Maps and Decisions
The text in bold is from external sources. The text typed in this font is the response of Sandra L. Arlinghaus concerning opportunities teacher candidates have had to learn in “Maps and Decisions,” Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Geographic Information Systems software is used throughout the course (ArcView 3.2 or most recent supported with a variety of extensions, including Spatial Analyst extension, 3D Analyst extension, and a host of others). Lecture material is conceptual: lab material focuses on execution of mapping and on website creation (weekly feedback is given on term-long projects as they evolve and are mounted on the web). Synthesis of information comes from putting theory into practice.
2.0 Geographic Perspective
2.1 People, Places and Cultures
2.1.a The teacher candidate is able to describe, compare and explain the locations and characteristics of places, cultures and settlements.
Teacher candidates need to understand how the Earth is coordinatized, and might otherwise be coordinatized, in order to extract locational information, both relative and absolute, for making reasonable comparisons and explanations. Thus, a first step is to examine the mathematics of the global sphere. A next step is to look at thematic (aka choropleth) maps. To understand issues surrounding color and the manner of communicating using color, the Four-Color Theorem is introduced. The manner in which one partitions datasets underlying base maps influences the consequent pattern or color scheme and its interpretation. Simple alteration of the partitioning strategy may have devastating social implications. Thus, vastly different maps are created, and vastly different decisions are the result. To compare and explain the locations and characteristics of places, cultures, and settlements, one must know the basis on which underlying mapped data was partitioned; otherwise, decisions made on the basis of thematic maps will be flawed and may have serious side effects for allocation of taxpayer dollars in community, regional, national, or international planning and development. Teacher Candidates are required to attend a live session of the City of Ann Arbor Planning Commission to see first-hand how City government uses maps to make decisions (the instructor is Chair of the City of Ann Arbor Planning Commission and is in her eighth year of service as a City Official to that Commission). To put theory into practice in this category, examples are drawn from the local Ann Arbor scene. Teacher candidates may also have the opportunity to meet with the Planning Director of the City of Ann Arbor (depending on class time). They may also have the opportunity to serve as interns to the Planning Department (or other departments) of the City of Ann Arbor to see how maps and decisions interact in comparing and explaining the locations and characteristics of places, cultures, and settlements within Washtenaw County, Michigan.
2.1.b The teacher candidate is able to assist students to describe, compare and explain the locations and characteristics of places, cultures and settlements
Teacher candidates in this course are required to give two oral presentations to their colleague Teacher Candidates. They are also required to present a term-long project as a website, incorporating maps, processes involved in mapping, graphic design including animation, and text. Their research typically uses primary sources from city government, from the vast reserves of The University of Michigan Library, documents and files from the U.S. Bureau of the Census, digital maps from federal sources, international maps from federal sources, and a vast array of secondary materials from the library and web. The projects are tailored to the interests of the individual Teacher Candidate. Thus, learn concepts in a context of maximum interest to them personally so that they might then turn around and try to do the same for others. Further, when assisting others in a context of lesser familiarity, the teacher candidate’s firm grasp of conceptual material will teach others to extract principles to apply to their local learning situations.
2.2 Human/Environment Interaction
2.2.a The teacher candidate is able to describe, compare and explain the locations and characteristics of ecosystems, resources, human adaptation, environmental impact, and the interrelationships among them.
In this category, the instructor invited the Environmental Coordinator (and Director of Emergency Management), City of Ann Arbor, to give two guest lectures on uses of topographic and other maps in making Emergency Management decisions. The environmental impact of flooding, and the evidence of maps in support of that issue, help to guide allocation of city funds. All teacher candidates have the opportunity to envision the interaction of maps and decisions in that regard. Teacher Candidates who follow debates at the City Planning Commission have an opportunity to see, on a regular basis, the interrelationships among allocation of economic resources, environmental impact issues, and consequent human adaptation.
2.2.b The teacher candidate is able to assist students to describe, compare and explain the locations and characteristics of ecosystems, resources, human adaptation, environmental impact, and the interrelationships among them.
Teacher candidates who serve as interns to the Environmental Coordinator have the opportunity to develop websites, as a term long project that focuses on environmental education of the public. One recent project involved a team of four science teachers working together to make a website for the city that would educate the public on the importance of phosphorus reduction in the turf. Their project involved a synthesis of spatial and economic information on the environmental impact of phosphorus on our water supply.
2.3 Location, Movement and Connections
2.3.a The teacher candidate is able to describe, compare and explain the locations and characteristics of economic activities, trade, political activities, migration, information flow and the interrelationships among them.
