Skip navigation
All Places > Education > Blog > 2012 > June
In my last column, I raised the question about whether a travel column would look different authored from the perspective of a geographer or geospatial professional versus a column authored from the perspective of a journalist. I stated that some similarities surely exist but there are likely to be some key differences. This discussion raises a larger issue: Are all travel writers really geographers? Are all travelers essentially geographers? And, more broadly: With the advent of easy to use geotechnologies that have enabled the general public to use many of the same tools and data that were formerly only used by GIS specialists, does that mean that everyone is now a geographer?

In the new book Practicing Geography , my colleagues and I wrote a chapter that asks this very question. These new capabilities reinvoke inherent tensions between the integrity of the field of geography as a discrete academic discipline, on the one hand, and its generalist appeal on the other hand. Although this tension within geography is not new—William Morris Davis reacted to it over one hundred years ago (Schulten 2001)—geography may have never been more prominent within the everyday human experience than it is today

I contend that geography is a three-legged stool. One of the legs of the stool represents deep and rich content knowledge that has accumulated across the millennia but also is forward-looking—envisioning how the world could and should be. The content knowledge includes that about specific places, processes, and phenomena. Another of the legs represents geographic skills—working with scale, maps, imagery, databases, graphs, space and time, movement, dispersion, fieldwork, regions from cultural regions to ecoregions, different perspectives, human-environment interaction, interpreting the past and present and planning for the future, and many more. The skills are used in low tech and high tech situations ranging from interpreting paper maps to operating field probes and performing geoprocessing operations within a GIS environment. The last leg represents the spatial perspective—the unique place-based framework that all geographers bring to any problem that they examine. The spatial perspective is holistic; it is systems-based.

What are your thoughts about this topic: Isn’t everyone a geographer? And, what about the increasing number of professionals outside who are incorporating spatial thinking and GIS into their work—in business, history, mathematics, design, biology, engineering and other fields. Are they geographers? Do they need to be geographers? If not, what geographic content knowledge, skills, and perspective do they need to have in order to be effective in their own fields?

-Joseph Kerski, Esri Education Manager

Schulten, S. 2001. The Geographical Imagination in America, 1880-1950. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
I have just created 7 videos totaling 90 minutes of content in a series entitled “Teaching Geography with ArcGIS Online” on the Esri Education Team’s channel, beginning here.teaching_geography_with_agol_screen-300x286.jpg

This series began with a workshop I taught at the Geographical Association conference. One goal I had in creating the videos is to model how ArcGIS can be used in an instructional setting. The first 3 parts in the series focus on why and how web-based GIS can be used to teach geography, specifically, ArcGIS
. One reason I chose ArcGIS Online as the main tool is because it allows students, using only a web browser and an internet connection, to quickly investigate real world issues in real places, from local to global scale, developing spatial thinking, critical thinking, and GIS skills and “habits of mind” in the process. These maps can be customized, saved, edited, and shared with others.

While each of the first three parts provides practical examples, parts 4 through 7 in the series delve deeply in problem solving with specific issues and themes. Part 4 uses World Bank data and maps to investigate global demographic variables, including birth rate, life expectancy, and population change, by country, from 1960 to the present. Part 5 analyzes the pattern of neighborhood deprivation and poverty, and lack thereof, using the UK as an example. Part 6 asks questions about plate tectonics , including earthquakes, plates, volcanoes, on a global scale, and then analyzes seismic and volcanic activity on a local scale in Texas and on Mount Etna, Italy. This video also shows how to bring in real-time data into the analysis to compare the difference between the last 30 days of earthquakes versus earthquakes dating back hundreds of years. Part 7 discusses three ways to map data that students have collected, by directly adding points, lines, and areas, from data from the field via GPS and smartphones, and from multimedia sources, including video, photographs, sketches, and text onto maps and presentations that tell the story of their project.

How could you and your students make use of these videos, and how could you use ArcGIS Online in the classroom?

- Joseph Kerski, Esri Education Manager

Filter Blog

By date: By tag: