February 1, 2019

Cyber Literacy for 21st Century Geospatial Professionals

Posted by Sharon Rauch

Cyberinfrastructure empowers the growing knowledge economy in the United States, including many components of geoscience, geographic, and spatial research and analysis. But the integration of such training into degree programs and professional training is a difficult question for students, early career professionals, universities, and industries alike. Students and researchers in these disciplines thus often lack experience in using the most advanced tools and techniques to grapple with the crucial global challenges they are being trained to investigate. These questions and concerns are especially connected to Geographic Information Science (GIS), which has seen many recent advances connected to capacities in cyberinfrastructure.

In a recent article in The Professional Geographer titled “Cyber Literacy for GIScience: Toward Formalizing Geospatial Computing Education” (link: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00330124.2018.1518720 ), my co-authors and I explore the importance of this integration, especially as concerned with coursework and training in spatial data and analysis. With geospatial data and technologies widely available, and approaches to analyze that data broadly expanding into the computational realm, there is a pressing need to educate a new generation of scientists and citizens who can both understand the fundamental domain being analyzed and can keep pace with computational advances. In this work, we define cyber literacy for GIScience and outline core areas of interest for education and training to build cyberGIScience literacy. As (figure) shows, these areas of literacy work at the synthesis of GIScience and Computational Science with computing technologies and problem solving skills.

Outlined in this article are definitions of these literacy areas and ways to consider addressing these different conceptual cores in courses and learning structures. For those interested in structuring coursework, lessons, or learning opportunities for interested parties, it serves as a useful guide to the foundations of this literacy concept. Further, a recently funded NSF project titled “Hour of Cyberinfrastructure: Developing Cyber Literacy for Geographic Information Science” is extending the support for these ideas through a series of one-hour lessons to help build up learning opportunities on these concepts for classroom and self-paced learning. This project addresses this challenging problem by creating a clear curriculum model for educators – an Hour of Cyberinfrastructure (Hour of CI) – to support such integration of cyberinfrastructure skill building into domain-specific curriculum. With goals to support real-world problems from geoscience, environmental science, and social sciences, education topics will accessible and meaningful to students in many scientific disciplines.


Blog written by Forrest J. Bowlick, Ph.D., Graduate Program Director, MS Geography-GIST, University of Massachusetts – Amherst