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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.

Petra Zimmerman

Affiliation: Department of Geography, Ball State University
Workshop Attended: GIS and Spatial Modeling for Use in Undergraduate Education
Accomplishment: Enhanced a GIS course for a broad audience of social science and environmental science students.

Notable Achievements in Her Own Words

I returned to Indiana delighted to be able to teach this material and resolving to become an even better educator.
Petra Zimmerman

While most of the sessions at the OSU SPACE workshop were beneficial and informative, the Introduction to Spatial Analysis session was most applicable for me, given that I teach an introductory course. Indeed, it detailed (in a wonderful overview) the various ways one can approach spatial investigations.

I have incorporated many of these topics (expressing spatial relationships by distance or nearest neighbor, considerations of space-time analysis) and the examples (Snow's cholera map) into my lecture on the basics of spatial analysis and its use within a GIS.

Although a course is always an unfinished work in progress, the sessions in general (and this one in particular) helped me clarify just what I want my students to get out of my course. Some of the sessions featuring more intermediate topics were personally valuable to me. While I will not incorporate them into my introductory course, I will share that knowledge with students in other ways (e.g. bringing these approaches into courses taught at some future time).

Perhaps the biggest inspiration from the OSU SPACE workshop came from the participants themselves. This group of over twenty came from diverse disciplines and backgrounds, much like the students in my class, with each one interested in using spatial analysis and GIS to enhance education within their respective disciplines. Working with them spurred me to further develop the student-selected project idea. The camaraderie enhanced the learning portions of the workshop. Simply talking to and working with others helped me bring an interdisciplinary focus to my pedagogy. I returned to Indiana delighted to be able to teach this material and resolving to become an even better educator.

The goal for my introductory GIS course is to introduce students from a variety of disciplines and quantitative backgrounds to basic spatial analysis within the framework of a GIS. My students come from majors as diverse as geography (travel and tourism, meteorology and climatology) to social science education to landscape architecture. Many-perhaps most-have never had a statistics course, so teaching introducing spatial analysis usually begins with qualitative examinations before moving onto basic quantitative analysis. Through this "easing into" spatial analysis, I am able to teach those concepts to even the most number-phobic students.

It is my belief that students learn best when they teach themselves. While I can serve as a guide or instruct them in the basic elements of spatial approaches or GIS, by turning things over to them and allowing them to make their own mistakes and achieve their own successes do they truly begin to comprehend the utility-and even power-of GIS and spatial analysis. Therefore, I have developed a three-part final project designed to have students formulate an idea to describe or investigate a subject, present the outcome or results, and write up their work in a paper.

Students become excited when allowed to work on an undertaking of their own design, because they can select topics that interest them. This enhances their abilities to think in spatial terms. I divided the project into three sections in order to develop different skills, proposal, presentation, and paper. Each part highlights the growth of certain abilities.

The project, while not full-blown or high-powered research work, nonetheless allows students to explore the capabilities of a GIS while investigating the spatial aspect of something that interests them. Additionally, this is open-ended enough to allow students to work within their own quantitative backgrounds.

This three-part project is well received by both students in the class and my colleagues who attended the presentation session. Among the projects completed by my students were:

  • an analysis of the supermarket buying power of low-income neighborhoods in Muncie, Indiana
  • an examination of distances covered by various NBA basketball teams
  • an overview of Arizona wildfires
  • a comparative look at NASCAR racetracks

Students reported that they enjoyed working within their own areas of interest. Several have expressed an interest in more advanced courses.

Course Materials

Future Participation

I propose to organize and run an on-campus workshop/short course on "An Introduction to Spatial Analysis" for faculty or graduate teaching assistants at Ball State University. This workshop will introduce basic material, allowing participants to get a "flavor" of spatial analysis and see how it can form part of their own disciplines; this knowledge is then passed on to undergraduate students within the respective disciplines.

To ensure that I attract people from the broadest possible pool, I will not require participants to have any exposure to spatial analytic techniques or GIS. Among the targeted disciplines will be sociology, anthropology, history, journalism, planning, and political science. Additionally, since the visual communication of spatial information is critical, I would also target researchers from Ball State's Center for Media Design.

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