Where are they looking at? Students’ strategies of familiarization with a general- reference map of an unknown area.
Our understanding of how students work with maps is growing partially thanks to increased use of eye-tracking in cartography (Beitlova, Popelka, Vozenilek 2020; Dolezalova, Popelka 2016; Golebiowska, Opach, Rød 2020; Havelková, Hanus 2021; Trokšiar, Havelková, Hanus 2022; Ooms, De Maeyer, Fack 2014; Ooms et al. 2015). However, it is still not understood how students work with general-reference map of yet unknown area. The goal of this study is to fill this research gap – to find out what are the approaches to familiarization with the general-reference map.
An eye-tracking experiment was carried out on 20 upper-secondary grammar school students. Participants were able to get familiar with the map before experiment for exactly 60 seconds. The only information that they received was that the same map will be used in the experiment later.
The map was divided into Areas of Interest (AOIs) that consisted of the map face, legend, hypsometric tints, and graphic scale. The time allocated to the different AOIs was calculated based on the fixation duration in software OGAMA. The fixation duration on AOIs was then divided into three time frames (0-20 sec; 21-40 sec; 41-60 sec) for each participants an all participants as well. The results showed that time allocated for the additional AOIs apart from the map face was higher in the last 20 seconds than in the first two time frames. However, there were noteworthy differences in their approaches. Some students used map face with minimum time spent on other AOIs. Others continuously used map face, legend and hypsometric tints roughly in the same range. There were also students that started with the high usage of map face and then used legend or the other way around.
Fixation duration was also used for generating scanpath sequences that represented approach of individual participants. Scanpaths sequences were than compared using ScanGraph tool that allows finding similarities between participants’ process of presented stimuli observation. Based on the results of the ScanGraph, examples of different approaches were chosen and visualized. Participants’ clearly used number of different approaches even though most transitions were made from map face to legend. Number of transitions, transition frequency and frequency of using other AOIs generated similarity groups that require more examination. Apart from similarity groups a few outliers were detected.
When comes to where was focused participants’ gaze inside the map face, the attention map can provide limited information. The most attention was received by labels adjacent to the city symbology. Names of rivers, water bodies and mountain peaks received some attention as well. Within the rest of AOIs the most fixations were observed in the area of legend corresponding to signs and descriptions of cities and physical-geographical features.
The study results indicate that there is no universal approach to get familiar with the general-reference map and thus students training for such process can increase efficiency. The future research can be focused on the discovery of effective approaches and the way how to incorporate them to the geographical education.
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