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Web mapping involves publishing and using maps via the Internet, and can range from presenting static maps to offering dynamic data querying and spatial analysis. Web mapping is seen as a promising way to support development of spatial thinking in the classroom but there are unanswered questions about how this promise plays out in reality. This article examines the resource demands and pedagogical value of Web mapping for geographical education for the case of an undergraduate introductory geography course designed to develop spatial thinking in students. Web mapping can be effective but is subject to a range of pedagogical, institutional, and technological caveats and corollaries.
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Journal of Geography
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Resource Needs and Pedagogical Value of Web Mapping
for Spatial Thinking
Steven Manson
, Jerry Shannon
, Sami Eria
, Len Kne
, Kevin Dyke
, Sara Nelson
, Lalit
, Dudley Bonsal
, Melinda Kernik
, Jennifer Immich
& Laura Matson
Department of Geography University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
Published online: 12 Dec 2013.
To cite this article: Steven Manson, Jerry Shannon, Sami Eria, Len Kne, Kevin Dyke, Sara Nelson, Lalit Batra, Dudley Bonsal,
Melinda Kernik, Jennifer Immich & Laura Matson (2014) Resource Needs and Pedagogical Value of Web Mapping for Spatial
Thinking, Journal of Geography, 113:3, 107-117, DOI: 10.1080/00221341.2013.790915
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Resource Needs and Pedagogical Value of Web Mapping
for Spatial Thinking
Steven Manson, Jerry Shannon, Sami Eria, Len Kne, Kevin Dyke, Sara Nelson, Lalit Batra, Dudley
Bonsal, Melinda Kernik, Jennifer Immich, and Laura Matson
Web mapping involves publishing and using
maps via the Internet, and can range from
presenting static maps to offering dynamic
data querying and spatial analysis. Web
mapping is seen as a promising way to
support development of spatial thinking in the
classroom but there are unanswered questions
about how this promise plays out in reality.
This article examines the resource demands
and pedagogical value of Web mapping for
geographical education for the case of an
undergraduate introductory geography course
designed to develop spatial thinking in
students. Web mapping can be effective but is
subject to a range of pedagogical, institutional,
and technological caveats and corollaries.
Key Words: cartography, digital maps,
geographic information science (GISci),
Internet, technology
Steven Manson is an associate professor in the
Department of Geography at the University of
Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, where
he directs the Human-Environment Geographic
Information Science lab. He combines environmental
research, social science, and geographic information
science to understand complex human-environment
systems. Dr. Manson teaches in the areas of geo-
graphic information science and spatial analysis of
human-environment systems.
The coauthors were teaching assistants and instruc-
tors for the Mapping Our World course; they helped
develop t he course and write this article.
Growing numbers of geographers see Web mapping as an important way to
develop spatial thinking in the classroom. Web mapping involves publishing and
using maps on the Internet. It originated two decades ago with displaying static
maps as images on a Web page but has evolved to allow users to query data
and perform spatial analysis online. Interest in Web mapping for geographical
education is growing in large part because this approach promises to enhance
student learning while imposing fewer resource demands than other forms of
mapping, such as desktop GIS (geographic information systems) and cartography,
but t here are unanswered questions about its pedagogical value and resource
Understanding the applicability of Web mapping to geographical education is
critical given the need for greater spatial literacy coupled with the rapid adoption
of geospatial technologies (NRC 2006). Over the last twenty years there has been
remarkable growth in spatial technologies, such as in-vehicle navigation systems
and satellite imaging of the Earth, alongside developments in instructional
technology such as computing and Web-based learning. The National Research
Council (NRC) report Learning to Think Spatially (2006) describes the combination
of instructional and spatial technology as a form of spatial thinking, “an integrator
and a facilitator for problem solving across the curriculum.” The NRC goes
on to note that many challenges remain when applying spatial thinking in the
classroom, among t hem how to use technology in the way that best supports
Web mapping is used by millions of people and interest continues to grow in
employing it to support spatial thinking in the classroom, but many questions
remain about the resource demands of this approach and its value for student
learning. Most significantly, there is little research evaluating the usability of
various Web-mapping platforms and identifying the most pressing obstacles to
its effective use in the classroom. We draw on a case study of an introductory
geography course for university students. We examined resource demands of
Web mapping, including institutional support for classroom space and student
computing; effort necessary to learn Web mapping; and technological and
institutional resources necessary to create and support Web-mapping systems.
We assessed several facets of the pedagogical value of Web mapping, including
its potential to support sufficient analytical depth and engagement with key
geographical concepts; issues related to data, relevance, and local engagement;
capacity for customization and interactivity; and the implications of uncertain
longevity of Web-mapping platforms. Examining the issues of resource demands
and pedagogical value advances understanding of the promise and pitfalls of
Web mapping for geographical education.
Web Mapping
Web mapping is a widespread phenomenon with roots in the emergence of the
World Wide Web in the early 1990s. We use the term Web mapping to describe
the delivery of maps over the Internet because this usage is adopted by many
practitioners (Haklay, Singleton, and Parker 2008; Ballatore et al. 2011). The term
Internet mapping is also applicable and in some ways more accurate given that
mapping over the Internet relies on more than just the World Wide Web protocols
Journal of Geography 113: 107–117
2014 National Council for Geographic Education 107
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Manson et al.
implied by Web mapping, but this term is also commonly
applied to practice of mapping the physical structure of the
Internet and its flows of information. The terms Web GIS and
Internet GIS are also used, but these terms tend to describe
software designed to complement or even supplant the
analytical capacity of desktop GIS, with less focus on map
display as such.
Web-mapping applications were initially developed to
publish simple maps over the Internet but more sophisti-
cated and varied projects soon followed. Among the first
were applications developed by Xerox in 1993 to publish
maps via the Internet, soon followed by the United States
Census Bureau creating the Tiger Mapping Service in
1995, which allowed people to graphically query census
data. A year later, the United States Geologic Survey
launched GeoData Online, a Website for downloading map
data (Reed 2003; Plewe 1997). The U.S. National Science
Foundation funded several projects in 1994 under the
Digital Libraries Initiatives to support the development and
research of geographic information and making it available
on the Internet. These projects often originated in the public
sector as a result of mandates to develop and distribute
maps and data (Abel et al. 1998).
The number and variety of individuals and organizations
that used the Web to publish maps grew rapidly as
technology improved. Web mapping made its way to the
broader public in various forms, such as MapQuest in
1996 and Google Maps in 2005 (Plewe 1997; Fairhurst
2005). Commercial Web-mapping solutions became avail-
able from companies such as Intergraph, which released
GeoMedia WebMap in 1996, and Environmental Systems
Research Institute (Esri), which released ArcIMS (Internet
Map Server) in 2000. Low cost and free sources of mapping
also debuted in the mid-1990s, including open source
projects such as MapServer and Geoserver, joined later by
free Web mapping offered by private enterprise sites such
as GeoIQ’s GeoCommons (acquired by Esri in late 2012),
Google Maps, and Esri’s ArcGIS Online. There are now
dozens of options available for Web mapping.
