Project Description

"This blog is updated by the JISC funded G3 Project (#jisc3g) team. We are building an framework for teaching and communicating relevant geographic concepts and data to learners from outside the world of geography and GIS. We think this blog will be of particular interest to those working or teaching in HE and FE and those interested in teaching and learning and e-learning."

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Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Prioritising Geographic Concepts for Teaching New Learners GIS: results from our blog poll

We asked readers of the blog to identify the priority of teaching certain Geographic Concepts to new users whilst quite a few people viewed the questions only 21 readers completed the poll. Firstly, I would like to thank the blog readers who completed our quick survey. The table below summarises the concepts that we used in the poll. A graph at the bottom of the blog post shows the results.

Geographic Concept



Beginning mapping

importance of location

zoom, pan, layers

Geographic data modelling

raster versus vector

Points, Lines, Polygons and Pixels....

Cartographic theory

fundamental principles of cartography

simplicity, harmony, no map junk ...

Data generalisation

introduction of types of and need for generalisation

Simplification, Selection, Omission, Displacement, Aggregation...

Data classification

introduction to data classification rules and type of classification

Natural Breaks, Quintiles, Geometric Progressions ...

Mapping conventions

elements that enhance user understanding of the map

scale bar, legend, north arrow, symbology....

Simple spatial analysis

introducing simple analysis computed using GIS

buffer, distance, overlay....

Uncertainty in geographic data

Impact of uncertainty on data

Modifiable Areal Unit Problem, ecological fallacy

With such a small N we do not have a any statistically valid results but what we do have is some useful thoughts that support the thinking of the project team and the development of the scenarios and resulting site development.

We asked readers to prioritise the concepts based on a linear scale of 1 to 5, where a score of 1 represented a concept that was not relevant to new learners and a score of 5 signified a must teach concept for new users. Using these values, I have calculated a quick and dirty Score of Importance for each of the priorities, see the graph at the bottom. This score alongside the free text comments helps us to identify quickly what our readers think are the most important concepts to teach new learners of GIS.

Results :

  • All of the concepts are relevant for new users of GIS to learn – but the timing of when they are introduced is what is most important
  • The most important concept is associated with beginning mapping and why spatial is special
  • New users need to be aware of the issues that result because GI models are simply an abstraction of reality and they need to be familiar with how reality is represented using data models.
  • Principles and practical cartography were rated (slightly) more important to teach before introducing simple spatial analysis and uncertainty
  • The details of datums and map projections are beyond the scope but it is important for users to recognise the internal bias that may result from a map projection