January 2018 GeoMentor Spotlight:
Rebecca Theobald - Assistant Research Professor at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs and Coordinator at Colorado Geographic Alliance
What was your favorite class in K-12? French language. I studied French for six years in junior high and high school. We not only learned to read, write, and speak, but also about culture, literature, and history. I recall that we were required to memorize the maps of Paris and of France, which came in very handy when my family lived in Paris several decades later. While I am not a fantastic linguist, I learned how important language is to understanding different parts of the world.
How did you first learn about and/or use GIS? In graduate school, I examined the impact of geography on pre-collegiate school choice. Maps were an important part of how I illustrated the results of my study, but I had not yet taken a geospatial technology class so was creating maps by hand. Following my defense, when one of my committee members remarked “your maps are a bit dodgy”, I knew I needed to learn about this important tool, so I enrolled in the introductory GIS class with Babs Buttenfield the next semester. We not only learned techniques, but also the theory behind the techniques. Like a language, though, if you don’t use GIS regularly, the ability to navigate within the software is hard to maintain.
Name one thing you love about GIS and/or geography: Sharing information visually enables people to understand details in a new way. I enjoy watching the “ah ha” moments take place when students or community members examine what seems to be familiar from a new perspective.
Why did you want to volunteer as a GeoMentor? I want to support continued connections between academic and professional geographers and educators, as well as set an example for mentoring in Colorado as part of my work with the Colorado Geographic Alliance, which has supported professional development for K-12 teachers for thirty years. As I am not a GIS expert, I also have some credibility with individuals who might feel intimated by this amazing tool, which supports instruction, analysis, and presentation.
What kind of GeoMentor volunteer opportunity and experience are you looking for? Over the past year and a half, I have been traveling throughout Colorado sharing National Geographic’s Giant State Map in elementary and secondary classrooms. At each school I inquired as to who would be the best person to speak with about geospatial technology. Sometimes it was a teacher, sometimes a librarian, and sometimes a technology teacher. I introduced them to Esri’s GeoInquiries and the Colorado Digital Atlas, with the intention of developing a community of educators who feel comfortable incorporating these resources into their classrooms, and with guiding their colleagues in the use of these tools.
If someone asked you why they should learn about GIS and/or geography, how would you respond in one sentence? “The science of government it is my duty to study, more than all other sciences; the arts of legislation and administration and negotiation ought to take the place of, indeed exclude, in a manner, all other arts. I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.” – John Adams, 1780
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