West Virginia To Offer GIS to Schools Statewide

Citing the widespread concerns of educators and policy makers that schools in the United States are not meeting their obligation to provide sufficient science and technology education, the state of West Virginia has announced a license agreement with ESRI giving all school districts in the state access to the K-12-focused version of the Geographic Information System (GIS) software published by the company.

GIS is a system of integrated hardware, software, and data used for mapping, modeling, and analyzing scientific and social trends related to physical, political, cultural geography. Schools have used paper maps and textbooks for decades to study the discipline, but the world and its people change so rapidly it has always been nearly impossible for the materials to keep current with events.

"We are excited about the prospect of providing GIS instruction throughout our elementary and secondary schools," said Regina Scotchie, social studies coordinator for the West Virginia Department of Education. "We are focusing our attention on grades 6 through 12; however, we have not limited the use of GIS to any particular grade level."

WVDOE has been busy preparing the state's educators for this undertaking, offering GIS seminars to attendees of two of its annual conferences in each of the last three years. The West Virginia Geographic Alliance, an organization dedicated to promoting better teaching of geography based at Concord University in Athens, WV, also offers regular classes in the use of ArcGIS software.

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Scott Aronowitz is a freelance writer based in Las Vegas. He has covered the technology, advertising, and entertainment sectors for seven years. He can be reached here.