Expanding GIS use throughout educational institutions
Typically when people reflect on the incorporation of GIS technology in education, the picture that comes to mind is framed by classroom instruction and research—for instance, a high school world geography class, a community college GIS certificate program, a university urban planning course, and basic scientific investigation that advances knowledge. These and other areas of academic and career instruction and research do, in fact, represent the lion’s share of the GIS activity occurring within educational institutions, and which is vital to fostering successive generations of geospatial leaders and problem solvers. However, these are not the only settings where GIS is providing an essential service within educational entities.
While learning is the goal and learners are the manifest stakeholders, there is typically a place where they intersect: the learning milieu—the physical world of campuses; schools; districts; and associated components; such as buses, emergency plans, and demographic analyses. As we consider the use of GIS in education, we need to include the environments, places, and things connected with these learners and their experiences. Visible brick-and-mortar components are quickly apparent. However, the less evident aspects of our educational organizations are equally vital to the planning, development, operation, and sustainment of them.
On this administrative side of education, the mission is not unlike that of a local government—keeping people and property safe; conducting key studies to support the larger mission; transporting people and goods efficiently; maintaining current facilities and managing resources well; and being wise planners and decision makers, especially in times of lean finances. It is in these areas where GIS is on the rise, but it seems that GIS is still viewed through a lens of niche use or silo placement when, in fact, it can be pervasive and foundational and ultimately serve an array of mission-critical functions within these organizations.