Publishing maps via the Web operates much like any
other Web-based service. At its most generic, information
is stored on servers and accessed over the Internet by client
computers using Web-browsing software or specialized
applications. This client-server approach is ideal for data in-
tensive applications because the server accomplishes most
of the processing and leaves display and user interaction to
the client. In the specific case of Web mapping, the Web
server stores spatial data and accompanying attributes,
processes these data, and then sends them to client applica-
tions as maps via a variety of Web protocols, ranging from
images on a Web browser to more sophisticated streams
of information designed to be ingested and used by other
mapping applications (Peng and Tsou 2003; Fu and Sun
2010). The exact configuration of these systems can vary,
including free and open source software (FOSS) running on
servers located within an educational institution and also
propriety software run by third-party enterprises, such as
Esri’s online mapping system.
Web Mapping for Education
The rise of Web mapping has fueled specific interest in
educational applications. Many classes go beyond using
paper maps or atlases and rely on desktop computer
GIS software. This trend is likely to continue because
the desktop computing approach offers sophisticated and
powerful mapping capabilities. Courses also use more
traditional forms of mapping, such as pen-and-ink exercises
on vellum and stencil lettering, although desktop software
is increasingly the norm. The appeal of Web mapping over
desktop GIS or analog methods for many educators is
that it promises a rich mapping experience while reducing
resource demands on students, instructors, and institutions.
What remains, however, are open questions about the extent
to which Web mapping can support the pedagogical needs
of geographical education.
Desktop mapping systems are likely here to stay for
some time because they are home to powerful and flexible
mapping and analysis systems. Sinton and Lund (2006)
detail GIS applications across social studies, natural sci-
ences, and humanities. Several studies examine the use of
virtual globes on the desktop, such as using Google Earth
in a literature course to tour the places named in reading
assignments or as a way of visualizing global Internet
use (Rakshit and Ogneva-Himmelberger 2008; Lamb and
Johnson 2010). Hespanha, Goodchild, and Janelle (2009)
examine archaeological examples such as using artifact
location to infer social structures. Favier and van der Schee
(2009) focus on combining fieldwork and GIS to understand
phenomena ranging from traffic patterns to microclimate.
Kerski (2008) describes the use of historical satellite images
as an educational tool, while Hall-Wallace and McAuliffe
(2002) created a GIS module for an introductory geosciences
course. Kolvoord (2008) examines projects for secondary
school classes using ArcExplorer, a lightweight desktop GIS
application. These are but a few of many applications of
desktop GIS in the classroom ranging from the elementary
level through to postsecondary settings.
Web mapping is increasingly used as an alternative
or complement to desktop GIS and this trend is set to
accelerate (Kerski, Milson, and Demirci 2012). Trautmann
and MaKinster (2010) find that teachers use Web mapping
sites, such as the Atlas of Our Changing Environment,
which utilizes Google Maps (an online service) and Google
Earth (a desktop application), as a way of introducing their
students to spatial distributions of natural phenomena.
Bodzin and Anastasio (2006) describe how Web-based maps
support an environmental issues course. Discover Our
Earth is a Web-mapping site designed for undergraduate
education (Brindisi, Seber, and Moore 2006). Sanchez (2009)
looks at problem solving in areas ranging from waste
management to globalization using online applications
including the French Web mapping site G
eoportail. Milson
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Web Mapping for Spatial Thinking
and Alibrandi (2008) utilize the Globalis online world atlas
to teach geography, while Songer (2010) compares the
efficacy of Web mapping versus paper maps in a college-
level introductory human geography course. Jones et al.
(2004) evaluate the e-MapScholar project, which created
teaching resources based on Digimap, the U.K. Ordnance
Survey’s Web-mapping application. These diverse case
studies exemplify the broad interest in Web mapping
in a variety of classrooms but often do not detail the
many significant technical and institutional obstacles to
deploying Web mapping.
Web mapping appeals to many educators in large part
because it offers students a valuable mapping experience
with low resource demands (Bodzin and Anastasio 2006;
Schultz, Kerski, and Patterson 2008; Henry and Semple
2012). Web mapping promises a rich mapping experience
that draws on the capacity of the Internet to deliver data
and analysis from a wide variety of sources. It is also offers
great potential for requiring fewer resources than desktop
GIS, including less student and instructor training, reduced
needs f or dedicated hardware and lab space, decreased
software budgets, and reduced needs for specialized tech-
nical support. A growing body of research indicates the
resource constraints related to desktop mapping and GIS,
including poor access to computer laboratories, difficulties
in installing software, too little time to learn new software,
and too few opportunities to train students (Audet and
Paris 1997; Meyer et al. 1999; Donaldson 2001; Gatrell
2001; Beeson 2006; Brodie 2006; Kidman and Palmer 2006;
Demirci 2011). There is a clear need for digital mapping that
is less burdensome to implement in educational contexts
than desktop GIS.
While Web mapping promises to be a resource-efficient
yet pedagogically powerful approach, it remains unclear
how this potential plays out in the classroom. Some
questions remain unanswered about the effectiveness of
different constellations of Web-mapping hardware and
software and their attendant resource demands (Ballatore
et al. 2011). There is a related need to assess how the
technological and institutional context of Web mapping
affects the pedagogical value of this approach (Pui-Ming
Yeung 2010; Wheeler et al. 2010). Overall, while there is
justifiable excitement about the emergence of a broader
Geospatial Web that will transcend traditional forms of GIS
and mapping via a combination of Web mapping, data
gathering, and the Internet (Papadimitriou 2010), there
are many uncertainties regarding its implementation for
geographical education.
We draw on a case study to advance understanding
of the technical capacity and usability of Web-mapping
software in postsecondary courses and the pedagogical
value for inculcating critical spatial-thinking skills in
students. We developed several different Web-mapping
platforms and then created and deployed class activities
that use these approaches in a postsecondary introductory
geography course, Mapping Our World. This approach
allowed us to assess the resource needs of different Web-
mapping approaches and their suitability for exploring core
concepts and practices in geography and spatial thinking
more broadly. The course marries conceptual issues such
as privacy and ethics of mapping with exploration of
mapping and spatial analysis through activities such as
creating choropleth maps, assessing the concept of scale
in spatial data, and examining data interoperability. The
course enrolls 120 students per semester and we draw on
experience garnered from three offerings over two years.
Our primary evaluation approach builds from collab-
orating with instructors and students. We worked with
instructors to develop Web-mapping platforms, design a
range of activities that require Web mapping, and then
assess how well they suited the pedagogical needs of
the course and students. We were the primary course
instructors and creators of the Web-mapping platforms.
We also worked with other instructors, including faculty
members and graduate teaching assistants, to assess what
features were needed and wanted in Web mapping for the
classroom. This collaboration entailed focus groups with
past instructors, weekly meetings with current instructional
staff, and biweekly meetings with institutional information
technology specialists with whom we worked to develop
the underlying Web-mapping technologies.
