Vol. 14 No. 3 (2023): (Issue in progress)
Review Article

Future paths for GIS in K-12 education: A review of possibilities and constraints

Niklas Humble
Department of Computer and Geospatial Sciences, University of Gävle, Sweden
Possibilities and constraints of GIS in K-12 education

Published 2023-08-16


  • Geographic Information Systems,
  • GIS,
  • K-12 Education,
  • Affordances,
  • Literature review

How to Cite

Humble, Niklas. 2023. “Future Paths for GIS in K-12 Education: A Review of Possibilities and Constraints”. European Journal of Geography 14 (3):79-88. https://doi.org/10.48088/ejg.n.hum.
Received 2023-05-11
Accepted 2023-08-15
Published 2023-08-16


Geographic information systems (GIS) have been highlighted as essential future knowledge and are increasingly integrated in people’s everyday lives through applications, tracking, and global positioning systems (GPS). Still, applications and re-search of GIS technology for teaching and learning in kindergarten to grade 12 (K-12) education are limited. Through a scoping review of contemporary literature, this study identifies and discuss possibilities and constraints for GIS in K-12 education. Data were collected and analyzed with directed content analysis, using affordances as a theoretical lens, to identify possibilities and constraints of GIS for K-12 education. The study highlight themes of possibilities and constraints for further investigation. The possibilities of GIS for K-12 education include accessibility, transdisciplinary, and beyond classroom; and the constraints include skills and attitude, higher education and support, and teachers’ knowledge. The theoretical contribution of the study is a conceptual model for how possibilities and constraints of GIS for K-12 education relates to reaching educational goals. Findings of the study have practical implications for teachers and other stakeholders on the use of GIS in K-12 classrooms. The study also provides several suggestions for future research on GIS in K-12 education.


  • Possibilities and constraints for GIS for K-12 education.
  • Practical implications for GIS in K-12 education.
  • Needs for future research in GIS for K-12 education.


Download data is not yet available.


