Tag Archives: Training
“The illiterate of the 21st century,” wrote Alvin Toffler, “will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”
Toffler’s words seem particularly appropriate to the GIS profession. In 1983, I was among the last of students who for over 10 years were using the SYMAP program to create 3D mesh terrain surfaces. My colleagues and I at the US Census Bureau used GIS to develop the TIGER system during the late 1980s. I started using ArcInfo in 1989 at version 4 at the USGS. Despite the huge changes that occurred in GIS at that time, I firmly believe that I have seen more change in the past 3 years than I did for the previous 30 years. The open data movement, crowdsourcing, cloud computing, attention to spatial thinking, mobile apps, and SDKs are among the forces that are modifying huge portions of our profession, from the technology to the number and variety of people in it.
Changes in GIS and society are having an enormous impact on GIS education: What must we teach to help learners update their current skills and prepare them for the future? How must we as GIS educators most effectively educate ourselves? To think about it as Toeffler might, think about all that you have learned, unlearned, and relearned in GIS over the years. (I confess that I am still wondering about Toeffler’s “unlearning” process. Do we really “unlearn” or do we just forget some of the details of what we no longer need to know?) I remember the time I invested in learning how to download, format, and use SDTS-formatted spatial data, and then creating a 25 page document to help others do the same. Is that document still needed? Do most GIS folks today even know what SDTS is? I had to learn how to use that type of data, and then relearn how to use spatial data when the formats and the software changed. Today, with the coupling of desktop and web-based GIS, software updates no longer occur annually, but at least quarterly if not more often. You cannot effectively use all of the ArcGIS Online resources if your version of ArcGIS for Desktop is a few versions behind. New data, apps, and other resources appear daily. GIS seems to me to be the perfect example of why lifelong learning is essential.
Furthermore, something common to every GIS professional is the experience of having difficulty with getting a task in GIS to work, modifying it, trying it again, and assessing the results. I recently had difficulty matching an ArcGIS Online basemap with a set of data, because I had guessed incorrectly at the projection that the vector data was in. While these experiences can be frustrating, we tend to more clearly remember their details than when our problem solving workflow is smooth and easy. In short, the difficulties we experience in learning and relearning actually help us in the learning process.
I see Toffler’s point but I also think that reading and writing are important 21st Century skills, and are more critical now than ever before. In my role on the Esri education team, I spend more time reading, writing, and communicating than I do on other tasks. Yet even the bulk of time I spend reading, writing, and communicating is with the objective of learning and relearning, and teaching others.
How does GIS require and foster lifelong learning? How can you model lifelong learning with GIS with your students?
Want a crowd at an education event? Put “STEM” in your title. Science-Technology-Engineering-Mathematics is a stronger attention grabber than ever. Whether or not the phrase was used, STEM education has been hot at least since Sputnik floated overhead in 1957. But some educators aren’t really STEM-savvy. I have been asked “Can you show me something STEM?” A few have even looked at a map of sea surface temperature next to a map of social media comments filtered on wildfires and confided “I can do whatever I want as long as it’s STEM. Have you got anything?” I try not to show my astonishment.
Geographic information system (GIS) technology is ALL STEM (or “STEAM”, with ‘Arts’ added.) Working within a context of physical or social realms (or both), users explore, modify, integrate, and analyze data, with a range of tools, thinking critically about patterns and relationships, in order to frame and answer questions and solve problems, and then communicate the information so as to feed action. (See myriad examples in Map Books.) Whether analyzing factors that influence crop yield on a farm; modeling the potential impact of past weather events on current landscapes; seeking more efficient routes for delivering school children from scattered homes to a handful of schools; identifying most critical land parcels to optimize biodiversity; determining whether a certain store might survive in a given location; moving personnel and equipment in front of a fast-moving wildfire or erupting medical emergency to maximize preservation of lives and resources; managing dozens of considerations to design Congressional districts that maximize equality; or any of a million other tasks, GIS users integrate science, technology, engineering, and math, constantly.
When I walk through such examples, some educators blanch a bit and ask “How do I keep all these elements in mind? And how on earth do I teach this to kids who are more tech-savvy than me?” This is a challenge. The world today is more complex, nuanced, inter-connected, and technofied than ever. Educators can seldom pursue a “pure” focus; kids certainly can’t. With so much information to manage, from increasingly many channels, they need to see relevance. Being a responsible and productive global citizen, conscious of the impacts of one’s choices, alert to the integration of culture, economy, politics, and power, near and far, and changes over the past, present, and future, is no easy task. That’s why it is so important for learners (of all ages) to practice the process constantly, building broader and deeper background knowledge, to weave with stronger and more flexible techniques for consuming and using information.
