Technology allows students to access a wider variety and quantity of instructional resources and each student can choose which material or resources to use for a better learning. Different methods and different speeds of learning can be faced by ICT according to the students’ interests and experience. The very large amount of information available on the Web makes it necessary to assess the quality of the online material and this is also applicable to the wide variety of Internet tools, in order to select the most appropriate. Different supports (video, text, graph, and maps, among others) have the same content to be used and they can host tasks, correct them, and analyze and monitor the entire learning process using learning platforms. Technology makes the objective of promoting personalized learning possible with the teachers’ orientation, which must be adapted to each student. Some authors call it adaptive learning [31
]: the adaptability in the process, the training plan, and in self-learning to respond to the needs of students. In this method of learning—very useful for distance learning—the medium is adapted using tools, such as video, related to flipped teaching to favor this type of “à la carte” teaching method, and also virtual learning environments, such as the Moodle platform, so that the student can learn. These platforms allow the teacher to add and delete content according to the needs of the students, selecting the materials needed for each group of students, proposing key questions to promote learning, dividing students into interest groups for participation in forums and inviting students to create their own blog. They are an essential element of asynchronous interaction and personalized feedback, for example, through the same forums and messages of support. Educational Adaptive Hypermedia Systems (EAHS) make the adaptation to students possible. Some distance universities, such as the Spanish Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia
(UNED), use many different channels to promote adaptive systems.
The growth of open learning environments, such as the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), allows creating one’s own itinerary of learning between the variety of resources that these courses present, adding opportunities for personalized and collaborative learning.
4.1. Learning Landscape Using WebGIS
WebGIS is a geospatial technology using geoinformation on a geographic information system online, which allows the collection, processing, analysis interpretation, visualization, and communication of data, adding and removing layers, and client-server interaction. The existence of WebGIS comes from three recent developments under the geospatial technologies revolution [36
]: (i) the widespread use of GPS (Global Positioning System); (ii) access to open data (geodata) and quality images; and (iii) the proliferation of cloud applications and WebGIS platforms, such as ArcGIS Online (AGOL), Boundless, Carto, GeoNode, Mango, or Mapbox.
Therefore, to integrate geodata, images in different layers, gather a data collection on a map for a further analysis [37
] on a Web map on platforms hosting GIS on the cloud, and integrate other data from participatory methods using a computer or a device (e.g., ESRI Survey123) are easy tasks. The WebGIS platforms offer a great amount of free geodata in layers on which it is possible to add your own geodata. Thus, geodata can be added more easily than some years ago to create interactive maps on the cloud. Geodata can be displayed on different devices for visualization, measurement, and analysis of features of the Earth. This opens new possibilities for teaching and learning geography, for spatial analysis of the information contained in a WebGIS [38
], for spatial case studies in a particular area.
These geospatial technologies using geoinformation make it possible to understand landscape transformations and, thus, environmental monitoring and assessment. This geospatial approach has been previously used in GIS training by several European projects, such as GeoSkills [39
], digital-earth.eu, or even by the European Environment Agency initiative called Eye On Earth.
By using WebGIS, students can visualize geographical content on a spatial basis, interacting with other users and contributing to add new content. GIS in the Cloud (WebGIS) makes possible a new approach in geography and landscapes education.
4.1.1. WebGIS on University Projects
Innovative teaching projects at the Complutense University (PIMCD) [40
] allowed the GEODIDAC research group to work on landscape education (a selection of them are in Table 1
), combining flipped teaching, collaborative methods, and cloud-based GIScience learning [17
The technical advantages of web mapping created from images of agricultural landscapes and geographical itineraries [43
], among many others, became evident when these georeferenced images—including comments and metadata—were turned into a conventional web page very easily and quickly. This is just the opposite to the previous system: creation of web maps using html, which meant a great investment of time, a location that was not always precise, the inability to integrate other layers of information that enriched the context of the images, and a lack of collaborative work in real-time.
