01/19/2019 Mapping for Humanity: Using Digital Mapping to Better the World TechShop Recap

Written by volunteer writer Alison Perch

Friends at Azavea

Maps play a crucial role in our everyday lives, helping us tell stories and make better decisions. Ross Bernet, a project manager Azavea, uses maps regularly at work and co-teaches a University of Pennsylvania course on web mapping.

To help share his expertise and love of maps, Ross decided to teach “Mapping for Humanity: Using Digital Mapping to Better the World,” a TechShop held on January 19, 2019. The workshop introduced the girls to OpenStreetMap, or OSM.

“OSM is like a Wikipedia of maps. Anyone can edit and contribute to it,” Ross explains.

During the TechShop, the girls learned to edit the map, and they discussed why certain parts of the world might have more data filled in than others.

“We [also] taught them about how data is collected, and about satellite imagery and different types of satellites,” Ross says.

Prior to this TechShop, Ross had taught girls about mapping and participated in OSM mapathons, though he’d never led a workshop specifically on OSM. He found that the girls understood how to use the tool quickly and were engaged in the subject matter.

“I had a lot of fun talking with the girls about their experiences with technology. They picked up the editing of OSM very quickly. That was a lot of fun to see,” he explains.

Working during a techshop
Ross was also impressed by how much the girls already knew about technology.

“I learned how much more integrated technology is in middle school education than when I was in middle school. These girls have already done some programming, and they aren’t even 15! It’s pretty amazing,” Ross says.

Even if you’re unfamiliar with OSM, Ross says you don’t need much background in mapping to lead this TechShop.

“[It] was a lot of fun! Not a ton of experience with OSM is required to teach this workshop. I think anyone could learn it in a few hours,” he notes.

He found that the girls could all log in under one username for OSM, which is a handy tip for anyone having trouble creating multiple accounts.

Through this TechShop, girls learned about the vital role digital maps play in our daily lives, including mapping the damage after natural disasters and finding landmarks in remote parts of the world. Thanks to resources like OSM, you don’t need to be a mapping expert to make a difference.

Visit our TechShopz in a Box page to learn how you can lead this TechShop, too!