We assessed student experience with Web mapping in
several ways. The course has a student complete ten Web-
mapping activities over t he course of the semester. In order
to better understand the efficacy of Web mapping for these
activities, we discussed the students’ experiences via e-mail
and in person. In 2011 we administered a survey in week
twelve of a sixteen-week course, to which 110 of the 118
students enrolled responded. We repeated the survey in
2012, to which 101 of the 115 students responded. Given the
similarity of responses between years and the fact that the
overall course structure was unchanged, we report pooled
results below as numerical summaries and as characteristic
responses for open-ended questions. We used a grounded-
theory approach to create a nonhierarchical descriptive cod-
ing for these open-ended responses, relying in particular
on word similarities within and among responses. We also
engaged in a process of constant comparison, whereby team
members would compare later codings to earlier ones to
change them as necessary, and team comparison, whereby
we reconciled individual codings to create a single common
coding structure (after Ryan and Bernard 2003).
We examined two dimensions of how well Web mapping
can be applied to develop spatial thinking, namely resource
demands and pedagogical value. Resource considerations
include physical infrastructure and institutional support for
classroom space and student computing; instructor effort
necessary to learn Web mapping; and the technological
and institutional resources necessary to create and support
Web-mapping systems. We assessed the pedagogical value
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Manson et al.
of Web mapping in terms of ease of use; analytical depth
afforded by this approach and its capacity for engaging
with key concepts and practices; issues surrounding data,
relevance, and local engagement; degree of customization,
interactivity, and security; and the impacts of longevity of
Web-mapping platforms. Examining the twinned foci of
resource demands and pedagogical value for an introduc-
tory geography course advances our understanding of the
promise and pitfalls of Web mapping in education.
Resource Demands
Web mapping can require less physical infrastructure and
institutional support than desktop GIS but it is not costless
because it imposes its own resource and technical demands.
Before the switch to Web mapping, Mapping Our World
used a physical computer laboratory that offered desktop
GIS software, which had two critical resource ramifications.
First, it meant providing expensive desktop GIS software
and the fairly powerful computers it requires, as well as
trained technical support staff to maintain both. Second,
access to the computer lab was limited to no more than three
or four hours per week given that the room was shared
among many courses. Students complained to advising
staff and instructors that these times were difficult to fit
into course schedules, especially since the campus is large
and some students could not attend given the travel time
between classes. Our experience mirrors that elsewhere,
where access to physical computer laboratories with spe-
cialized mapping software can be limited (Gatrell 2001;
Beeson 2006; Kidman and Palmer 2006; Wheeler et al. 2010).
In contrast, Web mapping offers greater student access at
a lower cost. The Web-browsing software necessary for Web
mapping is free and generally requires less powerful, and
therefore less expensive, computers than those typically
needed for desktop GIS. As a result of these lower
resource demands, access to necessary computing facilities
increased dramatically. Students could use one of hundreds
of machines all over campus, including those in libraries
and student computing labs that offer a Web browser and
Internet access. More importantly, students could also use
their personal computers, which, in addition to providing
around-the-clock access to the necessary software, meant
that the institution was freed from providing computers,
Internet access, software, or specialized support. In sum,
almost all students surveyed (99.1%, or 209 out of 211)
had access to an Internet-enabled computer for at least two
hours per day, which is more than sufficient for students to
complete their coursework.
Web mapping requires less instructor effort to learn. We
found, like other studies, that instructors have very little
time to learn new software and that desktop mapping
software often requires a good deal of training and time
(Meyer et al. 1999; Donaldson 2001; Gatrell 2001); in contrast,
Web-mapping software is easier to learn by virtue of its
simplicity. We found this particularly true for graduate
teaching assistants, the majority of whom were new to
digital mapping. These teaching assistants could learn
enough Web mapping for any given lab activity with
about an hour of self-instruction, whereas a similar level
of familiarity with desktop GIS required days of formal
instruction (in line with Baker, Palmer, and Kerski 2009).
The final, and potentially most important, resource
consideration lies in the technological and institutional
context of providing the software and hardware necessary
to develop Web-mapping systems. Our initial focus was
developing in-house Web-mapping servers. We actually
developed two different systems in-house, one using free
and open source software (FOSS) and the other using Esri’s
proprietary software (see Appendix for details). The first
system used FOSS, which offered expected advantages
of free software and access to the underlying code to
readily modify features (Riehle 2007), such as interface
customization (Steiniger and Bocher 2009). The primary
disadvantages were having to juggle an array of software,
maintain complicated code, and deal with spotty docu-
mentation, all of which necessitated finding well trained
and entrepreneurial software developers (viz. Henry and
Semple 2012). Our second in-house system was built
on an ArcGIS Server application from Esri. Advantages
included technical support, good documentation, and a
system where different modules worked well together. T he
primary disadvantage was having to create mapping ap-
plications within the bounds of Esri functionality, without
the ability to create new code like we could in our FOSS
system. We also faced some restrictions on usage, such as
the number of simultaneous users and few places where the
software could be hosted, that we did not encounter with
As an alternative to developing in-house Web-mapping
platforms, we designed activities that used third-party
Web-mapping sites, including Social Explorer, GeoCom-
mons, and Google Maps (see Appendix for details). The
chief benefit of this approach was not having to develop
or maintain Web-mapping servers, which eliminated the
need to hire (or serve as) programmers or deal with
institutional information technology (IT) staff. Third-party
sites boast interfaces that many students find cleaner and
more intuitive to use than the default interfaces found
in the other systems, which often mimic longstanding
GIS interfaces and conventions (Manson et al. 2012). The
primary disadvantage of third-party systems is the lack of
control over the sites, which reduces or eliminates the ability
to develop custom analytical procedures or interfaces. A
related concern was ensuring that coursework fell within
the terms of use for specific sites and issues of security and
privacy. We discuss these issues below.
We found that there are few guarantees of the longevity
of online mapping systems, particularly third-party ap-
plications since they were controlled from outside the
university. For example, we reviewed Web sites identified
in the peer-reviewed journal articles cited throughout
this article, which we drew upon in designing our Web-
mapping platforms and course activities. Of ten sites,
three were not operational: one had a front page but was
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Web Mapping for Spatial Thinking
not functional, the Quick Use Earth Study Tool (Brindisi,
Seber, and Moore 2006); one had moved, Demographic
Data Viewer (Mathenia 2005); and one (Urban World)
disappeared entirely (Gatrell 2001). Note that these obser-
vations are not meant as critiques of the sites since they
served their original purpose admirably, but instead to
point to the potential for even important and interesting
sites to be short-lived. Of the remaining seven sites, only
three had been updated in the last couple of years. The
Atlas of Our Changing Environment, for example, displays
United Nations environmental data using Google Maps
(Trautmann and MaKinster 2010), while the Dartmouth
Atlas of Health Care has evolved from a paper atlas to
using a sophisticated Flash-based interface (Sinton 2009),
and G
eoportail appears to be updated regularly (Genevois
and Jouneau-Sion 2008). The remaining four sites are still
functional if not recently updated. These include Siting
Nuclear Facilities, a decision-support system utilizing Web
mapping and multicriteria weighting (Carver and Open-
shaw 1996); Globalis, an interactive world atlas created for
educational use (Rød, Larsen, and Nilsen 2010); Envirosci
Inquiry, which offers a number of modules in the earth
sciences and cognate fi elds (Bodzin and Anastasio 2006);
and e-MapScholar, which offers lessons using Digimap, the
UK Ordnance Survey’s Web-mapping application (Purves,
Medyckyj-Scott, and Mackaness 2005).