About ten complex mapping projects have created new WebGIS materials for the Master’s teachers classroom since 2012 and around five hundred students have benefited from this way of teaching and learning. The published projects on e-prints of the Complutense University of Madrid have more than 5000 downloads of the publications in the new system of downloads (17 May 2017), which evidences the acceptance of this way of teaching and learning.
These projects have been key to shifting teaching methodologies of many of the teachers participating in them. The flipped teaching method has been a great help in the creation of web maps, following these main steps: students gather data and materials autonomously (for example, an image of an agricultural landscape), then they interpret it with the help of the teacher. Later, they create their map with the geoinformation previously gathered. The teacher mentor overviews and helps students with the technical difficulties. The last step is to create a collaborative web map with the contents and geodata gathered jointly with the content of the WebGIS, which already covers the subject of study; for example, the vineyard landscapes of Spain. The multi-causality approach to the landscape, from the gathered information, makes students think about it and become aware of sustainable development. This method of working the Spanish landscape can be exported to other places in the world.
The user creates different collaborative web maps by themes that show different landscapes [44
] or itineraries in zones of heritage or landscape interest, for example, Spanish national parks [45
] or Madrid old Walls (Figure 2
), enabling questions and possible teaching activities.
The student teacher’s work, future teachers of geography for secondary education at several Spanish universities, showed their satisfaction by constructing their own cartography and applying them to their own classrooms during their traineeship period. Some of those questioned agreed that “it is important to learn how to handle students in a different way than traditional paper as WebGIS are much more visual and it is easier and more comfortable to work with the interactive online maps. It is a more dynamic and close to the student for the applied study of different questions of geography”.
It can be concluded that this method using WebGIS reinforces learning that satisfies students, and even in-service geography teachers, who have collaborated asynchronously from different places. These same teaching strategies have been used in topics that are easily outdated on geography school textbooks, such as geopolitics, population, economy geodata, etc.
4.1.2. Digital Atlas for Schools
The Digital Atlas for Schools (in Spanish, Atlas Digital Escolar,
ADE) (accessible at atlasdigitalescolar.es) (Figure 3
) is a set of maps drawn from the previous WebGIS experiences of the mixed team, composed by geography educators at colleges and teachers of geography at K–12 levels.
This geospatial tool has clear pedagogical advantages in learning methods [46
]: increased motivation, improved perception and better spatial thinking, collaborative work, meaningful learning by doing, spatial analysis, project-based learning, geospatial accuracy, etc., at all educational levels, but mainly at secondary schools. The Atlas is the result of a contract between the University of Zaragoza and ESRI Spain. Thanks to the dissemination and the recognition of several institutions (Spanish Royal Geographic Society, EUROGEO, IGU Commission of Geographical Education) it has reached about 60,000 users in two years since it was launched, according the data provided by Esri Gallery. Most Spanish—and even some Latin American—universities use Digital Atlas for Schools as the main tool for geography teacher training programs.
The Digital Atlas for Schools uses ESRI technology and it is visualized through ArcGIS Online, in a storytelling format. “ArcGIS Online is an online, collaborative web GIS that allows you to use, create, and share maps, scenes, apps, layers, analytics, and data” [47
] and also to create working groups. The version for organizations is free for education in the USA and has as a specific project now extended to some European countries: the interaction with ArcGIS Desktop, and the facilities given to the ADE project for using ArcGIS Online (AGOL)TM
, the ESRI®
WebGIS platform lead to the birth of the “Atlas Digital Escolar”. The platform allows creating customized maps that reflect the results of an investigation and adapt them to the educational needs. It is also organized in the form of a Web mapping, making the integration with all the geoinformation resources possible: map notes, WMS or WMTS layers (raster), tracks on gpx, csv databases, shp files for vectorial mapping, etc.
