a Web information design laboratory
I've had the honor and pleasure of teaching many of our finest students at UW-Madison in four of the Department of Geography's upper-division courses between 2010 and 2013.
Below you will find information about these courses, as well as the complete and unedited comments from my student evaluations.
instructor Spring 2011
lab instructor Spring 2011, Spring 2010
summary: This course is intended to be an introduction to scripting and programming for GIS and spatial analysis. Geog 378 will cover the following topics: shell scripting and batch files, accessing and using open-source GIS libraries, scripting and programming using the Python programming language, and accessing ArcGIS functionality using Python.
- student evaluations
- Really enjoyed the semester Rich! You did a great job introducing us to Python & I appreciate all the long hours you put in!
- Honestly, a very well taught course. Certain topics such as binary and particular aspects of the OS were probably beyond the scope of this course. Overall though I feel very confident for future programming needs. Thanks Rich!
- I enjoyed the course and had a positive experience overall. You were available for help which made the labs manageable when I couldn't figure a problem out. The difficulty level was just right for people coming from a non CS background.
- Great at teaching difficult material. Stress greater emphasis on outside resources like Think Python and user forums.
- Obviously the GDAl/OG, ARC segments were a bit sketchier, but I thought you did well in conveying why that is and showing us where to go to continue learning. I appreciated the flexibility in extending the Python-centric segment of the course. Would have been lost without the extra time & focus.
- Suggestion: trim lab work by 750/0-50% and include a mUlti-part project that is ongoing throughout the course. Something that is built upon.
- Lab was really useful when learning Python/scripting, etc. Some labs took a long time & were extremely hard. Good class - wish there was more GIS-involved programming included.
- Extremely helpful and willing to meet outside of class time and even office hours. Some modules felt hurried and less important. Course flow could be improved by limiting command shell/GDAC/OGR focus initially and going to Python sooner. Appreciated flexibility in assignments/due dates being adjusted to difficult/work load.
- Lectures were extremely effective, esp. after we were able to move to 380. Enjoyed the hands on approach to the course. Really helped me to understand the application of the material. Good balance between assessing conceptual knowledge and scripting/writing code (i.e. through quizzes, exams & labs). Rich really made himself available - went above & beyond. Thanks! Big help!
- Instructor showed great enthusiasm. Spent countless hours away from his own work to focus on improving the class/making it more informative.
- The class was great. It definitely made me challenge myself but in a good way. I think I havelearned a great deal. The class/lecture should always be held in computer lab if possible. I wish we touched on class lecture, however I appreciate the time you took to' explain other material and give time for it to sink in.
- Rich is a great instructor. He is always willing to help even outside of class and his office hour.
- Rich - this course greatly exceeded my expectations. The material and nature of scripting is quite enjoyable. As a 1st year instructor you did an excellent job of organizing the course, making yourself available, replying to emails, etc. Seriously, well done. This was my favorite course ofthe semester and makes me much more excited about the GIS certificate program. Also, I could tell you put a lot of effort and patience towards the students who were struggling, which is very respectable.
- I thought it was great how, while Rich didn't exactly give us everything we needed, he gave us the methods for finding what we need. I think this was more helpful, as this is the nature of the subject. Rich was happy, accessible, knowledgeable, and helpful. He helped make the class quite enjoyable.
- Rich was always available to help with any scripting problems, even if not directly related to this course. I really liked that the quizzes tested our knowledge while also giving ideas for the solutions to the labs. Having lecture in 380 made it easier to follow the lectures. Open book/computer exams were also very helpful because they were more like how scripting is donein the real world. I would have liked to have spent less time on the earlier material & more on the spatial/arc scripting.
