Corresponding Author

Zahra Ghaffari


Spatial thinking is considered a fundamental cognitive skill and there has been more focus on it in recent years due to improved geospatial technologies. Teaching spatial concepts to students by using publicly available resources is an appropriate method to increase spatial thinking ability. More than 1.5 million photographs are publicly available through the Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth website. We wanted to explore the effectiveness of using photographs to improve students’ spatial thinking by using a set of these photographs.

In this research, we selected uncataloged photographs from the International Space Station astronauts’ collection and asked undergraduate students in the “Principles of Remote Sensing” course to interpret each photograph and locate it on the Earth by using “Google Earth”. They used different spatial primitives, simple-spatial, and complex spatial concepts in their interpretation. We recognized and analyzed the concepts used in three assignments during a semester by using the chi-square goodness of fit test and assessed how significantly students increased or decreased their ability to used different types of spatial concepts.

We tested the utility of astronaut photographs for the acquisition and practice of spatial concepts knowledge and examined whether the use of astronaut photographs in a remote sensing course would support students’ understanding and use of higher level spatial concepts. An additional outcome of this research is a guide to select appropriate photographs for teaching specific spatial concepts. The results show that students made progress in spatial thinking skills through their work with half of the photographs. We concluded that by selecting a proper photograph for teaching a specific spatial concept, we can see improvement in spatial thinking skills among students.

Included in

Geography Commons



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.