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Using National Geographic Mapmaker Interactive in University Geography Courses

Authors: Tammy Parece*, Colorado Mesa University
Topics: Geography Education, Geographic Information Science and Systems
Keywords: GIS, Human Geography, World Regional Geography, Open-Source Software
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


At Colorado Mesa University (CMU), World Regional Geography and Human Geography courses are essential learning courses and approved at the state level as GT Pathway courses. As such, the student population in these courses are from varied disciplines across the university, and for the online sections, students represent many different universities. These two geography courses rely heavily on thematic maps to introduce spatial concepts and topics such as population distribution, or to compare two concepts such as human-environment impacts and urbanization. Map reading skills, in many cases, are not well developed outside of geography majors. In 2016, I was hired as CMU’s Geography Instructor. I developed a module introducing students to Geospatial Technologies. At CMU, Geospatial Technology courses were always taught in Physical and Environmental Sciences. Thus, administrators, faculty and staff had little understanding as to why students in Social and Behavioral Science courses would need access to GIS when they never needed access in the past. So, this module includes an assignment using an online open-source GIS program, National Geographic Mapmaker Interactive, to create two thematic maps. Students are then required to create a map quiz consisting of a series of true/false statements discussing the individual maps and comparing the two maps. Not only has student map reading and interpretation skills significantly increased, they directly experience spatial scale discrepancies when attempting to map a national theme at the local level, and their fear of the terms - geospatial technologies, GIS, and remote sensing - has been eliminated.

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