Locational analysis and the mapping of it is based in mathematics. In order to compare and explain the locations and characteristics of economic activities, trade, political activities, migration, information flow, or anything else (and the interrelationships thereof) one must know the merits and drawbacks of the maps on which these movements are tracked. Because the sphere and plane are not “commensurable” as surfaces, it is necessarily the case that there can be no perfect map: no perfect unrolling of the sphere into the plane. Teacher candidates are exposed to stereographic projection, and the one-point compactification theorem, in order to see the basis for this critical fundamental principle of mapping. Beyond that, teacher candidates are then led into a discussion of the meaning of classification of any sort, and its lack of uniqueness and perfection, as well. An analogue model is drawn from the biological literature, from the work of Sir D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson. From there, teacher candidates learn about different types of map projections, their merits and drawbacks, and the infinity of classifications available for the infinite possibilities. Equal-area projections are those most frequently employed to compare terrestrial locations.
Migration, information flow, and other activities that might be viewed broadly as channeled human activity linking geographic nodes are analyzed using graph theoretic models (the instructor and two co-authors recently published a book on this topic in the Wiley-Interscience Series in Discrete Mathematics and Optimations: John Wiley and Sons, NY, 2002, Graph Theory and Geography). In this context, teacher candidates learn to use Geographic Information Systems software to capture migration and information flow modeled as spider diagrams, Java applets, Hagerstrand Monte-Carlo simulations, shortest path problems, solutions, or algorithms, or others from a vast array as time permits.
Local locations, situated in relation to a line, may be geocoded (similar to pushing pins in a physical paper map) using GIS software. The software will fail to pinpoint location if the Jordan Curve Theorem is not built into the software. Thus, all teacher candidates are exposed to that theorem, and teacher candidates whose projects require it will learn to geocode information in ArcView. Situations that are more global may look more to clustering of dots on a map rather than to pinpoint locations. All teacher candidates are exposed to using the GIS to make dot density maps and to interpret them accurately as a function of scale change through a nested hierarchy of polygons.
2.3.b The teacher candidate is able to assist students to describe, compare and explain the locations and characteristics of economic activities, trade, political activities, migration, information flow and the interrelationships among them.
Here, the information flow issue is important and surfaces in presentation of materials as a website. “Relative” and “absolute” location on the globe or on a map is conceptually identical to “relative” and “absolute” links in hyperspace. Recognition of this identity offers teacher candidates an opportunity to model the “real” world with the “hyper” world with consequent benefits for students who have not yet had the range of experience of the teacher candidate.
2.4 Regional Patterns and Processes
2.4.a The teacher candidate is able to describe and compare characteristics of ecosystems, states, regions, countries, major world regions and patterns and explain the processes that created them.
Concepts of regional analysis are captured conceptually in a careful analysis of classical central place theory: how cities share geographic space. The underlying Euclidean geometry is carefully aligned with the marketing decisions on which assumptions rest. That alignment is extended to answer unanswered questions, using contemporary fractal geometry. Demonstration is given that the fractal methods, applied in a manner parallel to the Euclidean methods, produce identical results. The fractal methods are then projected into previously unknown realms to answer previously intractable questions. Projection of theory, in this case, is similar to projection of maps: all teacher candidates are exposed to this model of thought and to the idea that ensuring goodness of fit is critical in replication of social (or other) scientific results. The theoretical base given here applies independent of choice of region or process. Interpretation of theory is captured in the construction of hierarchical “information systems.”
2.4.b The teacher candidate is able to assist students to describe and compare characteristics of ecosystems, states, regions, countries, major world regions and patterns and explain the processes that created them.
Once again, the web offers an opportunity for the teacher candidate to assist students in understanding the idea of a nested hierarchy. Lab time is devoted to instruction in the construction of websites (the instructor is also a professional web designer and owns a business that does web design for major Chicago restaurants and for a number of firms in Michigan).
2.5 Global Issues and Events
2.5.a The teacher candidate is able to describe and explain the causes, consequences and geographic context of major global issues and events.
The instructor is Director of the Spatial Analysis Division, and of the Intern Program, of Community Systems Foundation (CSF), an International NGO in Ann Arbor. She also serves on the Board of Trustees. Currently, UNICEF has deployed the Management Information System developed by CSF in 61 developing nations. This system is designed specifically to use maps and data analysis to assess and evaluate the state of the world’s children. In a broader view UNICEF has also used it in earthquake rescue operations and other scenarios. The instructor worked on some of the early projects leading to this far-flung application. Her early work on Syrian maps is often a part of this course along with a discussion of the various factors involved in doing social and cartographic research in the international context.
2.5.b The teacher candidate is able assist students to describe and explain the causes, consequences and geographic context of major global issues and events.
Occasionally, selected teacher candidates are invited to participate as CSF interns; those who do participate have an opportunity to see, first-hand, the sorts of communication/education issues involved in developing global information systems.