OSGeo Events, FOSS4G 2008

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GIS in the Geography Curriculum: Teacher Training

Elsworth McPherson, Mandy Carolissen, Deon Scheepers

Building: Cape Town International Convention Centre
Room: Kgalagadi Room (Room 2.4b)
Date: 2008-10-01 10:30 AM – 12:00 PM
Last modified: 2008-09-09


The introduction of Geographical Information Systems as a component of the Geographical Skills and Techniques section in the Geography Curriculum from 2006 provided several challenges for teachers as well as the GIS industry. Many of the Geography teachers had had no previous exposure to GIS. Many were also faced with problems such as computer literacy, which proved to be a major stumbling block during training. The industry and tertiary educational institutions were looked upon to provide the necessary training to empower teachers for the roll-out of GIS in Grade 10 from 2006, followed by Grade 11 in 2007 and grade 12 this year.

The Department of Geography and Environmental Studies at the University of the Western Cape was one of the first to respond to this need and have been training teachers from schools in the Western Cape since 2005. Initially training was provided as a general introduction to GIS as an extension of manual cartographic techniques that had been used until then, and the introduction of computerized methods for working with spatial data. The training has, however, become more focused, addressing aspects of the skills and techniques in the curriculum. GIS software is also being provided on a piecemeal basis to schools that have computer laboratories with the implication that some teachers could not work on GIS on their own after having completed the training, leading to other complications. There is still no indication as to the GIS software that will be used for teaching purposes, hence the need for a generic software package that will address this particular problem.

A survey is being conducted amongst Geography teachers in the Western Cape to assess their capabilities to teach GIS. Questions that are asked include a measure of computer literacy, previous GIS training, years of experience, the grades that they are teaching, their level of qualifications, and so on. The survey is also intended to provide answers to the availability of computers at the schools that the teachers are at, the level of access to these laboratories by learners who have Geography as a subject, the software (if any) that is currently being used to teach GIS, and so on. It is hoped that weaknesses in the current situation will be identified. Although the focus of the current research is on the Western Cape Province, attention will also be paid to what is happening in the other provinces in South Africa, as well as abroad. In countries such as the United States of America, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, GIS is already an established element of the curriculum, and numerous websites exist which are intended to provide support and learning material for both teachers and learners. The situation in these countries will be used as basis to compare the state of affairs in South Africa.

The aim of this paper is to review the training provided by UWC and its contribution to the preparedness of teachers for this new component as well as the challenges that still need to be addressed which includes the choice between proprietary and free and open software for GIS at schools.