Fun with GIS 275: Teaching with StoryMaps and Dashboards

Blog Post created by cfitzpatrick-esristaff Employee on Sep 14, 2020

What I would do, were I still teaching? My practice, even in benign times, was to contemplate "If this were my students' last class ever in this field, what would I want them to leave with?" Above all else, I wanted them to be integrative critical thinkers, disposed to asking questions and learning insatiably. Today would likely be no different, and because of that we would take deep advantage of two tools: storymaps and dashboards.


Storymaps (whether ArcGIS StoryMaps or Classic Story Maps) allow the creator to design a presentation of content. The components can be galactic in scope, so creators must exercise self-control. Maps, apps, text, images, and video can be integrated and choreographed to maximize impact. Users can navigate out of sequence, but generally follow the author's plan. Some templates support "more story," while others support "more maps for investigation."


Dashboards allow the creator to take full advantage of rich numeric and categorical data about a topic, but leave it to the user to determine the path of exploration. Well-designed dashboards give enough info for the user to grasp the content of an element, and simply invite exploration, so different users may follow wildly different routes.


StoryMaps and Dashboards picture

Storymaps, then, are ideal for presenting content and a vision, while dashboards are ideal for presenting content that emphasizes personal pondering and extensive investigation. Which is better? Both, of course! Like pliers and wrenches, still photos and videos, playlists and channels, each has advantages. Storymaps allow deep presentations; dashboards foster discovery. Were I teaching today, each would play a critical role in my classroom, whether focused on science or social studies, whether we were together in time and space or having virtual and even asynchronous interactions, whether students were younger or older. Building integrative critical thinkers, disposed to asking questions and learning insatiably, is what will help us survive and prosper.


Consider these examples: