GEOGRAPHY, GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION SYSTEMS, AND ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH: CONSIDERATIONS FOR K-12 TEACHERS John M. Morgan, III, Ph.D. Geospatial Research and Education Laboratory Towson University
ABOUT JAY MORGAN
Professor of Geography at Towson University (appointed 1984)
Director Emeritus of the Center for Geographic Information Sciences (served as Director for 13 years)
Worked for nearly 13 years for state and local government agencies in Maryland prior to joining the faculty at Towson
Served on active military duty as a combat engineer platoon leader, topographic engineer officer, and geographic officer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Teaching and research interests include geographic information systems, remote sensing and digital image processing, emergency management and homeland security, and environmental planning
Past president of the GIS Specialty Group of the Association of American Geographers
Currently writing an introductory textbook on GIS
THE PROBLEM … GEOGRAPHICAL LITERACY
Despite having a highly education society, Americans are arguably the world’s most geographically ignorant people
By comparison, children throughout much of the world are exposed to geographic training in both primary and secondary schools
Most Americans learn what little geography they know in elementary or middle school
In the United States, the last time a student hears the word “geography” is usually in the third grade
Discussion of geography at any higher level is hidden under the heading “social studies”
Concern over geographical illiteracy led President Reagan to declare November 15-21, 1987 as the first Geography Awareness Week (a joint resolution of the One Hundredth Congress)
The National Geographic Society released the Roper Public Affairs 2006 Geographic Literacy Study in May, 2006
510 interviews were conducted among a sample of 18- to 24-year old adults in the continental United States between December 17, 2006 and January 20, 2006)
The sample has a margin or error of +/- 4.4 % at the 95% confidence level
Survey results …
Over 6 in ten (63%) of those surveyed could not locate Iraq on a map of the Middle East
Nearly nine in ten (88%) could not identify Afghanistan on a map of Asia
Seven in ten (70%) could not find North Korea on a map, and 63% did not know its border with South Korea is the most heavily fortified in the world
Sizeable percentages did not know that Sudan and Rwanda are in located in Africa (54% and 40%, respectively)
GEOGRAPHY TODAY (CONTINUED)
Three-quarters could not find Indonesia on a world map and were unaware that a majority of Indonesia’s population is Muslin, making it the largest Muslim country in the world
A third or more could not find Louisiana or Mississippi on a map of the United States
Only 18% could correctly answer a multiple-choice question about the most widely spoken native language in the world
Although half said map reading skills are “absolutely necessary” in today’s world, many Americans lack basic practical skills necessary for safety and employment in today’s world
One-third (34%) would go in the wrong direction in the event of an evacuation
One third (32%) would miss a conference call scheduled with colleagues in another time zone
Recommended Link 2006 National Geographic – Roper Survey of Geographic Literacy http://www.nationalgeographic.com/roper2006/findings.html
WHAT IS GEOGRAPHY?
Geography is the study of the earth’s surface as the space within which human population live
Geography combines characteristics of both the natural and social sciences and literally bridges the gap between the two
Geography is a generalized as opposed to a specialized field of study
Space is the unifying theme for geographers
Geography is the science of space and place
Geographers are interested in …
Where things are located on the earth’s surface
Why they are located where they are
How places differ from one another
How people interact with the environment
Geographers were among the first scientists to sound the alarm that human-induced changes to the environment are beginning to threaten the balance of life
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU WANT TO BE A GEOGRAPHER?
If you answer yes to the majority of these questions, you have the potential to be a geographer
Are you curious about places?
Do you like to study and use maps?
Do you prefer to sit in the window seat on an airplane?
Are you interested in “foreign” areas?
Do you like to work outside?
Are you a problem solver?
Are you good at seeing connections among seemingly unrelated phenomena and processes?
Can you adapt to rapid technological change?
Do you try to see the big picture?
Are you interested in connections between people and the environment?
CURRENT GEOGRAPHY EDUCATION INITIATIVES
My Wonderful World
A National Geographic Society-led campaign to expand geographic learning in school, at home, and in the community
My Community, Our Earth: Geographic Learning for Sustainable Development
A partnership to encourage youth to use geographic tools to address local issues of sustainability
Teacher’s Guide to Modern Geography
U.S. Department of Education-funded effort by the Association of American Geographers to develop a teacher’s guide to improve the preparation of pre-service teachers who are not geography majors
CURRENT GEOGRAPHY EDUCATION INITIATIVES
Will also help all teachers meet the provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 which requires teachers of core academic subjects (including geography) to be “highly qualified”
Includes a printed manual, overhead transparency masters, student activities, assessment instruments, curriculum planners, an interactive Web site, and a resource book
Currently under development (available 2007)
TEACHER’S GUIDE TO MODERN GEOGRAPHY
Key questions in geography
Location – Where is this place?
