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Teach the (cartography) teacher

    Introduction to GIS

After completing my two quarters of geography electives, I presented a 90 minute introduction to GIS as a part of this year's ASIS&T student technology workshops. This presentation was well received. About a dozen people attended.

The workshop attempted to introduce some basic concepts of analytic cartography, as well as explore what sorts of data are collected by the UW map library and are available freely on the Internet. As part of the workshop, I gave a demonstration of ArcView (the standard package used on campus and installed in the iSchool labs) in which I covered:

  • Importing and viewing map layers
  • Levels of measurement
  • Basic types of geospatial data (point, line, area)
  • The three main interfaces of ArcView (views, tables, and layouts)
  • Basic transformations and operations

I am currently revisiting this presentation in light of the main criticism I received on the feedback forms, which suggested that I should have taken the class through a project step by step. I had initially planned on doing so, but due to the complexity of the software and the limited amount of time, I decided against it. More than half of the attendees stated that it would have been worth the attempt.

The presentation of an introduction to GIS to the iSchool was a significant teaching experience for me, as I synthesized a large body of information--much of which was fairly new to me--into a format that gave iSchool students:

  • a demonstration of the capabilities of a GIS software application
  • a conceptual overview of the structure and organizing principles of geo-spatial data
  • exposure to coursework outside the iSchool.
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