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How Does Extended GIS Use Impact Spatial Thinking?

Authors: Bob Kolvoord*, James Madison University, Emily Grossnickle Peterson, American University, David Uttal, Northwestern University, Adam Green, Georgetown University
Topics: Geography Education, Geographic Information Science and Systems
Keywords: spatial thinking, GIS, K-12 education, spatial cognition
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2020
Start / End Time: 10:15 AM / 11:30 AM
Room: Virtual Track 1
Presentation Link: Open in New Window
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Working with students in the innovative Geospatial Semester, a dual-enrollment partnership between James Madison University and schools across Virginia, we have conducted a research study looking at the impact of extended GIS use on students' spatial thinking and STEM problem-solving skills. We have examined both behavioral and cognitive impacts of students in the year-long class as well as similar students comprising a comparison group, using a pre-test at the start of the school year and a post-test at the end of the school year. We've also surveyed parental attitudes and explored the students' prior spatially-related activities.

In this short report, we'll share results from the various studies. We see differential gains on a variety of measures for the students in the GIS class, including more efficient processing of spatial thinking tests, better performance on STEM problem solving exercises, and increased recruitment of spatial areas of the brain, even for non-spatial activities (via an fMRI study). We'll also describe variations that we see by gender and prior spatial activities. We'll conclude by describing our current study which is looking at the impact of GIS use over shorter time frames.

The work has been supported by various grants from the National Science Foundation.

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