Perhaps the most significant lesson learned about re-
source demands of in-house versus third-party approaches
is that technological and institutional context is critical.
In-house mapping required strong ties with university IT
staff to navigate the rules on system maintenance and
security. Our institution, for example, does not allow
departments to host their own public-facing servers. This
arrangement makes sense for several reasons (among them
cost savings, security, up-to-date software, and application
of best management practices) but only works well when
IT staff are interested in and knowledgeable about the
underlying technologies. When these conditions were not
met, we experienced delays on the order of weeks or
months, which meant having to rewrite course activities
at the last minute to use different technologies.
Overall, each approach has advantages and disadvan-
tages that are often trumped by technological and insti-
tutional context. Free and open source software has great
potential to save money and provide excellent functionality,
although proprietary software may be free to instructors in
institutions with a site license, and third-party applications
range from being free to charging small user fees. Using
third-party sites can be much less expensive than main-
taining in-house servers, at the cost of control, flexibility,
functionality, and robustness. We scaled back on the use
of GeoCommons, for example, because while it offers
excellent analysis capabilities it could sometimes render
maps inconsistently. In activities on data classification
and symbolization (described below), we asked students
to use the site but also had screenshots of the maps
that could be given to students to use as the basis for
maps if necessary. Another effect is that instructors had
to continually monitor the site to gauge whether it was
functioning and change activity grading and submission
timing accordingly. In contrast, errors on in-house servers
could usually be remedied in short order.
Pedagogical Value of Web Mapping
Overall, students enjoyed the ease of Web mapping and
its capacity for self-instruction. In the words of one student,
“I liked that the web mapping applications in this class
were clear to understand and easy to use even though I had
no previous experience with GIS software.” Few students
had any GIS experience (5.4%) or had taken a GIS class
(3.6%). In the words of another, “I liked how accessible
the map making applications were. It didn’t take a long
tutorial and lessons to begin making maps . . . According
to the survey, before taking the course, most students were
familiar with simple Web-mapping sites like Google Maps
(85.5%) and most used them fairly often (daily, weekly,
or monthly at 11.8%, 32.7%, and 31.8% respectively). Per
Table 1, sentiments about ease of learning and use were
the most commonly expressed in the survey’s open-ended
questions, shared by just over half of the students (50.3%).
This said, Web mapping is not without challenges. Over a
quarter of survey respondents (27.8%) noted that one thing
they would change about the Web-mapping applications
is that the software can be occasionally confusing. T his
is due in part to the lab format, where students are self-
guided and face-to-face instruction is readily available but
optional. No more than a dozen students attended these
sessions per week, a number that corresponds to the small
percentage of students noting that they would like more
hands-on instruction in the Web mapping (5.0%). G iven the
potential for technical issues to stand in the way of student
learning, we ensured that an instructor was available for
two hours every day of the week for in-person help. We
also answered all e-mails within twelve hours, and for most
cases, within two hours.
At odds with the desire for ease of use is the need for
applications that go beyond displaying static maps to sup-
port spatial analysis central to spatial thinking while being
easy to use. Schultz, Kerski, and Patterson (2008) examine
the use of virtual globes in the classroom, for example,
and find that they are good for visualization but limited in
analytical functionality. In response to the question “What
do you like best about the Web mapping applications used
in class?” the second most common sentiment (29.5%) after
ease of use was the ability to analyze and visualize spatial
data (Table 1). Analytical capacity of online mapping can
only increase given current trends towards increasingly
sophisticated programs (Kerski, Milson, and Demirci 2012).
Of course, even when Web-mapping analysis becomes
more robust, there is the ever-present danger of focusing
on technical skills to the detriment of linking to more
general spatial concepts, which requires appropriate design
of activities (West 2003; Marsh, Golledge, and Battersby
2007; Trautmann and MaKinster 2010).
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Manson et al.
Table 1. Mapping Our World survey responses coded by sentiment.
Students reporting
Questions with coded responses (%)
What do you like best about the web mapping applications used
in class?
Easy and/or quick to use 50.3
Ability to analyze and visualize spatial data with a range of tools 29.5
Ability to customize map appearance and/or purpose 21.3
Large amounts of data available online 15.1
Generally enjoyable or useful 13.7
Free access to an online interface 12.0
Educates about how mapping works 10.1
Being able to compare different datasets/interoperability 3.5
What is one thing you would change about the web mapping
applications used in class?
Occasional software glitches 31.2
Software can be confusing at times 27.8
Allow for more customization or have more features 21.2
Difficult to find data in online catalogs 24.7
Better quality datasets and metadata 9.1
Nothing 9.4
More hands-on software instruction 5.0
Switching among multiple mapping tools was hard 2.7
More opportunities to develop paper maps by hand 2.4
Since students can report more than one sentiment, the sum percentages of students is greater than
We designed a number of activities that highlighted
spatial analysis using Web mapping without derailing
students with technical minutiae. One activity asks students
to assess the impact of data interoperability on analysis
by examining U.S. Census data. Interoperability refers to
comparability of attributes among years (e.g., changing
definitions of race and ethnicity over time) and the extent
to which spatial data describe places in the same way given
changing census geographies (e.g., changing census tract
boundaries) (Harvey et al. 1999; Nogueras-Iso et al. 2004).
Students can control which data are displayed and at what
spatial resolution to better understand and describe how
attribute and spatial interoperability affects their ability to
analyze changing demographics. Students became adept at
dealing with data, but about a quarter noted that they can
be difficult to find in online catalogs (24.7% in Table 1) or
described the need for better quality datasets and metadata
(9.1%), spurring class discussions about data access more
generally, a core aspect of spatial thinking (NRC 2006).
We developed several activities encouraging students to
examine central themes of spatial thinking. One lab explores
the conceptual and practical issues of how choices in data
classification and map symbolization can modify the social
and political message of maps, or in other words, issues
of “lying maps” (Monmonier 2005). Students are asked to
create choropleth maps of poverty
rates at the county level in the
United States. Web mapping is so-
phisticated enough that students
can experiment with classification
scheme (choosing among quantile,
equal-interval, or natural breaks
data classifications), color schemes
(choosing among various hues and
values), ordering of values (choos-
ing between normal order, map-
ping low color values with low
data values, or reverse order, as-
sociating low color values with
high data values), and number of
classes (choosing three, five, or
seven). Students make symboliza-
tion choices that reflect their in-
tended messages, such as “Poverty
is a major problem in the United
States” versus “Poverty is a minor
problem in the United States.”
