Reflections from the Teaching with Technology Conference

I was unable to attend this week’s class as I was on the road returning from a conference in College Station, Texas, and didn’t have enough signal on my phone on back country roads to push through a text message much less attempt an Adobe Connect session. I do not want to miss out on the blog points for this week, so in lieu of blogging about my fellow students’ presentations, which I will watch when they are posted at a later date, I thought I would blog about the conference and what I learned there.

One especially interesting and informative session discussed the use of GIS interactive mapping to engage students. This was a technique I had never used before. The presenter discussed the difference between using GIS mapping software on the desktop and using the web-based version. Apparently, the desktop version has over 11,000 functions and requires at least a minimum knowledge of GIS mapping skills in order to use. The web version in comparison has only 1500 functions, and if you are good at social media, you are ready to use this version of GIS mapping. A brief hands-on demonstration had us creating an account, uploading data, and displaying a GIS map of John Snow’s cholera data within minutes. My map is embedded below.

View Larger Map

The presenter then demonstrated a different use. She had taken geo-tagged photos on a recent bike ride. She presented a hands-on demonstration where we linked the photos from her Flickr account to the GIS map and a video from her YouTube account and shared them publicly as a story map. The link to my story map is http://bit.ly/1gLXbJv.

These two demonstrations showed me how GIS mapping could be used in any discipline to engage students, with a minimum of technical knowledge or skill required to use the application. We created these two maps in a 50 minute hands-on session with no prior training; in fact, prior to this session, I had never even heard of GIS mapping.

Another session I attended which interested me dealt with the use of infographics to convey information in a visually appealing way. In this research grant study, researchers used infographics to present statistical information about various issues in a women’s health course as a supplement to the course textbook. They had some positive outcomes and learned some lessons along the way which were both informative. Again, the terminology was new to me; before deciding to attend the session I had to Google infographics. I realized I had seen infographics before but was unaware they had a specific name. One thing the researchers stated with which I’m not sure I agree was that infographics were most appropriate when dealing with quantitative data. When I Googled the term, one of the first things that came up in the search results was an infographic explaining the recent “Gangnam Style” craze and demonstrating the moves and where to do them in the song, as well as how to dress. I guess that isn’t exactly “qualitative” in nature, but it certainly isn’t the statistical data the researchers where touting as the best information to include in an infographic. Nevertheless, the workshop was helpful, providing not only information but resources as to where to get started. They recommended watching Sean Nufer on YouTube and looking at tagxedo.com, and they demonstrated how to disassemble and customize clip art in Microsoft PowerPoint.

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