David DiBiase, Esri’s Director of Education Industry Solutions, kicked off the first plenary session of the 2012 Education GIS Conference this morning in San Diego. David introduced the conference theme – “Education Community 20.2 – the Next Generation of GIS Education.” He pointed out that 2012 marks the 20th anniversary of several relevant milestones. One was the development of the first World Wide Web browser with a graphical user interface. Another milestone was the coining of the term “Geographic Information Science” by Michael Goodchild. A third was Esri’s launch of ArcView 1.0, and Jack Dangermond’s founding of the Esri Education Program, both in 1992.
David asked the audience reflect on how much has changed in our field since 1992. He argued that the convergence of three trends now creates the condition of possibility for a new generation in GIS education. The first trend is greater ease of use and accessibility of GIS technology and data, exemplified by ArcGIS Online and Esri Community Analyst. A second trend is the emergence of mapping technologies as pervasive and cool – a trend some have called the “geospatial revolution.” Finally, David spoke about the democratization of education, observing that:
Cloud-based media-sharing platforms enable learners to become producers, not just consumers, of educational resources. Social movements like the Open Badges initiative empower any organization to assess and recognize educational achievement. An era of volunteered geographic education has begun. Our challenge is to harness these social trends to advance educational access and quality.
To prepare for the next generation of GIS education, David announced that the first Education Community Advisory Board would convene during the conference. The Board’s purpose is to help Esri’s Education Team make sure that its strategic priorities align with the Community’s. He stressed Esri’s commitment to be a trusted partner that supports the Education Community – including learners as well as educators – as it enters a new era.
Following his introductory remarks, David invited comments from the audience throughout the plenary session, and facilitated discussion between the audience and plenary speakers at the end.