Esri Ireland, the market leader in Geographic Information Systems (GIS), today announces the launch of ArcGIS for Schools, making €500 million worth of digital mapping software available to every primary and secondary school in the country. More than 900,000 students in almost 4,000 schools* will have free access to Esri’s digital mapping platform, ‘ArcGIS Online’.
The platform allows students to collect, analyse and visualise data on a wide range of topics. As well as teaching the skills and techniques required for working with GIS, the application enables new ways to study climate change, design cities and towns, explore demographics, understand history, predict future scenarios, and perform many other cross-disciplinary activities.
The cloud-based application is accessible through any device connected to the internet including school computers, tablets and students’ smartphones, allowing pupils to collect their own data in the field. Interactive project-based experience with Geographic Information Systems (GIS) supports STEM learning for students, and ties in well with the recent announcement of computer science as a Leaving Certificate subject.
The initiative has been rolled out by Esri in other countries across the world, including the UK, Canada, the US, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Australia, and New Zealand. Students are applying the technology in a wide variety of ways and creating impactful GIS projects. For example, an Australian school recently mapped and developed solutions to alleviate local school traffic congestion, and students in Virginia have been using the technology to analyse police and fire coverage in four major US cities.
ArcGIS for Schools is already in use by 12 pilot schools located across Ireland, including a primary school and gaelscoil, and at a junior cycle, senior cycle and transition year level. Esri Ireland will provide a fully supported ecosystem consisting of hosted and managed infrastructure and continually updated local and global mapping data and content. Lesson plans aligned to primary and post-primary teaching and a GeoMentor programme, designed to connect mapping experts with local teachers, will also be provided.
The programme fits well with the Department of Education and Skills’ ambition to bring the Irish education system further along the path to being the best in Europe at embedding digital technology in teaching, learning and assessment by 2026, as laid down in the 2018 Digital Strategy Action Plan.
Andrew Horan, geography teacher at one of the pilot schools, St. Kevin’s College, Finglas, Dublin, said: “The functionality and applicability of the ArcGIS application to so many different subjects means it has huge potential as a teaching tool. The support and resources provided by Esri Ireland have made it easy to implement, but most importantly, my students are really engaged with the technology. It’s simple to use and allows them to study topics in new ways, enhancing both teaching and learning in my classes.”
Joanne McLaughlin, ArcGIS for Schools Sponsor, Esri Ireland, commented: “The Esri Ireland team is delighted to launch the ArcGIS for Schools programme here in Ireland. Through our work with the pilot schools we’re really encouraged by the reaction of both teachers and their students. Key to the successful adoption of the programme is the provision of support for teachers through workshops, lesson plans aligned to the curriculum, and a huge variety of online training resources. We believe this initiative can help address the evident STEM skills shortage in this country, by developing key spatial analysis, and critical thinking skills at a grassroots level.
“The programme is a perfect complement to the Government’s digital strategy to further embed technology and digital learning tools in our primary and post-primary schools. Through their exposure to GIS, students will be better prepared to understand our planet and become better problem solvers and evidenced based decision makers. It is crucial we do everything we can now to enable future generations to imagine and realise a better future for all.”