Thinking with Maps: Understanding the World through Spatialization

Spatial reasoning, which promises connection across wide areas, is itself ironically often not connected to other areas of knowledge. Thinking with Maps: Understanding the World through Spatialization addresses this problem, developing its argument through historical analysis and cross-disciplinary examples involving maps. The idea of maps here includes traditional cartographic representations of physical environments, but more broadly encompasses the wide variety of ways that visualizations are used across all disciplines to enable understanding, to generate new knowledge, and to effect change.

The idea of thinking with maps is also used broadly. Maps become, not simply one among many items to learn about, but indispensable tools for thinking across every field of inquiry, in a way similar to that of textual and mathematical language. Effective use of maps becomes a way to make knowledge, much as writing or mathematical exploration not only displays ideas, but also creates them. The book shows that maps for thinking are not just a means to improve geographic knowledge, as valuable as that may be. Instead, they provide mechanisms for rejuvenating our engagement with the world, helping us to become more capable of facing our global challenges.

This book has a broader aim: It is fundamentally about general principles of how we learn and know. It calls for a renewed focus on democratic education in which both the means and ends are democratic. Education, just as the political realm, should follow Dewey’s dictum that “democratic ends need democratic methods for their realization.” Maps and mapping are invaluable in that endeavor.

Available from Rowman & Littlefield (as well as Amazon, etc.), April 1, 2020

978-1-4758-5928-7 • Hardback

978-1-4758-5929-4 • Paperback

978-1-4758-5930-0 • eBook

Packing for the Big Circle

Day 1: Wellfleet, Massachusetts, 0 miles, 1 state

Ring out the old, ring in the new

Alfred, Lord Tennyson, ‘Ring Out, Wild Bells

After eight months hibernating, we’re about to set off on a big adventure. We’ll travel through 30 or more states in our vanagain, camping along the way, and visit well over 30 family members and old friends. We’re leaving just as the cherry tree is about to lose its last blossoms.

Susan and I now have our covid vaccinations and I’ve had my cardiac ablation. These should lessen our danger to others and ourselves, especially with the camping.

We’ve had several smaller jaunts in the vanagain, such as canoeing on the Raquette River. That’s helping us with the packing. We also remember many great adventures with Emily and Stephen in our VW camper.

Off to canoe on the Sangamon RIver, 1992
Off to canoe on the Sangamon RIver, 1992

The new camper van is similar to the VW, but it’s built on a Metris platform. Although much of it is familiar, the heater and AC both work. There’s also better gas mileage and enough acceleration to enter an interstate highway safely. So, a little less drama, but it’s still fun to drive.

The vanagain has all we need for extended travel and camping, but it doesn’t require us to stay in an RV park. It even parks in a standard garage.

Susan, packing the vanagain

A TRIPS waiver to stop COVID-19

As you may know, a major barrier delaying international distribution of COVID-19 vaccines is intellectual property restrictions. Biden could remove that barrier by supporting a TRIPS Waiver.

Such a move is supported by many organizations such as Oxfam, Medicins san Frontieres, and Human Rights Watch. Without it, the pandemic will continue, quite likely increasing, and new lethal variants are certain to arise.

A TRIPS waiver is important to save perhaps millions of lives worldwide, but also for bringing the pandemic under control in the US.

AI and Emerging Technologies for a Sustainable Future

Last week I gave a webinar through the Global Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies (Nepal). It was at 6-7 pm NPT (7:15-8:15 am EST), Thursday, Feb 18. See details 

Here’s a summary: Artificial intelligence has been imagined as powerful, intelligent, and autonomous (independent of human prejudices, power relations, etc.). While it is definitely powerful, it is neither intelligent nor autonomous. Benevolent use of AI calls for critical, socially engaged intelligence on the part of both technologists and ordinary citizens.

Vladimir Horowitz, 1986 concert

Horowitz, 1986 concert in Moscow

Vladimir Horowitz, 1986 concert in Moscow

In 1986, Vladimir Horowitz,  came out of depression and semi-retirement. He re-entered Moscow after 61 years to deliver one of the best piano concerts ever.

A PBS special includes much of the actual performance and fascinating background on the politics, his personal life, and the music.  I enjoyed it on many levels.

My Dad would have loved it, too. He had died 17 years earlier, but he was a big fan of Horowitz’s, and of course Steinways, which he sold in his piano store. He also hated and feared the USSR. He would have totally understood the requirement to have Horowitz’s personal Steinway shipped to Moscow under Marine Corps guard.

I like the fact that Horowitz, especially this late Horowitz, chose mostly intermediate level pieces, especially the Chopin and the Mozart. I can at least play at many of them, but he shows how they can really be played. I’ve been working on the Schumann Träumerai (near the end) for 67 years. Listening to this concert just made it better.

Horowitz didn’t strive for virtuosity (the “pyrotechnics”) as many young, modern performers do. He lets the music speak. He makes more mistakes than most champion performers would do, but they’re totally immaterial. As some of the commentators point out, he never forces the notes.

