Geographic education curricula frequently uses geospatial technologies such as geographic information systems (GIS) to assist learners in meeting the National Geography Standards. GIS is a geospatial technology that allows users to store, retrieve, manipulate, and display geographic data about any location in the world. Although it has been noted that GIS is the one technology that can assist students in meeting all of the National Geography Standards, the actual implementation of GIS within classrooms is far behind expected rates.
GeoThentic is an online scaffolded learning environment that helps teachers integrate geospatial technologies in the K-12 classroom for learning geography. The environment was built on the TPACK foundation and real-time feedback.
Within GeoThentic, students are placed in the role of a geographer, working toward solving a geographic problem while using the scaffolding choice they deem appropriate. The software creates opportunities for students to solve authentic complex problems within an online environment, while concurrently providing teachers with the necessary TPACK foundation to be able to teach the multiple modules available within the environment.
Examples of modules in the GeoThentic environment are:
- Build a Hospital – Determine the best place in San Francisco to build a new hospital
- Global Climate Change – Identify the top areas around the world most affected by climate change
- Avian Flu – Identify the top locations around the world where humans are most affected by Avian Flu
- Build a Stadium – Identify the best city in the USA to create a new football team and build a new stadium
- Population Density – Identify U.S. states that will be most impacted by population growth and decline by the year 2100
The GeoThentic scaffolds (e.g., situated movies, screen-capture videos, conversational agents, and collaboration zones) have been designed to successfully model, demonstrate, and provide feedback on the use of geospatial technologies while maintaining an appropriate level of difficulty and reducing unnecessary frustration. In lieu of requiring learners to use specific instructional materials, GeoThentic affords the freedom to employ any of the scaffolds at any time as learners feel they are necessary to understand and solve the problem. GeoThentic differs from traditional scaffolding by providing inherent and gradual withdrawal of support. In other words, all scaffolds are available at all times and the selection of individual scaffolds is the teachers’ and students’ decisions.