Geographic Education in a Modern World

Lyzi Diamond (Mapbox) organized a session, Geographic Education in a Modern World, at this year's NACIS, in Minneapolis, and invited me to be the facilitator. Similar to the previous year, I circulated five questions to the panelists.

Abstract:
The last ten years have seen a dramatic shift in geographic education, not just with the tools we teach, but also the types of instruction. More and more opportunities for geographic education are available outside the classroom, both from community-focused learning groups and individual tutorials and classes available online. These rapid and significant changes have inspired a wide range of thoughts and best practices from educators of all types: academic, online, and community-based.

Panelists:
Ryan Cooper, Georgetown-Scott County Planning Commission, Georgetown, Kentucky
Lyzi Diamond, Mapbox
Mike Foster, MIT
Katie Kowalsky, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Mono Simeone, GIS Education Center, City College of San Francisco
Matthew W. Wilson, University of Kentucky

1. What is the relationship between Geography and Cartography?

I like to use a language metaphor. We can use multiple languages to engage in "earth writing" (speech, text, dance, sound, etc.) and cartography is the sort of visual language used to communicate that earth writing.
Ryan Cooper

Cartography merges communication storytelling design with geographic thought and method. You can't have one without the other.
Mike Foster

Geography and cartography are in a cyclical relationship; geography informs the cartographer about the landscape but cartography can also inform decisions and discoveries.
Katie Kowalsky

Geography is the study of spatiality, while Cartography is an intensification and systematization of such studies that primarily occurs in the 20th century. The relationship between Geography and Cartography is one of continuities, rather than discrete disciplines.
Matthew W. Wilson

2. What mapping technologies and approaches do you currently advocate, teach, and/or use?

I try to be platform agnostic with bias towards more open source platforms that have a high return on one's technical and emotional investment in learning. That said I want to meet people where they are. For those unacquainted with geospatial tech, that usually means very simple like Mapbox Editor, CartoDB's Odyssey. But if people have used Google Earth/Maps or have access to ArcGIS and have some comfort level with those types of geospatial tech, then I'm going to cater to that familiarity.
Ryan Cooper

Our approach is agnostic, seeking the best tool for the job. We advocate persistence and openmindedness in problem solving, and its about how you want to tell a story knowing that there is no one right solution but rather many. Failure is okay, learning what does not work is one of the best ways to learn what does.
Mike Foster

I believe in teaching basics of cartography first, about how visual representation works and then showing them how to build maps that are interactive and open source. Teach them the methods and give them the tools to allow for exploration.
Katie Kowalsky

I teach mapping not as a method but as an illustration of rapidly unfolding social relations.
Matthew W. Wilson

3. What kinds of courses or educational opportunities in mapping should higher education support?

Practical, immersive educational experiences are so important both for honing the problem solving skills needed for mapping and for landing a job after time at university. I think one of the best things a program can do is make sure they're tuned in to the mapping community at the regional/state level and have contacts with local non-profits, community organizations, municipal offices, etc. who could benefit from some student mapping projects.
Ryan Cooper

Software agnostic courses that are based on problem solving, communicative design, and finding answers to questions, rather than cookie cutter workflows. There are two fundamental opportunities for education: (1) Creating courses that focus on developing the buttons, not pushing the buttons. (2) Creating courses that share the utility of mapping and geospatial with those that can apply it.
Mike Foster

Lab based curriculum that emphasizes teaching methods, not just the software, is inherently valuable. Also helping to facilitate non-traditional ways of learning through peers teaching peers helps expand students' horizons.
Katie Kowalsky

Geography in higher education should lead efforts to resist the enclosure and privatization of the commons by making public the tools, techniques, traditions, and thought of spatial inquiry.
Matthew W. Wilson

4. Given the rapid pace of change in mapping technologies and approaches, how must higher education adapt?

The technology is changing, but many of the core concepts and operations are pretty old. Curriculum should be built around these core concept rather than a particular suite of technology. Still, give students access to particular tool training if they want to focus on the minutia of a specific platform.
Ryan Cooper

Institutions need to be nimble, responsive, and creative in how they teach technologies. The tools vs. science debate is tired, the field is both.
Mike Foster

Higher education can't afford to teach the software; we need curriculum that teaches methods and workflows that students can adapt to any software. The pace of industry moves at lightning speed compared to the time it takes to develop courses, so we have to commit to using a software or resource that is reliable.
Katie Kowalsky

Higher education in geography must disabuse itself of a post-war American perspective that assigns value to our discipline based on how well it aligns with industrial and military strategy.
Matthew W. Wilson

5. What is the unique responsibility of industry regarding these changes and their impacts on higher education?

I'm a big fan of documentation that includes fully functional examples. I'm thinking of Mapbox JS with the examples section in their API documentation or Esri's resource pages for their geoprocessing tools (example). I feel like those more comprehensive forms of documentation can make it a little smoother process for integrating changes into curriculum.
Ryan Cooper

Industry understand the value and pervasiveness of GIS and maps, but must make a presence in the educational realm and community.
Mike Foster

Industry needs to see the inherent potential in working with higher education, as we train new students every year to use your product and commit to it. We need industry to help by committing to have software that is reliable for us to use for course development and will support backwards compatibility. Work with students by sponsoring them for internships or even just educational pricing plans. Work with universities to make it easier to buy your software; the tendency for companies to do a subscription based model is too modern for most of higher ed and is inaccessible.
Katie Kowalsky

The unique responsibility of industry is to advocate for the long-rhythms of higher education, where the return on investment is largely unseen, instead of enabling a short-circuiting of the democratic role of higher education to serve the shorter-rhythms of industrial profit and more austere state and local governments.
Matthew W. Wilson


Comments

Popular Posts