The ease of use, coupled with
analytical scope, allowed students
to come to grips with complicated
interactions among data, symbol-
ization, and map messages via
Web mapping and their broader
ethical dimensions. In the words
of one student who had experi-
ence with desktop GIS, using Web
mapping “. . . has given me a new
perspective on how to analyze data, especially when we
studied the topic of ‘lying maps.’ Mapping activities are
so much easier using an online Web map application ...I
also like how online mapping tools make mapping data
much more accessible.” Another remarked, “I liked the
ability to put statistics into visual symbols that were easy
to understand. Of course I realize now that symbolization
can skew the truth, but I think it is very useful.” Another
noted that the “options for data as well as settings that
really helped illustrate the mapping concepts we discussed
in class and read about in the class readings,” and similarly,
another felt “introduced to a whole new world when I was
able to create and alter maps myself. It is kind of scary seeing
how easy it really is, and anyone can have access to these
tools. It makes me want to reconsider maps now when I see
them because I know how easily they can be manipulated.”
Overall, students found that Web mapping was an essential
vehicle for developing a deep understanding of how data
and symbolization choices come together to manipulate
map meaning.
Beyond issues of how well Web mapping can sup-
port geographical analysis, the pedagogical value of Web
mapping for spatial thinking is tied to concerns about
relevance and local engagement. Many students felt Web
mapping was relevant to their lives. As put by one student,
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Web Mapping for Spatial Thinking
“I actually think these tools are useful for one’s career
(especially in business or research). I wish my other classes
incorporated mapping more so we can actually utilize
what we’re learning in class.” More broadly, compared to
desktop GIS, Harris, Rouse, and Bergeron (2010, 66) note
the promise of Web mapping to help students develop
collaborative understanding of issues: the “combination
of Web 2.0 spatial technologies with available expert and
user-generated spatial data enables maps to be constructed
that link t he local with the national and provide insight
into important issues of space, place and local civic
engagement.” Web-enabled learning can be designed to
create connections among learners and their communities
(Elwood 2003), particularly given the growth of volun-
teered geographic information, whereby individuals use
location-enabled devices such as smart phones to provide
information (Goodchild 2007). We designed one activity
that has students develop their own data and upload it to
the Web-mapping system, which provides opportunities
for students to learn about the broader issues at stake
when creating data, such as balancing surveillance issues
and privacy concerns versus the benefits of sharing data.
We also devote a week to examining how Web mapping
and volunteered geographic information and other user-
generated content are remaking mapping in many fields.
Web-mapping programs that were able to combine
multiple streams of data increased the data’s usefulness
for students and teachers. Students could join existing data
with their own to create maps that they saw as enjoyable or
useful, as expressed by 13.7 percent of respondents to the
question: “What do you like best about the Web mapping
applications used in class?” Two students characterized
Web mapping as being “useful in real life” and suitable for
“varied and interesting applications” respectively. Support-
ing this utility was the general accessibility of data, where
15.1 percent of students remarked on the benefits of having
access to much existing data and the ease of entering new
data. A small proportion of students also noted the utility of
being able to compare different datasets (3.5%). We devote
an entire week to data issues given their importance to Web
mapping and the level of student interest in them.
The utility of Web mapping for education is affected
by the sometimes conflicting desiderata of customization,
interactivity, and security. Most students and instructors
wanted to use their own data via onscreen digitizing or
uploading global positioning system (GPS) data or digital
maps. Instructors also want customizable interfaces (e.g.,
changing color scheme and logos, language, and tools),
which accords with other studies (Henry and Semple 2012).
Students and instructors want interactivity in assignments
since it allows greater, dynamic exploration of data as a
vehicle for spatial thinking, a finding consistent with other
studies (Rakshit and Ogneva-Himmelberger 2008; Schultz,
Kerski, and Patterson 2008; Clagett 2009). In the words of
one student, referring to activities that involved choropleth
mapping, “I liked how customizable [Web mapping] could
be. I enjoyed playing around with the maps I made and
trying various options to make the map look exactly how I
wanted it.”
Customization and interactivity come at the cost of
security and ease of use, and this balance is reflected in
the design of activities. Students and instructors may work
with personal data that must be protected. Students can
plot their own data for one activity, for example, such
as when one student digitized his favorite biking routes
to work. Such data necessitate authentication on a secure
Web server to protect student privacy while still allowing
instructors access for feedback and grading. In-house Web
mapping required considerable institutional IT support for
the software, hardware, and personnel necessary for secure
Web servers that support user authentication. Third-party
sites usually offer authentication at the cost of relying on
the host organization to prevent inadvertent disclosure or
theft of the data, as well as assuming that these sites may
exploit or sell browsing habits and personal data to support
One way of addressing issues of privacy and surveillance
is to incorporate them in the course design. We devoted an
entire class session to discussing the surveillance, privacy,
and confidentiality issues raised by Web mapping. We
also developed an activity on surveillance, where four
people not associated with the class volunteered to wear
GPS tracking devices for several days. Students mapped
these data and used analytical tools such as animation and
proximity analysis (e.g., placing tracking data relative to
known landmarks or transportation routes) to describe the
movements of the volunteers. They were then asked to tie
these analyses to a contemporary issue or controversy in
surveillance and course readings on literature on surveil-
lance and mapping (Crampton 2008). Students addressed
issues including judicial decisions on GPS tracking, contro-
versies around airline security, and surveillance of political
activists. Web-mapping activities brought home issues of
geospatial surveillance for many students because they saw
how easily it could be accomplished and how geospatial
technology enabled them to reconstruct many aspects of
the volunteers’ activities.
Finally, the potentially ephemeral nature of online Web-
mapping technologies as discussed above has pedagogical
ramifications. We decided to use a range of different
systems in order to provide redundancy if one became
unavailable; as noted above, there are few guarantees of
longevity for Web-mapping systems. While this approach
has the benefit of students learning different ways to answer
questions in activities, it also imposes on students the cost of
having to devote time to learning multiple systems instead
of using that time to focus on geographical concepts. We rely
on third-party sites for most activities but retain capacity
to use in-house servers in case an external site cannot be
used by students. The transient nature of Web-mapping
sites is likely due to the need to develop revenue models,
and keep up with ever-changing technology, or the limited
terms of Web-mapping research projects. A case in point is
GeoCommons, which we use for several activities because
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Manson et al.
it offers powerful analysis and mapping. The company was
acquired by Esri in 2012, which is a positive development
given that it gains the backing of a larger company, but
it also spurred us to search for alternatives in case the
site changes in a way that hampers pedagogy. As Web
mapping matures, we hope to see more reliable and long-
lived services, but in the short-term, course activities must
be designed so they can be completed in one of several
different ways.
The increasing flexibility and power of Web mapping has
contributed to its rapid growth, but questions remain about
its resource demands and pedagogical value for imparting
spatial thinking to students. The promise of Web mapping
lies in efficient provision of engaging ways to instill spatial
thinking in students by integrating the myriad of strands
of technology to solve problems in a variety of contexts.
In Mapping Our World, students wanted to use a wide
variety of data and came from over two dozen disciplines.
Compared to desktop GIS, Web mapping can offer greater
access to data, flexible computing arrangements, and ever-
growing analytical capacity while requiring less instructor
training, smaller software budgets, and less technical
support in many respects. Through sharing of volunteered
geographic information, Web mapping can also speak to
notions of relevance and local engagement more effectively
than a desktop GIS.
