A common goal of field mapping projects is furthering development of students' spatial reasoning skills, in addition to and sometimes more important than the actual production of the map. GeoPads facilitate this process via powerful, intuitive capabilities for in-the-field data entry, visualization, analysis, and interpretation in both 2-D and 3-D representations. GeoPad-based field mapping exercises can use a variety of strategies for gathering and interpreting observations and preparing the final product. Two general approaches, which can combined or used independently, are:
Sketch—direct annotation of a map to record observations and interpretations.
Cartographic—use of GIS capabilities to gather, manipulate, and interpret data.
There are also a number of key benefits to using digital field mapping techniques in an educational setting, as compared to traditional paper-based mapping techniques:
- Note Taking - Capture rich notes quickly and directly on map or in an electronic notebook. This easily builds on students' intuition working with tablet stylus.
- Layering, transparency, zooming, and panning capabilities help students interact easily and seamlessly with multiple data sets at different scales.
- Ability to interact and visualize observations and data in 3-D, in addition to traditional 2-D views, and to do so while still in the 3-D real-world in which the observations are being gathered.
- Reduces odds of data collection errors through situation-specific interfaces and immediate feedback of cartographic symbology. For example:
- Use pre-defined drop lists for data such as formation names, structure types, fault types, etc. rather than manual entry.
- Highlight to students the importance of comparing strike-dip symbol orientation on map to the actual structure they have just measured as a double-check on their entered data.
- Easy access to reference materials in the field, such as papers, figures, graphs, images, etc.
- Enhances readability of field or rough map.
- For large, complex field areas, large-format prints of field maps can help convey both detail and context simultaneously, aiding in production of the final map, either on paper or on the computer.
There are a variety of strategies for introducing students to mapping on GeoPads. Generally a step-wise approach has proven the most successful, where students start out using paper and pencil techniques, migrate to using the GeoPad using similar techniques, and then introduce GIS functionality for mapping, starting with the simplest capabilities and progressing from there.
In general, when developing a mapping project, you need to pay close attention to aligning three things:
- the learning goals of that project project,
- the skills and knowledge of the students at that point in your course, and
- the configuration and capabilities of the GeoPad environment with which you provide them.