Thoughts on the Seminar

My general plan for the seminar was to show the students Netscape, teach them html, and then talk about what it all means to maps and cartography. I have to admit that I didn't know Netscape that well and I didn't know html at all. Luckily, introducing Netscape and html took only two weeks. I was particularly impressed with how students helped each other learn html.

The major part of the seminar was plodding through the discussion topics. These were questions of mine based on the readings. We had the typical problems here of getting everyone to contribute to the discussion. The standard suspicion of the professor is that people aren't reading the assigned material. The standard solution is to assign writing assignments based on the readings - something I didn't do.

A solution to the discussion problem may be found on the net. It would be possible to use the net to get student response to the questions before the class discussion. One of the problems with the net is that it doesn't support this type of collaboration very well. Perhaps it could be done with forms in html (see Julsun Pacheco's final project). The idea would be that students would work through a form and would give their answers to the questions before they are discussed in the seminar. All of the answers would then be brought to the seminar and these would form the basis of discussion.

Other improvements would be meet more often in a computer user room. We did this three times during the semester and it worked out well each time. It may be desirable to have as many as half of the meetings in this type of forum and half in a regular seminar type of environment with no computers.

One of the advantages of posting the assignments is that students can examine each other's work. I think a certain peer pressure takes over in that students are no longer doing the assignment "for the professor" but they are doing it for each other. I think this is a much stronger motive for doing well on the assignments.

I assigned two books for the course - one on Mosaic and my book on cartography. I had no way of knowing that Mosaic would fade so quickly and Netscape would dominate the WWW. The chapter on html helped students with scripting and the chapter on multimedia helped somewhat in our discussion. Otherwise, the book was useless by mid-semester.

My book was really designed for a course on multimedia cartography but had some background chapters that proved useful for the discussions. Chapter 1 examines the importance of the medium in cartography. Chapter 2 looks at communication with maps and Chapter 3 examines the implications of a more interactive and animated cartography. Chapter 4 takes a historical approach to computer mapping. Those chapters were the basis of most of the discussions. The middle chapters examined the tools of an interactive and animated cartography and we spent some time with these. The last chapter, Frontier, again provided some interesting areas for discussion.

Finally, I want to thank all of the students for participating in the seminar and for their help in creating material for this home page. You all did a great job!