Land Use Academy

Geospatial Technologies 101, the Basics


What is GIS?

A Geographic Information System (GIS) is a computer-based technology that helps manage, manipulate, analyze and display spatial (mapped) data. A GIS is a powerful tool for map making, planning, management and decision making because it allows us to view, understand, question, interpret, and visualize data in many ways that reveal relationships, patterns, and trends in the form of maps, globes, reports, and charts.

Want to learn more? Get started here:

Online content:
What is GIS? -
What is GIS?

What is GIS? - National Geographic

Participate in a hands-on training:
Geospatial Technologies at Work: An Introduction to GIS


What is GPS?

The Global Positioning System (GPS) uses a constellation of satellites to provide precise information about where objects are located on the Earth's surface. GPS can determine locations of roads, trails, endangered plants, historic structures or any other features found on the landscape. Information collected with a GPS unit can combine with other geographic data using Geographic Information System (GIS) technology.

Want to learn more? Get started here:

Online content:
Smartphone GPS Resources
Smartphone Field Data Collection


Participate in a hands-on training:
Collecting Field Data and Creating Online Maps Using Smartphone GPS


What is Online Mapping?

Online Mapping is a specialized type of GIS mapping using interactive, online maps. There are a variety of methods for creating interactive online maps that range from free and basic to expensive and highly advanced online maps. A free and easy approach to this type of mapping can be found through a variety of free Google software products (Google Earth, Google Maps, Google SketchUp). Although weak in data analysis, Google tools excel at interactive maps and collaborative mapping.

Want to learn more? Get started here:

Online Mapping Tools and Resources:
Esri's ArcGIS Online
Esri Story Maps
Google Map Maker

Participate in a hands-on training:
Using GPS for Monitoring and Mapping Land Trust Holdings

Explore Connecticut Story Maps:
CLEAR's Story Map gallery



Learn More About Geospatial Evolution

Learn more about where geospatial information technologies have come from and where the technology is heading!

Where we came from: "Data for Decision"

A classic 1967 short feature produced by the National Film Board of Canada describes the development of GIS and computerized mapping.

View "Data for Decision" videos via the GIS and Science blog.


Where we're going: "The Geospatial Revolution Project"

The Geospatial Revolution Project is an integrated public service media and outreach initiative about the world of digital mapping and how it is changing the way we think, behave and interact.

View "The Geospatial Revolution" videos.