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This article was written by Habibah Lateh and Vasugiammai Muniandy from University Sains Malaysia. It describes and discusses about the obstacles and opportunities of implementing GIS (Geographical Information System) in schools with a deep focus of GIS in teaching and learning geography. The aim of the study is to determine the effectiveness of GIS in increasing students' interest towards the subject as well as to upgrade the performance of Malaysian Teachers' Standard. The future, advantages and disadvantages of GIS to be used in Malaysian classrooms were discussed as well.
In-depth Summary of the Article
Geography and GIS in Malaysia
The stages of education system in Malaysia can be divided into primary education, secondary education, pre-university education and tertiary education.
In the Malaysian context, Geography is classified as social education and it is offered to primary and secondary school students through the standardized curriculum.
Basic Geography is offered to standard four students in primary schools through the subject 'local studies' while Geography is a compulsory subject among lower forms in Malaysian Secondary schools and it became an elective subject at upper secondary level.
Geography can be divided into 3 main fields :
Geography Skills : Longitude, latitude, the usage of compass, bearings, graphs and mapping.
Human and Physical Geography : Climate and weather, population, transportation and communication.
Local Study : Field work (Done within few kilometers from their school/housing area).
The usage of computer in this subject is very low. This is because students' only use computers to produce bar and line graphs using Microsoft excel.
In order to make teaching Geography interesting and proactive, GIS were suggested as it :
Captures, stores, manipulates, queries, analyzes and displays all forms of geographically referenced information;
A useful technique for organizing and retrieving spatial (location, latitude and longitude co-ordinates) information and reasoning that supports higher level of learning among students.
Allows students to view, understand, question, interpret, and visualize data in many ways that reveal relationships, patterns, and trends in the form of maps, globes, reports, and charts.
Helps to answer questions and solve problems by looking at the data in a way that is quickly understood and easily shared.
Possibility of Integrating GIS in Malaysia
GIS is feasible to be used in schools as most of the secondary schools in Malaysia are equipped with computer labs and internet access. [Mohd faris Dziauddin, 2006]
Comment : If we are going to comment from the aspect of population in our Malaysian secondary schools with number of computer labs and internet access that were provided, it is definitely not sufficient enough. I say this because not all schools were equipped with computers and internet access. These facilities are only equipped in computer labs and mainly for science, maths and ICT teachers to use and not for Geography subject. If other teachers want to use it, they have to look for the availability, take turn to use it and book the lab in the first place.
The times for usage are limited as 1 period is 40 minutes and double period is only 80 minutes. Time is wasted as students have to move from their class to computer lab that is located far from their classroom and for teachers to control them while in the computer lab. When teacher ask the students to switch on the computer, it will take another 5 to 10 minutes for the students to settle down before the teacher can actually start the lesson of the day and teach them how to use the new software that will not be asked in their final exam.
Students nowadays are very concerned in passing their exams with straight A's not about learning something new especially ICT's that will not be asked in their PMR or SPM examinations.
If want to describe from the aspect of population, Malaysia has lots of population. According to World Bank, World Development Indicators, Malaysia has 26,920.6 of midyear population for the age 0 to 64 for the year 2010. If the equipment or the software such as GIS cannot be supplied to all schools in Malaysia, this policy cannot be implemented in schools.
If there is a change of syllabus by the Ministry of Education in the future, the GIS software still can be used. It will not effect as the use of the GIS software is variety and can be adapted accordingly.
The aim of this software is to help student's analysis the data that they get in an easier way, to manage the data and to see if there's any obvious patterns exist. According to Sipe (2003), we also will be able to examine past trend as well as the present trends. Besides that, students all will be able to look pattern on the temperature, rainfalls, land use, demographics, population movement, climate change, population growth and many more. Students are free to customize the data entry process, analyze it and mapping the data.
Teacher's enthusiasm or willingness to adapt the new technological GIS method to teach Geography is high as 94.1% out of 219 teachers agreed and give positive commentary regarding the implementation of GIS in schools. [Nordin sake, 2006].
