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Dickinson Launches Spatial Literacy Center

gordon cromley

Gordon Cromley, director of the Spatial Literacy Center and GIS specialist, conducts a class in the new center. Photo by Dan Loh.

New center becomes third facet of the Learning Commons

by Tony Moore

While Dickinson’s GIS Lab and geographic-information courses have existed for several years now, the college recently launched its Spatial Literacy Center, a go-to location for a focused approach to geographic information services. The new center promotes the "spatial turn" across Dickinson’s curriculum and provides resources and mentoring to apply spatial education that leverages GIS technology collegewide.

“GIS is a fancy term for computer mapping software,” says Gordon Cromley, the director of the center and GIS specialist. “You can use the software to make maps and conduct statistical analyses using what are termed spatial statistics. So students learn how to make and evaluate maps and how to use specialized software to analyze information.”

The new center is part of the newly established Learning Commons, also comprising the Quantitative Reasoning Center and Norman M. Eberly Multilingual Writing Center. As Noreen Lape, associate provost of academic affairs and director of the writing program, explains, while the Writing Center assists students with written texts and the QR Center with numbers, the Spatial Literacy Center focuses on reading and making maps. And it’s the perfect addition to the colleges newest academic resource center.

“Professor Cromley has really interesting ideas about how to enhance and extend spatial literacy across the curriculum, even the humanities,” she says. “The three centers together seek to develop skills that will make students competitive for the job market and advanced study and provide opportunities for faculty to learn new pedagogical approaches and technologies to enhance teaching and learning.”

The center’s staff provides support for teaching, learning and research around spatial literacy; maintains campus GPS units; provides a variety of geospatial analysis software in our computer lab; and helps with installing and setting up GIS software on campus laptops.

“GIS and spatial literacy cut across the academic divisions on campus and can help students who double major or have minors/certificate programs integrate them,” says Cromley. “In terms of integrating into the Learning Commons, each center assists students with a form of thinking, and geospatial or mapping techniques can be used to think about an issue and critically evaluate it. My vision for the Spatial Literacy Center is to expand what we do to include all academic divisions at Dickinson.”

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Published September 30, 2022