Conceptualizing Space/Place through Digital Assignments


Our conceptions of space/place influence how we learn. From physical spaces to virtual ones, hybrid spaces or multiple places, reflecting on our experiences in learning environments can help us to understand how space/place affects capacities for learning, our identities as learners, and the role of space/place in our students’ learning. We often use terms like community and campus to define learning spaces without considering what those terms mean to different learners in physical, virtual, or hybrid spaces.

In this activity, we ask participants to step back from theoretical conceptions of space/place and consider the experiential aspects of learning in a space/place. As teachers, we may ask students to go into their communities to conduct a community-based assignment or we may ask students to build a map for their class project. We may build an online learning space in a learning management system (LMS) or move our classes out of our classrooms to provide new learning environments for our students. But what happens to learning in these spaces/places? As part of this activity, we ask that you consider the following questions with respect to the role of learning spaces in your teaching and learning:

  • How are learning spaces defined? How are the boundaries between learning spaces, institutions, and community spaces defined?
  • How do online spaces/places affect learning differently than physical spaced/places?
  • How do spatial-relational digital assignments add/subtract to the inquiry of space and place?
  • What are the ethical considerations of learning spaces and space/place assignments? What kind of data do you collect on spaces/places and their members in spatial-relational assignments?
  • What are the definitional limitations of learning spaces to describe our learning experience? What are the limitations of our digital tools to describe our learning experiences?

Rarely do we have the time to analyze what these different spaces/places offer our students as learning environments. We also seldom have the time or the language to ask our students to evaluate what digital mapping tools add or subtract from their experience of space/place or to the nature of the inquiry for the class or assignment. The hope of this module, and this course, is to provide teachers with a reflective moment to consider space/place in these ways.

To provide a virtual space for your to consider these points from an experiential perspective, you will be asked to conduct two mapping activities about your learning environments, potentially share your map with other participants, and then reflect on your experiences doing the activities.

Course Assignment: Experiential Mapping


Complete a digital assignment geared towards highlighting the experiential dimensions of learning spaces by creating a series of maps. The learning space(s) that you choose for these activities should reflect the area(s) in which you do your educational work and could include a campus, learning environment, virtual/online spaces or similar space. The maps that you create to visualize your learning space(s) do not need to be spatial, but can be conceptual or relational. Each form of mapping may provide you with a different perspective about your learning space(s) and may create a different mapping experience for you.

Your map should reflect your experience of space/place from your perspective: how you define what your learning spaces are, your role(s) in your learning spaces, how your discipline affects your perception of your learning spaces, and how learning online is affected by your perception of your learning spaces.

If you’re just getting started with mapping, you can use Google Maps, Voyant, or Canva to map out your learning experience. If you are new to any of these tools, check out some of our resources for quickly getting started in mapping. If you are comfortable with other mapping programs, feel free to use them to build your maps, just be sure to use two different forms of mapping tools (spatial, conceptual, relational).

Choose one of the following themes:

  • Identity: Map your experience around your learning environment, e.g. a day in your life on campus.
  • Role: Map/define your campus from a specific discipline point of view.
  • Community-Institution: Map your perception of the relationship between campus and the surrounding community (as you define it).

Consider some of these questions to help you get started with conceptualizing your experience in learning spaces:

  • Where do you go? What do you do?
  • How do you feel in these spaces/places?
  • What were your reactions to your experiences? (a day in the life)
  • What kinds of interactions do you have?
  • What kinds of interactions do you see?

Guidelines/Assignment Instructions

  1. Choose one of the following activity themes: identity, role, or institution-community.
  2. Take up to 10 minutes to do a free write about your chosen theme. You can use some of the guiding questions to get started.
  3. Use two of the recommended tools to create your learning space map: spatial, conceptual, and/or relational. Each map will give you a different way to conceptualize space/place in learning and your experience.
    1. Getting started with Google Maps
    2. Getting started with Voyant (for those who don’t have time, here’s a quick start)
    3. Getting started with Canva Online Chart Maker (here’s a quick start)
  4. Depending on your tool, you can add additional information to your map. In Google Maps, for example, you can use images, videos, and descriptions with your map pins to define your experience of campus spaces.
  5. (Optional) Share your map with other participants using #mapmyedu.
  6. After completing the mapping activities, we ask that you take a few moments to reflect on the differences in experience using different spatial-relational visualization tools.


To complete this activity, after finishing your maps, consider how the process of mapping changed your perception of campus or affected your experience of campus and the roles you play within it. When you’re ready to share, post your reflection on your blog/webspace and share the post via Twitter using the hashtag #mapmyedu. If you don’t have a blog/webspace, you can create a shareable Google Doc (here’s how).

Guiding questions:

  • What did you learn about yourself/your learning experience(s) through mapping?
  • What did your maps reveal about your learning experience(s)? Did your insights change based on the type of map you created (spatial, conceptual, relational)?
  • Would you consider modifying anything on your maps? Why? How?
  • Do you think your maps are going to have an impact on your learning experience(s) moving forward? How?
  • Take a look at some of our module examples or compare maps with other students. Do you observe some connections/differences with other students’ maps?
  • How would describe the relationship between your community and your institution? Is there anything you would like to change in your community-institution?


Not sure how to get started? Check out some examples of various mapping activities from some previous participants.


Tweet your map with the hashtag #mapmyedu. Follow the hashtag to find inspiration for additional mapping assignments.

Examples of Mapping Assignments

Curious about using mapping assignments in your classroom and how to get started? Explore the published mapping projects below for some ideas:

Mapping and Visualization Tools for Assignments

One of the goals of this assignment was to provide an example to show how mapping and visualization tools can give students new perspectives on familiar spaces, concepts, and relationships. These tools not only provide various modes for students to engage with a topic beyond the traditional textual mode (e.g. class essay), but they themselves are forms of content for the course, highlighting new knowledge through experience.

The tools used above and listed below are not objective lenses through which to view topics. They are created with specific assumptions and with specific use cases in mind. It is important to consider those limitations when assigning tool-based assignments and equally important to give students time and space for reflection on the use of the tools after the primary assignment is complete.



While the tools below offer a wide variety of possibilities for mapping assignments, tools are not forever. Some of the links below may go down over time or some of the tool developers may stop supporting the projects. We recommend reading about the latest updates for the tools below before incorporating them into your course. Also note that some of the tools below are free while others require a paid subscription (which may be available through an institutional license) or are “freemium,” meaning that some features are free but more features are available for a fee.


Not all of the tools below follow Universal Design Learning principles or have accessible qualities to make them available for all learners. Consider the needs of your classroom (and the assignment) before choosing a tool.


Not all students will want to share their location data, their information, or their name on social media. If you require students to share their maps as part of the course, consider issues of public location data on public platforms. You may want to provide options for students to opt-out of sharing publicly online (e.g. using a pseudonym or sharing using a closed LMS).

Intro Mapping Software

GIS/Advanced Software

Getting Data

Data Visualization

Getting Started with Mapping Tools

  • Intro lesson to Google Earth/Maps
  • How to make a Google Map
  • Intro to Voyant Tools
  • Place- based learning toolkit “The place-based learning toolkit is a resource for modules and activities to support and inspire student research and place-based learning at City Tech. Faculty (Living Lab fellows and others) are encouraged to use, adapt, or modify the modules, classroom activities, field trip ideas, and other resources here to bring place-based learning activities into your courses. Faculty are encouraged to join the project and contribute their own activities, modules, and resources.