Including and Motivating Students of Today

British Columbia’s New Curriculum lends itself to project-based learning as it allows educators to incorporate various “big ideas” and curriculum content areas. Along with this, project-based learning allows for increased emphasis to be put on student-centred learning, rather than on the teacher simply imparting knowledge through memorization and recitation that the learner is then often unable to access when needed (Edelson, 2001). Learning-for-Use promotes higher-level thinking skills as students are encouraged to apply both their prior knowledge and the new knowledge they are in the process of acquiring to integrate a framework that accesses the varying levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy, from knowledge and comprehension, to application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation of the world around them (Moore, n.d.). Daniel Edelson (2001) points out that “educators have traditionally seen content and process as competing priorities” (p. 355), with content and inquiry “taught separately through separate learning activities” (p. 356), as opposed to being taught (or considered) as intersecting domains as shown in Mishra and Koehler’s work (2006). In contrast, “recent education reform initiatives emphasize the significance of developing thinking skills, data analysis skills, understanding real-world applications, and utilizing the power of technology in teaching and learning (International Society for Technology in Education, 2000; National Research Council,1996; North American Association for Environmental Education 2000)” (as cited in Bodzin, Anastasio, & Kulo, 2014, p. 2). By using a framework like Learning-for-Use, content and process are integrated as students are given the opportunity to learn through their own inquiry, experience, and discovery by allowing students to engage in situated learning environments through the following principles as outlined by Edelson (2001):

1. Learning takes place through the construction and modification of knowledge structures.
2. Knowledge construction is a goal-directed process that is guided by a combination of conscious and unconscious understanding
3. The circumstances in which knowledge is constructed and subsequently used determine its accessibility for future use.
4. Knowledge must be constructed in a form that supports use before it can be applied
(p. 357)

Supporting these principles of Learning-for-Use are the beliefs that students learn through a process of constructing new knowledge through personal experience and communication, rather than having knowledge transferred to them; through goal-directed learning initiated by the learner; through the creation, elaboration and accessibility (storage) of knowledge; and through the understanding of and ability to use factual knowledge and then transform that knowledge into procedural knowledge (Edelson, 2001; Radinsky et al., 2006).

When considering Learning-for-Use and working with GIS in terms of my own classroom and teaching, the first unit application that came to mind was around natural resources/rocks and minerals. When exploring ArcGIS through searches like “mineral exploration in British Columbia” and “natural resources in British Columbia” a variety of titles related to geological features, mineral occurrences, mineral potential, major natural resource projects, natural events, and so on were found. While there are many classroom and community-based activities that are applicable to natural resource management and mineral exploration in the area where I live, it can be difficult to help students understand the “bigger” picture. The introduction of interactive maps could help bring natural resources and mineral exploration “to life” for students, as well as having them really consider how British Columbia both contributes to and is affected by the harvesting of natural resources. Students could not only identify areas of mining, logging, and so on, they could also then layer on bodies of water nearby to discuss effects on waterways; they could layer on towns and cities to discuss how to process the resources most effectively/economically; they could look for other areas of potential resources; and so on. In addition, when reading Bodzin, Anastasio, and Kulo’s (2014) article on Google Earth, I wondered about having students use this program as a way to identify how the management of resources looks from a “bird’s eye view” in terms of location, environmental disruption, and land reclamation.

Finally, the opportunity that Learning-for-Use and GIS environments offer in terms of inclusive environments and accessibility of materials for a diverse range of learners is an important feature for classes today. Bodzin et al. (2014) discuss the incorporation of “design features in instructional materials so that low-level readers and low-ability students can understand scientific concepts and processes in addition to learners whose cognitive abilities are at or above the intended grade level” (pp. 13-14). Radinsky et al. (2006) emphasize the importance of differentiated assessment in order to assess students in a variety of ways, pointing out that each assessment allows a different view of students’ knowledge and comprehension. Our learners today are diverse, with significantly different expectations than students had in the past, so our classrooms must adapt to our changing learners as well as to the changing world around us. Learning-for-Use and GIS environments provide new and innovative opportunities for student-centered, inclusive and accessible learning to appeal to our learners of today.


Bodzin, A. M., Anastasio, D., & Kulo, V. (2014). Designing Google Earth activities for learning earth and environmental science. In MaKinster, Trautmann, & Barnett (Eds.) Teaching science and investigating environmental issues with geospatial technology (pp. 213-232). Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer. Retrieved from

Edelson, D.C. (2001). Learning-for-use: A framework for the design of technology-supported inquiry activities. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 38(3), 355-385.

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. The Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017-1054.

Moore. S. (n.d.). Bloom’s taxonomy: Teacher planning kit. Blogsomemoore: Teaching and Empowering ALL Students. Retrieved from

Radinsky, J., Sacay, R., Singer, M., Oliva, S., Allende-Pellot, F., & Liceaga, I. (2006, April). Emerging conceptual understandings in GIS investigations. Paper about forms of assessment presented at the American Educational Research Association Conference, San Francisco, CA. Retrieved from


  1. I think natural resources is an excellent fit for both ArcGIS and Google Earth. When teaching about natural resource distribution through a social studies lens, I often have students use atlases to compare locations of particular information on thematic maps; however, as you explained, this would be an effective opportunity to have students use overlays to help visualize the connections and relationships on the same base map. Students who struggle with visual-spatial awareness would definitely benefit from the unified presentation. I can see connections to statistics in math as well, as students could analyze the relationships between different resource levels and economic activity or environmental data, looking for patterns and trends.

  2. Hi Stephanie,

    Thank you for your response! I agree that this content area would lend itself well to statistics lessons in math. I am finding more and more that I am connecting to units from a cross-curricular perspective these days. I’ve learned that any science unit has the potential to be expanded across the curriculum. By doing this, we can approach each concept from so many more perspectives which is such a great way to teach students to think critically about the world around them!

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