  1. Antonenko, P. D., Dawson, K., & Sahay, S. (2017). A framework for aligning needs, abilities and affordances to inform design and practice of educational technologies. British Journal of Educational Technology, 48(4), 916-927. https://doi.org/10.1111/bjet.12466
  2. Anunti, H., Vuopala, E., & Rusanen, J. (2020). A Portfolio Model for the Teaching and Learning of GIS Competencies in an Upper Secondary School: A Case Study from a Finnish Geomedia Course. Review of International Geographical Education Online, 10(3), 262-282. https://doi.org/10.33403/rigeo.741299
  3. Assarroudi, A., Heshmati Nabavi, F., Armat, M. R., Ebadi, A., & Vaismoradi, M. (2018). Directed qualitative content analysis: the description and elaboration of its underpinning methods and data analysis process. Journal of Research in Nursing, 23(1), 42-55. https://doi.org/10.1177/1744987117741667
  4. Bower, M., & Sturman, D. (2015). What are the educational affordances of wearable technologies?. Computers & Education, 88, 343-353. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2015.07.013
  5. Buzo-Sánchez, I. J., Mínguez, C., & De Lázaro-Torres, M. L. (2022). Expert perspectives on GIS use in Spanish geographic education. International Journal of Digital Earth, 15(1), 1204-1218. https://doi.org/10.1080/17538947.2022.2096131
  6. Collins, L., & Mitchell, J. T. (2019). Teacher training in GIS: what is needed for long-term success?. International Research in Geographical and Environmental Education, 28(2), 118-135. https://doi.org/10.1080/10382046.2018.1497119
  7. Davis, K., Drey, N., & Gould, D. (2009). What are scoping studies? A review of the nursing literature. International Journal of Nursing Studies, 46(10), 1386-1400. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2009.02.010
  8. DeMers, M. N., Kerski, J. J., & Sroka, C. J. (2021). The Teachers Teaching Teachers GIS Institute: Assessing the Effectiveness of a GIS Professional Development Institute. Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 111(4), 1160-1182. https://doi.org/10.1080/24694452.2020.1799745
  9. De Miguel González, R., & De Lázaro Torres, M. L. (2020). WebGIS Implementation and Effectiveness in Secondary Education Using the Digital Atlas for Schools. Journal of Geography, 119(2), 74-85. https://doi.org/10.1080/00221341.2020.1726991
  10. Egiebor, E. E., & Foster, E. J. (2019). Students’ Perceptions of Their Engagement Using GIS-Story Maps. Journal of Geography, 118(2), 51-65. https://doi.org/10.1080/00221341.2018.1515975
  11. Elo, S., & Kyngäs, H. (2008). The qualitative content analysis process. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 62(1), 107-115. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2648.2007.04569.x
  12. Fleischmann, E. M. L., & Van der Westhuizen, C. P. (2017). The Interactive-GIS-Tutor (IGIST): An option for GIS teaching in resource-poor South African schools. South African Geographical Journal = Suid-Afrikaanse Geografiese Tydskrif, 99(1), 68-85. https://doi.org/10.1080/03736245.2016.1208576
  13. Gal, A. (2019). Fifth Graders' Perceptions of Mobile Phones and GIS Technology. International Journal of Evaluation and Research in Education, 8(1), 81-89. http://doi.org/10.11591/ijere.v8i1.16246
  14. Gibson, J. J. (2015). The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception. Psychology Press.
  15. Goodchild, M. F. (2018). Reimagining the history of GIS. Annals of GIS, 24(1), 1-8. https://doi.org/10.1080/19475683.2018.1424737
  16. Harzing, A. W. (2020). Everything you always wanted to know about research impact. In: M. Wright, D. J. Ketchen Jr, & T. Clark (Eds.), How to Get Published in the Best Management Journals (pp. 127-141). Edward Elgar Publishing. https://doi.org/10.4337/9781789902822.00016
  17. Hickey, G., & Kipping, C. (1996). A multi-stage approach to the coding of data from open-ended questions. Nurse Researcher, 4(1), 81-91. https://doi.org/10.7748/nr.4.1.81.s9
  18. Hong, J. E., & Melville, A. (2018). Training Social Studies Teachers to Develop Inquiry-Based GIS Lessons. Journal of Geography, 117(6), 229-244. https://doi.org/10.1080/00221341.2017.1371205
  19. Hong, J. E. (2017). Designing GIS learning materials for K–12 teachers. Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 26(3), 323-345. https://doi.org/10.1080/1475939X.2016.1224777
  20. Hsieh, H. F., & Shannon, S. E. (2005). Three approaches to qualitative content analysis. Qualitative Health Research, 15(9), 1277-1288. https://doi.org/10.1177/1049732305276687
  21. Humble, N., & Mozelius, P. (2022). Content Analysis or Thematic Analysis: Doctoral Students' Perceptions of Similarities and Differences. Elec-tronic Journal of Business Research Methods, 20(3), 89-98. https://doi.org/10.34190/ejbrm.20.3.2920
  22. Intzidou, G., Lambrinos, N., Tourtouras, C., & Seroglou, F. (2021). Metadata: A pedagogical tool for the teaching of map projections in Elemen-tary School. European Journal of Geography, 12(3). https://doi.org/10.48088/ejg.g.int.
  23. Leonardi, P. M. (2011). When Flexible Routines Meet Flexible Technologies: Affordance, Constraint, and the Imbrication of Human and Material Agencies. MIS Quarterly, 35(1), 147-167. https://www.jstor.org/stable/23043493
  24. Lowe, A., Norris, A. C., Farris, A. J., & Babbage, D. R. (2018). Quantifying Thematic Saturation in Qualitative Data Analysis. Field Methods, 30(3), 191-207. https://doi.org/10.1177/1525822X17749386
  25. Lü, G., Batty, M., Strobl, J., Lin, H., Zhu, A. X., & Chen, M. (2019). Reflections and speculations on the progress in Geographic Information Systems (GIS): A geographic perspective. International Journal of Geographical Information Science, 33(2), 346-367. https://doi.org/10.1080/13658816.2018.1533136