Interactive Cartography & Geovisualization
lab instructor Spring 2013, Spring 2012
summary: Geography 575 (G575) provides a comprehensive overview of topics related to dynamic mapping, topics typically considered under the cartographic research thrusts of Interactive Cartography and Geovisualization. G575 focuses on the design and development of user interfaces to geographic information and associated map-centered representations of these information, drawing from research and practice on Human-Computer Interaction, Information Visualization, Usability Engineering, and Visual Analytics, perspectives that you are unlikely to receive in other GIS courses. Specifically, G575 emphasizes mapmaking over map use (compared to G170) and the design of interfaces to maps rather than the maps themselves
- course website
- Spring 2013
- Spring 2013 syllabus
- Spring 2013 final projects
- Spring 2013 student evaluation comments
- Rich is amazing. He should earn 100% TA funding, not the standard 45%... This is no part time gig, Rich put his heart and soul into this job. We couldn't have achieved what we did without him. I want to work for this guy.
- Rich was an extremely effective teacher who was always willing to help outside of lab and really cared about teaching his students how to code. I don't think the students would have learned the material as well without Rich as a TA. In the future, I would recommend having the TA teach the first two labs instead of DoIT, then we can begin learning Leaflet quicker.
- Rich was one of the most helpful, most knowledgeable TA I have ever come across. He was always available for consultation, did more than is required of him. If he did not know something he always looked it up and informed the student. He seemed genuinely concerned about the students and always did his best to help us students to excel as much as we can within the given time frame. The class would have been much less efficient and worthwhile without him as our TA!
- I think Rich is a great teacher. I learned a LOT in the labs, as well as going to his office hours.
- RICH IS AWESOOOOOOOOOOOOME. great teacher, effective, helpful, patient. THANKS RICH!
- Rich did a great job TAing this class... it was a lot of work for him, but he was always available to meet in person or offer assistance over email. He really knows his stuff and was very helpful providing feedback about the labs during and after completion.
- An incredible TA. Honestly the best I have ever had. Rich made himself available almost 24/7 and would be glad to meet wherever and whenever. He provided the right balance of instruction and assistance during lab. Super knowledgeable about the subject matter and an overall great guy! I would so lucky to have him as a TA again in the future, or perhaps an instructor!
- Rich was a fantastic TA, possibly the best TA I've had here at UW. He was very accessible, positive, and helpful, and accommodated my relatively low level of background knowledge extremely well.
- Spring 2012
- Spring 2012 syllabus
- Spring 2012 final projects
- Spring 2012 student evaluation comments
- Thank you for being a great TA and for all of your help!
- Excellent TA, very knowledgeable and available. One of the best TAs at this school! Hands down.
- Rich was a great TA! Always willing to help and extremely knowledgeable in the topic!
- Rich was an excellent TA. He was extremely dedicated and tirelessly helpful in completing our assignments. This class would not have functioned without his endless efforts and availability. Thanks so much!
- Thanks again for a great semester Rich!
- Great TA. Very helpful and accessible.
- Thanks so much for all your help, you were a wonderful TA.
- I’ve had Rich as a TA before; he knows what he is talking about and is helpful.
- Most dedicated TA I have ever had. Pushed us all extremely hard to develop and learn and he was there to help whenever needed.
Graphic Design in Cartography
lab instructor Fall 2012
summary: Geography 572 (G572) provies an extended examination of advanced topics regarding cartographic representation, or the graphics, sounds, haptics, etc., constituting maps that are employed to encode geographic information. This course focuses on cartographic design for the web rather than print, and draws upon research and practice on graphic design, information visualization, and semiotics. The course emphasizes mapmaking over map use and the design of web-delivered maps themselves, rather than the design of interfaces to these maps.
- course website
- Fall 2012 syllabus
- Fall 2012 final projects
- Fall 2012 student evaluation commnets
- Does a wonderful job of offering comprehensive feedback, while taking the time to help students understand topics and materials.
- Rich is a wizard. I think he's hiding a magic wand under his classy apparel. Any time I feel stumped by a programming problem, I ask him for assistance, and he comes and looks over my shoulder while I explain the problem and it magically resolves itself.
