Category Archives: spatial thinking

new book: the People’s Guide to Spatial Thinking

It’s out, it’s out, it’s finally out!  The book I wrote, together with some help from four wonderful colleagues – The People’s Guide to Spatial Thinking – was released yesterday by the National Council for Geographic Education.  It’s a short “primer” on spatial thinking, designed to help you understand the what and why of this important topic.  It’s a quick and entertaining read. Buy your copy today!


Using spatial analysis to find Waldo

I like the way that this guy thought systematically about finding Waldo, a classic spatial skill of disembedding or finding hidden figures!  Since he suggests that there is a specific section of the whole page where Waldo is more likely to be found than elsewhere, we shall test this hypothesis in our advanced GIS class next semester, with a few spatial statistical tests. Just to confirm that his horizontal rectangular swatch does indeed capture the most frequent placements of Waldo.

Thanks for publishing such important stories, Slate.

new article linking spatial thinking with multiple school topics

Temple University’s Nora Newcombe is well-versed at writing about spatial thinking in a way that makes the topic accessible to lay audiences. New to me: a piece called Seeing Relationships (pdf) in the Spring 2013 American Educator. Now she can share the results of the large meta-analysis recently completed, that documents our mind’s capacity to become more skilled at spatial tasks.  She’s still firmly grounded in her own disciplinary perspective, cognitive psychology, but here she ventures into examples involving geographic space and geospatial technologies, not only mental rotation in abstract space. This piece includes call-outs to the Geospatial Semester program at James Madison University and Stanford’s Orbis project.

Nora’s oft-cited, oft-shared 2010 American Educator piece, Picture This, is still available too.

model for professional development at UVM

In the College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Vermont, faculty are involved with a year-long initiative to learn more about maps and mapping. I had a chance to be part of their August 2013 workshop and share ideas about teaching and learning supported with geospatial technologies. Members of the department of geography are leading this effort, and though they’re disciplinary experts in this field, they themselves are learning from the new perspectives and novel projects being designed and developed.  A way to spread opportunities for spatial analysis and geographical inquiry.

spatial, social engineering at the dinner table

It’s all about location, location, location.  Thinking in space here, as you choose a seat at a restaurant dinner table.


via Nag on the Lake

Spatial Thinking at Marymount College

Next week I’ll be visiting Marymount College, speaking about the roles of spatial thinking and geography for reasoning and communication.   I will also have the opportunity to visit a number of classes and share ideas with students directly. I look forward to understanding what they know and want to know.  My class visits will range from courses on Aging in America, to Digital 3D Modeling, to Applied Intercultural Psychology.   What, they think spatial thinking is relevant to all of these?  They’re right!

next generation of digital “knowledge network” maps

This year we’re supporting several faculty projects that involve mapping “knowledge” – collections of ideas, groups of people, collections of objects. They have both geographic and non-geographic attributes.  Eventually the faculty, and their students, will use spatial thinking to extract meaning from the representations: what are the relationships among the components, based on distance, connections, sequences.

To begin, we’re playing with NodeXL, but are likely to branch out to more customized tools later.

I like Flash-based interfaces, like this one that lets you explore the Abstraction movement of art history, from MoMA.  Sites like these have matured. Instead of just including the graphical network itself, it’s now a multi-media experience, with other text, images, audio, etc., to expand and illustrate.  I really like these.