|  September 20, 2014  |  
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GIS software opens the world to Alaska teachers, students

Fairbanks, Alaska—Elementary and secondary school classrooms across Alaska now have access to geographic information system technology, thanks to a partnership between the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development and Esri, a leading software development company.

Students, educators and administrators in all of Alaska's primary and secondary schools will be able to use Esri's full range of ArcGIS software, plus gain unlimited seats in self-paced training through Esri's Virtual Campus.

"Many instructors are currently teaching GIS in the classroom, and others are using it to augment their science and geography curricula," said Katie Kennedy, education and outreach coordinator for the UA Geography Program at UAF. "However, we believe that the technology has the potential to change the way students and their teachers fundamentally approach a topic, and we intend to introduce it throughout the state as a hands-on tool that supports inquiry-based learning."

The software license provides an opportunity for K-12 teachers to incorporate GIS into their classes across the curriculum, from geography to history, language arts and math. GIS software not only allows users to visualize spatial data, but also to analyze it, helping make complex concepts clear and understandable.

“The Esri software provides opportunities for teachers to use technology in real-world activities,” said Roxanne Mourant, Alaska educational technology coordinator. “GIS is a growing technology popular in numerous industries that is accessible to remote areas of Alaska that may not have cell phones or Internet, but can pick up the GIS satellite signals.”

School districts can also use the Esri software for administrative purposes, such as bus routing. School districts will be able to better manage their facilities, safety planning and implementation, capture and analyze demographic data and more.

The partnership marks a strong step in UAF’s efforts to link the campus with private industry and K-12 education, said UAF Chancellor Brian Rogers. “This initiative will serve educators and students throughout our state.”

The partnership will also offer Alaska students more opportunities to engage in hands-on, problem-solving learning, said Alaska Education Commissioner Mike Hanley. “This is the sort of learning that keeps students in school and prepares them for college and careers.”

Teachers may visit http://aklearn.net/resources to request the software and find resources for using GIS in the classroom.

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