I Used to Know That: Geography


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Efficacy of the methods was also explored. Analysis Review of the responses was done by tabulating and reclassifying information, as necessary. Although we planned, in the case of sufficient number of responses, to carry out a quantitative analysis of survey results, eventually we had 45 responses and therefore a more qualitative approach would be taken.


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It is worth noting that over 90 per cent of respondents felt that Analytical Methods, and Cartography and Visualisation were relevant. One respondent also said that they believed many people could benefit from applying GIS to their analyses, but that they might not be aware of how it could positively contribute to them. Individuals were contacted through professional networks and asked to share their experiences around learning to use GIS as part of interdisciplinary research. Interviewees were asked which GIS platforms they use, how they obtain information on GIS, and what terms they may use when searching for information.

Interviewees, though, would be able to request further details on the descriptions on the cards from the interviewer, should any of the topics not be understandable. Analysis During the interviews, audio recordings of the interviews were made so they could be reviewed afterwards and any relevant points of interest would be transcribed. To record the results of the card arranging exercises, photos were taken. After the interviews, the interviewer made notes about any key points that may have emerged during the interview and transcribed the recordings.

Results In total, 11 interviews were conducted. These interviewees identified their disciplinary backgrounds as being from anthropology 2 , archaeology 1 , architecture 1 , ecology 1 , evolutionary biology 1 , library sciences 1 , marine biology 1 , molecular biology 1 , psychology 1 , and sociology 1.

It's a lot easier to start with something like, say, Google Maps, which has got really simple tools, because I did find the Manifold interface quite difficult. Participant E.


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  • Participant D. You can just spend ages wandering around [in regards to internet searches for information] and not knowing what you're doing, and actually that can be very negative because then you can get frustrated and daunted and feel a bit of an idiot. Whereas if you just, say, ask somebody for help, then, you know, they can show you how to do something and it can be a much more positive experience. Participant A. Participant I.

    Participant J. We opened this paper by asking how to improve learning GIS in an interdisciplinary research context. While necessarily limited by the number of respondents to the online survey and participants in the interviews, these results provide a preliminary insight into efficiencies and hindrances in the process of interdisciplinary researchers learning GIS.

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    Users tend to utilise informal learning approaches e. However, as noted by one of the interviewees, without properly knowing what they want to do with a GIS, researchers may spend a large amount of time searching for information, not knowing if they have found the answer they needed, which can be frustrating.

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    If these learners were to find examples of what may be done with GIS within their discipline, as suggested by one of the online survey respondents, not only would they be able to understand what is possible with GIS, but they may also be in a better position to understand what they might want to achieve with it by seeing something familiar. Therefore, it may be suggested that informal learning approaches may be improved through the addition of CBL structures to create contextually relevant learning materials, which may be a more conducive approach for interdisciplinary researchers learning GIS.

    These GIS concepts may be considered to relate to the Content Knowledge of the TPACK framework and should be ones that learning resources prioritise if being constructed for interdisciplinary researchers. Reflecting on the definition of a GIS, these concepts are core to it, in that a GIS is one that captures spatial information Geospatial Data , analyses it Analytical Methods , and displays it Cartography and Visualisation. This will help with alleviating pressures on time and helping them avoid ineffectively searching for information on GIS tasks. This is especially challenging for researchers coming from disciplines outside of geography or GIScience, as their disciplines may approach issues in different ways, or they may not understand the internal language of GIS.

    Alternatively, one could receive a general overview of topics from within KAs identified as having relevant concepts to the learner's objectives.

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    This, however, may also cover inessential topics that the learner may not want or need to learn; with topics, the matter of whether they are indeed inessential may be worth exploring as part of future research. Following a tutorial and the software help manual, though, were methods some also employed for finding information; however, respondents to the survey, in comparison to the interviewees, viewed posting on a forum less favourably.

    These informal learning approaches and the proposed CBL structure for them compliment the Pedagogical Knowledge aspect of the TPACK framework and are methods that may benefit interdisciplinary researchers. Online methods for finding information should highlight the importance of learning materials being available and accessible online as well as teaching basic terminology around the topic.

    Conflicting definitions or misunderstandings of disciplinary language may negatively affect interdisciplinary learners.

    A suggested framework and guidelines for learning GIS in interdisciplinary research

    Without knowing the correct terms, learners may end up searching in vain for answers and not find them. As described by one interviewee: The frustrating thing is that I think there's help out there for everything that you want to do, but even if you put in all the terms you can think of, it still might not come up, and it takes ages searching through things that are irrelevant, but you're not sure if the things you're looking at are relevant or not, because you're not sure what it is you're trying to do.

