Sharing the GIS Gospel in Belize

For the last few days I’ve had a chance to serve as an “Ambassador” for GIS – on behalf of Esri – in Belize City.  We’ve held two workshops for educators, one yesterday for primary school teachers and the second today for secondary school teachers. At both workshops, teacher educators (faculty who teach pre-service, future teachers in schools of education) were also participating. These experiences are both inspiring and humbling, encouraging and frustrating. Passionate teachers who want to learn new technologies and are committed to their students’ learning, often stymied by lack of computers and unreliable or absent Internet.

I’ve been interviewed twice by local TV stations, first yesterday on The Morning Show on LOVE/FM, and today by Channel 5 (video can be seen via Facebook, and here’s a link to just our story itself). One of the highlights for this trip so far has been connecting with a new friend and colleague Loretta Palacio, the epitome of beautiful and wound-up GIS energy. Loretta runs the Esri distributorship for Belize.

Interested in sharing your #GIS passion with other educators?  The Ambassador program is one way to gain experiences.

Tomorrow, onward to a big Expo for GIS Day. Over 700 children will be there! I’ll be helping teachers and students explore mapping tools.

Mountcastle’s spatial cerebral discovery

For many months I’ve had a magazine clipping on my desk, an obituary of Vernon Mountcastle.  The late Dr. Mountcastle is best known for his 1957 publication that contains the words “topographic” and “cats” in its title: “Modality and Topographic Properties of Single Neurons of Cat’s Somatic Sensory Cortex.” What did these poor cats help Vernon figure out?  That the brain cells (i.e., neurons) that react to a particular stimulus (i.e., a touch) are themselves aligned in a vertical pattern (rather than randomly located, or arranged horizontally). We now know this as the columnar organization of our cerebral cortex.

Like when Watson and Cricks (after work of many others) were inspired to envision a twisting double-helix. Spatial thinking contributes substantially to all knowledge, in one way or another.

the spatial thinking of staircases, horse mounting, and needle work

Every so often, things cross my computer screen that remind me of how fascinated I continue to be with spatial thinking. It started with my friend’s Facebook sharing of how needlework helped her with calculus, just like this article says. Next thing you know, I’ve tumbled down the Internet rabbit hole and learned that castle staircase designs were not random, nor were other elements of medieval defense. Maybe it’s not as obvious now that we’re all driving motorized vehicles but road-side-driving-preference also has historical rationales. What do these all have in common?  Spatial thinking, of course.

Sea Hero Quest: game to aid in spatial cognition tasks

Here’s a new mobile app game that simulates virtual navigation: Sea Hero Quest. It’s been developed by researchers interested in spatial navigation, including Hugo Spiers. I got a chance to meet Hugo during a workshop on education for spatial thinking last year.

They aim to test this on patients with dementia and assess its effectiveness as a diagnostic tool. They’ve had 600,000 downloads so far, especially young teenagers, and want to sample the population across age groups. I’m looking forward to giving it a go. Anything to help ward off dementia, and for the sake of research too.

You can find it here at the Apple Store and here at Google Play.

Citrus inspiration for cartographers

New challenges for the projection-minded. What new types of distortion can be created with these?

The Art of Ornamental Orange Peeling, circa 1905

braids and twists

braids and twists

Geographicity? Say that 3 times fast.

Learned a new word today, geographicity. It’s in the title of an upcoming edX MOOC offered by a group of Swiss geographersExploring Human’s Space: an Introduction to Geographicity. A class designed to “explore how geography, cartography, urbanization and spatial justice play a role in shaping the notion of human space.”  Sounds marvelous and could be, if done well, an interesting entry into the somewhat opaque social-science side of my beloved discipline of geography.

The word itself – geographicity – is unlikely to ever make the OED. It was coined sometime after 1999 by two philosophers, Gary Backhaus and John Murungi. I first saw its definition (geographicity = the spatial component of all phenomena) in the preface of their 2007 book, Colonial and Global Interfacings: Imperial Hegemonies and Democratizing Resistances.  Geographicity also figures prominently in Esoscapes: Geographical Patternings of Relations, and Lived Topographies and their Mediational Forces.

passage about geographicityHere’s a passage from where I first saw the term discussed, from the preface of the Colonial and Global Interfacings books. Go ahead, read it through and challenge yourself to understand. I have, several times, and I’m still clueless.  Absurdly and gratuitously confusing academic-speak.

I really do have much respect for social theorists. Some of my best friends are social theorists. (okay, not really).  I’ve enjoyed the rich dialogue between fellow geographers about just this topic recently.  In this case, it’s philosophers writing and not geographers, but, still, I’d argue that this passage lies at the extreme edge of English-language communication.

Uncommon situations that warrant spontaneous purchases

I’m finding the development of location-based services to be both intellectually intriguing and amusing.  The ThinkNear mobile advertising business endeavor of Telenav intrigues me because I like the ways they’ve grappled with explaining the complexities of geospatial location to business-minded novices. Seeing their current home page ad has been an amusing highlight of my day. Definitely an advertising location_based_services_ad (800x385)idea thought of by a man, but I admit it’s clever. Makes me want to send it to my friends and see whether they get it.