People often ask “If I want to do data analysis, what tool should I use?” Several weeks ago, I wrote a different blog entry about tool use. As I tell people, I use ArcGIS Desktop (either ArcView or full ArcInfo), and ArcGIS Explorer (or “AGX,” ESRI’s free, downloadable, 3-D geo-exploration tool), and ArcExplorer Java Edition for Education (or “AEJEE”, ESRI’s free, downloadable, Win-Mac, 2-D intro GIS tool). I also use other basic tools on both Windows and Macintosh, as needed: web browser, simple text editor, word processors, spreadsheets, database tools, and several graphics packages.
This morning, I wanted to explore some data about marine critter migration, mentioned on a marine bio listserv I read. I found some data, but they were not formatted just right. I copied the data from my browser, pasted different versions into different tools while doing “clean-up” and, in about 15 minutes, generated a tidy little CSV (comma-delimited text) file. Since AGX could not draw a CSV file but could add a shapefile, I used AEJEE to convert it in to a shapefile, then copied and renamed a PRJ file of another decimal degree data set. Then I used AEJEE to build a quick analytical map, and explored the environment with AGX. Finally, I used graphics tools to do screenshots and trim the images down.
I’ve talked recently with people in several states who were looking for students with technical experience. They all said much the same thing: “We need people who can look at a situation and figure out how to address it. And since situations, tools, and data keep changing, we need people who can continue to learn new techniques and strategies, and find how to learn something quickly when they don’t know it. A disposition for learning and using their information and skills to solve problems. That’s what we need.” GIS has a huge role to play in educating young people for jobs of today and tomorrow.
- Charlie Fitzpatrick, Co-Manager for ESRI’s Program for Schools