    Therefore, if the learners do not know the right terms to find the information they may need and they cannot use ones they understand, regardless of whether it exists, a resource that may have the information they are looking for will not be of much help to them because it is unlikely they will find it. As GIS use in interdisciplinary research continues to proliferate, GIS educators will need to create resources that help to overcome issues associated with terms and concepts, such as a dictionary of terms Esri ; Wiki.

    Whether learners actively make use of these, though, is an open question. Outside of issues with language, sharing contextually relevant examples of GIS use in various disciplines may let disciplinary researchers know what is possible with GIS and how it may be of use to them. Interweaving terms familiar to those outside disciplines as part of these examples and materials may enable them to be found more quickly, leading to expedited uptake of GIS. With focus on how the learner creates knowledge on GIS, constructivism as a framework can help to improve the learning process.

    CBL suggests that to aid in the development of knowledge, learning activities should be relevant to learners; with respect to GIS, this can help them focus on the GIS concepts they wish to learn, rather than unnecessary details.

    This is done by removing information identified as extraneous or not relevant to the learner, which may only distract or overwhelm learners. CBL may even be preferable, given that it may be able to offset time constraints for the geography educator, as materials may be prepared in advance. Through the GIS educator's guidance, a CBL resource constructed in a more formalised way may benefit the learner and still compliment or perhaps supplement a more informal learning approach. These two contexts are the Learning Environment Context and the Learning Activity Context respectively, which relates back to the dual axis of context, as recognised by Rose The Learning Activity Context affects Content Knowledge, Pedagogical Knowledge, and Technological Knowledge, as it may necessitate changes to any of these elements; however, the Learning Environment Context exists at a higher level, which may affect all elements, including the Learning Activity Context.

    This work can then set forth the following guidelines to help better support these researchers in learning GIS:. Pedagogical Knowledge: in practice, though survey respondents and interviewees used informal approaches, CBL approaches may be used to compliment or supplement these, which may better support interdisciplinary researchers learning GIS. Technological Knowledge: though survey respondents and interviewees used established GIS platforms e.

    The versatility of GIS and its potential for interdisciplinary research has led to its incorporation in many such projects; however, there is a learning curve in using GIS, which needs to be overcome. In order to provide those learning it effective resources, it is important to understand how other researchers have previously learned GIS. Though informal learning approaches e. This will allow them to be created in advance, perhaps alleviating time pressures on geography educators, providing a flexible activity structure to act as a guide for topic exploration.

    Application of the modified TPACK framework for learning GIS in interdisciplinary research and proposed guidelines may improve the learning experience for interdisciplinary researchers. It is suggested that CBL resources be created that compliment or supplement existing informal learning approaches, while being sensitive to the nuances of disciplinary language to minimise misunderstandings.

    If this is done in a contextually relevant way that feels familiar to learners from different disciplines, this may help them to focus on the GIS concepts they wish to learn rather than extraneous information.


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    • It is hoped through future research that a CBL resource about GIS for interdisciplinary researchers may be created that would focus on capturing, analysing and visualising information, using the GIS platforms relevant to interdisciplinary researchers. This should be purposefully created by geography educators and then be trialled with researchers, ideally in active interdisciplinary projects, to gather data on learning GIS and compare to informal approaches.

      The proposed work may be able to provide further evidence on whether CBL is a more suitable learning approach than informal learning for interdisciplinary researchers learning GIS and applied to existing educational practices. Through handling the challenges associated with the knowledge gap on GIS, facilitating quicker and easier uptake, GIS educators may better support researchers in expediting the application of GIS on projects to achieve interdisciplinary research goals.

      The authors would like to thank the participants of the online survey and interviews for sharing their experiences, as well as the referees for their assistance in helping to strengthen and clarify the message of this article. Volume 4 , Issue 2. If you do not receive an email within 10 minutes, your email address may not be registered, and you may need to create a new Wiley Online Library account.

      If the address matches an existing account you will receive an email with instructions to retrieve your username. Geography Directions Geo Blog. Geo: Geography and Environment Volume 4, Issue 2.

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      Research Article Open Access. Patrick Rickles E-mail address: p. Claire Ellul E-mail address: c. Muki Haklay E-mail address: m. Tools Request permission Export citation Add to favorites Track citation. Share Give access Share full text access.

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      Share full text access. Please review our Terms and Conditions of Use and check box below to share full-text version of article. Abstract Interdisciplinary research with geographic information systems GIS can be rewarding as researchers from different disciplines have the opportunity to create something novel.

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