Just 25 years ago, life was very different for US residents. Few people used email, “the web” was about spiders, and “portable phones” generated more derision than envy. Schools had some Apple IIs or Macs or PCs, or labs, but nobody had hundreds of kids with constant access. How things have changed. Now, digital learning helps kids whenever, wherever. At least, “some kids.”
In 2013, President Obama launched ConnectED, challenging business to help get all US schools into digital learning, with more devices, more connectivity, more digital content, and more training for teachers. Today the White House announced Esri’s contribution to ConnectED: ArcGIS Online Organization subscriptions for any K12 school in the US. With major support from Amazon Web Services, kids in any US school can make maps and analyze data using powerful professional web-based GIS, anytime and anywhere connected, on computer, tablet, or smartphone.
These “Orgs” boost dramatically the already substantial power of public ArcGIS Online: more data, more tools, more control of sharing, more analyses, and integration with the full ArcGIS platform. But it’s still just as easy to get started. Across the US, hundreds of pilot schools have shown that high schools, middle schools, and even elementary schools can learn content, investigate topics, engage deeply, and build skills that will carry into college and career.
We have also assembled resources — the K12 GIS Org — to help educators and students start learning, quickly and easily, and build capacity. A new document — the ArcGIS Online SkillBuilder — can help users scan through fundamental capacities, check off the items they know, and see a path. The examples will boost learners by bits and chunks, building the scaffolding required to succeed with an Org.
And we are re-launching the call to existing users of GIS to be a GeoMentor and help local schools, educators, and students — including one’s peers — see and touch GIS. Help them get started. Kids today being taught like they were 25 years ago are dying of boredom, and worse. Let’s unleash the energy and creativity of youth on the big challenges of our communities, country, and planet. All kids today deserve this, not just “the have’s.” Let’s help all schools, teachers, and kids become connected learners, with ArcGIS Online!
Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Schools Program Manager