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Software License Will Support Education Goals
Geographic package offers visual solutions to students

OLYMPIA — March 2, 2011 — Teaching students how to solve problems effectively may get easier with the help of mapping software.

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction signed an agreement with software company Esri that will provide all K–12 schools, districts, and formal youth clubs in Washington state with free access to Esri's ArcGIS, a geographic information system (GIS) package that lets users create maps and data.

“We've got to teach kids how to analyze information and solve problems,” said Randy Dorn, state superintendent. “These are the skills that count in today's world. And we know in the classroom or when students get to do real fieldwork, GIS technology helps kids learn these skills.”

Because of the unique ability of GIS to visualize spatial data – making complex concepts clear and understandable – teachers are quick to take advantage of the strong instructional support it provides in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects.

While the statewide license is new, individual schools in Washington have been using ArcGIS for several years. At Waterville Elementary, fourth-grade students study and map the habits of the short-horned lizard as an annual class project. Working closely with scientists at the University of Washington and local farmers, these young scientists have altered the understanding of the region's ecosystem and biodiversity. (See the Waterville project on Edutopia — Technology Empowers Student Fieldwork.)

“Our STEM educators are excited about several course applications that hold great potential for GIS technology—environmental sustainability and design and the agricultural sciences,” said Dennis Small, director of educational technology at OSPI.

“However, most problem–solution activities in the core curricula have a spatial component, so we want to put GIS in the hands of Washington state teachers as a tool that can expand the way kids think about solving a problem.”

The four-year statewide GIS license has the potential to strengthen K-12 curricula and teaching strategies, and is set to become a key software component of the STARS Project, an online system that enables Washington school districts to submit school bus operation data for review and analysis. ArcGIS will manage the calculation and distribution of student transportation funds to the districts based on the state's new funding formula.

Visit Esri's GIS for Schools program for more information.


About OSPI

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) is the primary agency charged with overseeing K-12 education in Washington state. Led by State School Superintendent Randy Dorn, OSPI works with the state’s 295 school districts and nine Educational Service Districts to administer basic education programs and implement education reform on behalf of more than one million public school students.

OSPI does not discriminate and provides equal access to its programs and services for all persons without regard to race, color, gender, religion, creed, marital status, national origin, sexual preference/orientation, age, veteran’s status or the presence of any physical, sensory or mental disability.

Nathan Olson
OSPI Communications Manager
(360) 725-6015

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The OSPI Communications Office serves as the central point of contact for local, regional and national media covering K-12 education issues.

Communications Manager
Nathan Olson
(360) 725-6015


   Updated 6/12/2015

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