Putting education on the map

ESRI has launched ‘GIS for Schools’, a new programme offering improved access to GIS (Geographic Information Systems) in the classroom.

Designed to help students learn more effectively, the CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) initiative has been designed to overcome the barriers to teachers using GIS in schools. So far 80 schools have signed-up to the new scheme.

“As one of the UK’s largest GIS companies we recognised that many schools were struggling to get started with GIS, particularly as it’s now on the curriculum in England and Wales,” said Richard Waite, managing director, ESRI. “GIS helps students learn more effectively and we’ve created the scheme to make it more available to them. Our vision is to get GIS into every secondary school over the next five years. It’s not a money-making venture for us – this is about helping teachers to help children learn more effectively. Future plans include similar schemes for primary schools and universities and expanding the programme across other subjects such as history and biology.”

Already used in a number of schools around the UK, GIS became part of the national curriculum for Geography at GCSE and A-level in 2008 and its uptake in schools is expected to rise. Most teachers do not have time or budget to become trained GIS experts and need to apply new technologies mandated by the curriculum as easily as possible.

ESRI’s new programme makes GIS straightforward to use through online lesson plans and short video tutorials, mapped directly to the curriculum, the company claimed.

“GIS for Schools is perfect for us, as the package addresses all of our concerns with getting up to speed with GIS, in support of the curriculum,” said Steve Yetman, teacher of geography and ICT at the Royal Grammar School in Guildford. “Having all the elements of GIS software, data, lesson plans and mini training videos combined, at such a good price, make it a great way to start applying it in the classroom sooner rather than later.”