Sensors and Systems
Breaking News
Drone Aviation and LTE Advanced / 5G-NR Wireless Technology Provider ComSovereign Announce Merger
Rating12345JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Drone Aviation Holding Corp. (OTCQB: DRNE) (“Drone Aviation”...
Nexit Launches as the Next Generation in Mobile Mapping With $10 Million in Funding
Rating12345NEW YORK – Nexit launches as the next generation...
The Latest RoboSense LiDAR Perception Solution Will Support Robo Taxi Development
Rating12345SHENZHEN, China – RoboSense today announced its launch of...

November 25th, 2007
Understanding Place

image
  • Rating12345

understand_placecoverHow often have you wondered “are they getting it?” Are the data and maps making any sense to the students? What are they thinking?

You are not alone. Many teachers have pondered the same questions. ‘Understanding Place – GIS Mapping across the Curriculum‘ provides a glimpse into the minds of students, through the eyes and observation of educators and how they are “getting it.”  Edited by Diana Stuart Sinton and Jennifer J. Lund, several contributing educators outline how Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are powerful, but their real power and effectiveness is measured in the hands of teachers and those who use it to impart understanding of the world through it.

Image

Understanding Place

GIS and Mapping Across the Curriculum

 

 

Diana Stuart Sinton

Jennifer J. Lund

 

ESRI Press

282 pages; 2007 –  ISBN: 1-58948-149-6

49.95 USD / 34.07 Euro

Review by Jeff Thurston

 

 

How often have you wondered “are they getting it?” Are the data and maps making any sense to the students? What are they thinking?

You are not alone. Many teachers have pondered the same questions.

Understanding Place – GIS Mapping across the Curriculum‘ provides a glimpse into the minds of students, through the eyes and observation of educators and how they are “getting it.”

Edited by Diana Stuart Sinton and Jennifer J. Lund, several contributing educators outline how Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are powerful, but their real power and effectiveness is measured in the hands of teachers and those who use it to impart understanding of the world through it.

This book is timely. The world is rapidly being engulfed by a myriad of cartographic products, from mashups to simulations and from virtual globes to 3D time-line displays. Geographic information is everywhere and many of the technologies and methods being used to display it and share it are bold, new, exciting and developing.

{sidebar id=23}

As spatial information use has grown, so too has the complexity and sheer volume of this information. To capitalize upon this expansion and use this information effectively, it is increasingly important to understand what it all means. How do we begin the challenge assessing it, thinking about it and assimilating it into our lives? What methods work, which don’t and are there tools that help with the process which are better than other’s?

‘Understanding Place’ begins by taking a pedagogical approach and framing the challenge through the role of maps. The book attempts to identify the narratives which point in the direction of spatial thinking. Author Lund suggests a map is a visual calculator, acting similar to a numerical calculator for understanding mathematics, but whose purpose is to understand the world through maps graphics.

Meanwhile, Sinton see’s a need to identify ‘how to use complex information’ and draws on the elements of speculation and interpretion from different sources of information. “Visual intuition must be tempered by evidence and thought” and a need exists to consume information that is complex before understanding it. Thus, the book recognizes that getting spatial information into people’s minds is a first step, while understanding what it all means, follows later. This has important implications for designing education materials and presenting them initially, while also addressing the fact that consumption is only part of the process of understanding.

Individual chapters in the book are presented as case studies and organized by disciplines. GIS is seen as a facilitating tool and the book draws on that expertly, for example, using the fine historical maps of the David Rumsey Map Collection, such as Sir Francis Drake’s (1577-1580) voyage around the world to explain words, numbers and images.

The book discusses the issues of social assumptions from map products and indicates ways students can begin to think critically about what they are seeing. But it also draws students into the world of becoming creative historians, re-writing their own interpretations of events and describing them – all the while learning and ‘practicing to know.’

Chapter 2 describe’s the importance of understanding ‘geographic knowledge’ and moving beyond the concept of location alone. While location is important, contributing to geography, it is the integration of information about a location which more directly leads to ‘geographic knowledge.’ With this in mind, the Hurricane Katrina events could be seen through a series of dynamic maps, integrating events over time across regional locations, resulting in a multitude of mapping products as the event unfolded over time to include numerous personal interpretations, for different purposes.

