What should we be mapping?

There’s a part of me that wants to map everything. I want to be able to map ideas and I want to be able to map out direction. I want to be able to map out what the future looks like, displaying it for others to interact with. This part of me, the mapping part, is small but growing. I see so much of our work being tied to the geographies that are either real or that we create in order to better understand the connections between things. Our ability to put things on a single plane and show the area within which we will learn is no small feat. And that is why I am even more glad there is someone whose job is actually mapping the things going on in DPS.

Oh, and he is going to fix global warming too. Robb Menzies, our GIS specialist, is working both on the large scale mapping needs of the district and he is busy building mapped simulations that help students to understand their carbon footprint. When I spoke with Robb the other day, he told me about the project that lets students actually see the number of kilowatts In their bedroom, then in their house, then in their neighborhood and city, and then as a part of the utility itself, solving the problem of energy usage. When I heard about this, I thought he was literally “mapping out the future.”

Then we started brainstorming together the ways in which we could simulate a visualization for where global temperature is heading. We were simulating rolls the dice using a Google Fusion Table and determining which city would have above above and below average temperature. It was both fascinating, yet somehow it seemed like I had stepped into someone else’s universe. It sounded like an amazing project that could only see the light of day if someone championed it and made it happen. I was struck that this type of mapping doesn’t happen by accident. It has to be intentional.

I believe the mapping of our district has to be just as intentional. I’m really interested in what our map looks like. Where are the spots that we marked with an X, and where are the treasures that we are questing after? And the bigger question I keep thinking about is: “What should we be mapping?” If we have designated champions of our GIS information and empowered them to create things beyond just number-crunched heat maps, where should we be placing our capacity to lay everything out on the table and see what there is to see?

We should probably be mapping where we want students to go.

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