Beyond Tutoring: Interactive Service Learning in GIS/Technology Education for K-16 Students

Nekya Jenise Young, Texas Southern University
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The primary purpose of this lab was to create a model for meaningful service learning partnerships between higher education institutions and K-12 schools. Among the goals was to quantify the "learning" portion of the service learning experience for all across the K-16 landscape. Tennessee State University's Center for Service Learning and Civic Engagement (CSLCE) and Geographic Information Sciences (GISc) Laboratory partnered in a cooperative service learning outreach effort at Nashville's newly created Pearl-Cohn High School Ninth Grade Academy. The CSLSE staff, N. Jenise Young, HUD Grant Manager/Program Coordinator and Susan West, Assessment Coordinator, administered a series of computer literacy improvement courses to 132 participating ninth grade students. Dr. David A. Padgett, Director of the TSU GISc Lab, and Ms. Young led the ninth graders through a series of geographic information systems (GIS)-based exercises, assisted by TSU students enrolled in Padgett's service-learning designated Cartography course.

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Learning Goals

Content/concepts goals
In September and October of 2010, TSU staff members Susan West and Nekya Young administered pre- and post-assessment tests for computer skills to determine baseline knowledge and experience level for the ninth grade students. The Simple Assessment/Pre- and Post Assessment Student Technology Proficiency (NETS-S 2007) tests for Windows/Office 2007 (developed by the Simple Assessment Group of the National No Child Left Behind program) were from Info Source Incorporated and based on national student computer competencies in six areas:

  1. Creativity and Innovation (students' ability to generate new technological ideas, products or processes).
  2. Communication and Collaboration (students' ability to communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences using a variety of media and formats).
  3. Research and Information Fluency (students' ability to process data; locate, organize, analyze, evaluate, synthesize and ethically use information from a various sources and media).
  4. Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making (students' ability to collect and analyze data to identify solutions and/or make informed decisions using technology).
  5. Digital Citizenship (students' ability to demonstrate personal responsibility for lifelong learning).
  6. Technology Operations and Concepts (students' ability to select and use applications effectively and productively; understand and use technology systems).

Higher order thinking skills goals

Other skills goals

Context for Use

Type and level of course
Students from eight classes participated, including Geography courses taught by Ms. Charlie Hall and Ms. Gwendolyn Adams, and Physical Science courses, taught by Mr. Vincent Alexander. In addition to the computer literacy courses, the students were exposed to geospatial technology via a series of GIS lessons developed and taught by Dr. Padgett and Ms. Young including, but not limited to:

  • The Nashville Floods of 2010 (students learned about GIS and emergency preparedness within the Nashville Community).
  • Tornado-spotting training (students mapped tornado patterns across Tennessee using GIS).
  • Rural Stem modules from James Madison University (students used GIS data modules to map and learn about global infant death mortality rates and world population)
  • Global Warming and Climate Change (students used infrared temperature tools to map climate patterns and motor vehicle emissions).
  • GIS Day/Pearl Cohn Ninth Grade Academy Open House Event (students presented their GIS mapping skills learned throughout the semester)
Padgett's Cartography (GEOG 3100) students committed approximately 50 hours of service primarily instructing the ninth graders in the GIS portions of the lessons.

Skills and concepts students should have mastered
The high school students had no prior computer literacy training and/or Geography experience. The undergraduate student's in Dr. Padgett's course had basic Geography and GIS skills.

How the activity is situated in the course
This exercise is a stand-alone exercise that counted for 30% of the high school and undergraduate student's grade.

Description and Teaching Materials

See attachment.
Full description of activity (Acrobat (PDF) 130kB Jun9 15)

Teaching Notes and Tips


The test required a passing score of 75% in order to prove competency in computer skills among their age and grade level. None of the students achieved a passing score in spite of the fact the test was based on seventh grade standards of computer competency. With these results, TSU staff redesigned their computer and GIS mapping training to include basic computer competencies that the students were lacking. The general expectation was that students exposed to both the GIS lessons and computer training would perform better on the tests. TSU staff, faculty and computer training would perform better on the tests. TSU staff, faculty and and students worked with the students throughout the year to improve their computer and mapping skills. To evaluate the impact of the computer lab and training, ninth graders were given both an attitudinal and competency test in the spring of 2011. Over 81% of the students responded that they found it "useful" or "very useful" to have TSU students working with them to advance their computer/technology skills. Twenty one (21%) of the students that took both pre- and post-competency tests passed with a score above 75%. Of those students who passed the post-test, there was an average increase of 41% in the students' scores compared to the pre-test.

References and Resources