-how and non-profits with GIS needs. The Donate Your Thesis effort seeks graduate students for a pilot project that will match them with a non-profit. The students will perform the work as part of a thesis requirement at their institution.

5) MapStory is a new mapping portal aimed at collecting datasets of all kinds.

MapStory, as a compliment [sic] to Wikipedia, is a new dimension to the global data commons that empowers a global user community to organize all knowledge about the world spatially and temporally. Perhaps more important, MapStory is an infrastructure for enabling “MapStorytelling” as a means of communicating important issues to a global audience. The goal is to enable any student, teacher or practitioner on Earth to tap the power of this new mode of conveying one’s stories, arrayed across geography and as they unfold over time. MapStory will become the convening point where MapStorytellers of all kinds come to publish their expressions, and to critique each other’s MapStories, leading to a consistently accumulating and improving global body of knowledge about global dynamics, worldwide, over the course of history.

The resources for educators page is a good way to explore its potential for teaching and learning.

6) Do you need a search tool that focuses exclusively on GIS education? Tom Baker of Esri announced one at his Edgis.org website. My understanding is that it’s a Google custom search on a number of education and career GIS websites.

7) Open Educational Resources (OER), those available for educators (and students) to use without a fee, but typically with attribution, can help educators building new courses or those just looking for a specific lesson. Among the new Penn State Geography/GIS courses available under such a license is its Location Intelligence for Business class (full listing of all PSU geography/GIS courseware). OER Commons offers a searchable platform for OER resources for many disciplines. The listing of OER GIS courses is quite extensive.


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