Ask an educator: Are your students permitted, even encouraged, to use cell phones in class? Educators who recognize small computers when they see one embrace the devices as learning enhancement tools. A steady diet of the content and techniques from yesterday simply falls short in preparing learners for the world of today, much less tomorrow. GIS is evolving rapidly, moving into new industries, jumping onto new platforms, ingesting more data formats, opening new frontiers, helping more people understand more phenomena and solve more problems. GIS users breathe and practice STEM (and STEAM). (See careers info.)
Educators who want to integrate STEM through GIS can get started with ArcGIS Online. This web-based environment allows users to be productive in seconds, and to build STEM knowledge and skills endlessly. There’s even a free online course designed just for educators getting started. It will help educators ask students good questions, far more powerful than “Can you show me something in STEM?”
- Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager
The mission: Change education, by helping other educators understand the world, using GIS. Since 2009, educators have gathered for a week in June at Esri headquarters in Redlands, CA, for the Teachers Teaching Teachers GIS Institute, or “T3G”. Four times 30 educators have engaged in a range of activities and discussions, integrating diverse content, varied teaching strategies, and a problem-based learning mindset, with GIS technology. Educators from all disciplines, at levels from public elementary school through state departments of education to elite colleges, plus after-school programs, parks, museums, and libraries, have joined this commitment to help others understand the world through GIS.
T3G 2013 will break from the past by seeking a much larger crew — 100. These agents of change will help pre-service and in-service educators understand why and how to use ArcGIS Online to improve education. Special attention will go to supporting the growing statewide licenses of Esri technology in K12 education across USA. Participants will be expected afterwards to engage in and report on activities they do to help other educators use GIS.
Our infinitely complex and interconnected world can be a challenge to understand. This fractal tapestry is best grasped by exploring the patterns and relationships, a lifelong task that both relies on and fosters critical thinking, creative investigation, collaborative problem solving, and effective communication. ArcGIS Online allows people to explore from neighborhood to planet with GIS in easy steps, building background content and information-handling skills, minute-by-minute, without the learning curve of desktop GIS. With web browsers and mobile tools, and a lot of discussion and reflection, T3G participants will investigate the world and learn how to help others build their understanding.
To those interested in changing the world by making education more relevant, engaging, analytical, and useful, beyond one’s own classroom, through GIS, we invite you to apply to T3G 2013.
- Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager
A quiet revolution is building in US K12 education. States are recognizing the power of GIS and the opportunity it presents, for both instruction and administration.
A huge boost in helping educators introduce GIS is its utility in unlimited careers. Seeing how many directions a young person can go with geotech skills has inspired educators to consider GIS, and parents to promote it. In the Map Gallery at the 2012 Esri International Conference, I met a happy young man who began using GIS in high school, got hired into a full-time GIS-based job right out of high school, and had been sent by his employer to this conference to learn even more.
At the conference, I also met a high school principal and teacher whose students had conducted analyses that helped local police solve some crimes, and talked with a teacher whose students’ work was on display in a local museum exhibit. It is exceedingly hard to prove changes to standardized test scores – in any direction – specifically from using GIS, but students who regularly use GIS necessarily build content background plus skills in data analysis, critical thinking, and communication. This “problem-based learning with GIS” was also the highlight of three separate youth presentations (first, second, third) in the 2012 conference’s opening plenary, when students from the Virginia Geospatial Semester showed what they could do after a single year.
To this day, I’ve not had a single employer tell me “I need students with better test scores.” Instead, I hear constantly “I need people who can explore independently, learn when they need to, analyze and integrate data to make informed decisions, solve problems, communicate, and work well in a team.” Kids using geotech, whether in class or after-school programs, demonstrate this well, and more educators are paying heed.
Meanwhile, schools and districts are seeing how useful GIS can be for administrative purposes. Each dollar saved in operating more efficiently can help an institution be a more effective place of learning. Some schools and districts even recognize that they can meet multiple goals at once by having students learn geotechnology in class by tackling a task that helps the institution, such as mapping internal wifi signal strength or outside lighting, modeling alternative scenarios for school parking or reducing environmental impact, even just mapping trash. (For a broader look, see this Spatial Roundtable discussion.)
Finally, more states are establishing statewide licenses, to facilitate access to software, provide professional development, and influence what they want kids and educators to know and be able to do. This is a recognition that changes are important now and for the long term, and that education must be a part of the community instead of apart from it.
GIS professionals can help this revolution, by introducing local educators and leaders to GIS, and lending a hand to programs getting underway. GIS Day and the GeoMentor program are great places to begin. It takes time and consistent effort to bring about revolution, but it is underway, and growing, even if quietly.
- Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager
Esri has been supporting the National Conference on Geographic Education since the early 1990s, through hands-on workshops in real-world investigation of geographic issues and phenomena through GIS technologies. This year, Esri will conduct two days of hands-on workshops in investigating natural hazards, population change, watersheds, weather and climate, land use, and much more, using the set of data and tools on ArcGIS Online. We also will be giving additional workshops and papers at the conference, which I will describe in upcoming blog essays. More broadly, we have long supported the organization that is behind this conference, the National Council for Geographic Education (www.ncge.org). My colleagues and I have served on NCGE’s administrative boards and curriculum and professional development projects over the years, and I served as NCGE President in 2011.
We have learned a great deal from the geography education community through NCGE. If you are not a member of this organization, I strongly encourage you to do so. It is a friendly, dedicated, and talented community that has deep roots (97 years and counting!) and looks forward to a bright future.
Why are we doing conducting these workshops? Like many of you, we believe that the use of GIS in instruction represents the essence of what applying geography to solve problems, foster critical, holistic, and geographic thinking, and to increase skills that are highly in demand in the workforce. The analysis of local to global issues through the spatial framework engages students with the content, skills, and perspectives of geography.
Why are we using ArcGIS Online as our primary platform for these workshops? ArcGIS Online, over the past two years, has rapidly evolved into a powerful set of technologies, with rich data sets, tools, and a user community. It allows educators and their students to quickly create, customize, and share maps on the web, with their own content or content created by others. As a preview, have a look at my series of 7 videos entitled “Teaching Geography with ArcGIS Online,” beginning here.
We hope to see you at the upcoming NCGE conference in San Marcos, Texas, and beyond, in cyberspace in the ArcGIS Online community! How might you be able to use ArcGIS Online in your own courses?
- Joseph Kerski, Esri Education Manager
At the 2012 Esri International User Conference, 14,000 people thunderously applauded stars of problem-based learning (PBL). At the opening plenary session, four students stepped out on stage and confidently displayed their experience with GIS, gained during just their senior year of high school. Their work was so real, so powerful, and so like what GIS professionals do that the demos were sifted in among those by other users, instead of isolated as a special student group. You can see their presentations, and the teacher’s summary here: Esri 2012 UC Plenary Videos
Choose “Mid-morning”, see “21:40-26:35″, “43:50-47:00″, “61:08-65:30″
Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, VA is a good school. These are bright and inquisitive students, and the teacher masterfully weaves together relevant content, powerful technology, and incrementally greater challenges. But the model of PBL with GIS used by these and hundreds of students across the Virginia Geospatial Semester program is the real star.
In school after school, teacher after teacher help students build skills in GIS by tackling real-world challenges. They construct maps of things around them, analyze the patterns and relationships they see in daily life, and struggle just like adults to integrate information and derive sensible answers in complex situations for which there is no “cookbook answer.” With a steady diet of such experiences, they build a disposition for challenges. Combined with the technical savvy and creativity of youth, this is serious power. In the hours and days following the WLHS students’ presentations, everyone I met agreed that these students were ready for college and career.
Across the US, employers and politicians (save only for one party in one state) clamor for students to have 21st century skills, including managing and thinking critically about all kinds of information, collaborating, communicating, and working with powerful tools. Lucky kids whose teachers or after-school activity leaders employ PBL with GIS get to practice this even from a young age. These kids will survive and thrive tomorrow, as the thunderous applause at the Esri Conference attests.
Are students in your community preparing for tomorrow by tackling real-world challenges without a cookbook? Can they demonstrate it using technology beyond a Number 2 pencil?
- Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager
The Fourth Annual “Teachers Teaching Teachers GIS Institute” held at Esri headquarters in Redlands, CA, has come and gone in a blur. “T3G” is an event for educators who are GIS-savvy, with experience teaching with technology, and a background and continuing interest in providing professional development for educators. Based on a challenging application, a set of Esri staff and outside educators invite 30. T3G participants have ranged in experience from novice to retired educators from all levels of formal and informal systems including geoprofessionals who mentor and support educators.
Use of GIS is exploding across industries, and more careers than ever before engage GIS. At the same time, new technologies like ArcGIS Online make it easier than ever to bring GIS into education. The mission of T3G is to build the community able to provide powerful professional development for educators and lend expertise to education policy influencers, at local to national levels. Participants are charged with providing instruction, sharing the vision of GIS as a technology for solving problems, and continuing to build their own skills.
With activities modeling specific instructional practices, discussions of pedagogy, reflections on experiences, and a constant mix of modes and styles, participants explore new tools, new ways of thinking, new modes of operation, and new visions for what is possible, in one exciting but exhausting week. This year’s events featured extensive work with ArcGIS Online including publishing map services, creating web applications from static maps, and gathering and instantaneously publishing shared field data (including photographs) collected via smartphones and tablets by accessing a single webmap with an editable feature service. As their content appeared live on these shared maps, in the field and the classroom, a common cry was “Oh yeah, they’re gonna see this when I get home!”
The T3G2012 crew is now part of a growing body of educators able to help clubs, schools, districts, and states figure out how to add GIS into their educational programs. This is especially important as more states establish and engage statewide site licenses for k12 education.