UTM, USM, UKM, UPSI, UMS and UiTM are universities in Malaysia that offers GIS as a subject for their students. UMS offers GIS and make it as a compulsory subject. They offer 2 papers :
The Principles of GIS
The Application of GIS
USM offer GIS for Geography majoring students at the degree level at the Engineering Campus. School of Humanities and School of Distance Education offers GIS for their students at different levels from degree to masters and PhD levels.
According to Vasugiammai Muniandy, (2005), GIS can be integrated effectively into the Geography syllabus, especially 'local are study' without making any drastic changes to the existing syllabus. It is GIS allows students to view, understand, question, interpret, and visualize data in many ways that reveal relationships, patterns, and trends in the form of maps, globes, reports, and charts. A selected topic of local area study and how GIS can be implemented was carried out in developing area, Kepala batas. The study proves that GIS does help students to identify the growth and development in that particular area within decades. In fact, the students can study the development among the area phase by phase.
According to Tarmiji et al (2005), GIS has the future of becoming the 'data bank' as it benefits the students, future generations and the surrounding society. It can be used at both level, primary and secondary and yet be extended to all subjects.
Teachers are also finding new and creative ways to use GIS in their classrooms. Computers and maps have a natural appeal to students and the learning process is enriched when classroom activities can be used in real life applications.
Here, students can visualize information spatially using map. It is not only a bunch of data inside a table. We can say that picture can say thousand words. GIS are a very powerful tool for geographical and environmental related studies. Students can use them to map where purchase come from in a store for example and if there are large number of customers in a town 40 miles away you may want to build as store there. Students also can create a topographic map of a town based on the property values. Besides that, students can create buffers around wetlands or other environment places to limit where a project can be done.
Obstacles in Integrating GIS in Malaysia
The cost of the GIS hardware's and computer labs with complete PC sets are high.
Comment : Almost all schools in Malaysia has the financial implication of hardware and software. According to Tanser and Le Sueur (2002), this issue is no more a problem as hardware and software has become cheaper nowadays. They also mention that the GIS software works well on a standard desktop computer. Another problem that occurs is these GIS software has to keep up with new operating systems like Windows Vista, and Windows 7.
Teacher's enthusiasm or willingness to adapt the new technological GIS method to teach Geography low at rural places. Less computer skills and fear for using computers or latest technologies.
Comment : Teachers find it difficult to learn the GIS software as no proper trainer is provided for them. As GIS is a new technology, teachers with GIS training and skills are in demand and they are beyond the reach of our Malaysian Schools. In Malaysia, there is lack of coordination in giving training for teachers. For example, teachers are sent for workshops for intensive courses to get training but then they do not have computers or software's available when they return. Besides that, the person that gets the training is not the one that really needs to know how to use the software. Next, the teachers should know how to adapt the GIS software specifically for their teaching subject or disciplines.
Not enough time to complete the given task in a given time frame, could not find suitable time to prepare the labs, not enough time to organize students and teach them how to use GIS software as it takes a longer time to prepare labs with perfect computer access and software.
Comment : According to Mohd Nazir Md. Zabit et al. (2006), the teachers knowledge and skills when comes to using technology was at an average level and that they only use computer technologies a few times only in a month and for a very short period of time, for them, computer and Internet is used for materials search and downloading and they don't go beyond that. .
GIS research needs lots of funding and time to complete it. We need the financial support to collect new data and to convert paper maps with the related data into digital format. But the decision makers in Malaysia do not understand the usefulness of these application and schools in Malaysia are having problems to get the GIS software to be implemented in Malaysia. These can be caused by the cost of the software. A single copy of the software is manageable and if we are going to supply it to all schools in Malaysia, we need to consider the implementation of GIS into other subjects as well rather that Geography alone. What we realize in Malaysia is that many maps here do not have the necessary information that makes them to be useful in a GIS environment. Some of them do not have projection, origin, scale, and sources of data, legend and many more. So, we need to process all the information's before we proceed with the digitizing process of the maps. In another word, the process involved can be very technical, tedious, and time consuming.
The GIS software is developed at United States. The problem here is that, if we have a problem with software or getting supports for the software, it cannot be resolved via telephone or email. If an adequate support is being provided locally, maybe decision makers in Malaysia will consider of implementing it in Malaysian schools. In terms monitoring, we do not have the experts to do so from time to time. The monitoring system in Malaysia is quite poor even though it can be done from through SMS, emails or visit to schools.
