Ji Hua Mei You Bian Hua Kuai: Plans Can’t Keep Up with Changes

As we enter a new year, we on the Esri education team look forward to working with you, the global GIS education community, on supporting the use of spatial thinking and geotechnologies to foster deep learning experiences throughout the world.  A Chinese proverb, “Ji Hua Mei You Bian Hua Kuai” or “Ji hua gan bu shan bian hua” seems appropriate to quote as we move forward as a community.  Ji hua refers to plans, bian hua to changes, and mei you means “not”.  The meaning of the proverb is, therefore, “Plans Can’t Keep Up with Changes.”

Many nuances associated with this proverb seem to me to be particularly meaningful with regards to GIS in education.  First and most obvious is that change is a constant part of our lives.  The world of public and private education at all levels is rapidly changing in terms of priorities, learners’ demographics, and available technologies and methods.  Teaching and learning with GIS is also rapidly transforming as GIS becomes viable on mobile devices and web-based maps, apps, and services continue to open doors through which students can enter for learning opportunities in schools and universities and career opportunities once they graduate from those schools and universities.  The open data movement, citizen science, and cloud-based GIS all expanded many-fold last year and will continue to do so.  The recent upgrade to ArcGIS Online, including the viewing and filtering of tables and the ability to create time-enabled feature services, is a perfect example of the expanding array of tools that can be effectively used to teach in and about a wide variety of subjects, students, and settings.

But I believe there are subtler aspects to this proverb that are appropriate to GIS in education as well.  While things may happen that are out of our control, we still need a plan to keep us focused.  We on the Esri education team will continue to develop courses, curriculum, data, and other resources, conduct and foster professional development opportunities and research on GIS in education, and communicate through a variety of face to face and online methods and a variety of stakeholders about the need for spatial thinking and GIS in education.  We do all of these things in partnership with you, the GIS education community.  Adhering to the proverb also means that we need to prepare for and predict upcoming changes as we create our plan, and so we need to keep close watch on and anticipate changes in technologies and education.  Finally, following the proverb also means that our plan needs to include long-term and short-term  goals, and include step-by-step details to deal with the changes that will surely come.   We need to hold fast to our “big dreams” of spatially literate societies, and yet take concrete steps to help us get there.

What plans do you have for GIS in education over the next year?

- Joseph Kerski, Esri Education Manager

About Joseph Kerski

A geographer by training, Joseph Kerski serves on the Esri Education Team, focusing on fostering and promoting GIS, spatial analysis, and spatial thinking throughout education.
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