The accuracy of maps is discussed and analysis is presented through an understanding of a continuum of products, each designed for different reasons. A connection of GIS with Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning is intriguing, offering a glimpse into the process of spatial thinking and reasoning.

In Chapter 3 I actually tried to draw my own map of “where globalization has been slow to develop,” based on the example given in the exercise discussed on finding narratives of time and space. I learned that I have a different meaning for the term globalization – which of course was the point of the exercise! The chapter goes on to point out that computers have had a large impact on narratives. A fact that is true today as we see computers generating all kinds of personal stories about places in thousands of different ways, many of them through GIS. Aren’t we all, potential, narrative architects – as the book indicates?

Lund points the fact that many students are eager to work with quantitative maps, but aren’t to keen to work with numbers and formulas. It is interesting as Lund states, “we allow students to participate [using GIS] in reasoning and research far more advanced than their mathematical skills would have predicted.” Yet, the book goes on to explain how mathematics can be taught through maps, providing examples that discuss ratios and correlations.

Again, we see the power of a map and GIS. And this raises important issues for understanding our neighborhoods, construction projects and health care facilities and services if we look at it from alternate perspectives. And this is the interesting point about this book. It is filled with working examples that describe the processes of understanding our daily living through using maps and GIS, and I found myself transporting ideas and context to other ideas and events through my own eyes.
{sidebar id=24}
Melissa Kesler Gilbert and John B. Krygier discuss communal collaboration, partnerships and participatory GIS in Chapter 5. Smaller projects such as those involving trails, local team projects and mapping of trees within a neighborhood are presented. It is here that we begin to see local sustainability projects and the concept of ‘service learning’ and civic sense of responsibility begin to rise.

From Chapters 6-11 is Part 2 of ‘Understanding Places GIS Mapping across the Curriculum.’ Numerous case studies are presented. John Grady in Chapter 6 moves the reader further down the road into the realm of surprise and discovery and exploring social diversity. In this chapter, he describe’s a two-week, half credit sociology course where students are instructed to read maps as sociologists. Through the study of patterns and variation, students learn about racial and ethnic groups and population distributions.

It is through this kind of study that students can begin to learn what maps really mean. How maps and data are presented has a lot to do with how we understand geographic information. Such education is powerful because it links perceptions, bias, interpretation and accuracy with reality. This discussion moves to economics and poverty issues in Chapter 7 wherein James Booker presents the case of Glenwood Ross, a student at Georgia’s Morehouse College who built a simple map that connects railroad corridor’s to African Development. Meanwhile, in Chapter 8 the case of mapping Guinea savanna ecology is presented for Sierra Leona. Here readers can learn of ‘misunderstandings’ in mapping and cartography based on the case of degrading forests in west Africa – supposedly.

Chapters 12 – 15 are oriented to the natural sciences and GIS. Soil erosion, interdisciplinary research on Maine Lakes and long-term hydrologic impacts are a few of the examples described and discussed in these later pages. I found myself thinking, that for all the talk about return on investment (ROI) in business with GIS tools, we need to become more engaged linking these environmental studies to financial decision making processes as well. In some ways the kinds of data and their sheer exactness, should be providing more suitable answers to the world’s sustainability questions and promoting environmental studies – and thinking – as a worthy investment with returns and part of the wider sustainability understanding. This book provides ample clues as to the possibilities to begin that pursuit.

In the later chapters are the first time I have seen the topic of GIS and the arts discussed. The first discusses it through Exploring French society and culture and is oriented to Paris specific spatial information and includes several pieces of historical information as well. Architectural heritage is included and 329 historical buildings from Parks Canada are presented as an example. Pluralism and diversity are presented as are music and music heritage. Readers will be happy to learn that Texans like polka music as do those in the north-eastern United States. It would be interesting to see more work on the architectural heritage in particular. Particularly with a view to construction techniques and trade. Nevertheless, these later chapters afford a wider look into cultural patterns and heritage we sometimes fail to understand appreciably.

Understanding Place – GIS Mapping across the Curriculum‘ is quite timely. As an explosion of internet mapping, virtual globes and downloadable geographic information is occurring around the world, all of us are increasingly struggling to make meaning of it all. We need to understand all these new sources of information, what they mean to us and how we can leverage them into making better decisions and increasing the quality of our daily living. This book helps us to connect the random links of geography into the chains of geographic knowledge.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *