Change in GIS: Moving Forward Is Better Than The Alternative

Like using any technology, using GIS in education involves change. Do you sometimes feel that you are not keeping up well with hardware and software changes that inevitably are a part of our world? Two things have helped me in my GIS career to cope with change. First, one of the things that makes the GIS community special is the open way that everyone shares their knowledge. Even before we had online knowledge bases and Twitter posts, the community was active via telephone, in conferences, and through scholarship, sharing what they knew with others. Realizing that each of us cannot be an expert at everything, but knowing that the community is there to help takes much of the pressure off. Second, with each new version of ArcGIS, the tools are becoming more powerful, and easier to understand, to find, and to use. Yes, it does mean that all of us need to be flexible, but that keeps us moving forward, becoming lifelong learners.

Think of the alternative to moving forward in computer software and hardware. Moving backwards would be worse than the movie “Groundhog Day,” where every day was February 2. Each year, the software would become less powerful and so would my computer. I would lose the cloud. To find data, we would soon be back when all of the web pages were yellow text on a black background. We would then lose the web entirely and rely on gopher, ftp, Lynx, and Archie. Then we would be dependent on telephone calls, spanning floppies with zipping utilities, and 9-track magnetic tapes. At home I would eventually be back on my first PC, an IBM PS/2, using minicomputers and then mainframes at work, restricted to low-resolution imagery and then only vectors. Eventually, I would be sharpening my scribing needle again and unclogging my Rapidograph pen – not a task I would relish.



Image courtesy of USGS.

If time ran in reverse, I suppose it would have a few advantages. I would find those sunglasses I lost. But I would be back to the horrible sink I replaced in the bathroom. But much more importantly, GIS would not be as effective in education and society as it is today.

- Joseph Kerski, Esri Education Manager

Joseph Kerski

About Joseph Kerski

Joseph Kerski is a geographer who believes that spatial analysis through digital mapping can transform education and society through better decision-making using the geographic perspective. He serves on the Esri education team and is active in GIS communication and outreach, creates GIS-based curriculum, conducts research in the effectiveness of GIS in education, teaches online and face-to-face courses on spatial thinking and analysis, and fosters partnerships to support GIS in formal and informal education at all levels, internationally. He is the co-author of Spatial Mathematics, The Essentials of the Environment, The GIS Guide to Public Domain Data, and other books. Follow him on Twitter @josephkerski
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