The ‘Gamification’ of GIS for teaching and learning

Presentation by Thiemo Romey and Anne Adams at CALRG 2012.

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Rebecca Ferguson
19 June 2012

Geographic information systems (GIS) are powerful tools that help us make sense of geographic data. These systems take different forms, ranging from functionally simple interfaces (e.g. Google Maps) to complex, comprehensive analytical toolkits (e.g. ESRI ArcGIS), but all of them let us integrate, manipulate, analyse and also visualise geographically referenced data from disparate sources.  Hence, a GIS allows us to put geographic data into context.  The result is accessible geographic information that helps us make decisions and solve a wide range of spatial problems.

In particular, a GIS can support ‘sensemaking’ for teaching and learning purposes through contextualising information and scaffolding small group augmentations.  Furthermore, mobile GIS can increase sensemaking by linking abstract concepts in-situ to fieldwork activities.  The elements of GIS that appear to be particular beneficial for teaching and learning are those that relate to the whole learning experience and how a learner develops their conceptual understanding through that experience.   However, the efficiency and usability of these systems has been limited by a poor understanding of exactly how GIS relates to the learner’s experience and their developing conceptual understanding. 

In contrast to GIS, games systems have focused research on understanding the gamer’s experience and, when used for learning purposes, their supported progression through understanding concepts.  ‘Gamification’ has been employed as a term to describe the process of bringing gaming elements into the design of non-gaming systems.  These elements can vary from the simplistic use of reward and reputation systems (badges, points, levels, leaderboards) to abstract concepts of ‘funology’.  More recent research has merged gaming with virtual world research to unpick cognitive issues relevant to the design of systems for learning and sensemaking.

 This paper presents work-in-progress with results from 118 participants in an online questionnaire detailing spatial concepts for GIS system.  These are related to the design of GIS for learners’ experiences and their conceptual understanding.  Finally, initial developments and walkthroughs will be presented on the gamification of GIS with GIS maps translated into 3D gaming and virtual worlds.  Discussions around the roles of ‘flow’, ‘immersion’ and ‘1st person perspectives’ for GIS experiences will be explored.

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