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TeachSpatial is a prototype and a work-in-progress. Our goal is to aid in the development of explicit spatial learning objectives from a multi- or cross-disciplinary perspective.

At this stage we have:

  1. Indexed a few hundred teaching resources to a set of 129 spatial concept terms derived from U.S. science teaching standards.
  2. Begun listing links and reference publications relevant to spatial cognition, spatial learning and teaching, and spatial literacy generally.
  3. Put in place a few collaborative tools to allow the community of interest to share their viewpoints and experience

Who is “we?”

This work was undertaken by the Center for Spatial Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and received support in 2011 from the U.S. National Science Foundation as a “small-grant pathways project” for the National Science Digital Library (NSDL; NSF-DUE #1043777).

The Center for Spatial Studies (spatial@ucsb) Program Director and PI for the NSF grant was Donald G. Janelle. The Center’s Director at the time was Michael Goodchild.

Karl Grossner served as the TeachSpatial editor. Karl was instrumental in conceiving, designing and building TeachSpatial as a spatial@ucsb researcher, and is currently a digital humanities research developer at Stanford University.

Several others have contributed in various ways, including Josh Bader (UCSB), Dan Montello (UCSB), Diana Sinton (University of Redlands), Yukari Okamoto (UCSB), and Lisa Weckbacher (CSU Northridge).

If you would like to participate in the future development of TeachSpatial, or have comments or critiques to offer, please email Karl Grossner.

Two Motivators

The TeachSpatial site came about in reponse to two sets of recommendations from the spatial research community:

  1. A multidisciplinary symposium hosted by the University of Redlands in June 2008, organized by Diana Sinton, Mike Goodchild, and Don Janelle, suggested the need for a web portal to promote the discussion and sharing of resources related to spatial thinking among instructors.
  2. The 2006 NRC report, Learning to Think Spatially, declared that spatial thinking “is pervasive…yet it is underrecognized, undervalued, underappreciated, and therefore underinstructed.” The committee recommended among other things, “a systematic research program into the nature, characteristics, and operations of spatial thinking.” Such a program is well under, for example at the Spatial Intelligence and Learning Center (SILC).
    Findings were expected to “highlight the importance of spatial thinking across the K–12 curriculum as well as to encourage the development of spatial thinking standards and curriculum materials to train K–12 students in spatial thinking,” and that is where TeachSpatial is trying to play a helpful role.

Two Questions

Those recommendations give rise to two questions, which we ask with a particular interst in undergraduate instruction:

  1. What are the spatial learning objectives that would structure a prospective undergraduate course in spatial thinking? Or, alternately,
  2. What spatial knowledge and spatial thinking skills should college instructors expect incoming freshmen student to have proficiency with?

Two Goals

Developing spatial learning objectives and coursework that derives from them is a significant undertaking. The current stage of TeachSpatial was conceived as assisting those who might try designing a course or curriculum on spatial thinking by providing:

  1. A way to easily browse existing science teaching standards and see the spatiality within them,
  2. A way to easily locate existing digital teaching resources from around the web that concern the spatial concepts and priinciples found in those teaching standards.

These core functions are supported by the means for a) rating and commenting on specific digital teaching resources, and b) contributing “concept perspectives” — brief commentary or excerpts from published work that illuminate particular disciplinary perspectives on spatial concepts and principles.

Karl Grossner (B.S., Instructional Design and Technology, California State University, Chico; Ph.D., Geography, University of California, Santa Barbara) has been the principal developer of TeachSpatial over the past two years: first, jointly developing a project plan with Don Janelle ultimately funded by NSF for 2011 (NSF-DUE 1043777), then conducting research to help provide a theoretical basis for a ‘portal to spatial teaching resources,’ and finally, building the site on the Drupal development platform. Karl has a professional background in systems analysis and consulting, and database-driven web software design and development.

Karl’s research interests include the formalization of conceptual knowledge in ontologies, and their implementation in database systems. Spatial cognition, intelligence and literacy are one application area of interest. Another is the representation of geo-historical knowledge in spatial-temporal databases to support the emerging genre of digital historical atlases useful for both analysis and the dissemination of research results.

Donald Janelle (B.A., Geography, University of Southwestern Louisiana; Ph.D., Geography, Michigan State University) is a Research Professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Don is the PI for the NSF TeachSpatial grant (NSF-DUE 1043777), and serves as Program Director for the Center for Spatial Studies (spatial@ucsb) and for the Center for Spatially Integrated Social Science (CSISS). He was on the faculty of the U.S. Air Force Academy for four years and on the faculty of the University of Western Ontario for 30 years, where he chaired the Department of Geography for five years and served as Assistant Vice Provost. He edited The Canadian Geographer, the official refereed journal of the Canadian Association of Geographers, and chaired the Publications Committee for the Association of American Geographers.

Janelle’s research and publications are based broadly within geography and affiliated social and behavioral sciences. Primary themes include space-time analyses of individual behavior, the time-geography of cities, the temporal-spatial ordering of social systems, locational conflict analysis, social issues in transportation, and the role of space-adjusting technologies in structuring new patterns of social and economic organization.

Michael F. Goodchild (B.A., Physics, Cambridge University; Ph.D., Geography, McMaster University) is Professor of Geography and Director of the Center for Spatial Studies (spatial@ucsb) at the University of California, Santa Barbara. After 19 years at the University of Western Ontario, including three years as Chair, he moved to Santa Barbara in 1988. Since then, he has served as Director of the National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis (NCGIA); Associate Director of the Alexandria Digital Library Project; and Director of the Center for Spatially Integrated Social Science.

Goodchild’s research publications, including more than 400 scientific papers and a dozen authored and edited books, have laid a foundation for geographic information science and spatial analysis, extended the development of geo-libraries, contributed to understanding uncertainty in geographic data, and advanced capabilities in location-allocation modeling.