Using ArcGIS StoryMaps to Promote Multimodal Learning in College Undergraduates

Over the last 5 years, Digital Scholarship has partnered with Professor Stella Wang to cultivate meaningful map-based learning assignments across a wide array of disciplines and interests. Professor Wang integrates spatial thinking, mapmaking and multimodal web writing into her sections, stating “My 1st-year writing course focuses on mindfulness and its implications for a range of distinctly 21-century challenges from climate, to healthcare, to AI technology. StoryMaps allows students to cultivate their ability to think spatially, to tap into their existing multimodal/multimedia communication skills for advanced academic writing projects, and to build a tangible relationship with the land and environment that they’re studying.” Wang emphasizes that teaching students to effectively communicate across a wide spectrum of technological media and modalities is the way of the future, citing the increasing use of embedded media in academic journals.

Partnership with Ganondagan

In the spring of 2023, students worked in collaboration with an Indigenous community partner (Ganondagan) to create an integrated StoryMap of Genessee River trailways, combining information on native flora and fauna, place-names, and historical narratives.

"YoUR Nature Walk" includes a proposed walking path through University of Rochester's River campus with accompanying points of interest information gathered by students. The information was augmented with audio files demonstrating the Seneca pronunciation of each stop provided to us by partners from Ganondagan.

Previous semesters have covered topics such as language and place of origin, personal privacy opinions
and historical Indigenous land use.

Our Role

Working with Professor Wang has been a truly collaborative experience as the projects have grown and changed over the past several years. Some of the areas where we helped were:

  • Increasing skills and comfort of faculty with technology or “Training the Trainer”
  • Assisting with assignment design
  • Gathering, cleaning and manipulating spatial data for use in students’ StoryMaps
  • Teaching specific tools/skills in in-class workshops to students
  • Consulting with individual students about their projects

What's Next

Plans for further collaboration with Professor Wang are ongoing as we look to upcoming semesters. Each semester we adjust  the assignments (and teaching methods) as the technology and our previous experience dictates. An expansion of the “YoUR Nature Walk” project is being considered for future classes and may include other parts of the University of Rochester campuses.  

Project team
Stella Wang
Project status
Ongoing Project