IU - Indiana University

Geo-Spatial Technologies for Indiana Educators and Students



GIS Defined

Geographic Information Systems (Science) is a collection of computer hardware, software, and geographic data for capturing, managing, analyzing, and displaying all forms of spatially (geographically) referenced information.

  • Remember those multi-layered images of the human body from middle school science class showing the body's skeletal system, nervous system and so on? GIS is similar. It layers 19th, 20th, and 21st century geographical data - of streets, buildings, neighborhoods, even subterranean infrastructure - using 21st century technology.
  • GIS technology works by linking information stored in databases to a place or location. Users can question the data and present the answers in maps, tables and other graphic representations. Since 80% of all information has a geographic component, the power of GIS can be widely used to support decision-making and problem solving across all sectors - public, private, and not-for-profit.


Lessons and Activities

Students as Point Source: Restaurants - a quick idea from Dan Weigold of the Whitley County GIS Team - Dan visits classrooms to introduce the idea of GIS by utilizing each student to represent a restaurant: fast-food to sit-down dining. He, then, places students (all but a few) relatively randomly around the classroom (standing). The students then discuss the placement of a new restaurant (one of the remaining students; fast food) by studying the current distribution of existing restaurants. Next, place two additional restaurants (one common sit-down and one fine-dining). The point is to discuss the patterns and distribution. This collection of restaurants, each one representing one location, becomes one possible layer in a GIS. How did the students utilize the data? How did the information help the students make a better decision?

The Power of Maps, PPT by Dr. Jorn Seemann, Geographer & Cartographer with Ball State University, Department of Geography

Introduction to GPS and GIS Tools, PPT by Dr. Vijay Lulla, Geographer & GIS Specialist with IUPUI, Department of Geography


The best collection of data for Indiana. Each county has about 270 different layers of data: sewers, caves, population, poverty, trash... THANKS to our friends at the Indiana Geological Survey, the Indiana Geographic Information Council, the Indiana Geographic Information Officer, and MANY others who have collected the data throughout the decades and who have agreed to share the data!!

  • Center for Earth and Environmental Science (CEES) – http://www.cees.iupui.edu – data, maps, site visits, and ideas.  Click on GIS Data and Maps.

Digital Maps Are Giving Scholars the Historical Lay of the Land - A New York Times, July 26, 2011, article addressing the use of GIS (geographic information systems) to aid in the interpretation of historic events, such as the Battle of Gettysburg.

EarthCache - an educators' guidebook to help with the mechanics of establishing an Earth cache, the teaching of GPS, and the implementation of a GPS into a GIS. http://www.geosociety.org/earthcache/teacherGuide.htm

Earth Explorer by United States Geological Survey – data and satellite imagery; http://edcsns17.cr.usgs.gov/cgi-bin/EarthExplorer/phtml/BrowserTest.phtml.            

GIS is Providing a New Medium for Understanding - an article in ESRI's Winter 2006/2007 ArcNews Issue. A good graphic image depicting various forms of communication across the globe.

GPS Visualizer - a free, easy-to-use online utility that creates maps and profiles from GPS data (tracks and waypoints, including GPX files), street addresses, or simple coordinates. Use it to see where you've been, plan where you're going, or visualize geographic data (business locations, scientific observations, events, customers, real estate, geotagged photos,GPS drawing...).

Information Age Publishing (IAP) - Geospatial Technologies in the Social Studies Classroom - Provides a review and analysis of the theory, research, and practice related to geospatial technologies in social studies education. ISBN pk 978-1-59311-672-9.

Journey North, a product of Annenberg Media, has available an on-line tracking maps of Monarch butterfly and whooping crane migrations south for the winter. Also, information about tulip bulb seasons/maps. Lots of other resources are available, too.

National Geographic VIDEO provides a very good explanation of GIS in "A GIS Journey". Video courtesy of ESRI. Approximately 9 minutes long. Visit the following web site http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/player/science/technology-sci/gis_journey.html

Nature, the Human Network, and the Role of GIS - an article in ESRI's Winter 2006/2007 ArcNews Issue. Beautiful image of a networked Earth.

  • The POLIS Center – http://www.polis.iupui.edu – GIS mapping applications and lots of SAVI dataI (Social Assets and Vulnerabilities Indicators) for central Indiana, plus   classroom ideas: http://www.savi.org/savii/default.aspx
  • Population Reference Bureau – http://www.prb.org – lots of global population statistics/data, articles, lesson plans, and information pertinent to the global, 21st century world.
  • Teach the Earth with GIS, a SERC portal for geoscience educators, sponsored by the NSF and NSDL. Links to GIS resources and classroom activities.
  • Terraserver, sponsored by the United States Geological Survey, provides satellite imagery and data for the United States and surroundings – http://www.terraserver.com
  • Topozone – http://www.topozone.com – access topographic maps, shaded relief maps and aerialphotographs of the region under study.

  • United States Census Bureau - "Picture Your State" - students can link directly to a state to find fun and odd statistical information in order to gain a spatial perspective of their state; geared toward the fourth grade (but good for grades 3 and 5, also). The Census Bureau also has LOTS of usable information for students in all grades.
  • United States/Indiana Geological Survey Interactive Maps – http://adamite.igs.indiana.edu/.
  • United States Geological Survey - map education teacher packets:

United States Geological Survey - National Map Corps: Put Your Town on the Map! Web-based data collection procedure presents an opportunity for citizens to contribute specific geographic knowledge to the USGS'S mapping program.

Learning About Maps

U.S. Census Bureau – http://www.census.gov – for population statistics, maps and other information.

The World Bank – http://www.worldbank.org – for population statistics and world development indicators and additional information regarding large-scale, global prioritization for development.