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Volume 12, Number 1

Teaching Spatial Concepts to the Visually Impaired Learner: Testing an Auditory Approach
Paporn Thebpanya Volume 12 (2010), Number 1, Pages 5-20
The majority of spatial representations in cartography are predominantly visual in nature. This restricts individuals who are visually impaired to access spatial information freely. This research explored the potential in which the combination of an auditory display and tactile information could facilitate spatial learning in non-sighted individuals. The comparison of the mean scores between the sighted participants who viewed traditional topographic maps and non-sighted individuals who explored sonically enhanced maps are presented. The results revealed that the sonification approach, combined with the tactile interface, have the potential to help individuals with a visual impairment overcome encountered mapping barriers.
Key Words: Auditory display, blindness, sonified map, tactile interface, visual impairment 

Using Concept Maps to Integrate Hierarchical Geographical Concepts for Holistic Understanding
Kalyani Chatterjea Volume 12 (2010), Number 1, Pages 21-40
Concept maps can be a powerful learning tool for an interdisciplinary subject like geography in which the integration of progressively developed concepts, the incorporation of field experiences and data, and the integration of location specific applications of learned concepts require a holistic understanding of otherwise potentially segregated geographic processes. Two university courses in Physical Geography were introduced to the use of CmapTools in an effort to integrate various classroom-based and field-based knowledge and develop a meaningful, holistic understanding of many related concepts. The goal of this strategy was to emphasize the much desired connectivity among the many facets of this interdisciplinary subject domain as well as to integrate knowledge disseminated at various levels of undergraduate training. The outcome indicates that learners, when provided with adequate exposure and environment, use the concept mapping tool effectively to integrate hierarchical, geographic knowledge. Learners also found it a satisfying and useful learning experience.
Keywords: Concept maps, CMap tools, conceptual learning, hierarchical knowledge organization, integrated knowledge

Design Experiment or Experimental Design? Towards a Methodology to Study GIS use in Geographic Education
Chew-Hung Chang Yan Liu, Elisabeth N. Bui, Tao Jin, Hans Gunnar Lossman Volume 12 (2010), Number 1, Pages 41-63

Arising from the metaphor and methods of the design and engineering fields, design experiment is a methodology whereby an artifact or intervention is designed based on a known theory with the goal of improving the artifact or intervention through the inquiry. Experimental design, on the other hand, refers to an investigative method in which variability in the experimental subjects or objects are compared. In developing a methodology to investigate if Geographic Information System (GIS) use with the problem based learning (PBL) approach will result in higher order learning outcomes, the concepts of design experiment or design-based research (DBR) and experimental design were considered. A combination of both approaches was adapted into a hybrid methodology that draws on the benefits of these two approaches to address the research question raised. In particular, experimental design was used in combination with microethnography to inform the design process of this study. The experimental design part of the study found that GIS use with PBL resulted in higher order cognitive skills use, such as applying and evaluating while the use of recall reduced. Studying the preliminary results of the microethnography showed that the affordances of the GIS technology such as spatial analysis tools helped students develop cognitive skills of analysis and evaluation. While initial conception of the methodology was a hybrid of both experimental design and design experiment, the resultant methodology was primarily a DBR which addressed the process of learning and the way that learning is supported by GIS. A key outcome in this methodology evaluation process is the importance of having a practitioner on the research team.
Keywords: GIS, PBL, design experiment 

Undergraduate Students’ Declarative and Configurational Understanding of Biomes
Gillian Acheson & Meredith Beilfuss Volume 12 (2010), Number 1, Pages 64-79
Student’s alternative conceptions in physics and chemistry content have been researched in recent years but equivalent research in physical geography has not been published. This research is important because most alternative conceptions begin in a person’s early years and persist into adulthood. In the present study twenty-six interviews were conducted with introductory, non-science majors at a large, research university in the Midwest. Students marked locations on a world map that corresponded to biomes, such as desert, rainforest, grassland, and tundra. Content analysis suggests that students hold a number of misconceptions about the spatial distribution of these phenomena on Earth. Spatial knowledge, ranging from declarative (prior knowledge) to configurational (knowledge of the relationships between and among locations), was observed among the students surveyed.  The wide range of understanding observed has implications for teaching physical geography from a causal perspective.
Keywords: Biome, misconceptions, geography education, spatial thinking