Information obtained from statistical or cartographic open sources, such as EUROSTAT, International Monetary Fund (IMF), or World Bank (WB) Excel tables and Spatial Data Infrastructures (SDI) services, among others, can be easily integrated into a web map on AGOL. The WebGIS platform allows addressing the geospatial challenges and problems of Europe and the world. Thus, for the preparation of the Atlas, open data are used, previously published by the statistical institutions responsible for every data source, which guarantees its quality. For example, a better knowledge of Spain comes from the open data of the Spatial Data Infrastructures of Spain (IDEE) maintained by the National Geographic Institute (IGN) and the Spanish Statistic Institute (INE). Possibilities for creating and updating the created maps would be increased from a combined use of ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Desktop.
The Atlas is structured in seven sections (more than one hundred maps and almost four hundred geoinformation layers): (1) How it works; (2) Cartographic tools; (3) Physical geography and environment (landscapes); (4) Population and urban geography; (5) Economic geography and globalization; (6) Spatial imbalances and regional planning; and (7) School projects with AGOL.
A web mapping application with text, videos, maps, and class resources are essential components of the Atlas. The toolbar includes zoom, legend, information about the layers, the option of changing the base map, making measurements, and sharing and printing. There is a popup window which shows map details and gives further information about the map [48
]: targeted students, on topics covered, enumerated layers and information presented on the map web. There are two available links: the first one leads to what has been described as an ArcLesson. It has examples of questions that can be directed at students to deepen their knowledge of the issues presented, a very useful instructional resource which can be downloaded; and a second link to the web map contains the built-in application for teachers or students registered to access the map information, activate the layer, or modify or create a new map from this ADE map, which is only possible by logging in to one’s own AGOL account.
The main objectives to be achieved with the Digital School Atlas are:
Facilitating the acquisition of knowledge based on the geography curriculum.
Encouraging critical geospatial thinking [49
], providing a tool for spatial analysis.
Understanding the concepts and reflected contents on any map, rather than memorizing it. This invites browsing to reach the same learning outcomes proposed by the current curriculum.
Leveraging open and quality geodata available on the portals maintained by the official bodies responsible for the same data.
Promoting learning standards and evaluation criteria that are useful for learning throughout life-centered and spatial reasoning, and acquiring digital skills.
Learning how to properly integrate geolocation tools in pictures, maps, and other geo-data to help gain a better understanding of the Earth, through its analysis and by drawing the right conclusions for actions to be taken.
Forming a citizenship whose responsibility is to apply acquired knowledge. Study cases and school experiences will be proposed with this aim in mind.
Serving as a laboratory instrument for geography education research in at least two ways: geospatial thinking and GeoProgressions [50
Every teacher or student (future teacher) using ADE expressed the learning potential of the tool on a survey at the end of ADE activities in geography lectures and lessons. Few problems have been encountered by the Master Teachers students focused on the Wi-Fi, the resources of the class, age of the students, their background, and the theme of the lessons. The tool fits with personalized learning as it allows working different topics at different depths. The ADE has been used with Complutense and Zaragoza Masters´ Teacher since 2015 using IBL and PBL methods.
4.2. The Aropä Learning Environment and a Landscape Approach
The Aropä learning environment helps to establish evaluation rubrics that respond to learning objectives and content, allowing teachers to organize double-blind double-corrections online and offer the accurate results of them, permitting personalized learning using a distance methodology.
To assess the natural heritage impact is not an easy task for students. The efficiency of land management is possible by consulting and studying the current legislation related to the uses of land in natural spaces. In this context and, as a complementary means of learning, students from the Environmental Sciences degree at UNED: Planning of the Territory II (2016–2017 academic year), must carry out an assessment of one of the National Parks of Spain (Figure 4
). An essay or dissertation is planned consulting current legislation, researching the main problems, and correcting two other student’s dissertations or essays as blind peers. It is not a compulsory activity for them, but those who participated in it enjoyed this new way of shared learning.
