Today I am visiting Humboldt State University, along with Nathaniel Kelso, as a speaker in their first annual Geospatial Speaker Series and to lead two workshops on TileMill. HSU, like other innovative higher education institutions including Yale, UW-Madison, University of York, and University of Indonesia, is starting to adopt TileMill across geography courses and faculty projects.

I’m visiting to answer questions, offer guidance, and to learn how to further develop TileMill in ways that will help the people in higher education make better maps.

Changing times, changing tools

Historically Google maps have been used for online campus maps, and ESRI software has dominated the classroom curriculum. But increasingly cartographers are demanding more custom control over their campus maps designs. And they are introducing new tools in the classroom that can enable students to quickly publish high quality maps on the web. Academics are keenly aware that concepts and skills are more durable and important than any particular software, and I think this underlies the growing enthusiasm around TileMill, and companion open source projects like OpenStreetMap, QGIS, and R stats.

Open tools can adapt quickly and innovate as problems in society change, the job marketplace evolves, and datasources become more realtime, so students will be well equipped as technology moves forward. Faculty can also teach these tools without fear that students will lose access to them after graduating.

Advancing support for Education

We are hearing from faculty around the country who are seeking guidance for building curriculum that integrates MapBox tools like TileMill and MapBox.js into cartography and web development courses. We, at MapBox, are excited about helping the leaders in the education field in this effort and have just created a new support forum dedicated to education at support.mapbox.com/discussions/education. Consider this a place where you can connect and collaborate with others thinking progressively about teaching web cartography, design, and data visualization.