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Instructional Development Award Recipients

Several undergraduate instructors who attended the 2004 SPACE workshops were awarded funds to continue their efforts in integrating spatial analysis into their course curriculums. These pages showcase their achievements. See the full recipient list.

David Padgett

Affiliation: Associate Professor of Geography, Tennessee State University
Workshop Attended: Spatial Analysis for the Undergraduate Social Science Curriculum
Accomplishment: Designed modules using student-gathered research data to demonstrate spatial concepts, using ArcGIS, GeoDa, and FlowMapper. Also organized several Conference Workshops.

Notable Achievements in His Own Words

My objective is not to create GIS experts in one semester, but instead to expose the students to dynamic spatial approaches to interdisciplinary urban problems.
David Padgett

My primary challenge is conveying spatial concepts to students who have little to no geography background. Tennessee State University (TSU) does not offer a degree in Geography. Thus, all of the upper-division courses are general electives. I get students from nearly every department and program on campus. My strategy to date has been to focus upon the inter-disciplinary nature of geography in order to convince them that regardless of their primary course of study, there's "something for everybody."

The main vehicle for allowing students to apply spatial techniques to their own disciplinary specialties is the "Urban GIS Assignment". Examples of student projects are: "Impacts of an Interstate Highway upon an Inner-City Community" (Sociology Major), and "An Assessment of Achievement Among Three Local Schools in Terms of Race and Income" (Education Major).

With the relative success of the term paper assignment, I have had some difficulty finding a GIS-based supplementary textbook. The main required texts are Land Use and Society by Rutherford H. Platt, and Sprawl City, by Robert D. Bullard. They are excellent for teaching the fundamentals of urban planning and contemporary urban problem-solving, respectively. For the past three years I have used two ESRI Press textbooks, Community Geography and Beyond Maps as supplementary materials to demonstrate "real world" applications of GIS and spatial analysis. Both books are very useful for seasoned geographers and GIS users, but I have not found them to be "classroom friendly" for novices. Not to mention the fact that the added cost of a third required text is a major turn-off for students enrolled in an elective course.

My solution to this problem is to use the students' term paper data to develop in-class demonstration modules using ArcGIS, GeoDa, and Flow Mapper. Doing so will allow me to work around the steep learning curve faced by students new to GIS. My objective is not to create GIS experts in one semester, but instead to expose the students to dynamic spatial approaches to interdisciplinary urban problems.

I will demonstrate the application of Flow Mapper for the class in step-by-step fashion. The final maps and data will be saved and given to the students in digital format. More ambitious and computer-savvy students will be encouraged to attempt to apply Flow Mapper to their data independently.

Future Participation

The award was used to support my presentation at the 2005 ESRI Education User Conference in San Diego, July 2005:

GIS-Supported Demonstration Modules in an Undergraduate Urban Geography Course 1.8MB

Demonstration modules designed to improve the delivery of geographical and spatial concepts to students enrolled in an undergraduate course, Urban Geography, are developed at the Center for Spatially Integrated Social Science (CSISS) Spatial Perspectives on Analysis for Curriculum Enhancement (SPACE) 2004 summer workshops. Under the current course format enrollees are required to collect population, socioeconomic, environmental and other data for urban areas of their choice. The data are then to be used to formulate questions and subsequently be developed into term projects. During selected class periods, each student's data are incorporated into the demonstration modules and presented by the instructor. Thus, all students are exposed to a visual array of GIS and spatially-based methods for analyzing the dynamics of urban environments. The modules prove effective in communicating geographical concepts to students, many of whom have little to no exposure to geography as there are no prerequisites for the course.

I concluded that students exposed to the modules were able to successfully apply GIS and spatial analysis tools to urban problems and engage in critical thinking about them. However, the development of the modules was more time-consuming than expected. I'm happy to report that beginning in the fall of 2005, the course will be taught in a PC lab setting for the first time, allowing for students to have more hands-on experiences. I will continue to utilize the modules because the students will still benefit from visual demonstrations of various spatially-based urban analyses.

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