  26. McKenzie, P., Cook, S., & Roulston, S. (2022). Learners as Teachers—Teachers as Learners: A Collaborative Approach to Develop Skills in GIS Education. The Geography Teacher, 19(1), 4-11. https://doi.org/10.1080/19338341.2021.1982748
  27. Millsaps, L. T., & Harrington, J. A. (2017). A Time-Sensitive Framework for Including Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in Professional Devel-opment Activities for Classroom Teachers. Journal of Geography, 116(4), 152-164. https://doi.org/10.1080/00221341.2017.1294611
  28. Mitchell, J. T., Roy, G., Fritch, S., & Wood, B. (2018). GIS professional development for teachers: Lessons learned from high-needs schools. Car-tography and Geographic Information Science, 45(4), 292-304. https://doi.org/10.1080/15230406.2017.1421482
  29. Munn, Z., Peters, M. D., Stern, C., Tufanaru, C., McArthur, A., & Aromataris, E. (2018). Systematic review or scoping review? Guidance for authors when choosing between a systematic or scoping review approach. BMC Medical Research Methodology, 18(1), 1-7. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12874-018-0611-x
  30. Mzuza, M. K., & Van Der Westhuizen, C. P. (2019). Review on the state of GIS application in secondary schools in the southern African region. South African Geographical Journal = Suid-Afrikaanse Geografiese Tydskrif, 101(2), 175-191. https://doi.org/10.1080/03736245.2019.1579110
  31. Mzuza, M. K., & Van der Westhuizen, C. (2020). Inclusion of GIS in student teacher training and its significance in higher education in southern African countries. International Research in Geographical and Environmental Education, 29(4), 332-346. https://doi.org/10.1080/10382046.2019.1684660
  32. Nilsson, S., & Bladh, G. (2022). Thinking Geographically? Secondary Teachers’ Curriculum Thinking when Using Subject-Specific Digital Tools. Nordidactica: Journal of Humanities and Social Science Education, 12(3), 171-203. https://journals.lub.lu.se/nordidactica/article/view/23789
  33. Nilsson, S., & Bladh, G. (2020). Going Digital? Geography Education in Swedish Secondary School. Nordidactica: Journal of Humanities and Social Science Education, 10(4), 115-141. https://journals.lub.lu.se/nordidactica/article/view/22346
  34. Norman, D. A. (2013). The design of everyday things: Revised and expanded edition. The MIT Press.
  35. Norman, D. A. (2008). The way I see IT signifiers, not affordances. Interactions, 15(6), 18-19. https://doi.org/10.1145/1409040.1409044
  36. Norman, D. A. (1999). Affordances, Conventions, and Design. Interactions, 6(3), 38-43. https://doi.org/10.1145/301153.301168
  37. Oda, K., Herman, T., & Hasan, A. (2020). Properties and impacts of TPACK-based GIS professional development for in-service teachers. Interna-tional Research in Geographical and Environmental Education, 29(1), 40-54. https://doi.org/10.1080/10382046.2019.1657675
  38. Osborne, Z. M., van de Gevel, S. L., Eck, M. A., & Sugg, M. (2020). An Assessment of Geospatial Technology Integration in K–12 Education. Journal of Geography, 119(1), 12-21. https://doi.org/10.1080/00221341.2019.1640271
  39. Ribeiro, V., Azevedo, L., & Osório, A. (2017). Teaching and learning with geotechnologies on primary education: Students’ perceptions. EAI En-dorsed Transactions on e-Learning, 4(16), e4-e4. http://dx.doi.org/10.4108/eai.19-12-2017.154461
  40. Ridha, S., & Kamil, P. A. (2021). The Problems of Teaching Geospatial Technology in Developing Countries: Concepts, Curriculum, and Implemen-tation in Indonesia. Journal of Geography, 120(2), 72-82. https://doi.org/10.1080/00221341.2021.1872681
  41. Saunders, B., Sim, J., Kingstone, T., Baker, S., Waterfield, J., Bartlam, B., ... & Jinks, C. (2018). Saturation in qualitative research: exploring its con-ceptualization and operationalization. Quality & Quantity, 52(4), 1893-1907. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11135-017-0574-8
  42. Schulze, U. (2021). “GIS works!”—But why, how, and for whom? Findings from a systematic review. Transactions in GIS, 25(2), 768-804. https://doi.org/10.1111/tgis.12704
  43. Stendal, K., Thapa, D., & Lanamäki, A. (2016, January). Analyzing the Concept of Affordances in Information Systems. In 2016 49th Hawaii Inter-national Conference on System Sciences (HICSS) (pp. 5270-5277). IEEE. https://doi.org/10.1109/HICSS.2016.651
  44. Tarisayi, K. (2018). Lessons for GIS Implementation in Zimbabwe from the South African Experiences. Alternation Special Edition, 21, 185-202. https://doi.org/10.29086/2519-5476/2018/sp21a9
  45. Vojteková, J., Žoncová, M., Tirpáková, A., & Vojtek, M. (2022). Evaluation of story maps by future geography teachers. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 46(3), 360-382. https://doi.org/10.1080/03098265.2021.1902958
  46. Walshe, N. (2017). Developing trainee teacher practice with geographical information systems (GIS). Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 41(4), 608-628. https://doi.org/10.1080/03098265.2017.1331209
  47. Wu, L., Li, L., Liu, H., Cheng, X., & Zhu, T. (2018). Application of ArcGIS in Geography Teaching of Secondary School: A Case Study in the Practice of Map Teaching. Wireless Personal Communications, 102(4), 2543-2553. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11277-018-5276-6
  48. Xue, S., & Churchill, D. (2019). A review of empirical studies of affordances and development of a framework for educational adoption of mobile social media. Educational Technology Research and Development, 67, 1231-1257. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11423-019-09679-y
  49. Zwartjes, L. (2018). Developing geospatial thinking learning lines in secondary education: The GI learner project. European Journal of Geography, 9(4), 138-151. https://eurogeojournal.eu/index.php/egj/article/view/53