Story Maps

I’m doing a little research on the use of Story Maps, and finding so much great stuff I need a place to document it….

Background

I was introduced to GIS about four years ago, and it changed how I feel we can study and deliver history. I’ve been dabbling in it, slowly learning more and producing a few things. Mostly, I have been teaching others about it — I call myself an expert on entry GIS and introducing its power to others.

Why GIS?

GIS and Story Maps are amazing tools that let us see content and data in new ways. I really can’t write it any better than Allan Carroll, the ESRI Story Maps guru who defines digital humanities as:

  • The creative application of digital technology to humanities questions and data.
  • The use of computational techniques in the humanities that would allow research that is otherwise impossible.
  • The democratization of knowledge through the application of digital technologies to the advancement of discourse in the humanities, broadly defined (and not restricted to the academy!).

 and  make a very compelling argument for Story Maps:

What digital mapping tools like Google Maps or Citymapper generally don’t tell us is how a certain street got its name, or what issues are of critical cultural importance to a community.

But “story maps” – an interactive form of drawing the world around us and an increasingly popular form of mapping – can do all this and more.

This is why I have been doing so many presentations and sessions about Story Maps. I am grateful to have yet another set of good quotes to use when I talk about it.

In my words:

  • Story Maps and GIS completely changes how we can study history. So much of history has a spatial component. Maps have always been used to teach and study history, but using the GIS tools available, we can interpret the data in ways we never could before.
  • GIS visualizes patterns and relationships that let us see something in a quick glance or closer look that would’ve taken much longer in print. For example, I recently showed a group of teachers the two maps of where Japanese Americans lived in 1940 and 1945. Nothing could have gotten the point across about the impact of the internment camps faster than those two maps. It’s one thing to read a sentence about this in a book; it’s quite another to see it on the maps.
     

  • GIS enables analysis of data. If you have the right kind of data (for example, the location of shipwrecks in Lake Superior), simple — yet powerful — geoanalysis tools can show a variety of different ways of looking at the data.
     

  • Story Maps bring content to a broader audience. Instead of just a paper that a professor reads, Story Maps and GIS tools can deliver content to others.
  • Context: Story Maps allow us to provide context, story, background and additional information about a map.

Not Banning the Laptop

Phew. After nearly six months working in a higher ed institution hearing over and over again about banning laptops from classrooms, this article, “The Futile Resistance Against Classroom Tech” by David M. Perry, a history professor from Dominican University, in The Atlantic  is a much needed voice of reason.

Perry argues that,  “The ‘networked world,’  she [danah Boyd] wrote, is here to stay. It’s up to teachers, then, to build networks of learning, solidarity, mutual respect, and even trust.”

It’s unrealistic to think instructors will be able to control the flow of information into the classroom and to students as technology progresses. Instead, Perry argues, there needs to be an understanding of changing of process and learning. Instead of taking verbatim notes, students need to summarize. Instead of calling out the student with a disability who actually does learn better with technology, allow everyone who learns better to use it.

I’d go one step further. I often hear about how students cheat with technology. I go back to one of the first things I learned when working with the K-12 community: if the assessment is one that can easily be completed by cheating, perhaps it isn’t a good assessment.

This is simplistic, I get it. It isn’t always practical. But good assessments that are authentic, real world and student-centered are hard to cheat on. You can’t just Google or copy the answer. Real work has to happen.

And yes, there are times when we all need to put away our technology and connect as humans. But there are times when technology can enhance that communication. Backchannel conversations can be productive, not distracting. They can allow the introverted student who would never speak up to have a voice.

Sometimes we do need to put the technology away. That’s fine. But sometimes, we are better for it. Higher ed has a lot to learn.

Memorizing Maps

GIS and digital mapping is my new obsession. I jump at any opportunity to work on digital mapping and teach others how to use it. Am I good at it yet? Nope, not at all. But I’m learning.

Part of my work involves showing teachers how to use GIS and digital maps in their classes. I don’t teach GIS – there are many others with far greater skills. I consider myself the gateway to GIS: how can you use digital mapping and GIS even if you don’t know how to build maps? You can, and your students will get far more out of it than coloring in basic maps. The incredible beauty of this is that you can use GIS/digital mapping with any subject: geography, history, economics, government, environmental science, biology, music, etc., etc.

Just ran across this recent blog post supporting the use of digital mapping as opposed to memorizing maps. We all remember those map tests: fill in the name of the country on a paper map. You might get to color it in if you were lucky. This post is a wonderful justification of why this is stupid.

It puts kids to sleep. And just so ya know . . . that’s a bad thing. (Plus 18 ways to make it better)

Having recently made the jump to a position in higher ed, I found this post especially relevant. Even college students benefit from active learning! Thanks for the post and ideas, Glenn!

History Tech

Shocker. Lecturing to students puts them to sleep.

Who could have guessed?

Well . . . I should have. But I didn’t. During my first few years as a middle school teacher and later, during some time I spent teaching in a college social science department, I lectured.

A lot.

Early on, I didn’t know better. I was taught that way in both K-12 and in my college content courses. There were no real alternatives provided in my ed classes. And I started teaching long before established mentor programs. It was just the way things were done.

By the time I had moved on to higher ed, I had figured out – with some occasional PD and lots of help from some great educators – that there are other alternatives to constant direct instruction. But I was subtly and then very overtly encouraged to lecture rather than use some of the methods that…

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Improving Learning

We can’t use tech because it is “cool and new.” It must improve learning. If it doesn’t improve learning, why are we spending the money?

I met Eric Sheninger when he did the TEDxBurnsville event at the Minnesota History Center (it’s complicated) in 2014. He is an idol, I was thrilled to meet him. Watch his TEDx talk…

Saw this interview with him. It’s worth a listen.

History Podcasts

I have become a podcast addict. It’s getting ridiculous — I won’t even mention how much storage on my phone is podcasts. But I learn a ton! So there.

For reference later – here is a blog post recommending podcasts for history teachers. I’ll check out a couple of these.

Bias

The last few weeks since the election have been difficult for me. I can’t even begin to process how people can possibly think that this political climate will be ok. There is much more I could write but I can’t even start — I won’t stop.

So, I ‘m going to post resources I find that could help me and perhaps others process, protest and persevere for the next four years. (It better not be more than that.)

Starting with a great series of videos from the New York Times that helps us understand and work beyond our own bias. Don’t feel guilty about it — work to understand it and not be a slave to it. (I do hope the NYT is making sure the ads before the videos are kid safe…)

https://static01.nyt.com/video/players/offsite/index.html?videoId=100000004818663