Geographic information technologies: An influence on the spatial ability of university students?
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This dissertation examined whether learning geographic information technologies (GIT) can improve the spatial ability of university students by means of a quasi-experimental approach. This study referred to theories in psychology and geography to construct a theoretical framework from a multidisciplinary perspective. At the Department of Geography in Texas State University-San Marcos, a total of 134 participating students received course instruction of GIT, geographic information systems (GIS), remote sensing (RS), and world regional geography, and acted as the three treatment groups and the control group respectively. Quantitative and qualitative data were collected from the background survey, the spatial ability pre- and post-tests, and the spatial ability self-report inventory through Texas State Blackboard® and Webmail systems. The results of statistical tests on the spatial ability pre- and post-tests suggest that learning GIT have a significant positive influence on university students' spatial ability in terms of spatial visualization, spatial orientation, and spatial relations. It can support some scholars' positions that geographic information technologies, or GIS, can help to improve spatial ability. However, the effect size indicates a relatively small effect that GIT courses can make on the spatial ability of university students. Regarding sex-related differences in spatial ability, the results of descriptive statistics reveal that after learning GIT the females and the males did show complicated patterns on each dimension of spatial ability across groups, but statistical tests cannot interpret these patterns because of weak power.
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