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  • Patricia Solís, Director/CoFounder of YouthMappers

Disrupting the Classroom

Updated: Jan 4, 2021

Is it possible to offer truly meaningful global learning experiences through a technical mapping course? Is it reasonable to think we might help build a socially engaged citizenry while we teach and learn about technology?

As the spring semester wraps up at Texas Tech University, I would answer yes, it is.

I am at my core an educator, a geography professor, in addition to being co-founder and director of YouthMappers, so many of my hopes and vision for helping to grow and nurture this amazing network of faculty and students come from experiences in the classroom, made meaningful by engaging with undergraduates and graduates who inspire and impress me. This semester, for the third time, I taught a course geared specifically towards YouthMappers projects. This time, it was a service-learning course, which offered my students designated credit on their transcript for the efforts made to the community. It is a "special topics" class, which means that it counts as an elective for any degree, but is not required for a major. The approach we are taking is pertinent to an ongoing public conversation on "disruption in higher education" - where we think forces of change in our learning institutions might come from students themselves.

As we have been learning and studying about open mapping for resilience, we are creating an open "wiki" resource for university faculty and students around the world to discover more about how to make a difference through open geographic data and to define our world by mapping it. Course objectives center on open mapping tools, country profiles, issue topics, servant leadership, civic engagement, creativity, critical thinking, global learning, written and oral communication, teamwork and reflection. The syllabus is open and available as a model for others to adopt or adapt for their own campuses.

Together, we read articles and discussions around key topics, such as the International Development Landscape and USAID: What do we mean by resilience? Open Geospatial Data, OpenStreetMap and the OSM community; Volunteer Geographic Information in Humanitarian and Development Activities; Service Learning, and Challenges in Open Mapping for Resilience in terms of Quality, Quantity, and Analysis. Students shared comments and wrote essays, and assembled a larger public, annotated bibliography on these subjects. They then sorted onto teams, reviewed and chose projects to work on, and were required to reach out to other YouthMappers chapters in the locations where they were remotely mapping.

The final projects were presented as Story Maps made by the GEOG 4320 Service-Learning Open Mapping for Resilience Course participants, mapped in consultation with YouthMappers in the project locations and other experts. Here are this semesters' results:


(TTU students David Tomlinson, Cole Blackwood and Skyelar Gaddis with Kumi University students)


(TTU students Nick Wisniewski, Devin Dunn, and Michael Wheeler in support of chapter leaders who designed the project from Federal University of Technology - Akure)


(TTU students Jesse Cathell, Evan Conrad, Ian Metcalf, and Travis Roper who consulted with students from the Universidad de La Guajira)


(TTU students Valerie Sanchez, Courtney Latham and Tyler Boswell contributing alongside Far Eastern University YouthMappers)


Previous year's projects can be found online on the wiki too. Our Office of the Vice President for Research was so impressed with this work, they featured YouthMappers in their online magazine “Discoveries.

Many deserve acknowledgement for the learning experience of both my students and myself. Please take a look at the story maps for those we thank!

Most of all, I thank each and every one of you for your inspiration. Every time you make an edit, you not only change the map, but you change people's minds about what young people can accomplish when they connect and learn from each other.

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