Web mapping has significant drawbacks that must be
addressed to provide pedagogical value. The nature of in-
stitutional information technology resources is critical to the
eventual success or failure of in-house Web mapping. Third-
party sites offer starker advantages and disadvantages,
such as reduced needs for server support versus reduced
control over the mapping experience. Desktop GIS outstrips
Web mapping in terms of analytical power and does
not face many of the problems arising from interactivity,
customization, and security. If anything, desktop GIS may
present the problem of having too many tools in many
situations, thus requiring novices to spend more time
learning the application rather than developing spatial
thinking skills, but they would receive a broader skill set
in return. Finally, the uncertain future and longevity of
any Web-mapping technology may bear on curriculum
design and revision. In sum, Web mapping is a routine
part of many people’s lives, and the attendant profusion
of sites and technologies offers the prospect of inexpensive
and powerful mapping making its way more readily into
the classroom. Nonetheless, in addition to ever-present
pedagogical issues, technological and institutional resource
challenges remain.
This work is supported in part by the National Aero-
nautics and Space Administration New Investigator Pro-
gram in Earth-Sun System Science (NNX06AE85G), the
National Institutes of Health Minnesota Population Center
(R24 HD041023), the University of Minnesota’s College
of Liberal Arts, and the Resident Fellowship program of
the Institute on the Environment. The authors gratefully
acknowledge the assistance of the editor and anonymous
reviewers. Responsibility for the opinions expressed herein
is solely that of the authors.
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Most Web-mapping systems include clients, a Web server,
a map server, a database server, and a GIS:
Clients. Clients are software applications capable of
receiving content from, and sending requests to, a
server via the Internet. Searching for a street address
online, for example, involves the client sending the
address as text to the server. The server responds
by geocoding the address (finding where it occurs in
the real world) and sending an image of the mapped
location. Client devices are often standard computers
equipped with a Web browser but recent years have
seen explosive growth in the use of other devices such
as smartphones, mobile phones that connect to the
Web Server. A Web server is a computer connected
to the Internet that provides data to other computers,
including clients. Web servers are the backbone of the
Internet, for they can deliver data in formats ranging
from Web pages to mapping services or streaming
music. Two popular choices are Apache HTTP (Web)
Server and Microsoft Internet Information Server (IIS).
Map Server. A computer with software that special-
izes in delivering Web maps over the Internet, almost
always in conjunction with a Web server. Commonly
used map servers include MapServer, GeoServer, Esri
ArcGIS Server, and GeoMedia WebMap.
Database Server. A computer with a database manage-
ment system (DBMS) is designed to pass data on to
other computers, including map servers. Commonly
employed DBMS include PostgreSQL, MySQL, Mi-
crosoft SQL Server, and Oracle. DBMS increasingly
provide their own spatial analytical functionality (e.g.,
PostgreSQL can be combined with PostGIS).
Geographic Information System (GIS). GIS software
is used to manipulate data and create maps that are
then hosted on a map server. Common programs
include Esri ArcGIS Desktop, Quantum-GIS, Idrisi,
and GeoMedia.
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Web Mapping for Spatial Thinking
We developed two different in-house systems, one using
free and open source software and the other Esri’s pro-
prietary software. We also designed activities to use third-
party Web-mapping sites.
Our FOSS Web-mapping platform consisted of: (1)
MapServer, one of the longest standing map server
programs, to which we linked Mapbender, a mapping
interface and middleware application; (2) Apache
HTTP (Web) Server; and (3) PostgreSQL, a DBMS sys-
tem with the PostGIS extension for spatial databases.
These servers used the Linux operating system and
were connected to a UNIX file server and workstations
with ArcGIS and Quantum GIS.
Our ArcGIS Server application used a combination of:
(1) ArcGIS Server; (2) Microsoft Internet Information
Services (IIS) web server application; and (3) Esri’s
ArcSDE (for Spatial Database Engine) with the Oracle
DBMS system. We used a separate workstation with
ArcGIS software to work with spatial data and maps.
It offered interfaces to ArcSDE and ArcGIS server,
often eliminating the need to work directly on those
Our third-party Web-mapping approach focused on
using Social Explorer, GeoCommons, and G oogle
Maps. We used a workstation with ArcGIS soft-
ware and Quantum GIS, working with spatial data
on a UNIX file server and then posting these
data to GeoCommons. Firefox is the preferred
browser, but any modern Web browsers could be
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... Bodzin et al. (2016) unpack the strong relationship in their study on a course of earth materials and earth history that GIS "supported their geospatial analysis for making inferences about space, geospatial patterns, and geospatial relationships among the data that were visualised in the Web GIS." (pp. 279) Also, existing research argues that the efficiency of GIS in improving spatial thinking ability is conditional on pedagogical design, educational institutions and technological settings (Manson et al., 2014;Xiang & Liu, 2019). Studies at the level of higher education further suggest that the improvement of spatial thinking abilities potentially benefits students' acquisition of disciplinary contextual knowledge (Giorgis, 2015;Hou et al., 2016). ...
... If the STAT scores and interview data could had been collected from more tutorial sessions and if more students could had been recruited into this study, the study would have a richer database for the interest of more rigorous analysis. Moreover, given that spatial thinking might be subject to various pedagogical, institutional and technological conditions (Manson et al., 2014), a probe into these conditions and their relationship with the integration of GIS should also be critical for the interest of students' spatial thinking. ...
While Web GIS has been supposed as a useful tool in improving the spatial thinking abilities of students, most existing empirical studies were seldom undertaken in an educational programme providing rather limited geo-technological training to students. This study focuses on tutorial sessions of a tourism geography course in a Singaporean university , in which students usually engaged with very few GIS and other geospatial technologies. Combining a standardised assessment, that is Spatial Thinking Abilities Test, and semi-structured interviews, the study suggests that the implementation of Web GIS, collaborating with stu-dents' major background and pre-existing GIS experience, efficiently enhanced their performance in spatial thinking abilities test; moreover, the exposure to GIS practices during tutorial sessions also stimulated students' interest in using GIS and enhanced self-efficacy, which further equipped students with stronger motivation to continue learning geography. The paper contributes to existing debates around (Web) GIS as a pedagogical tool through incorporating qualitative interview materials into the discussion. ARTICLE HISTORY
... WebGIS memiliki hampir semua fungsi GIS dan jauh lebih mudah digunakan oleh siswa sekolah menengah, hal ini dapat dibuktikan dengan peningkatan penggunaan webGIS di bidang pendidikan (Manson et al., 2014). Penggunaan perangkat lunak webGIS memungkinkan adanya pengaruh kuat dalam membantu siswa untuk mengakses dan menggunakan informasi geografis (González, Luisa, & Torres, 2020). ...
