What to do if you’ve got the GIS-t of GIS…

Students working with tablet

Firstly…good news! As part of their not-for-profit work, Esri UK has recently announced that a school subscription to ArcGIS Online will now be free! So now that you have no excuse for leaving GIS out of your Schemes of Work, here are a couple of exciting and innovative ways you can use the software with your classes once you are more confident…

  1. Map your own data

If you’ve been out in the field and collected your own data, it is really simple to get your students to plot this data onto a map. I have found that students really appreciate the value and uniqueness of GIS once they have plotted their own first-hand data on to the software. Here is an example, using pedestrian counts around a tourist village.

Firstly, create a table in Excel, as below and save as a .CSV file:

Longitude Latitude Pedestrian count
53.343126 -1.776561 6

To find out the longitude and latitude of the point at which each pedestrian count was taken, students can use the ‘measure’ tool on the software and click on the point on the map that they were stood at. ArcGIS will then tell them the longitude and latitude of that location.

Next, simply drag the Excel file over the map and see the first-hand data magically appear plotted on the map! Ask students to select an appropriate base map and change the icons to show the data better in order for each student to create an individual map.

  1. Story maps

Story maps are a visually appealing and engaging way for your students to add text, images, and other multimedia to a map. They literally tell a story with a map. Firstly, your students can browse the gallery of existing story maps to get inspired. A particular favourite of mine is the ‘Abandoned Islands’ story map.

Then, students need to select a template depending on their chosen ‘story’. Templates range from a scrolling side panel, a full-screen scrolling panel, a comparison of two maps and a ‘Story Map Spyglass’ which enables users to zoom from one map in to another with a spyglass tool. Your student’s chosen template then has its own walkthrough to help the author to create their story map. Story maps can then be presented to the rest of the class. As Story Maps are meant to be highly interactive and engaging, a great idea is to send a link to each completed Story Map to the rest of the class for them to explore by themselves. This is an idea that I am yet to implement with my classes, although I am very excited to do so. If you inspire your students with Story Maps or even have an explore yourself, let me know how it goes!

The potential for activities and lessons that incorporate GIS are endless. There are many functions and possibilities that I have not discovered yet, so if you have any ideas for the more confident users of ArcGIS Online, then please comment below.

Rebecca Priest photoRebecca Priest is a Geography Teacher at King Edward VI High School for Girls in Birmingham. She is currently studying for a MA in Geography Education at the Institute of Education and presented a session on ISM at the GA’s 2015 Annual Conference. 

Screenshot is taken from ArcGIS.