I think GIS and ArcGIS software are great tools for learning application and research in school. I am very happy that I can help my colleagues do this with their students.
GDi Brings Teach with GIS to Croatian Schools
GDi is an innovative provider of applied technology solutions most known for distributing operations support systems (OSS), decision support systems (DSS), cloud computing, and geographic information system (GIS) technology to commercial and public markets. For the last 30 years, GDi has been an official Esri distributor for Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Hungary, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Slovenia. The team of experts provides local training, consulting, development, and technical support.
One of GDi's missions is to give back through programs such as GDi Do Good and GDi for STE(A)M: Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics. More recently, the company expanded its efforts by using Esri's Teach with GIS hub to bring ArcGIS technology to Croatian schools. The site's resources are designed for educators with little-to-no GIS experience who want to add interactive tools to enhance classroom instruction. Educators have access to learning materials designed for K–12 students across topics such as geography, social sciences, and history.
With the help of a Croatian educator, GDi launched a localized version of the hub entitled Learning through GIS in spring 2021.
"GIS technology is amazing. It can help us better understand the ever-increasing complexity of our local communities and the world around us," said Andrej Lončarić, Esri relationship manager at GDi. "As an Esri distributor, it has always been about getting ArcGIS into the hands of the end users to help them improve the world—and that extends to doing good for our community and giving these tools to students."
GDi staff needed to ensure that the technology wasn't burdensome to classroom instruction and that lessons connected back to GIS theory. To meet these goals, GDi employed the help of Marija Džankić, a geography teacher who now serves as an expert associate for GDi's STE(A)M program.
"The Croatian education system is a little bit different than other education systems in European countries," said Džankić. "For example, the geography curriculum requires that students can explain what GIS is, in theory. That's where the opportunity to create lessons and materials for their classroom got started."
Learning from Džankić's classroom experience, GDi gained perspective on how educators could use GIS in schools and designed a solution that would meet those needs. "Marija is the face of the program and to the education community in Croatia. Her input on what teachers want and what wouldn't work for them is critical to connecting the dots," said Lončarić.
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GDi as Esri distributor for Croatia wanted to further promote GIS for K12. The GDi Team under leadership of geography teacher localized Esri’s “Teach with GIS” Hub for high school teachers so that they could hassle-free and to curriculum standards incorporate ArcGIS Online in their classroom instruction.
High Schools of Croatia
To grow educators' use of the Teach with GIS hub in high schools across Croatia, Esri distributor GDi needed to provide hassle-free material and highlight its value in helping students meet curriculum standards.
GDi collaborated with a geography teacher to localize the Teach with GIS hub content for educator use. This solution included translating lessons from English to Croatian, creating lessons that met national curriculum standards for teachers to adopt, and promoting the program through a national ArcGIS StoryMaps competition.
Over 40 schools signed up for the Teach with GIS hub since the localized launch four months ago. And more than 50 StoryMaps stories were produced by students for the competition, held in spring 2021.
Džankić created presentations for her peers, highlighting other educators' success in using Esri's Teach with GIS. Additionally, her presentations emphasized the value of using GIS in classroom instruction and illustrated how it could be used to meet curriculum standards. It was clear that a ready-to-go solution was needed.
Leveraging an existing United Kingdom version of the Teach with GIS hub, Džankić began localizing the content by translating the lessons, videos, and website information to Croatian. She also reviewed the resources, looking for areas to improve that may be difficult or overwhelming to new GIS users.
"For educators, there are a lot of opportunities [with GIS], and this [Teach with GIS] gives us more materials," Džankić said, noting that access to Esri's ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World is included. "As a teacher, it is great."
Additionally, Džankić tailored every lesson to meet curriculum standards and feature topics relevant to Croatia. For classroom assignments, GDi provided local data collected from customers in Croatia. Topics included recent earthquakes and forest fires; demographic changes and population density in different regions; and 3D modeling of Dubrovnik, a popular tourist destination.
The Learning through GIS hub also features student projects, including those made using ArcGIS StoryMaps, and builds awareness around the benefits of teaching with GIS.
This past spring, GDi hosted its traditional ArcGIS StoryMaps contest, with more than 50 student submissions. Three winners had their projects promoted on the Learning through GIS hub. The first-place winning map, created by a biology teacher and two students, showcased urban orchids in Istria, located off the coast of Croatia. The project documents orchid habitat, orchid distribution, challenges and endangerment of orchids, and the context of orchid species around the country. Other winning maps included topics on city and public transport development in Zagreb and census and population changes to the village of Antunovac.
GDi will host at least one competition each year.
More than 40 schools have signed up since the localized website launch four months ago. GDi staff hope to see more than 100 schools sign up by the end of the year.
For Džankić, helping her colleagues integrate GIS has been the most rewarding. "I think GIS and ArcGIS software are great tools for learning application and research in school. I am very happy that I can help my colleagues do this with their students."
GDi hopes to expand the program into elementary schools in Croatia and other countries where it does business.
"As a company we are happy to enable the younger generation with the tools to understand the array of challenges we face globally and how they can contribute to resolving them," Lončarić said.