P. Marty, C. Haeberling, L. Hurni

ETH Zurich, Institute of Cartography, Zurich, Switzerland



The "Swiss World Atlas" is the most widespread school atlas for geographic education at secondary school level (12 to 19 years old students) in Switzerland. Over the next years, this multiply awarded analogue collection of maps will be transformed into an interactive and Internet-based electronic atlas. The didactic objectives of this supplementary part are to teach geographic topics in an exemplary manner. In future, a holistic approach will be succeeded.

This contribution will present the results of an extensive poll about atlases and use of computers for geographic education in Switzerland. Geography teachers were asked about the actual use of printed and digital school atlases. Also, they had to answer the availability and the use of computer resources and network.

Regarding the contents the atlas should provide maps with the same thematic content in a quite similar cartographic design. Certainly, map object characteristics, object density and map labelling must be adapted to screen display. The often high thematic complexity of printed maps should be reduced by separating map objects in manageable layer groups. Furthermore, different representation types were demanded. Besides classic maps at different scales and generalization degrees, interactive orthophoto maps, satellite images, 3D maps, or other cartographic illustrations will be integrated.

To support their lessons in different tasks (e.g. gaining orientation, extracting information, analyzing structures), geography teachers appreciate the development of a high interactive functionality. Moreover, clickable maps for additional information (e.g. interactive legends, pictures, tables) would be estimated.

From a technical point of view, basic web tools should be designed to present maps very easily and without additional plug-in installations. Then, the navigation within the atlas content must be clear and user-friendly. Finally, the atlas should be adaptable to the specific needs of teachers, such as integration of own maps or analysis of imported geo-data.

The priority of evaluated user needs of specifications lead to some general objectives of this user-centred development of the "Swiss World Atlas – interactive". A considerable number of maps of the printed version will also be available in digital form. This allows a simultaneous use of both printed and interactive atlas versions. The electronic atlas will offer much interactivity to assist teachers with adapted maps (e.g. with projected wall maps, silent maps). It will be extended with additional attractive and newsworthy cartographic representations (e.g. 3D maps, maps about current topics). Anyhow, the atlas will run with easy-to-handle and robust internet technologies.