A Comparison of Traditional and Experiential Approaches to First-Year Geomatics Instruction

I’m currently leading a research project that looks to compare two first-year Geomatics courses (GEOG 181 and the new GEOG 187). Having instructed the prior version of GEOG 181, and now designing and instructing GEOG 187, I’m trying to understand what the impact is of ‘experiential’ teaching methods on student engagement with traditionally tricky concepts, called ‘threshold concepts’. In particular, I’m interested in how students engage with the fundamental geographic concept of ‘scale’. When I talk about scale, I mean how different objects can be represented differently at various scales (local to global), and how geographers and cartographers manipulate and change how objects are visualized to communication information. This work is supported by the University of Waterloo Centre for Teaching Excellence LITE (Learning Innovation and Teaching Enhancement) Full Grant. You can read a nice writeup of the project. This research is currently underway, with data collection from two first year classes complete, and basic analysis commencing soon. I’m hoping to have some general summaries completed by next semester and look forwards to sharing the results with the broader UW community of teaching practice. In the meantime, here are a few photos of GEOG 187 and their ‘experiential’ data collection this past fall.

Grant getting the weather balloon ready to launch (with attached camera to collect budget airphotos).
Grant getting the weather balloon ready to launch (with attached camera to collect budget airphotos).
IMG_9460
View from balloon – note the string tethering the balloon.
Aerial view of a small portion of UW campus.
Aerial view of a small portion of UW campus.
Using Fulcrumapp.com to gather point data using mobile phones
Using Fulcrumapp.com to gather point data using mobile phones
Typical photo of trees for identification.
Typical photo of trees for identification.
Infrared photo of local tree, showing leaf health.
Infrared photo of local tree, showing leaf health.
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