Author Archives: David DiBiase

David DiBiase
David DiBiase leads the Education Team within Esri’s Industry Solutions group. The Team promotes and supports GIS use to enrich teaching and learning at all levels, in formal and informal settings, domestically and internationally. Before joining Esri, David founded and led the Penn State Online GIS Certificate and Masters (MGIS) degree programs.

Recent Posts

Where’s the “G” in IS?

Visitors to Esri often pause for pictures beside an ivy-covered wall emblazoned with the word GEOGRAPHY in raised metal letters. The inscription speaks to an ingrained belief that geography offers a unique framework for organizing the world’s knowledge in a way that fosters better decision-making and a more sustainable future. Consistent with this belief, the education outreach team I lead at Esri does what we can to nurture geographic thinking and methods across the spectrum of academic disciplines.

That’s a big job. Disciplines have proliferated since the advent of the modern university in the 19th and 20th centuries. Consider this concept map of contemporary academic disciplines.  Few disciplines depicted explicitly recognize geography, let alone GIS, as an integral way of understanding the world. Given the longstanding claim that a science of geographic information undergirds GIS (Goodchild 1992), you might suppose that Information Science is one of the disciplines that’s likely to appreciate the special properties of spatial data. If so, you’d be surprised to find that there’s precious little “G” is IS.

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Esri Encourages its Community to Enter the AAPI Data Challenge

Showcase Your Work and Win a Trip to Washington, DC

Esri is getting the word out about an exciting opportunity to create dynamic data solutions for the Department of Education’s Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) Data Challenge.

We are challenging people to unleash the power of data by way of their own geographic analyses, visualizations, predictive models and more – to tell a compelling story. We believe new ways of exploring and boosting the visibility and utilization of data on AAPIs – helping to make it more meaningful – will inspire better understanding, insight, and action.

The challenge was announced by the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI), and AAPIData.com, a research project sponsored by the University of California, Riverside. The initiative’s aim is to improve the quality of life for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders across the nation through increased access to, and participation in, federal programs.

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Esri Supports Lifelong Learners

“Change is the only constant in life.” That age-old saying is truer than ever. In today’s world, rapid technological change demands that we rethink the role of education in our lives. Rather than a prelude to adulthood and careers, learning has become a way of life. User Conference participants of all ages and all stages of professional development are actively involved in learning, teaching and mentoring. In fact, lifelong learning is one thing that the diverse community of GIS users has in common.

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The Future of Web Maps in Next Generation Textbooks

Integrating interactive web maps with other digital content will make “nextgen” textbooks come alive.

Textbooks are changing, and so is the textbook industry, which accounted for almost $14 billion in US sales in 2013. The high cost of printed texts is driving the change. The Student Public Interest Research Group estimates that full-time US college students spend nearly $1,200 per year on textbooks, on average. Mounting public concern about the high cost of education in general, and textbooks in particular, is forcing publishers away from printed books toward a new generation of less expensive digital products. Esri is interested in the future of textbooks because they affect millions of young people every year, and because of the potential to make textbook maps come alive. Continue reading

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Credential Creep in the GIS Field—For Good or for Ill?

A new generation of credentials herald better times ahead for adult education and workforce development.

Have you noticed the proliferation of GIS credentials?

Hundreds of GIS certificate programs, dozens of specialized master’s degrees, and even a few bachelor’s degree programs have sprung up at colleges and universities at an accelerating rate since the 1990s. The absence of standards and accountability for academic certification contributed in part to the rise of GIS professional certification programs. These credentials are conferred by a few professional societies rather than many individual academic institutions.

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Making the Most of the ArcGIS Platform in Higher Education

Aaron Addison, Director of Data Services & GIS at Washington University in St. Louis, sent a provocative message to Esri’s “highered-l” listserv recently.  His subject line was “What to teach from ArcGIS platform?” “I have been involved with GIS instruction for over 20 years,” Aaron wrote, “and never have I been less clear where a newcomer to the field of GIS should concentrate their skills.”

It’s a good question, especially in light of the emerging centrality of ArcGIS Online as both GIS software-as-a service and a geospatial content management system. Here Esri’s Education Team responds with a vision of how today’s ArcGIS platform can be used to support introductory, intermediate, and advanced GIS education at the college level.

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There’s More to Spatial Thinking Than You Think

If you are a geography educator or GIS professional, you might say that “spatial thinking” is a way of reasoning about the world, facilitated by maps. However, if you are a science educator whose students need to make sense of 3-D molecular models or of cross-sections of a plant, “spatial thinking” is likely to mean something quite different. So too for cognitive psychologists who employ experimental methods to understand how people learn.

A recent Specialist Meeting on “Spatial Thinking across the College Curriculumhighlighted these different perspectives. The meeting’s purpose was to “identify the current state of our understanding of spatial thinking, identify gaps in our knowledge, and identify priorities for both research and practice in educating spatial thinkers at the college level.” Forty-three thought leaders were invited to participate, including those from Geography and GIScience, cognitive and developmental psychology, research librarians, and science education, history, landscape architecture, philosophy, and political science. Continue reading

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The 50th Anniversary of GIS

Some events, like birthdays, weddings, and graduations, are easy to mark on the calendar. Others, like the beginning of a social movement, or a language—or the invention of GIS—are harder to pinpoint. However, the confluence of three pivotal events in 1962 and 1963 makes this as good a time as any to celebrate a half century of GIS. Continue reading

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