€500m worth of mapping software available to every school in Ireland

1 Nov 2018

From left: Joanne McLaughlin, Esri Ireland; Casey Farren Colloty and Nathan Furlong, St Kevin’s College, Finglas; Aideen Croasdell, Esri Ireland; and Andrew Horan, St Kevin’s College. Image: John Ohle Photography

900,000 primary and secondary students to be given access to Esri’s online digital mapping platform.

Geographic information system (GIS) player Esri Ireland is making €500m worth of digital mapping software available to every primary and secondary school in the country.

Ireland has laid down the ambition of being the best in Europe at embedding digital technology in teaching, learning and assessment in the 2018 Digital Strategy Action Plan.

‘Through their exposure to GIS, students will be better prepared to understand our planet and become better problem-solvers and evidenced-based decision-makers’

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 GIS supports STEM learning for students, and ties in well with the recent announcement of computer science as a Leaving Certificate subject.

“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,” said Joanne McLaughlin, ArcGIS for Schools sponsor at Esri Ireland.

“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.”

Maps and legends

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 junior cycle, senior cycle and transition year level.

“The functionality and applicability of the ArcGIS application to so many different subjects means it has huge potential as a teaching tool,” said Andrew Horan, geography teacher at one of the pilot schools, St Kevin’s College in Finglas, Dublin.

“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.”

As part of the roll-out, 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.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years