What is common in tasks such as reading a map, finding your way in a shopping mall, interpreting a diagram, and understanding the spatial distribution of a phenomenon or the association of places and events? They are all tasks that rely on a mental skill called spatial or geospatial thinking. Spatial thinking has lately been acknowledged as an important ability both for sciences and everyday life. A report from the US National Research Council (NRC, 2006) entitled "Learning to Think Spatially: GIS as a Support System in the K-12 Curriculum" underlined that "without explicit attention to [spatial literacy], we cannot meet our responsibility for equipping the next generation of students for life and work in the 21st century".
Spatial thinking is considered as a key ability for the STEM disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). Research results stress the rewarding effects of developing geospatial skills in increasing the participation in STEM disciplines, lacking of which acts as a barrier for students leading them to dropout
The pivotal role of spatial thinking in different levels of learning, as well as the accumulated experience and interest of the consortium in this field, were the main reasons for selecting to address the challenges of these needs over others.
Spatial thinking was supplanted in education for a long period of time by other forms of thinking (verbal, metaphorical, hypothetical, and mathematical). This distinct form of thinking is defined as a constructive synthesis of three components:
However, research has shown that these components of spatial thinking are not treated equivalently in education;.
Therefore, there is a clear need for enhancing and integrating the three components of spatial thinking and engaging users in more critical, inquiry-based teaching and learning methods.
GEOTHNK brings together many different organisations with high quality and unique expertise in their field who have decided to join forces in a European effort to propose a scientifically grounded, technologically sustainable, and organisationally disruptive framework to meet the challenge for the development of new learning pathways across traditional education sectors and informal learning situations making effective use of open educational practices and resources.
Semantic Pathways for Building a Spatially-Thinking Society