Information about T3G2013 will be available in September.
- Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager
- Are you passionate about GIS and its potential benefits for students of all ages?
- Do you love sharing GIS with other educators, but wonder whether you are “doing it right”?
- Do you enjoy conducting teacher professional development with GIS or technology?
- Would you like to spend a week refining your GIS teaching techniques and sharing ideas with a group of peers with similar interests?
If these questions resonate with you, we encourage you to apply for the fourth annual Esri Teachers Teaching Teachers GIS Institute. The week-long workshop, limited to 30 participants, will be hosted at Esri headquarters in Redlands, California from June 17–22, 2012. The application deadline for T3G 2012 is November 30, 2011. Qualified applicants from the United States will receive priority.
Unlike other events, which focus on “learning how to do more with GIS,” the Esri T3G Institute focuses on “helping other educators use GIS effectively.” A group of nationally-known educators in geospatial technologies will model engaging instructional strategies and up-to-date GIS tools, and help you to plan and conduct GIS training events for educators with confidence.
T3G 2012 is sponsored in part by the National Geospatial Technology Center of Excellence (GeoTech Center), an organization that supports GIS learning initiatives among the higher education community. It is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.
Many of us in the field of GIS believe that the geographic way of viewing the world and geospatial tools are too valuable and useful to be confined to one discipline. Rather, GIS needs to be embedded into business, planning, environmental science, mathematics, engineering, history, language arts, biology, chemistry, archaeology, and others. We also believe that GIS needs to be included in every person’s formal education from primary to university level and offered in informal settings such as libraries, museums, and in after-school programs. Who will undertake the task of making all of this happen? Educators committed to the value of GIS, who understand its capabilities, and are equipped to train and present the GIS method and framework to a wide variety of audiences and settings, that’s who.
Empowering educators to spread GIS throughout education has been the focus of the Teachers Teaching Teachers GIS (T3G) institutes at Esri headquarters in Redlands, California. Three institutes, co-sponsored each June by Esri and GeoTechCenter, have enabled participants to promote and support GIS in other departments, other educational institutions, in their local community, and in their professional networks. Unlike events that focus on “learning how to do more with GIS,” the T3G institutes focus on “helping other educators use GIS effectively.” Participants work through a series of hands-on activities to improve their technical skills in online and desktop ArcGIS tools. This includes work with geoprocessing, spatial statistics, Landsat imagery, 2D and 3D tools, and ArcGIS Online maps and presentations. Yet the institutes go beyond the improvement of GIS skills to how best to teach with GIS in different educational settings, from online courses to semester-long face-to-face courses to short workshops. Participants create a project where they spatially analyze data they collect at the Gilman Historical Ranch, including elevation, weather, invasive species, bird nests, wildfires, tree health, and more, and presented the results using ArcGIS Explorer, ArcGIS Online, and ArcGIS desktop.
The 30 attendees each year range from 4-H coordinators to university professors and librarians to secondary school instructors. The institute teaching team includes educational consultants Kathryn Keranen and Lyn Malone, Amy Work from the Institute for the Application of Geospatial Technology, Anita Palmer and Roger Palmer from GIS ETC, and Esri education staff Charlie Fitzpatrick, Laura Bowden, and Joseph Kerski. The teaching team models different instructional activities, including gallery walks, instructor-led training, independent investigations, group projects, a “geo-news” broadcast, a game show “Deal With It” competition, and other methods.
Applicants interested in applying for the 2012 T3G institute should have a strong interest in training other educators in the use of GIS in instruction, developing curricular materials that help educators and students use GIS, and promoting GIS to educational administrators and policymakers. Preference will be given to educators from various settings who have demonstrated experience in three areas: Using GIS, teaching with computers, and providing professional development for educators.
Watch http://edcommunity.esri.com/t3g for announcements, and please consider applying to the 2012 T3G institute or telling your colleagues about it.
-Joseph Kerski, Education Manager
Want to engage your students in activities that will have them asking questions and thinking critically about content you cover in your educational environment? At the Teaching with Spatial Technology Workshop (TwiST), K-12 and college educators will learn how to teach with ArcGIS, GPS and other geospatial technologies in their educational environments. Participants will collect and gather data for a community mapping project while learning how to connect to state standards.
Celebrating its 10th year, TwiST will be held June 28-30, 2011 at Cayuga Community College in Auburn, NY. Registration is $250 before May 3 ($275 after May 3). The fee includes: 3-days of training, lunch, a notebook of materials, data, the opportunity to obtain an discounted geospatial software and tools, and approximately $1,000 worth of additional GIS learning resources. Both Graduate and Undergraduate credit is available for an additional fee.
The registration deadline for TwiST is May 3 for the discounted rate. Visit www.iagt.org/twist for registration and additional information.