- Rich's knowledge of web design translated over to his teaching of the labs in a very effective way that allowed him to help all the students in the class, regardless of their web design experience. He gave useful feedback on course assignments and made himself readily available to answer questions or meet about a project.
- Rich is very helpful working through course issues one on one. I sincerely appreciate all the extended lab hours he took to help us. This course would not be possible with his personable character and appreciation for the variety of skill levels. Thank you Rich.
- awesome. I wish he taught the whole class, not just the lab.
- Very passionate about course topic and provided an open minded space for students to discuss project ideas.
- Rich was really helpful both in class and via appointment outside of class... great TA overall
- Great job Rich! Hope to see you in 575!
- Very knowledgeable and helpful TA.
- He is a person with great patience.
- This is the second time I have had Rich as a TA and he has been terrific at fostering a learning environment. I find him extremely approachable and understanding. Thanks for everything!
- Great facilitator, competent expert good all around!
- Rich, you are awesome.
- Very helpful and patient and great feedback.
- Rich was great. Took the time to work w us on our individual projects, and gave really great, detailed feedback.
- Excellent. Often well versed on the subjects at hand and open to new and additional insights brought by students. Teaching ability alone is quite strong.
Undergraduate Geography Colloquium
teaching assistant Fall 2011
summary: The primary objectives of this class are to: (1) briefly introduce you to a broad scope of geographic theory, debate, and practice across the discipline; (2) help you acquire the skills necessary to design and implement a geographic research project; (3) enhance your critical reasoning and analytical skills; (4) advance your knowledge of a specific sub-field of the discipline; and (5) further develop your written, oral, and visual communication skills. The Undergraduate Geographic Colloquium differs from most lecture classes in that participants will meet these objectives by designing and implementing an original research project. One often comes to appreciate the study of “earth as home” through geographic practice. This class will provide you with that opportunity.
My Ph.D dissertation project seeks to answer the question, How do we learn, practice, and teach web mapping with web standards?
I'm most interested in how we build our curricular and pedagogical tools to facilitate students' mastery of web standards – i.e. to get us over the learning curve – so we can focus on higher-level tasks of UX and UI design.
The project uses a convergent approach, drawing conclusions drawn from 5 studies using various methods to better understand the state of digital cartography in the current web development environment, implications for user-centered design, and how teachers and students best learn to negotiate this conceptually difficult and persistently shifting terrain.
Here are some slides from a collaborative project (that kicked this research off) on keeping pace with emerging web mapping I presented at the NACIS annual meeting last year:
web design & development
think. write. design.
I've been learning web design and development since 2003 when Rich Points turned me on to the magic of styling html elements with CSS, most notably celebrated in Dave Shea's CSS Zen Garden (recently updated for responsive web design!).
I've made a bunch of horrible websites since, but my passion to create beautiful user experiences and help improve our engagement with the Web continues to grow. Lately I've found this expertise couples nicely with the front-end developer needs of web mapping. Isn't that nice?
I recently partnered with Sam Matthews to incorporate situatelaboratories.com as a web and information design business. We've made a couple websites this year: SMAHRT & Tawi, and even a web map.
(yeah, show it don't say it, but here they are in a nutshell for now):
- PHP server-side scripting
- CMS development and management, Wordpress
- Graphic Design: Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign
- Spatial analysis: QGIS (ArcGIS if need be), Python scripting
- homebase: Madison, WI
- profession: front-end web developer, web mapper, teacher, aspiring cab driver
- education: philosophy & political science, B.A. (2000); education, M.A. (2004); geography, Ph.D (2014)
- hobbies: salsa making, salsa dancing, yoga, gardening, landscape reading, outdoor sports and recreation
- catch phrase: This is the life we chose.
contact & more info
The name "situated laboratories" originated from the writings of Science and Technology scholars Bruno Latour, John Law, and Donna Haraway. For many years it probably smacked of obscure, elitist intellectualism (which it may have been).
Given my recent training in spatial science (situated?) and desire for a playful, experimental engagement with the web (laboratory?), it kinda sounds alright?