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# Teaching GIS as a combination of its letters: G-I-S

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04-15-2022 03:01 PM
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Esri Notable Contributor
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Consider the 3 parts of a GIS: The "G" is the map. It could be 2D or 3D, or even 4D including a temporal component. It can contain different basemaps and 1 or many layers. The "I" is the Information, or table or spreadsheet, or a combination of related tables in a geodatabase, behind the map. The tabular data linked to mapped features, along with the topological relationships about where features are in spatial relation to each other, are what gives GIS its power. A GIS is not just graphics floating around in cyberspace: It has intelligence that allows you to make wise decisions based upon it. The "S" systems part links the "G" and the "I" together--the map always works with the table, and vice versa.

Consider the example in this story map. This story map can be used to help educators teach the fundamentals of GIS.  Understanding tabular data, as my colleagues and I have written about many times over the past two decades, and as you instructors well know, is fundamental to understanding GIS and making effective use of it.  An instructor could use the above story map tied to a spreadsheet as follows in their discussion with students:

"Students, choose a place that is meaningful to you. Enter a latitude, longitude, title, your ranking of the scenery of that place from 1 to 10, a description, and a photo URL for it (if you want to include a photo). You are entering data into the "I" part of GIS. Wait a few minutes and that newly entered point with the attributes will appear on the ArcGIS Online web map below the spreadsheet.  Is your point where you thought it would be?  If so, good.  If not, why does it not appear at all, or where you thought it should be?  Does the image appear or is the image link broken?"

The instructor and student can then interact with the map and see if and how the newly entered point appears with its attributes.  If the point is entered in error (such as not including a negative sign for western hemisphere longitudes), or if numbers to the right of the decimal are rounded or ignored, or if a N or W is included in the latitude longitude coordinates, those examples can be helpful instructional moments.

I learned how to do this using my wonderful colleague Tom Baker's instructions, here

I look forward to hearing your reactions, and also what techniques you use to teach the fundamentals of GIS.

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