How would you define spatial literacy?

I’m always curious about course descriptions whose titles have “spatial literacy” in them, including this one called Introduction to Spatial Literacy and Online Mapping, offered by the Reference and user Services Association, part of the American Library Association.  I’m not sure what their descriptions of “geographic literacy” are, but it seems to be GIS and mapping-focused.

I’ve worked hard on a working definition of spatial literacy that isn’t only geographically-focused.  Spatial literacy is the competent and confident use of maps, mapping, and spatial thinking to address ideas, situations, and problems within daily life, society, and the world around us.

Why is this definition robust enough for me? Because “maps” don’t have to be geographical ones. Concept mapping is hugely spatial, or generating any arrangement of information.

and what’s spatial thinking?

Spatial thinking is the ability to visualize and interpret location, distance, direction, relationships, change, and movement over space. 

Location is absolute and relative, discrete and continuous, metric and abstract. It can be fixed – like our perception of where a monument is located – or floating – like where a cloud lies in the sky at a given moment. It can be geographic – where the line of forest meets a field – or spatially conceptual – where a stack of blocks sits on a computer screen.


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