28 May

Company Spotlight: TeachOSM

When OpenStreetMap was created in 2004, the world of open geospatial data was a new frontier for the discipline of geography. Now it serves as a ubiquitous and powerful framework used all over the world to respond to humanitarian disasters, equip communities with skills to enact social change, improve mobility by mapping sidewalks in major cities, and so much more. 

In order to amplify the impact of open-source geo, our friends at TeachOSM have dedicated the past five years to “empowering and supporting educators at all levels to integrate open source mapping and the OpenStreetMap ecosystem of tools in the classroom.” Founded in 2016 as a project of OpenStreetMap US (OSM US), TeachOSM is run by a volunteer steering committee with a mission of inspiring all global citizens to add to the map. 

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, TeachOSM organizers travelled around the world to support projects from global organizations including the World Bank and UNICEF, which offered vocational education on OpenStreetMap to government officials, university professors, and entrepreneurs in countries from Mauritius to Antigua. The TeachOSM team also hosted countless mapathons–events where people gather to add features to OSM together, often over pizza!– and taught many educators how to conduct mapathons in their schools. 

When travelling and gathering became impossible, TeachOSM doubled down on their virtual armchair-mapping offerings for educators. On the TeachOSM website, educators can find open-mapping projects ready to share with their classrooms, training and other events hosted by TeachOSM, and resources to use to learn OSM skills and share with their students including tutorials and guides. TeachOSM also offers support to teachers who would like to create their own custom mapping projects on the TeachOSM Tasking Manager.

In 2021, TeachOSM also launched TeenMaptivists with AGS Teacher Fellows Celeste Reynolds and Greg Hill of Massachusetts and Texas, respectively. TeenMapivists aim to organize after school mapathons and virtual learning opportunities for high-school students across the United States. 

Last week at the OSM Mapping USA (Spring 2021) Event, TeachOSM Organizer Steven Johnson gave a five-minute introduction to OpenStreetMap and led a workshop on how to conduct citizen science community mapping events in your hometown.  Johnson described open-mapping “as a way to engage your community–young people, retired people, regular joes in your neighborhood–to take inventory of community assets that could be beneficial for place-making and developing civic pride.” Specifically, Johnson and his team focused on using open-mapping to highlight sidewalks and curb cuts and identify dangerous intersections for the purposes of improving mobility and accessibility, finding safe routes for children walking to school, and improving local transportation planning. Data created through these events can be added to platforms like Access Map which provide accessibility information to people with mobility limitations. 

The future of open-mapping and TeachOSM is bright. When asked what excites him most about open-mapping, Organizer Steven Johnson replied: “The idea of spatial citizenship. You can engage in mapping as a civic activity and help to build institutions that serve society and make your community a better place. By mapping your hometown, by putting features on the map that have value to you–whether its street trees, dive bars, schools, or community centers– you are giving visibility to those landmarks and helping to build responsive public institutions.” 

We at AGS are proud to have TeachOSM as partners in supporting our AP Human Geography Teacher Community since 2016! During the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve been lucky to have TeachOSM Organizer Steven Johnson direct our virtual Mappy Hour for Teachers every Tuesday night at 8 pm ET. To join our Mappy Hours, sign up here.

For more TeachOSM content, stay tuned to their website and Tasking Manager. Be sure to check out the TeachOSM team presentations at upcoming events including FedGeoDay (Get Started with OpenStreetMap, June 9 @ 1 pm ET) and GeoEd Conference (OpenStreetMap, June 10 @ 3pm ET). Also, be on the lookout for TeachOSM content on SciStarter and Microsoft Learn coming soon!