Monthly Archives: January 2013

There’s More to Spatial Thinking Than You Think

If you are a geography educator or GIS professional, you might say that “spatial thinking” is a way of reasoning about the world, facilitated by maps. However, if you are a science educator whose students need to make sense of 3-D molecular models or of cross-sections of a plant, “spatial thinking” is likely to mean something quite different. So too for cognitive psychologists who employ experimental methods to understand how people learn.

A recent Specialist Meeting on “Spatial Thinking across the College Curriculumhighlighted these different perspectives. The meeting’s purpose was to “identify the current state of our understanding of spatial thinking, identify gaps in our knowledge, and identify priorities for both research and practice in educating spatial thinkers at the college level.” Forty-three thought leaders were invited to participate, including those from Geography and GIScience, cognitive and developmental psychology, research librarians, and science education, history, landscape architecture, philosophy, and political science. Continue reading

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America’s Changing Population: Diversity Index Shows Growing Trend

In 2012, the US population was 313 million. Growing diversity continues to produce striking changes in the population. To provide an accurate way to track these changes, Esri created a proprietary Diversity Index that measures diversity on a scale from 0 to 100. The Diversity Index is defined as the likelihood that two persons, selected at random from the same area, would belong to a different race or ethnic group. For example, if an area’s entire population belongs to the same race or ethnic group, the Index is zero and the area has no diversity. Conversely, if the population can be evenly divided among two or more race or ethnic groups, the area’s Diversity Index increases to 100. The Diversity Index measures only the degree of diversity in an area, not its racial composition. Esri’s Diversity Index for the US has risen from 60.6 in 2010 to 61.4 in 2012, with a forecast to increase to 63.8 within five years. Continue reading

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GIS is STEM!

Today’s youth are tomorrow’s decision makers, and an understanding of geography and the use of geospatial technology will be crucial to helping them make good decisions that affect global health and community life. Unfortunately, geography has always been sort of an “underdog” in our educational system; it’s been misunderstood, generalized, and sometimes ignored. Even today, as we see increased focus on STEM in education, we frequently see geography completely disregarded as a component of STEM.

This is very unfortunate. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Geography touches heavily on all of these disciplines, and the application of geospatial technology helps us to better understanding cross-disciplinary phenomena and solve important problems. GIS, GPS, and remote sensing can be used to simultaneously engage students in science, technology, engineering, and math.

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