The proliferation of 3D games, flight simulators and use of Google Earth are just some examples of how our young people are growing up using tools and environments that challenge them to think spatially. A new report titled Learning to think spatially from the National Research Council (US) recommends that schools use geographic information system (GIS) software, among other tools and methods, to help students practice and apply spatial thinking across all areas of the curriculum.
The report defines spatial thinking as the ability to understand spatial relationships, the knowledge of how geographic space is represented, and the ability to reason and make key decisions about spatial concepts. Numerous examples of the need for spatial literacy in everyday contexts are referred to in the report to illustrate how important these skills are.
Thinking spatially is one of the key attributes of the “Net Generation” that is identified and discussed in Educating the Net Generation (available here to read online), edited by Diana and James Oblinger. They say “The aptitudes, attitudes, expectations, and learning styles of Net Gen students reflect the environment in which they were raised??one that is decidedly different from that which existed when faculty and administrators were growing up.”