Document Type


Presentation Date

Spring 2021


Learning objectives:

  • Know the history and basic terminology of the field of GIS.
  • Be able to interpret and assess the quality of maps produced by a GIS.
  • Understand the process of displaying basic spatial data in a GIS software program.


Many of us use GIS, or Geographic Information Systems, in our everyday lives without even knowing it: when was the last time you used Google maps to get to a desired destination? Google is using spatial information about distance, speed limits, and traffic, in order to perform calculations that, ultimately, direct you to your destination along the fastest path. In general, GIS is a framework for gathering, organizing, and analyzing spatial data. By arranging spatial information into coincident layers, GIS software can help reveal deeper insights into patterns and relationships – not only where occurrences and processes of interest are happening, but also why. By visualizing data though maps, GIS users can make smarter decisions. For example, maps and GIS analyses provided vital information for tracking the progressive spread of the COVID-19 pandemic across the Earth. However, maps can also be manipulated through the users’ choice of symbology and classification methods in order to (dis)advantage particular groups of people. In this workshop, participants will learn the history and basic terminology of the GIS field, be able to interpret examples of “good” and “bad” maps produced by GIS, and have an understanding of how to display basic spatial data in a GIS.

Skill levels for attendees: Little to no experience

Software requirements: None

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.



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