Layering Learning – Geographic Information Systems (GIS): Advancing Educational Methods in the Digital Age

Layering Learning – Geographic Information Systems (GIS): Advancing Educational Methods in the Digital Age

Donna Goldstein (Palm Beach County School District, USA) and Valerie C. Bryan (Florida Atlantic University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6046-5.ch061


There are several issues that we urgently need to address regarding K-20 education, including engaging students in the learning process, preparing our youth for entry into the 21st century workplace, enabling them to become fully productive citizens, and providing them with the tools they will need to succeed. Our ability to flourish as a nation depends on this. In his article, “Place-Based Knowledge in the Digital Age,” Thomas Fisher (2012) discusses the potential impact Geographic Information Systems (GIS) may have as our global society becomes more immersed in digital and spatial media. He suggests that “GIS will eventually become a major way—perhaps the dominant way—in which we will access information in the future because of the essentially spatial nature of that software” (Fisher, 2012, p. 5). While Fisher's notion of “spatializing education” may seem abstract, the reality is our ability to connect multiple layers of data based on place will afford a more informed insight into our past, present, and future by revealing relationships, trends, and patterns. Connecting data spatially shifts our way of thinking, and our way of doing business as well as education (Baker, 2012). This is explored in this chapter.
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On the World Education Rankings Scale, the USA ranks approximately nine points below the world average in math (World Math Average, 496; USA score, 487.40), only one point above the world average in science (World Science Average, 501; USA score 502), and approximately seven points above the world average in reading (World Reading Average, 493; USA score, 499.83). As the reader can deduct from Table 1, 23 (approximately) countries rank above the USA in math, 19 (approximately) countries rank above the USA in science, and 14 (approximately) rank above the USA in reading. For a more complete view, see Table 4.

Table 1.
Brief comparison of reading, math and science scores across select countries worldwide
Country NameOverall Reading
Average: 493
Overall Math
Average: 496
Overall Science
Average: 501
Korea, South539546538
Hong Kong-China533555549
New Zealand521519532
United States500487502
Chinese Taipei495543520
United Kingdom494492514

Source: OECD (2013). World education rankings. Retrieved from

Key Terms in this Chapter

Geospatial Analysis: An approach where statistical analysis is mirrored with geographical information.

STEM: Are the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

Geographic Information Systems (GIS): Provide users the ability to display and manipulate data with interactive mapping software; to query a database to perform spatial analysis or communicate specific information about a location. Data gathered can be tailored to perform critical functions in many disciplines.

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