Spatial Literacy at the AAG

Last week I spent four days at the Association of American Geographers (AAG) conference in Seattle.  It’s an annual gathering for me, a chance to share what teaching and research I’m doing, network, visit with colleagues and friends, and generally reconnect with my tribe.

My colleague Jeff Howarth and I organized a session on effective approaches and best practices for teaching GIS.  Five different presenters with a range of ideas. It was standing-room only and well-received.

I attended a few sessions on gazetteers for historical GIS projects and some of the space/time projects.  And a critical cartography one that reminded me of how little patience and  interest I have for people who just like to hear themselves speak and who clearly do not care that the audience has ceased to listen.

For me the most worthwhile sessions were the series on spatial cognition, and more broadly, spatial literacy.  On Tuesday I attended a panel titled “International Research on Spatial Thinking.”  Eight people, five of them from Japan.  Finally got to hear Toru Ishikawa speak, someone whose work I’ve admired for a long time.  I’ll be making a presentation at this Spatial Thinking / GIS conference in Tokyo in September so expect to meet the group again.

On Friday there was a 4-part sequence of presentations and a panel on spatial cognition, organized by Sara Fabrikant, Scott Bell, and Sarah Battersby, among others.  Several thoughtful papers questioned the boundaries of spatial thinking, discussed spatial habits of mind, and probed into the GIS and spatial thinking connections.  The final session was a panel of which I was a member, duly honored and humbled to have been included in the group. The other panelists were Lynn Liben, Don Janelle, and Dan Montello, three people whose internationally-known research careers began during my diapers-to-elementary-school years. Gulp.

The theme was Methodology and Training in Spatial Cognition, and I’d been included for my perspective and experiences in organizing LENS.  Organizer Sara Fabrikant did a great job of keeping us on task and encouraging lively discussion with the audience, an achievement in itself given the lateness of the hour and the saturation of the brain.

AAG 2012: New York City.

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