Condition (site) – What is at this place?
Connection (situation) – How is this place linked to other places?
Comparison – How are places similar or different?
Aura (influence) – What effect(s) does a feature have on its neighbors?
Region – What nearby places are similar to this one?
Hierarchy – What larger area is this a part of? What smaller areas are part of it?
Analog – What distant places are analogous to this one?
Gradient – What is the nature of the transition between places?
Pattern – Are there arrangements of features that are not random?
Association (correlation) – Are the spatial patterns similar?
Exceptions – Where are the places that do not follow an observed rule?
TEACHER’S GUIDE TO MODERN GEOGRAPHY (CONTINUED)
Diffusion – How do things spread through space?
Spatial Model – Are places linked by a process?
GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION SYSTEMS
USE OF GEOGRAPHIC DATA
Our use of geographic data is changing
Navigation v. decision-making tool
Static v. dynamic database
The historical perspective of maps as images of the arrangement of physical and human features is being extended to one of data expressing the spatial relationships of mapped features in complex physical and human systems
Maps are the “language” of geography
WHAT IS A GIS?
A geographic information system (GIS) is a computer-based system for the storage, retrieval, manipulation, analysis, and display of geographic data
Computer-based system refers to the hardware, software, and procedures necessary to operate the GIS
Geographic data are data which vary over geographic space
Storage, retrieval, manipulation, analysis, and display are the “tools” provided by GIS software for processing geographic data
This is a general definition of the term compiled from several definitions
PURPOSE OF A GIS
A GIS provides tools for representing the real world as data about locations
GIS IS A NEW WAY OF DOING THINGS
Maps in computers
GIS does for maps what we already do with words and numbers
Geographic data adds a whole new dimension to computing
Changes in the use of geographic data for decision-making
Computer technology overcomes many of the problems associated with working with geographic data
Computer technology gives a high-tech feel to mapping
Map and non-map data can be linked together
SPATIAL AND DESCRIPTIVE DATA
Geographic data includes spatial and descriptive data
Spatial (map) data deals with location, shape, and relationships among physical and human features on the Earth's surface
Descriptive (non-map) data deals with the characteristics of the features (attributes)
POINTS, LINES, AND POLYGONS
SPATIAL AND DESCRIPTIVE DATA
WHY IS GIS SO HOT?
“GIS technology is to geographical analysis what the microscope, the telescope, and computers have been to other sciences”
Ronald Abler, Association of American Geographers
GIS gives a “high tech” feel to geographic data
GIS is an important tool for understanding and managing the environment because it enables a user to …
Map environmental (physical and human) characteristics
Measure environmental factors
Monitor changes in environmental factors over space and time
Model alternatives of actions and processes operating in the environment
Why not use GIS to teach geography?
SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT GIS IN EDUCATION
GIS can be a vital part of classroom instruction at all levels
While a review of the national standards for geography education point to the importance of GIS as part “seeing the world in spatial terms,” GIS offers broader instructional opportunities
GIS is more than just technical know-how … it is about applying the tool to real-world problems
The key to GIS is about exploring data that is tied to specific places
GIS provides for independent exploration through the visualization of geographic data
Teachers can use GIS as a tool for teaching content related to State standards
SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT GIS IN EDUCATION (CONTINUED)
Since a variety of physical and human aspects can be examined simultaneously, a GIS is an excellent tool for teaching …
In a single subject area
Interdisciplinary teaching in areas such as environmental education and global studies
From this vantage point, using GIS in the classroom can act as a springboard to address an understanding of …
Physical and human characteristics of place
The earth’s changing complexity
Physical processes that shape patterns on the earth’s surface
Processes and patterns of human settlement
Consequences of interactions between physical and human systems
The inclusion of GIS in education at all levels is about fostering the growth of a geographically informed, globally and locally responsible, and technically literate population
SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT GIS IN EDUCATION (CONTINUED)
While the “G in GIS” suggests that geographic information systems were designed with only geographers in mind, GIS can be used by many different K-12 subject areas
Experience has shown that K-12 teachers need access to either free or low cost …
Data (preferably local)
PC v. Macintosh problem
GIS software uses the toolbox concept
GIS software provides tools for geographic data …
GIS SOFTWARE ALTERNATIVES
Commercial GIS packages
Low end packages for “viewing” GIS data
Internet mapping applications
