Education and Training

School/university collaboration

7111.2 - Finding solutions to problems when teaching with GIS in the classroom: Three case studies in Soweto, South Africa

Friday, July 7
8:50 AM - 9:10 AM
Location: Hoover

School learners deserve an education that will equip them for an ever-changing, information and communication technology environment. Stimulating the interest of creative learners, while engaging them through the use of technology, requires new innovative ways to convey curriculum content. Geography, as a school subject, provides opportunities to incorporate creative ways of thinking and technologies for problem solving, such as geographical information system (GIS), in the classroom. The introduction of GIS as part of the Geography curriculum in the classroom has not been without challenges. Kidman and Palmer (2006) indicate three main impediments to the successful implementation of GIS education namely: money, support and time. While the problems relating to the use of GIS in the classroom have been well documented, only a few publications offer solutions to these challenges. This research focuses on three case studies of schools in Soweto, South Africa. The purpose of the project was to identify challenges to teaching with GIS in the classroom and potential methods of solving them.

The majority of schools in South Africa are too limited in funding, support, time, training and other much needed resources to successfully incorporate new technologies into classrooms. Although the number of learners taking geography as a school subject has increased over the past five years, the performance of learners in the GIS section of examinations remains an issue of concern.

In order to curb this situation and improve on results in the final examinations, three schools in Soweto were identified and provided with a program enabling them to teach with GIS in the classroom. The teachers also attended a three-day training program, to gain knowledge needed to present classes using GIS. Upon follow up visits to the schools, it was found that the program is not used by the teachers in the classrooms.

The aim of this study was to identify the challenges that hinder the proper implementation of teaching with GIS in the classroom, and to find solutions to each of the challenges. The three schools chosen for this research are located in Soweto, South Africa. An experienced teacher was appointed as a mentor to visit each school and identify any challenges and report back to management of the providers. Each problem was discussed and solutions were proposed.

The challenges faced by the three schools are very similar. Although the technical resources needed to teach with GIS are available at the schools, the geography teachers have limited access to these resources. The biggest impediment to teaching with GIS in the schools seems to be the teachers’ confidence, as they feel intimidated by the technical abilities of the school learners. The teachers also lack the personal motivation to upskill themselves. While the teachers are mastering the needed technical skills to teach with GIS, their knowledge of GIS concepts and terminology is inadequate. The teachers also lack knowledge of the content of the school curriculum for Geography.

The recommendations to solve these challenges include a mandate from the school principle to monitor the use of GIS in teaching and step in where needed. The mandate should also demand access to the needed resources at the schools and the backing of the principle to support teaching with GIS in the classroom. More emphasis should be placed on developing the technical skills of teachers, rather than focusing on the details of the subject knowledge.
The process of uplifting teachers to teach with GIS is slow and cumbersome. In the meantime, each teacher who is trained and uplifted, through programs such as these, influences the lives of 40-160 geography learners.

Sanet Carow

Education Manager
Esri South Africa

Sanet is the Education and Training manager at Esri South Africa. She has more than 15 years’ experience in teaching at a tertiary education institution. Her current responsibilities include new curriculum and course development to be used for training and education in the GISc industry.
Sanet holds a MSc(Geoinformatics) at the University of Pretoria. Research interests include the use and training of GIS in other African countries with specific focus on South Africa.


Send Email for Sanet Carow

Gertrud Schaab

Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences, Faculty of Information Management and Media

Prof. Dr. Gertrud Schaab is professor for 'Thematic cartography, spatial visualisation, map compilation and design, geospatial analysis, and geography' in the Faculty of Information Management and Media at Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences since 2002. Her lecturers cover a wide range across cartography, GIS and remote sensing, which she teaches in the Bachelor programmes 'Geo-Information Management' and 'Geodesy and Navigation', as well as in the International Geomatics Master programme. In her research she aims at combining GIS, remote sensing and visualisation, with a focus on environmental applications and Eastern Afrrica. At HsKA she is responsible for the Esri Development Centre.


Send Email for Gertrud Schaab


7111.2 - Finding solutions to problems when teaching with GIS in the classroom: Three case studies in Soweto, South Africa


Attendees who have favorited this

Please enter your access key

The asset you are trying to access is locked. Please enter your access key to unlock.

Send Email for Finding solutions to problems when teaching with GIS in the classroom: Three case studies in Soweto, South Africa