The accuracy of data / map depends on scale and becomes a major problem when map scales are altered or when datasets are merged. According to Oppong (1998), problems can arise when a vegetation dataset collected via satellite is combined with village level data on a disease incidence for example. When we trying to find a relationship between vegetation type and malaria by using these two datasets, it can be very misleading. The data is either not suitable or not useful for the GIS analysis.
Suggestions to Implement GIS in Malaysia
Appoint computer lab assistant to prepare the lab with perfect computer access and software and teach students how to use the GIS software. In case of the maintenance, we need to appoint a lab technician for the maintenance purposes of the computers and software's - check in terms of compatibility of the program, the expiration of the software's, computers are ready to be used when students use the lab and no mulfunctionality. Teachers might not have the time to teach the GIS software to the student, so schools might need to appoint the lab assistant to teach the software's to the students after the school time. So, when teacher enter the class, they can save lots of time and learn more in the class.
Equip all the pre-service and in-service teachers that majors in Geography especially with the GIS knowledge and skills. Other teachers are encouraged as well.
Ministry of Education should centralize the data that should be provided in order to build a homogenous education throughout Malaysia.
Usage of GIS can be expanded to teach other subject like ICT, Science, Mathematics, Business Studies, History, and many more. What schools can do is that rather than provide a computer labs, they can start providing a few computers in the classroom itself; so that whenever students are working in group and they need the help of the computer to look for information's, they can always do it by being in their class rather than go to the computer lab.
There are schools where they have all the facilities such as fully furnished computer lab with high tech. But they don't allow students to use it!! They rather lock the computer lab and preserve the room rather than let their students use it and familiarize themselves with the equipments. This is because they are afraid that they might need to spend lots of money for the purpose of maintaining. If they are any equipment damaged or ruined by any cause, its better students use it and damaged it and we update it with a new one with new technology rather than keep it locked safely in a room and make it being outdated without using it!!
Ministry of Education can launch a pilot study on the use of GIS software. They can work out problems in a smaller scale before launch the GIS software nationwide. They also might invite private sectors to collaborate and share the data with them for more effective data collection. Besides that, MOE also can ask high school students to help with the study. Since these students have to do some field study, MOE can always hire these teachers and students to conduct a demographic analysis and share the data with them.
The future of GIS is in our hands and we have the capability to use the power that GIS brings to solve the world's problems as it produce a great variety of learning environments and teaching materials.
I totally agree that we should consider using the GIS software to teach geography for our students. This is because :
Gathering data for a new GIS is no longer a critical problem. This is because GPS has become a major source of new GIS data and comes increasingly from the GPS system. GIS technology allows us to do things in minutes that took hours with a pen and paper. But this might not be applicable in Malaysia because the funds and the experts in this field are not available or less available.
GIS software is now easier to install and maintain as many GIS databases are now distributed over local and wide area networks.
If we use the GIS software correctly and effectively, it can be a very powerful time saving tool that allows for accurate mapping and data analysis.
Department of Statistics Malaysia - Malaysia Population by age Group : http://www.statistics.gov.my/portal/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=173&Itemid=61&lang=en
Tanser F. C, Le Sueur D. (2002). The application of geographical information systems to important public health problems in Africa. Int J Health Geogr.
Schonik, M. & Kol, S. (1999). Using Presentation Software to Enhance Language Learning. The Internet TESL Journal, 5 (3).
Sipe, N. G. & Dale, P. (20030. Challenges in using geographic information systems (GIS) to understand and control malaria in Indonesia. Malaria Journal.
Taylor DRF. GIS in developing nations. Int J Geogr Inf Syst. 1991;5:3-3.
MARA Towards an atlas of malaria risk in Africa: First technical report of the MARA/ARMA collaboration. Durban, South Africa. 1998.
Oppong J. R. Data Problem in GIS and Health. Paper presented at Health and Environment Workshop 4, Health Research Methods and Data Conference, 22-25 July, 1999.
