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How the MapMaker Tool Helps Us “Wrap Our Arms and Minds Around Our World”

This post was written by 2020 Education Fellow Anita Palmer. Early on in my teaching career, I asked my school’s social studies department chair if I could ever teach geography. And they said, “Anita, we teach world history, don’t you think that’s enough geography for one department?” I felt that was my call to action to use geographic information systems (GIS) to teach geography through … Continue reading How the MapMaker Tool Helps Us “Wrap Our Arms and Minds Around Our World”

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GIS in the Classroom: A Conversation with Ali Pressel & Kyle Tredinnick

In October 2019, Teacher Advisory Council members Ali Pressel and Kyle Tredinnick hosted a breakout session titled “StoryMaps: Building a GeoHabit” at National Geographic’s Education Summit. ArcGIS StoryMaps is a system that allows users to tell digital stories with text, interactive maps, imagery, and more. The two high school teachers value this skillset and geographic information systems (GIS) in the classroom as they prepare students … Continue reading GIS in the Classroom: A Conversation with Ali Pressel & Kyle Tredinnick

“Our World is All About Spatial Data”: A Conversation with Anita Palmer

Recognized as a “hero” in her industry, Anita Palmer has over 25 years pioneering the perception and education around the framework of geographic information systems (GIS). Anita is National Geographic’s first-ever GIS-focused Education fellow.  The growing field of GIS is continuously evolving and shaping the way we view geography beyond static maps. To further raise awareness and push the conversation around this focus, an annual … Continue reading “Our World is All About Spatial Data”: A Conversation with Anita Palmer

The Importance of Geo-Literacy

What is geography? Is it the memorization of capitals, states, and countries? Or has it evolved into a larger concept?
According to the National Geographic Society, geography education in modern times has evolved from its archaic definition of memorization, to one of a geo-literate populace. Geo-literacy, according to Daniel Edelson, Vice-President of Education for National Geographic, interrelates the interactions, interconnections, and implications that occur on our planet.
Video courtesy of NG Education and the Geographic Education Alliances.
Edelson has devoted much of his career to educating about the concept of geo-literacy and promoting its use in classrooms around the world. His research and writings are so extensive that we have created an entire collection of them on our website. Although just a small excerpt of Edelson’s work, they address critical issues in modern-day geography education, as seen from the perspective of the National Geographic Education Foundation’s Executive Director.

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Esri International User Conference: A Geographer’s Place to Be

Last week, I flew to San Diego to promote Geography Awareness Week at Esri’s International User Conference, the largest gathering of geographic information systems (GIS) users in the world. On a shuttle from the airport, a man in the back talking on his cell phone mentioned ArcGIS, and my ears pricked up. What a coincidence, I thought. I turned around and asked if he was going to the ESRI conference, and he looked at me like I had asked if we were on planet Earth. “Yeah…” he replied, hesitantly. I clearly had no idea what I was getting into. 
The conference started on Monday, and the streets, hotels and restaurants of San Diego were packed with folks from all over the world, proudly wearing their ID badges all day and into the night. The Convention Center where it was held is home to the renowned San Diego Comic-Con International, where more than 125,000 pop art fans, some dressed up as their favorite comic superheroes, had gathered just a couple of weeks before. Although Comic-Con is famous for the animated sub-culture it garners, I cannot imagine a crowd more enthusiastic than my GIS compatriots.
15,000 users – all self-identified “Geogeeks” – came together not only to learn about what’s new in the geographic information systems world, but also to boast of their geographic prowess. Such talents may be scoffed elsewhere, but here, they are revered. During one conference session, attendees were discussing preferred map projections and datums so heatedly that I would have laughed, had I not been just as excited as they. Despite the abundance of geographic knowledge present, I admittedly spent half of my time helping lost users figure out the map of the conference center. 
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The other half was spent educating my fellow geogeeks about Geography Awareness Week. This group of GIS professionals can appreciate that data means nothing without solid geographic understanding, which is exactly what GAWeek is all about. As Jack Dangermond said during the conference, “geography is the platform on which GIS is exercised; GIS is simply a tool for better geographic understanding.” Mr. Dangermond, as you may know, is the President and CEO of Esri, and a rock star amongst the GIS community – a fact I was unaware of when I greeted him one day with a goofy smile on my face.  

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