OpenStreetMap mapathons support critical data and visual literacy instruction


  • Bethany Sheriese McGowan Assistant Professor of Information Studies and Health Sciences Information Specialist, Life Sciences Library, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN



Mapathons, OpenStreetMap, Data Literacy, Visual Literacy, Active Learning, JMLA Virtual Projects


OpenStreetMap (OSM) mapathons can offer a learner-centered means for critical data literacy and visual literacy instruction. Mapathons have been used as coordinated humanitarian mapping events in which participants use geographic information system (GIS) data and satellite imagery to create open-source maps for humanitarian support. Visual mapping is an effective learning activity because it encourages students to use big data to create a deliverable—an open-source map—that allows instructors to engage learners in data literacy and visual literacy at the highest cognitive level.

Virtual Projects are published on an annual basis in the Journal of the Medical Library Association (JMLA) following an annual call for virtual projects in MLAConnect and announcements to encourage submissions from all types of libraries. An advisory committee of recognized technology experts selects project entries based on their currency, innovation, and contribution to health sciences librarianship.


American Library Association. ACRL visual literacy competency standards for higher education [Internet]. The Association; 27 Oct 2011 [cited 13 Aug 2020]. <>.

Brown NE, Bussert K, Hattwig D, Medaille A. Visual literacy for libraries: a practical, standards-based guide. ALA Editions, American Library Association; 2016.






Virtual Project