Deadman, P., Hall, G. B., Bain, T., Elliot, L., & Dudycha, D. (2000). Interactive GIS Instruction Using a Multimedia Classroom. Journal of Geography in Higher education, 365-380.
Thompson, D. & Buttenfield, B. B. (1997). Learning with GIS, Learning about GIS. UCGIS White Paper.
Lyons, A. (1998). GIS for Environmental Education:A Pilot ArcView Application for the Journey North Program. University of Florida.
Education Review Office (ERO). (2001). The Implementation of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in New Zealand Schools 2001.
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Article 2 : Retrieved from Science Direct [28th July 2010]
Design and Development of a Collaborative mLearning Module for Secondary School Science in Malaysia : Addressing Learners' Needs of the Use and Perceptions of Technology.
Brief Summary of the Article
This article was written by Dorothy DeWitt and Saedah Siraj from University of Malaya. It discusses about the learning of science that does not fit the nature of the subject in Malaysian schools. ICT has the function so called Computer-Mediated Communications (CMC) to learn the processes and scientific skills of science outside the classroom. This CMC provides online discussions, enables authentic mLearning (mobile learning) collaboration and knowledge-building similar to scientists either in class or at home through CMC activities on the internet and with text messaging.
Summary of the Article
This article was written by Dorothy DeWitt and Saedah Siraj from University of Malaya. It describes and discusses about the learning of science that does not express the nature of the subject in Malaysian schools in terms of using scientific reasoning processes, conduct in collaboration with other scientists. Besides that, it also emphasize the scientific process of making discoveries with peers, sufficient activities for discussions with peers and use of the language of science. In order to solve the problem, Information Communications Technology (ICT) will be used as it enable discussion forums, emails and wikis as it allows project in progress such as this to be shared and improved. This technology has the function so called Computer-Mediated Communications (CMC) to learn the processes of science outside the classroom. CMC provides online discussions, enables authentic mLearning (mobile learning) collaboration and knowledge-building similar to scientists either in class or at home through CMC activities on the internet and with text messaging. An instructional module for collaborative mLearning that will attend to the problem (communications and discussions in science) will be developed for Form 2 learners on the use and perception of technology. One topic from the science subject 9Nutrition) has been chosen for this purpose, and module were developed and assessed by the experts.
Objective of the Research
To determine the use and the perception of technology of the students in communications and discussions in science.
To design a module based on the findings in the perception studies.
To develop a mLearning module to be used for science instruction.
To assess the mLearning module that is being used for science instruction.
What is the situation of the use and perception of technology among Malaysian schools students in the context of the study/
What are the expert's opinions on the design of the collaborative mLearning module for Form 2 Nutrition?
The study adapts a developmental research approach and has 3 stages :
Sample and Population : Two groups were used for this purpose. The samples for all three phases differ.
Learners group : Form 2 students were selected from an urban school in Petaling Jaya (158 multi-racial student population) participated in a survey to determine the use and perception of technology.
Experts : Educators with 10 years of teaching experience were chosen, 3 subject matters that had experience teaching science with computers and technical experts that had both knowledge and 5 years experience in CMC.
Comment : According to Holton and Burnett (1997), when we use a quantitative type of a survey design, we are dealing with non-response bias sample. "The advantage of using quantitative method is its ability to use smaller groups of people to make inferences about larger groups that would be prohibitively expensive to study". But the essential is, how large of a sample is required to infer research findings back to a population?
Another comment is that, the study comprises of one urban school from Petaling Jaya. The study does not involve any rural, semi-urban or semi-rural schools in Malaysia. How about the schools from East Malaysia? Does the students were selected based on certain criteria's?? It is not mentioned here. So, it is hard to justify whether the sample population for this study is appropriate.
For the selection of experts, educators with 10 years of teaching experience were chosen. Does that means those teachers that teach science for the past 10 years were chosen? In Malaysia, teachers are given different subjects to different level of students every year. How will the researcher justify the sample population? Besides that, how will the researcher justify the experts experience in teaching science with computers?
Instrument : 2 different approach were used for data collection.
The Technology Skills and Usage Questionnaire (TSUQ) - to determine learner's perception in the technology usage, and use of the computer and the mobile phone for learning. (Questionnaires' were adapted with Cronbach Alpha coefficient of 0.882)
Evaluation by experts after the module design is completed.