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Geography learning materials are very complex and need to take advantage of many learning resources and learning tools. Technology is needed to develop the skills and creativity of students. The use of webGIS learning media can encourage students to learn by conducting and simulating geographical studies professionally through collaborative work with the material applied so that they do not only memorize geographical places. The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of using webGIS on learning outcomes of Geography and sustainable Geography skills. This research was conducted using a quasy-experimental quantitative method with data analysis using the independent sample t-test and gain score to test the effectiveness of the webGIS. Previously, the data were tested for normality and homogeneity with the results that both were normally distributed and had homogeneous data variants. The results of this study indicate that the use of webGIS has an effect on Geography learning outcomes and is effective in increasing student scores. The use of webGIS in this study significantly affects the improvement of sustainable Geography skills. Materi pembelajaran Geografi yang sangat luas dan kompleks perlu memanfaatkan banyak sumber belajar dan alat pembelajaran. Teknologi diperlukan untuk menbentuk keterampilan dan kreativitas peserta didik. Penggunaan media pembelajaran seperti webGIS dapat mendorong siswa belajar dengan melakukan dan mensimulasikan kajian Geografi secara profesional melalui kerja kolaboratif sesuai dengan materi yang diterapkan sehingga tidak hanya menghafal tempat-tempat Geografis. Tujuan penelitian ini untuk mengetahui pengaruh penggunaan webGIS terhadap hasil belajar Geografi dan keterampilan Geografi secara berkelanjutan. Penelitian ini dilakukan dengan menggunakan metode kuantitatif eksperimen semu dengan analisis data menggunakan uji independent sample t-test dan gain score untuk menguji efektifitas webGIS. Sebelumnya data di uji normalitas dan homogenitas dengan hasil keduanya berdistribusi normal dan memiliki varian data yang homogen. Hasil penelitian ini menunjukkan bahwa penggunaan webGIS berpengaruh pada hasil belajar Geografi serta efektif terhadap peningkatan nilai siswa. Penggunaan webGIS pada penelitian ini secara signifikan berpengaruh terhadap peningkatan keterampilan Geografi secara berkelanjutan.
... GSTs such as GIS offer many opportunities for raising students' understanding of geography knowledge as they are fast, flexible and user-friendly tools that can process large quantities of detailed geospatial information (Bednarz & Schee, 2006). Moreover, another type of GST, such as web-based mapping platforms, enable easy access to spatial data to enhance students' inquiry skills, analytical skills even spatial thinking skill (Manson et al., 2014). Thus, the result from this study suggest GST has a greater and stronger capacity on practice-based cognitive learning activities than non-cognitive learning, and there is a need to further study ways of using GST to improve non-cognitive learning. ...
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Many scholars have been using geospatial technologies (GST) to improve students’ learning outcomes in the Web 2.0 age. However, many studies focus on the effectiveness of GST on cognitive domain of learning outcomes, which poses challenges to GST efficacy evaluation. This study aims to examine the effectiveness of GST on students’ learning outcomes and identify potential moderators through meta-analysis. The results indicate that GST has a positive effect on students’ learning outcomes on a medium scale, while its effects on the cognitive domain were more significant than the non-cognitive domain. Moreover, we identified variable factors such as participant’s country/region, education level, intervention duration, and type of geospatial technology to analyze whether the four moderator variables had an impact on the effectiveness of GST. The moderator analysis results show that GST’s effectiveness on students’ learning outcomes depended on participants’ country/region, intervention duration and type of geospatial technology. This means that participants’ country/region, intervention duration and type of geospatial technology had a significant effect on GST’s effectiveness, while students’ education level did not have a major impact. Thus, geography educators should promote a pedagogical model with GST, and take into account the individuals’ country/region, while setting a reasonable intervention time of using GST in teaching. Teachers should also be flexible in using different types of geospatial technologies to achieve positive students’ learning outcomes.
... Web GIS emerges as a new approach that removes the distance problem between people and access to applications and allows people to interact globally and instantly access information (Fu, 2016). Web GIS, with its advantages such as ease of use, global access, rapid design tools, group work opportunity, minimum hardware need, and fast access to current data, has managed to attract the attention of secondary school students as well as many segments of the society (de Lázaro Torres et al., 2016;Hong, 2014;Manson et al., 2014;Slocum et al., 2008). This has enabled us to gain an essential tool for effective and interactive classroom education (Bodzin & Anastasio, 2006;Henry & Semple, 2012;Milson, 2011;Schultz et al., 2008). ...
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Geography, as a discipline which examines the earth, aims to increase analytical thinking skills by instilling spatial thinking (ST) skills in students. The youth who enrich a sense of space with these talents will effectively solve the spatial problems they encountered. In the modern world, where spatial issues are frequently being faced with, ST is extremely important for analyzing and interpreting data. Geographical information systems (GIS) appear as a method commonly used to process data and transform it into spatial information. In this context, despite the renewal of the secondary education (SE) geography curriculum in Türkiye, with the components required for the use of GIS at the SE level, prevented the use of GIS in SE from reaching the desired level. Developments in technologies have also caused significant changes in the field of GIS with the power of cloud technologies and, the work done in the personal computer environment has been moved to the internet environment. Web GIS applications, which can be used via a web browser, are much easier to use than desktop software and can reach many users from any device with the internet. Within the scope of the study, a sample application was designed to use web GIS tools in geography teaching. With the application, it is possible to assess the students' achievements in the geography lessons regarding verbal and spatial data. Thus, it was aimed to ensure the active participation of the students in the geography lessons, develop their ST ability, and perception of space.
... At the same time, the use of paper and digital teaching media is helpful to cultivate students' geospatial thinking (Collins, 2018). Similarly, the use of web maps in the teaching and learning environment is considered to be an effective way to enhance students' spatial thinking in geography (Manson et al., 2014). ...
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Purpose Family environment has the major impact on children’s academic development. The aim of this study was to research the relationship between family capital and academic achievement in geography. Further, geospatial thinking, as a form of spatial thinking focusing on the scale of the geographical environment, is closely related to family environment and academic achievement in geography. Thus, the study was more specifically to apply a mediation model to explore the potential mediating role of geospatial thinking. Methods A total of 1,037 upper-secondary-school students in Western China were surveyed using t the Family Capital Questionnaire and the Geospatial Thinking Test Questionnaire . SPSS (version 26.0) was used for descriptive statistical analysis and correlation analysis. The PROCESS plug-in (version 4.0) was used to test the mediating effect of geospatial thinking. Results (1) The correlation analysis showed that family capital has a positive effect on academic achievement in geography and is related to geospatial thinking. Moreover, geospatial thinking exerts a positive effect on academic achievement in geography. (2) The results of mediation analysis indicated that geospatial thinking plays mediating and buffering roles in the relationship between family capital and academic achievement in geography after controlling for family residence and gender. The direct and indirect effects accounted for 75.32% and 24.68% of the total effect, respectively. Conclusion The results indicated that family capital not only affected academic achievement in geography directly but also indirectly through geospatial thinking. This finding provides some ideas for the development of geography education, which suggests that geography educators need to pay more attention to the influence of the family environment on students’ geography learning in curriculum design and teaching processes. Also, the mediating role of geospatial thinking further uncovers the mechanisms underlying the academic achievement in geography. Therefore, it is necessary to focus on both students’ family capital and geospatial thinking in the process of geography learning, and carry out more geospatial thinking training to improve academic achievement in geography.
