O SAE, Can you see?

Blog Post created by jkerski-esristaff Employee on Aug 8, 2013
A number of years ago, our colleague in geography from the University of Missouri, Professor Kit Salter, created a rubric that encouraged students to truly observe and learn from their observation.  Dr Salter called it "O, SAE, can you see?" Each letter in this phrase is laden with meaning.  The "O" stands for Observation, because all geography and the study of landscape must begin with an articulate expression of what you are looking at, or what landscape problem you are considering.  The "S" stands for Speculation -- about why the landscape being observed looks the way it does.  Dr Salter  promotes speculation as a strand of critical thinking because "you have to look at visual evidence and try to determine what factors--economic, aesthetic, political, technological, and so on, seem dominant in the creation of that scene/seen" (Salter, personal communication).

O SAE, can you see? Fountain Formation sandstone, photo by Joseph Kerski.

The "A" stands for Analysis.  Part of the "O, SAE" exercise is determining what evidence is not  available simply through O and S.  Interviews might be required.  A list of questions that could be taken to the library or to a local realtor or long-time resident would help learn what is trying to be understood.   A can also stand for Answers, which come from observing, speculating, and grappling with the issues.  However, students need to realize that for many complex issues, there is no single correct answer.  The "E" stands for Evaluation.  Does this particular landscape phenomenon make sense?  Is what is observed environmentally sustainable?  Does the situation serve the community?  How can it be studied more effectively?  Dr Salter commented that this simple rubric worked not only in the field but also with in-class discussion or presentations, as well as with passages from prose or objective description.  He used it with primary school field trips through graduate seminars.

I believe that geospatial technologies can be effectively used to bring out the themes of "O SAE can you see".  Students can use geospatial technologies such as GIS, and ArcGIS Online in particular, to map their own field-collected data, to analyze geographic variables from local to global scale, and to build richly illustrated story maps that communicate their research project's results.  Students can share the maps they have created and embed them into slideshows and websites. I believe that "O, SAE can you see?" provides an easy-to-remember and helpful framework for instruction.  But as Dr Salter remarked, perhaps a better one is "O, SAE what can you see?"