Lecture on The Geographer's Craft


1. The Context of the Initiative

2. The Project Ideas

3. Progress to Date

4. Future Directions

Information Technologies in the Discipline of Geography

Discipline-Specific Tools


Information technologies have had dramatic effects on all of these.

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GIS as an Integrating Technology

A Generic Definition

GIS is a special-purpose digital database in which a common spatial coordinate system is the primary means of reference. Comprehensive GIS require methods for:

  1. Data input (from maps, aerial photos, satellites, surveys, and other sources)
  2. Data storage, retrieval, and query
  3. Data transformation, analysis, and modeling (including spatial statistics)
  4. Data reporting (maps, reports, plans)
GIS are now used extensively in government, business, and research for a wide range of applications including environmental resource analysis, landuse planning, locational analysis, tax appraisal, utility and infrastructure planning, real estate analysis, marketing and demographic analysis, habitat studies, and archeological analysis.

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Information Technologies in the Department of Geography

1. First Computer Techniques Courses Established in 1985

2. A Turning Point in 1990-91

3. A New Plan

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The Project Ideas

  1. Attempt to reconceptualize the role of geographical techniques in the undergraduate curriculum by more closely integrating instruction in geographical methods with education in geography's research traditions
  2. Based on a problem-solving, rather than exercise-centered approach using interesting geographical issues and "active learning" strategies to teach "appropriate" techniques
  3. Organized around a two-semester introductory course sequence, 2-3 projects per semester
  4. Attempts to integrate the teaching of many computer-based techniques included cartography, CAD, GIS, remote sensing and statistics
  5. Based upon the gradual conversion of course into hypermedia and multimedia format to create an on-line electronic textbook
  6. Takes a broad view of how information technologies are affecting geography and the academic environment, more than just GIS and techniques. Computer literacy implies "computer-assisted reasoning"

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Toward the Electronic Textbook

Composed of text, images, maps, motion video, and sound linked electronically by multiples routes, chains, or trails in an open-ended, perpetually unfinished assemblage described best in terms of links, nodes, networks, webs, and paths. The term is synonymous with multimedia and closely related to hypertext.

  1. Uses text, images, motion video, and sound to take advantage of best and most appropriate resources, ones with which students are now familiar
  2. Can promote independent thought and problem-solving skills
  3. Enriches traditional lecture and discussion formats, does not replace them
  4. Is intrinsically non-linear

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Expanding Hypermedia Resources

1. Software tools for hypermedia authoring

2. New Capabilities

3. New Resources

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Progress to Date

  1. The Geographer's Craft offered for first time in 1993-94
  2. New laboratory facility opened 1993-94
  3. Prototypes of first hypermedia modules developed and tested in 1994-95
  4. First complete class on network and Web becomes primary means of distributing course materials Fall 1994
  5. Use of e-mail mirrors use of office hours
  6. Laboratory manager and support staff were hired Summer and Fall 1994
  7. Students respond favorably to Web modules and learn to publish their own
  8. Students report sense of being part of a world-wide community

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Problems to Date

  1. Students were unaccustomed to problem-solving format. The idea of "research," however modest, created a certain level of anxiety. Some of this anxiety was justified insofar as most students needed a tremendous amount of guidance in fundamental research skills--the use of bibliography and library resources, weighing sources, the organization of a research report, etc.
  2. Increasingly, students bring more extensive fundamental skills to techniques courses, but don't always have the flexibility that would allow them move between software systems easily and see the connections among these systems--they find something they can use, but don't know how to move it to where they need it
  3. Balancing training and education, even over two semesters, is difficult--the two conflict at many points including the instructor's role: instructor or facilitator?
  4. Moving "full-scale" student research projects from start to finish should be reserved for one or no more than two projects
  5. Evaluating the project as a whole is still difficult
  6. Hypermedia materials are time-consuming to develop and maintain

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Notes on Hypermedia Authoring

1. More time consuming than preparing conventional course materials

2. Matching hardware and software remains a problem

3. Authoring is a constant compromise between pedagogical aims and software reality

4. Copyright issues remain a problem

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Future Directions

1. Completion and Improvement of the Geographer's Craft

2. Placing More Courses On-line

3. The Virtual Department Project

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