... A wide range of strategies has been deployed to develop GIS skills and experience in schools. These include preservice or in-service training for teachers or university-school collaboration (Wang and Chen 2013), enhancing GIS skills in universities (Manson et al. 2014), connecting school pupils with the GIS industry (Healy and Walshe 2020), and developing school GIS courses (Nielsen, Oberle, and Sugumaran 2011). While some approaches concentrate on one strategy, most favor a range of complementary strategies which, in combination, may more easily overcome some of the obstacles. ...
The advent of Web GIS tools, with their ability to collect, map, and analyze field data, to access spatial data as services covering a wide variety of scales, and to build web mapping applications such as dashboards and story maps, allows students of all ages to understand the SDGs and why they matter. This chapter discusses the societal, educational, and technological advancements that led to the advent of the modern Web GIS architecture. It then assesses the benefits of Web GIS in primary, secondary, and university educational institutions around the world. This chapter offers practical strategies in which the SDGs and other topics can be taught with interactive maps and analytics powered by modern GIS. Web GIS tools and spatial data can be effectively used in face-to-face, hybrid, and online instructional settings in geography. Furthermore, Web GIS is enabling the geographic approach to be integrated in disciplines outside of geography—in mathematics, history, environmental sciences, civil engineering, language arts, data science, business, and beyond.
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An interesting situation has arisen with respect to Web mapping: Certain recently granted patents appear to give the patent owners rights with respect to almost all Web mapping software, as well as location services and Web-based distributed geoprocessing. The prospect of any group of individuals having a “lock” on such an important set of technologies is disconcerting, to say the least. A review of the history of Web mapping suggests that these patents should never have been granted and are unlikely to survive a legal challenge. An important step in securing the openness of the Spatial Web, with all its benefits for users, is to have information on prior art and inventions from our industry available to all OGC members and to the public. This is the purpose of this article.
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The growth of web-based mapping is transforming geovisualization. Use of web mapping has become ubiquitous throughout much of the world and has sparked greater public interest in GIS and mapping. Despite the rapid growth of web mapping, there has been relatively little study of the design and usability of web maps. Moreover, the design and function of popular web mapping programs are sometimes at odds with standard GIS and cartographic practices for even the simplest of functions such as zooming into a feature of interest. This study advances understanding of web mapping design via web usability testing based on mouse metrics and eye tracking technology to assess the utility of four different web map navigation schemes: pan zoom; double clicking; zoom by rectangle; and wheel zoom. We found significant differences among the various interfaces, with marked preference for the standard GIS approach of rectangle zoom, followed closely by wheel zoom. Far fewer users preferred the web mapping standard of pan zoom or click zoom. In addition to finding significant differences in usability among these approaches, this work illustrates the broader utility of usability testing and eye tracking technology for creating a better web mapping experience for users.
This book offers a balance of principles, concepts, and techniques to guide readers toward an understanding of how the World Wide Web can expand and modernize the way you use GIS technology.-- [book cover] The Web has revealed the immense value and broad applicability of GIS, set the bar for today’s user expectations, and introduced flexible architectures for use with modern IT infrastructure. From basic architecture to new frontiers, Web GIS: Principles and Applications presents a thorough overview of the origins and developments in this emerging platform. New Web technologies addressed include: ArcGIS Server, REST services, JavaScript API/Flex API, and ArcGIS Mobile. This book offers a balance of principles, concepts, and techniques to provide you with an understanding of how Web GIS can revolutionize the way your GIS functions.
The last year has seen rapid advances in standards of map presentation over the Internet. In February 2005, Google - the market-leading search engine and perhaps the web's No. 1 brand - introduced a mapping service that was significantly easier and more enjoyable to use than the market leaders. (In the UK, these were principally and; Mapquest is popular in the US, ViaMichelin in Europe, and so on.) With its fluid movements, intuitive user experience and competent cartography, Google Maps has dramatically raised users' expectations. The high cost of industry-standard GIS software might lead webmappers - whether they be cartographers, programmers, or graphic designers - to think that the only way to match Google's achievement is by matching Google's bank balance. But this is far from the case. This article recaps the current state of the webmapping market, and describes how a system roughly comparable with Google Maps was developed on a very limited budget.
Web-based inquiry educational modules using Geographic information system (GIS) maps are ideal for earth and environmental systems education. GIS maps display and manage a rich array of spatially referenced data, which can be combined in user- defined ways to study most natural systems. The maps can be served over the Web to create flexible and portable educational modules for science education. We describe the use of GIS maps for an ongoing pre-service teacher graduate education course at Lehigh University and show applicability to other traditional disciplinary courses taught in many secondary and introductory college classrooms. Like Earth system science, use of GIS maps transcends traditional natural and social science disciplinary boundaries. GIS can be used to track how natural systems are functioning and changing in response to human activities. Similar to Earth system science, GIS maps provide a framework for integration of environmental data across a range of temporal and spatial scales. Instruct...
Learning with Geographic Information Systems (GIS) rather than about GIS has great potential for improving students' skills in problem solving, analysis, and spatial visualization. However, little is known about how well GIS-based learning lives up to this potential. Using classroom observations, student interviews and surveys, pre and posttests of knowledge, and measures of spatial skills, we have begun to quantify student learning that occurred with a GIS-based module on plate tectonics and geologic hazards. We also investigated factors in the design and implementation of the materials that impacted student learning. Classroom observations were key to improving the materials so that students in an introductory geoscience course can successfully complete the activities with minimal instruction in GIS. Through field-testing, we improved the materials design to address student difficulties with learning to use a GIS, identifying basic geographic locations and features, and interpreting topography and other two- or three- dimensional representations. In a quantitative measure of knowledge, using pretests and posttests, mean scores improved 17% (p<.001). We also found positive correlations between students' spatial ability and performance on both the posttest and a regular course exam that covered the material in the GIS activity. We are continuing this investigation in Fall 2001 to measure changes in spatial ability due to use of GIS-based materials.
Quality online maps and mapping resources, while indispensable to library users, can be challenging to locate. The range of available map types continues to expand and includes road maps, historical collections, political and physical atlases as well as maps and images of the moon and certain planets. Interactive mapping sites continue to grow and provide unique opportunities for users to interact with socioeconomic, historic, and physical data while creating unique and personalized maps. This article serves to highlight the best online resources for both map image collections and interactive mapping sites found on the Internet today.
This article examines the structural, technical, and definitional issues associated with linking specific technologies to K-12 content standards. It examines the case of the “Geography for Life” K-12 standards and the proliferation of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to understand the wider implications of integrating the implementation of content standards with the introduction of highly specialized information systems. The article proposes geographic educators re-conceptualize “GIS” to engage the themes of contemporary geography, maximize the role of existing IT infrastructures, and facilitate standard implementation. While this article examines the case of geography, it demonstrates the need to assess the role, if any, for information technologies in the development and implementation of K-12 content standards in the classroom. Finally, the article examines the conceptual and practical importance of positioning information technologies within the context of both higher education and the K-12 classroom and acknowledging the inevitable tension that exists between these two distinct communities.