I am teaching a course this coming semester at the University of Denver entitled “Why Maps Still Matter–Geotechnologies for a Smarter Planet“. I would like to describe the course here with a larger purpose: To start a discussion on the best approaches for teaching spatial analysis, mapping, and GIS for the “non-GIS community.”
Because my course is a part of the university’s enrichment program, which is designed for the “love of learning” for the general public, I deliberately focused the title on something that everyone is familiar with–maps. I also wanted to make a point about the relevancy of mapping, and that spatial analysis can help people make smarter decisions. A partial version of the course description follows; the full description is here.
Have you ever used your smartphone to locate the nearest coffee shop? Do you wear a fitness tracker? Have you played with Google Earth? What’s the common element among these helpful (and fun!) tools? Geotechnologies, such as GIS, GPS, Remote Sensing—all examples of the growing field of mapmaking. The impact of these technologies goes way beyond locating your favorite retailer; today’s maps can actually help to make the world safer, healthier and smarter. Join geographer and educator Joseph Kerski for a journey through some of the major issues of our 21st-century world to discover how maps are changing the ways we understand our planet. From natural disasters to global warming, from immigration patterns to transportation, from agriculture to epidemics, today’s maps not only provide location information, but also trends, projections and analyses. How exactly do today’s maps work? Each class features animations, videos and live web-based maps to illustrate advanced capabilities. Why are scale, resolution, data quality, projections, datums and other fundamentals of mapping still important? What impact are crowdsourcing, cloud-based computing and privacy having on mapping? How are maps being used to create a smarter planet? Map everything from real-time airplane locations to your last hike, explore some of the major challenges facing our 21st-century world, and discover why maps still matter. Recommended but not required: Internet access outside of the classroom; laptop or tablet for use in class. To get psyched about the course, watch the video: Why get excited about web maps?
What is the benefit of teaching mapping, spatial analysis, and/or GIS for the general public? I know that many of us are quite passionate about sharing what we do and why it all matters to others, but, what are your goals in doing so? Is it worth the effort? How have you taught these concepts and skills for the general public, or faculty or students outside your own discipline? What are the approaches that you and your students have found to be the most helpful? What activities have you included? I will include a wide variety of topics and themes, including population change, water, lifestyles and demographics, business locations, energy, current events, natural hazards, and health, to name a few. I will include a variety of tools, including ArcGIS Online, the Change Matters viewer, WorldMapper’s cartograms, Esri Maps for Office, and the Urban Observatory. What is the most suitable length for a course like this? In the above case, I am teaching for a total of 7.5 hours, over three Thursday evenings. This one is face-to-face, but since ArcGIS Online is the main tool I will be using, it could easily be taught online.
Teaching “Why Maps Matter” for the General Public.
I look forward to hearing about your experiences in this area of teaching to an audience outside of your own community.