Comment : I think sometimes expert ill tend to be overly critical when they evaluate the program. They tend to give feedbacks on a very tiny aspect of the program rather than an overall feedback of the program. Their feedback should consider from the perspective of users. Experts also should be aware for what purpose is the evaluation being done and what they able to decide as a result of the evaluation.
Data's was analyzed and presented according to the use of technology and the perception of the use of computers and mobile phones. Means and percentages were used for reporting. In the evaluation phase, the interviews with the experts were transcribed and validated by the experts. The emergent themes were reported.
Findings : Internet is a frequently used tools for students and teachers. Most respondents feels that computer is important for learning. All students should be given the opportunity to use them for learning activities in school and at home, meanwhile they feel that mobile phones text messaging should be provided in the module.
Design of the Collaborative mLearning Module : The mLearning module was created based on First principles of instruction (Merrill, 2002). Altogether 3 types of technology tools were used for that purpose; wiki for an online collaborative group problem task, discussion forum for shorter problems, and text-messaging quizzes.
Evaluation of the Collaborative mLearning Module :
The experts feel that the amount data that will be collected during the learning sessions will be a whole lot and they may have problems for managing them. Besides that, the activities will require lots of time and teachers may not have that much of time as they have to finish their syllabus on time.
English will be the medium of instruction in science in this module and it was considered difficult. The suggestion was to use simpler sentences for the students to understand. Inaccuracies in the content should be corrected and that includes shortened forms in text messaging. Experts also requested a separate instructional module to be provided for reference and that videos, sound and graphic be included in the activities to cater to the multiple intelligences theory.
The finding concludes that the usage of internet is very wide among the Form 2 students but emails are not popular among them.
The online discussion forums, phone discussions and text messaging were more popular among students as it could encourage collaborative mLearning in Science.
Mobile learning can take place in any location, at any time and is for everyone as we have been active in mobile empowerment and learning since 2001, working to widen opportunities for learning through the use of mobile technologies.
Standpoint and Suggestions:
I think if we are utilizing internet and computers to teach our students, it is very encourage able but I totally do not agree that we should consider using the mobile phones to teach our students. This is because :
Each one of us wants a richly interactive content for our phone, doesn't matter if it's Blackberry, iPhone or Nokia. The reality about making mLearning content is that there is no single solution to push richly interactive mobile content into every possible phone. This is something impossible to be done. On one side, going for the richest possible interactivities and on the other side going for the widest possible phone coverage.
If I'm an educator, I definitely want all my students have the same access to learning no matter they are from rural or urban area, rich or poor and slow learner or fast learner.
Another important aspect is the screen reflection. This is something people often do not think of but regret not checking when they are shopping for a phone. For example, my current device, the Motorola works great in bright light situations where one would have trouble seeing the screen on an iPhone. It is a very important aspect as the context of our mLearners is just as important as the content. If our learners could not read what is on the phone, what can we expect from the mLearning text strategy?
The cost involved to get the same device as your classmates. If I'm going to participate in mobile learning, I definitely need a device that enables me to participate in most types of learning environment as my friend does. As a student, I might not have that much of money neither my parents can afford to get me one. For me, a good mobile learning strategy can take advantage of even simple devices that cost little to nothing from most wireless networks.
Size of the device really matters. The incorrectly plans mobile learning content will only lead to a compressed e-learning/mLearning. A good mobile learning strategy takes into account what the learners have and need and designs accordingly.
Battery life for an average mobile device is 8 to 10 hours of continuous usage. If our learner needs a continuous learning experience that is mobile and lasts more than several hours, we should probably re-evaluate our mobile learning strategy.
The limitation in storage capacity as students learns far beyond the curriculum and they need ample of storage for their activities. If we are storing big files like movies, audio, podcasts, it is important that we have a memory slot.
The camera quality as how many mega pixels do the camera has as the more mega pixels the better the quality of the picture taken with it.
Wi-Fi is a must as it will enable us to connect to free internet and look for the information's needed.
Bluetooth is important for instance wireless interaction between classmates.