Fun with GIS 127: Map the Vote

Two simple questions comprise a stunning opportunity for social studies teachers across the US: “In the time remaining before the election, where should candidates allocate resources? Why?”

Consider: Which states have the most electoral votes? Which states have been “reliable backers” of a party? Which states have been “close calls” in the past, or flipped parties? Which states have stronger voter turnout, and in what way is that influential? Do any racial/ethnic groups or age bands have special concerns? How is the economy within the state? While every state is electing members to the US House, some states are also electing members to the US Senate, or Governors, and will that help or hurt a presidential candidate in a given state?

How a teacher addresses this is worth considering. I have posted two relevant items: one is a resource for use in ArcGIS Online: a layer of states with a ton of data; the other is a map (shown above on iPad) with the data preconfigured to highlight certain contents. It is like the difference between a stocked kitchen and a prepared buffet table; each offers choices, depending on what you seek.

But each still relies on the same concept, about which some educators and influencers of education policy must be reminded. Life is full of such ill-structured problems, and students need to practice the process that employers seek and adulthood demands: identifying the key question/s, locating relevant and reliable data, analyzing said data, interpreting and integrating the results, and identifying (if not undertaking) a recommended course of action. While the problem-solving process may be described in a linear fashion, the path undertaken may meander, loop, include some dead ends, accumulate a stunning volume of background knowledge, and conclude in a place not originally contemplated. Carefully scripting a path for learners to follow may generate a particular visual result, but may not yield anything close to similar knowledge. (See related blogs.)

Being able to recall the facts in the above table or follow successfully a precise script are vastly less helpful than being able to use them in creative and analytical ways to achieve a goal. To the degree that education emphasizes fact accumulation or prescribed results (precise, predictable, easy to test) versus process development (multi-faceted, divergent, challenging to assess) is the degree to which life’s real problems will continue to vex us all.

- Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

Charlie Fitzpatrick

About Charlie Fitzpatrick

Charlie Fitzpatrick is the K-12 education manager at Esri. Before joining Esri in 1992, Charlie taught social studies in grades 7-12 for 15 years.
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  1. mchernosky says:

    Dear Charlie,
    Is it possible for this data to be shared for ArcMap? My students will be mapping the election using many variables, first using giant paper maps, then using ArcMap.
    Margaret from Maine

    • Charlie Fitzpatrick cfitzpatrick says:

      The easiest way in this blog is to click on the “resource” link next to the map above, which opens up the metadata page about just the single data layer. Instead of clicking the map on that page, hit the pull-down menu and choose “Open in ArcGIS Desktop 10″, which will provide the chance to use inside ArcMap. -Charlie