The statement of instruction proposed to the students was: Write an essay on the topic “Difficulties and problems of the land use management of a National Park”, which will be corrected by two of your colleagues (blind peers). Some guidelines were given [51
] on the format, the structure of the document to be elaborated, and the content, such as a personalized title. A synthesis of the analysis of the documentation related to the park, from geospatial products, the enumeration of the physical elements, and indicators of the most relevant physical environment and problems of management of the park were also provided. An argument of whether the planning proposals in the park needs to be implemented or not was included, and how to develop a sustainable spatial strategy for the area was asked. After the date of delivery of the work, the system assigns two essays about different parks to be corrected by the student. The keywords established by the teacher, which were the names of the parks, labeled the essays, allowing the system to award two parks different from the one already studied, and uploaded them the Aropä platform.
Students peer reviewed the essays or dissertations, according a set of criteria statement (rubrics) established by the teacher (Table 2
) in relation to the aspects of the work requested: guidelines on the format, adequacy of the chosen title, key information on the management of the park, enumeration of three relevant physical elements of the park, coherent explanatory discourse (clarity of ideas and argumentation, correct content, the theme is well centered), correct application of the concepts learned on the subject, inclusion of a personal contribution, suggesting new questions and reflections on the subject that opens bridges to later debates, correct spelling and grammatical expressions, and the use of an impersonal style or the third person. An item on satisfaction in reading other student’s dissertations has been added.
The student is invited to fill in a section of observations and the teacher gives some advice on how to correct a dissertation in a constructive way, collaborating in the improvement of the text and not in the disqualification of it. There are no absolute truths; everything has a temporal and spatial context. The value of new questions and reflections on the subject that have been raised will open bridges to subsequent debates and valuable personal contributions.
In this way, the student has approached three different Spanish national parks, one more in depth, elaborated by themself, and two other different parks through the correction made to their colleagues’ dissertations. With it, students critically evaluate possible solutions according to the given criteria. They receive feedback on the form and content of the essay or dissertation already completed [52
]. It is a system that favors discussion among students in an orderly way.
Therefore, the previous work of the teacher to elaborate the rubrics means that the tool allows attending to a great number of students with outcomes that reflect very reliable qualifications. The score differences between students themselves show more than 2.5 points in 18% of cases. The tutor/teacher worked on the peer review scores and compared with their own scores for the same student’s dissertation. Teachers’ scores do not differ from what the tool’s creators have estimated after a deep study of the tool [54
] (two points in 90% of cases). Perhaps, more than two peer reviews will reduce the differences between student reviewer scores. Thus, it would be interesting to widen the blind peer review to a larger number of papers, e.g., five papers, which would undoubtedly enrich the feedback given to the students, the analysis and assessment of different landscapes, and would improve reliability of the evaluation.
4.3. The Use of the Portfolio and Landscape Study
The portfolio is a work tool that presents interesting aspects, such as the possibility of performing a cumulative, sequenced, and ordered work [55
], as well as the individual work and assimilation of content [57
]. In this way, students will be able to participate in the process of reflection [59
]. It also incorporates not merely descriptive learning, but is reasoned in such a way that it can be maintained over time and allows a reasoned application in future learning and research processes by the students involved [60
]. In the context of personalized education, an educational action is employed, focused on each student being able to acquire knowledge and develop personal and civic virtues. The study of the landscape through the incorporation of the portfolio supposes the opportunity to incorporate, in an orderly and sequenced way, the accomplishment of tasks and spaces of study [61
For the implementation of a conventional portfolio or an e-portfolio, if the students use the digital format, dedicated to landscape analysis, they must learn to select accurate and meaningful information, analyze it, and draw the appropriate conclusions. In the case of an urbanized landscape, it should represent the location of the general population in its population environment, i.e. neighborhoods, districts, and suburbs, analyzing the morphology of these settlements and obtaining conclusions about the incidence in the construction or transformation of the landscape. Significant indicators, such as population analysis, may also be used; for example, the degree of involvement on the landscape based on the level of education or professions in each neighborhood or district; The analysis of the regime of tenure of the dwellings (in property, rent, or assignment); The study of the number of persons occupying the dwelling and the age of the dwellings, level of personal autonomy (total, partial, or absolute), or the form of resolution in the case of any dependency (public, private, or concerted centers). All of these questions are based on the embodiment of the economic, cultural, or social spaces in which the population is located.
