University of Florida (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2013 Proceedings
Publication year: 2013
Pages: 3978-3986
ISBN: 978-84-616-2661-8
ISSN: 2340-1079
Conference name: 7th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 4-5 March, 2013
Location: Valencia, Spain
The Urban and Regional Planning department at the University of Florida with partial funding from the Martin and Mirash Ivanaj foundation has developed a prototype course that uses Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to teach Albanian middle school children about environmental and sustainability subjects. The course was taught in June of 2012 in Tirana, the capital of Albania, to a group of students from the middle school “Dëshmorët e Lirisë”.

In country partners and supporters for this project included the Albanian Ministry of Science and Education, the National Albanian American Council, the Regional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe, the Albanian Minister for Innovation, Information, and Communication Technology (also an MP), and the very first United States ambassador to Albania.

Several non-for-profit partner organizations made significant contributions this effort. They include the GISCorps, which provides volunteer GIS services to less advantaged communities worldwide; the GreenMapping System, which engages worldwide communities, in mapping green living, nature, and cultural resources; the Mediterranean Association for the Protection of the Sea Turtles (MEDASSET), and the My Community, Our Earth, a program of the American Geographers Association.

The course was developed and taught in English. It was based on both online and off line data and software. It was designed around ESRI’s ArcGIS Online Map Services, and ArcGIS Explorer, and it included both global and Albanian data. The course was designed to connect students’ daily personal experiences with the local context, and with the subsequent impact upon the larger global context.

In an effort to implement the newly acquired knowledge and encourage the students to create something new, the course included a final day where the students worked in teams to create the first Green Map for Tirana. They created two alternatives of Tirana’s Green Map. One map showing the locations of green resources at present, the other showing future additions of green resources as proposed by the students. The maps were first hand-drawn, and then ported to ArcGIS Explorer. At the end, the students wrote a letter to the Mayor of Tirana asking that the municipality publish their work in its website. A closing ceremony to deliver course certificates was attended by teachers, parents, and country officials such as Albania’s Deputy Minister for the Environment, Forestry, and Waters, Dr. Taulant Bino.

Pedagogical principles that guided the design of the course included:

• teach with GIS rather than about GIS
• integrate with other media forms
• integrate concepts across disciplines
• connect personal experience and practice to the larger world
• disregard age group cohort classifications
• keep the balance between the role of students as consumers of knowledge versus that of producers of knowledge
• create a network structure in the classroom with three teachers working as half-peers with the students and in concert with one another.

The entire course and related data and products created by the students is available on ESRI’s web site. Lessons and data are at: Students final work is at: ESRI ArcGIS Online.
The Green Maps and the letter sent to the Mayor are published at the GreenMapping System, and at the My Community, Our Earth.
The project website and its course blog are at:
GIS, Green Mapping, Sustainability, Geographic Information Systems.