Do we need a consistent approach to spatial education across Canada?
I’ve been asked to lead a GIS program review for our College; we want to try to anticipate future trends (or act nimbly to adapt to them) and ensure we are delivering courses containing skills that grads need for top quality employment, while focusing on enrolment & retention.
Consequently, I’ve been looking at current best GIS educational practices and stories of success. I’ve searched for the real meaning and benefit of spatial thinking as it’s becoming widely recognized as a success building skill in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) subjects. As a result, spatial literacy is moving up as a priority on research agendas and websites are popping up dedicated as educational resources for Spatial Teaching.
I’ve appreciated the discussions on “Spatially enabling a University” or the “Spatial University” and am excited for what may become a reality as people share their visions and ideas.
And now I’m beginning to think more about the under realized value of these skills: if students achieve better success in STEM subjects by learning how to think spatially, then should we not be offering spatial thinking courses in general education, and making them mandatory like English and Math? And further to this, spatial thinking is considered a link between different disciplines as it’s pervasive nature operates within and between so many fields. Spatial thinking is a unifier.
If we agree on these ideas, and want to give it more recognition across the country and expose more learners to spatial thinking within our schools, I think we need to first define foundational concepts of spatial thinking.
This might be tough.
The American Association of Geographers (AAG) has identified eight fundamental spatial thinking skills that should be taught across the curriculum, while the Teach Spatial website (authored by the Center for Spatial Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara) has identified a different nine spatial concepts. Has the Canadian Association of Geographers defined any to date?
So, what do Canadians think? What direction are we headed? And should we take a unified and consistent approach to our national spatial education? Are we already talking about this?
Maybe we could hold a Canadian special meeting to discuss these ideas and others.
(other upcoming or recent GIS education meetings or conferences: European GIS-Education Seminar and GIS and Spatial thinking in Undergrad, Bucknell conference)
PS…..who wants to talk next about online education and MOOCs and the impact on the future of our spatial education?