Integrating Spatial Literacies


Integrating Spatial Literacies (ISL) is a framework developed to encourage faculty understanding of spatial thinking and its inclusion in and around course designs across the curriculum. Spatial thinking is an essential part of critical thinking skills and complex systems problem solving.  By providing pedagogy focused spatial modules, in-class student mentors, and free download-able applications, the ISL program helps faculty devote minimal class time to learning technology tools. 


ISL sessions are not just technology workshops. While often introducing a particular software or methods, the sessions aim to dig deeper into the conceptual components of successful spatial or mapping scholarship.

Academic Technology Specialists (ATC) work with faculty to re-imagine existing non-spatial courses to create new student project ideas that teach and integrate fundamental spatial thinking and mapping skills to achieve faculty course goals.  ATCs are available to work with faculty to design and develop these new course materials for use in-class or outside of class.

ATCs can adapt and publish the new course materials directly into your GLOW course so that students can refer to them throughout the semester. ATCs can also lead in-class orientation, discussion, or instruction to suit specific student assignments or learning outcomes.

Do you have an idea you would like to discuss? Please contact your department ATC!

What is the right fit for my course?

Given the deep complexity of spatial theory and spatial analysis methods, geographic information systems (GIS), mapping techniques, and the history of cartography, the integration of ISL will need to balance the available class time with the existing expected course workload for your students. For these reasons, most of the examples below involve a very light approach focused on a critical engagement with spaces and maps as culturally constructed narratives, as well as guiding students toward developing their own spatial narratives and counter-mapping exercises.

The examples below are listed in increasing difficulty top to bottom. Difficulty refers to both the amount students will need to learn to be successful as well as the in-class or out of class time necessary to do so.

Curate a Collection of Maps – Use a collection of maps as examples for a critical examination of how space and place are represented, how they preference some aspects of reality while excluding others, and the various political and economic conditions that shape these representations.  Or use a collection to create a non-textual narrative about a space or place germane to your course focus, with attention to authorship and contested narratives. Students may be instructed on how to read maps and how to compare cartographic representations over time or across authoritative perspectives (e.g. nations, cultures, etc.). This could be provided as an in-class workshop or assignment outside of class.

Create a Story Map – Combine interactive maps and multimedia to create space- and place-based narratives or counter-narratives. Consider allowing students to create interactive story maps as an alternative to traditional static papers. This could be provided as an in-class workshop or assignment outside of class.

Create a Project Map – Introduce students to basic map making concepts, tools, and techniques so that they may create map figures representative of their independent scholarship.  This could be provided as an in-class workshop or assignment outside of class.

Develop a Specific Analytical Exercise – Introduce students to a specific methodology or heuristic experience in spatial analysis related to a course topic or goal. This could be provided as an in-class workshop or assignment outside of class. Prior preparation of both data and related course materials