Another important section will consist of a map of facilities and services, including cultural and educational centers (libraries, universities, or centers of popular culture); health services (outpatient clinics, dispensaries, hospitals with geriatric services, among others); facilities for leisure, day centers (indicating ownership: public, private, or concerted), commercial services (pharmacies, banks, shops, and other companies), residences for seniors installed in the urban area (indicating ownership: public, private, or concerted, and the economic cost of the square), map of collective transport and its adaptation to the elderly, current state of the existence of architectural barriers, current state of urban furniture indicating the state of conservation of public toilets, banks in landscaped areas, or endowment indices for over 65 years in the different districts of the city, as well as the accessibility to the services in the different districts of the city.
Geography is the science of the scientific analysis of the landscape, so before arriving at the conclusions and proposals for improvement, a section dedicated to the population footprint in the urban landscape could not be missing in this proposal. Renovation of buildings in the neighborhoods, rehabilitation of buildings, intervention of public administrations in the preservation of residential and urban heritage, ending with the elaboration of a map of the studied neighborhood where the main urban actions for renovation and rehabilitation are reflected in the last decades, being able to perform for the qualitative analysis a survey on the level of citizen satisfaction by neighborhoods and proposals of improvement for a greater quality of life of elderly people. In this line of research, mental maps can also be very helpful [62
Finally, regarding natural and cultural landscapes, the number of possibilities to incorporate the portfolio will be extraordinary, such as aspects of territorial planning to the knowledge of existing resources, or an educational work that will consist in raising awareness about the preservation and defense of these unique spaces [63
The results obtained from the e-portfolio application to the classroom are summarized using the Likert scale (Table 3
). The assessment by the users of the portfolio qualifies it as an effective learning tool, as it allows a good orientation in the monitoring of the contents, helps and orders the subject, and the autonomous learning obtains better results in the evaluation. All of them are facilitating elements to surpass the subject with success.
To facilitate the analysis and interpretation of data, a grouping of issues or items shown in Table 3
in dimensions or factors according to the theoretical structure of the instrument was performed, on which reliability data will be provided for internal consistency (Table 4
In the first dimension, dedicated to the teaching–learning process, three items (1, 3 and 4) were grouped in total, proving that the reliability in the various groupings was satisfactory since Cronbach’s alpha (α) allows estimating the reliability of an instrument measured through a set of items that are expected to measure the same construct or theoretical dimension. The measure of reliability by Cronbach’s alpha assumes that the items (measured on the Likert scale) measure the same construct and are highly correlated. The closer the value of the alpha is to 1, the greater the internal consistency of the analyzed items. The reliability of the scale must always be obtained with the data of each sample to guarantee the reliable measurement of the construct in the concrete research sample. As a general criterion [64
], suggest the following recommendations to evaluate Cronbach’s alpha coefficients: >0.9 is excellent; >0.8 is good; >0.7 is acceptable; >0.6 is questionable; and >0.5 is poor. In this section, the values oscillate between at least 0.741 (to facilitate the progress of the continuous learning), which reflects an acceptable coefficient, and 0.947 (autonomous learning), which reflects an excellent coefficient.
In the second dimension, items 2 and 7 were grouped, reliability was established between the ordered rhythm of the tasks and the ordered follow-up of the tasks, resulting in very high (0.94) and medium-high values (0.76).
Finally, the third dimension occupies three items (5, 6 and 8) related to the interaction with teachers, the positive evaluation of the results, and personalized attention. In the three areas we obtain relatively high reliability data: personalized education reaches the highest value, above 0.9; while the contribution of the portfolio indicates a greater success in the overall evaluation of students, with indices between 0.90 and 0.80; finally, the interaction with teachers also represents elevated values always below 0.9—in fact, we obtain indices between 0.87 and 0.85, at a minimum.