The Evolution and Definition of Geospatial Literacy

  • Lynn MoormanEmail author
Part of the Advances in Geographic Information Science book series (AGIS)


In all areas of GIScience, a fundamental premise of creating, using, and presenting geospatial data is that we understand how to portray, and extract information from representations of, that data. The ability to relay and extract information from representation (usually text) is termed basic literacy and, when put in the context of geospatial information representation, is considered geospatial literacy. Literacy of printed language is a fundamental curricular outcome of education at all levels. Recently however, the scope of literacy has expanded to encompass more than linear text, as visuals and graphics are also recognized as conveying meaning and are considered valid communication modes within a society. As geospatial technologies, data, and representations increasingly emerge onto the educational landscape, the need for relevant assessments, educational resources, professional development, and curricula to support effective geospatial literacy teaching and learning grows. Geospatial literacy is required to make meaningful products and extract meaningful information from geospatial data to inform and support our decisions. Geoliteracy is a term that has been used to describe the basic geographic declarative knowledge of a population, an ability to make geographic decisions, geographic reasoning, and a general understanding of geographic concepts. However, a formal definition of geoliteracy grounded in literacy and educational research and theory is more specific and critical to inform the necessary supports for improving and assessing geospatial literacy, both for teaching and learning. A description of the meaning of literacy, the ways in which it is measured globally and within Canada, and how that applies to our conception of literacy in the geospatial disciplines is provided here.


Geoliteracy Geospatial Literacy Geography Education Representation Geographic knowledge 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Mount Royal UniversityCalgaryCanada

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