The show is available through PBS online until February 20 (click on the image above). I hope you enjoy it.

Raquette River

Cardinal flower

Cardinal flower

These photos are from our trip taking Emily and Stephen to their homes in Minnesota and New York.

In these covid times, any travel is of course a luxury and a risk. However, we felt that van camping in remote areas was safer than travel by other means. We were uncomfortably close to bears and mosquitoes, but far from other people who might be infected by us or infect us. We essentially quarantined the whole way.

The photos below represent just the portion from our four-day expedition along the Raquette River and Stoney Creek in the Adirondacks. The first photo is the Cardinal Flower that punctuated our views along the streams and rivers.

Have you traveled there? It’s a wonderful natural resource, beautiful and diverse, larger than Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and Glacier National Parks combined. Or, put another way, it’s about the same size or larger than any New England state except Maine.

Here’s our base camp near where Stoney Creek enters the Raquette River.

It was warm enough at times to swim, but often chilly. By early morning the air temperature would drop to near 40 °F.

We hired canoes from St. Regis Canoe Outfitters. We had all the needed equipment, but it would have complicated our travel considerably to transport it all for three weeks. They provided foam blocks, straps, and ropes to tie the canoes on to the roof tops of the Subaru and the Vanagain. Their guy even did the initial tie-downs. We then made use of their ropes for clotheslines and painters.

Once we were in the base camp we just turned the canoes over each night at out site. We used the paddles to make a hanging rack for the pfd’s and our hats.

The Raquette River is beautiful, with some majestic falls upstream a ways.

Relics of the past

Relics of the past

Sensible planning for online learning

Sensible planning for online learning

800px Online Learning learn from home elearning

Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0.

In the rush to online education, schools and colleges appear to expect instant transference of their on-campus programs to new media such as Zoom and Moodle.

Anyone who has observed the implementation of online education knows that this is a recipe for disaster, one that will lead to little meaningful learning and much angst on the part of students, teachers, parents, and administrators.

In this context, it’s worth taking a look at what has contributed to the success of some online learning.

The LEEP online masters program

In 1996, the Graduate School of Library and Information Science (now the iSchool) at the University of Illinois began offering master’s degrees over the Internet, with only brief periods of on-campus learning.

This program, actually just a scheduling option for the traditional degree, is called LEEP. It has a 24-year record of success from the perspectives of students, faculty, staff, employers, researchers evaluating the program, and formal accreditation bodies.

Upon graduation, one student said that it

has truly been a marvelous, exhilarating experience. I have met and learned from a wonderful group of students and teachers. At times overwhelming, but always challenging, the GSLIS classes have taught me far more than I could have imagined. I have gained insights and confidence, knowledge and skills, and friends for a lifetime. The virtual community of LEEP3 continues to develop and thrive. [Quoted in a 1999 paper by Dean Leigh Estabrook, “New Forms of Distance Education”]

Why has LEEP been so successful, especially in contrast with what many are doing today? This is worthy of a longer discussion, but it’s useful to list a few of the characteristics of LEEP that have helped it to succeed:

  1. Voluntary participation: Faculty were invited to participate, but were not required to do so. Although some were eager to give the new modality a try, others needed to see how their colleagues fared first.
  2. Planning and preparation: Through course releases and other mechanisms, faculty were given time to prepare new courses or new versions of existing courses that reflected the affordances and constraints off the new medium.
  3. Match to available resources: There was detailed consideration of the background knowledge needed by students, and of the necessary technical features such as bandwidth, computer and operating system platforms, or microphones and speakers.
  4. Technical support: There was substantial technical support for both students and faculty, so that they could concentrate on the course content.
  5. Reflection: There was an annual retreat to discuss successes, surprises, and challenges.
  6. Analysis and ongoing revision: The program was regularly and systematically studied through surveys, interviews, and analyses of course interactions. This has led to books, articles, conference presentations, and other publications, which contributed to the program’s continuing development.
  7. Collaboration: The program was developed in collaboration with other units within the university and with similar programs at other institutions.

What schools are doing instead

All too often today, participation in online education is mandated, with little participatory planning, little support, and no opportunity for reflection or revision. This will not work. Perhaps the only thing worse is the equally haphazard approach being taken to new forms of on-campus instruction, necessitated by covid times.
 
Few things are more important now than education and support for young people’s development. Having safe and successful schooling is also critical for the economy. But none of that can happen without more investment of resources and more thoughtful implementation.

Vanagain

Our new vanagain with the top up

Caravan Outfitters has created a great vehicle. It’s a Backroad conversion, based on the Mercedes Metris van.

One complication was that we needed to have it shipped across the country, but that all went smoothly.

We’re very pleased with the new purchase. We expect to make good use of it in these times, avoiding air travel and most stays in hotels.

You can see some photos of its arrival and early voyages here.