DESKTOP SOFTWARE Free Low learning curve No analytical capability PC and Mac (Java application) Limited GIS functionality (limited tools) Retrieval Display Low end packages for “viewing” GIS data Expensive Steep learning curve Powerful analytical capability PC (limited Mac software) Complete GIS functionality (many tools) Storage Retrieval Manipulation Analysis Display Commercial GIS packages Cons Pros Type
EXAMPLE – COMMERCIAL DESKTOP GIS SOFTWARE Recommended Link ArcExplorer Java Education for Education http://www.esri.com/software/arcexplorer/about/arcexplorer-education.html
EXAMPLE – LOW END GIS VIEWING PACKAGE Recommended Link ArcExplorer Java Education for Education http://www.esri.com/software/arcexplorer/about/arcexplorer-education.html
INTERNET MAPPING APPLICATIONS Low Browse data (pan/zoom) Geocode Print Serve as an “online data browser” Allow users to perform very basic functions) Tightly control access to database Basic Moderate Browse data (pan/zoom) Find, query Manipulate layer visibility Select features Geocode Print Present user with many tools and data layers Serve as “online GIS software” Provide a flexible, multiple-function experience Advanced Learning Curve Typical Functionality Purpose Type
EXAMPLE – ADVANCED APPLICATION Recommended Link Chesapeake Bay & Mid-Atlantic from Space http://chesapeake.towson.edu/mapping/advancedims.asp
EXAMPLE – BASIC Recommended Link WatershedMapper http://chesapeake.towson.edu/mapping/watershedmapper.asp
SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT GIS SOFTWARE
If you are new to GIS, a low end GIS viewing package or Internet mapping application may be the best way for you to get familiar with GIS
Although commercial GIS software packages are expensive, vendors like Environmental Systems Research Institute offer discounted licensing options for classroom/instructional use
GIS-based instructional materials are available from a variety of sources
DIGITAL GEOSPATIAL DATA
Data are the “heart” of any geographic information system
Data represent the “hidden cost” of any GIS implementation
It is not uncommon for government agencies and businesses to spend two-thirds or more of their GIS budgets on converting data from analog (paper) to digital form
Digital geospatial data is available in two forms
As locally stored data for use with desktop GIS software
As a “map service” (a type of Web service that generates maps) that can be used with a special Web browser or desktop GIS software
There is a wealth of free , digital geospatial data available today
Metadata is the secret to finding digital geospatial data
WHAT IS METADATA?
Metadata are data about data
According to the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC), metadata …
Captures the basic characteristics of digital geospatial data (i.e., the who, what, when, where, why, and how)
Includes library catalog elements such as title, abstract, and public date
Includes geographic elements such as geographic extent and map projection
Includes database elements such as attribute label definitions and values
Metadata can help you locate geospatial data by
Type of theme (theme) what
METADATA PORTALS – FEDERAL GOVERNMENT Recommended Link geodata.gov http://gos2.geodata.gov/wps/portal/gos
METADATA PORTALS – STATE GOVERNMENT Recommended Link Maryland State Geographic Information Committee http://www.msgic.state.md.us/techtool/index.htm
METADATA PORTALS – STATE GOVERNMENT Recommended Link Maryland Mapping Resource Guide http://www.marylandgis.net
METADATA PORTALS – LOCAL GOVERNMENT Recommended Link Frederick County GIS http://www.co.frederick.md.us/GIS/
METADATA PORTALS – COMMERCIAL Recommended Link GIS Data Depot http://data.geocomm.com
METADATA PORTALS – UNIVERSITY Recommended Link Chesapeake Bay & Mid-Atlantic from Space http://chesapeake.towson.edu/data/download/
SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT DIGITAL GEOSPATIAL DATA
Some government agencies sell their data
Contact your local government GIS “shop” before you buy data (they may provide the data to you free of charge)
Large-scale (1:2,400) digital geospatial data developed for use by local governments may not necessarily be “appropriate” for classroom use
Data you find via metadata searches may have to be “converted” in some way before it can be used
Differing file structures, map projections, or coordinate systems
Requires the use of commercial desktop GIS software
Many members of the Maryland GIS community are interested in promoting GIS use by K-12 teachers and students
Visit the MSGIC Web site for contact information on people who could provide you with help
LOCAL GOVERNMENT DATA Recommended Link Frederick County GIS http://www.co.frederick.md.us/GIS/
LOCAL GOVERNMENT DATA Source: Montgomery County Department of Park and Planning
GIS AND ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
GIS is being used to show cause and effect relationships between environmental conditions and health
GIS can be used for …
Identifying “at risk” populations (high risk health groups)
Surveillance of vector-borne diseases (malaria, dengue, borreliosis)
Monitoring wells, underground storage tanks, hazardous waste sites, etc.
Infectious disease containment and control
Cancer cluster detection
Mapping Environmental health and justice
Mapping access to health care facilities
GIS AND ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES
Dr. John Snow – a historical giant in epidemiology
GIS and Public Health (National Center for Health Statistics)
Geographic Analysis Tool for Health and Environmental Research