Tag Archives: CTE

Teaching Students about the Societal Aspects of Technology using GIS

A recent article in eSchoolNews by Dianne Pappafotopoulos, school district instructional technology specialist, posed the question, “What should we teach students about the future of technology?”  She reflects about the ways that humans are increasingly relying on programmable devices and robots for their everyday lives, and in a sense “becoming” technology or at least a part of it.  Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is an important enabler of these technological changes as the “where” question becomes ever more important.  GIS has undergone a series of massive paradigm shifts in its 50 year existence, and with the advent of Web GIS, the rate of change not only is increasing, but is attracting applications for nearly every aspect of society, from health to business to engineering and beyond.

Beyond the technical innovations that technology brings to our world and the workforce skills to our students, teaching about technology offers many societal and life lessons.  I think that the points Ms. Pappafotopoulos raises in the article about critical thinking, safety, privacy, ethics, and copyright connect well to what I believe we should be incorporating into our GIS instruction.  In fact, many of these topics are central to the themes in the Spatial Reserves blog that Jill Clark and I have been writing for nearly 5 years, along with the book we wrote on the same subject for Esri Press.  It is also a topic that we frequently write about in this GIS education blog.

Geospatial data are often personal, because they reflect the locations where individuals live, work, and travel. Collecting spatial data and creating and analyzing maps requires students to ask questions such as:  Where did these map layers come from?  Who created the data, and can I trust it?  How does the scale of my analysis and the parameters I use for the buffer or intersect tools affect the results of my analysis?  Do I have permission to use this photograph in my story map?  Should I share the location of where I live or where I took my morning fitness run with the world on a map?  Will I compromise the privacy of individuals who participate in my crowdsource map?

The recommendations for educators in the article have natural connections to GIS.  The creation of required courses that focus on these issues, inviting guest speakers (who could be from the GIS community via the Geomentors program), and project-based learning activities (such as SpatiaLABS, the Learn GIS library, and GeoInquiries) are excellent starting points.

Teaching with GIS is an important component in teaching about technology and its implications.

Teaching with GIS is an important part of teaching about technology and its implications.
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Fun with GIS 185: Integrating STEM

“In which class does GIS belong?” I’m often asked. “Wherever you encourage critical thinking,” I reply. With furrowed brow, they continue, “We don’t teach geography, so maybe US history, or environmental science? Certainly not English or math or language. But, high school career tech, or middle school gifted, or what?” I smile and say “All of those, for sure, but more. Wherever you want students to dive in, explore, analyze data, integrate, present, and collaborate. Certainly from 4th grade on up, for every student, in all subjects, but even younger students can benefit. Web-based GIS means it is accessible on any connected device, anytime, anywhere.”

School should be a process in which all students learn why and how to learn; scaffold thinking skills; find, analyze, and interpret data; practice making decisions; engage deeply; integrate, communicate, and collaborate; create and share; listen, observe, and reflect. The content can vary widely, and GIS can be a great tool for all of these, whether examining community demographics, national history, soil productivity, urban planning, factors affecting variation in climate models, or the density of ant colonies across the school playground.

The recent meeting of the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) featured a presentation by the Math, Science, and Technology Magnet Academy of Roosevelt High School, from the Boyle Heights neighborhood of East Los Angeles. Four seniors and two alums, plus the 11th grade English and Social Studies teachers and principal, shared their story. Each year, the juniors have a major project that is service learning, community based, personally chosen, team designed, data driven, justice-oriented, intensely researched and analyzed, and mapped, written, and taught. In this STEM school, two “non-STEM” teachers coach the class on how to use ArcGIS Online to enrich their experience, expand their skills, integrate their knowledge, gather field data to expand their findings, and power their presentation. The standing ovation by state and national leaders at SETDA is what students in all grades, all subjects, all schools should be earning.


(Above: Adult and student presenters. SETDA presentation visible there, or see this presentation by MSTMA/RHS at Esri’s 2013 User Conference, before 10,000 GIS professionals.)

Any US K12 school can have the same GIS used by MSTMA, for free, via Esri’s ConnectED offer. Teachers who want an easy starting point will find instructional materials with which to explore the basics, in classic content or one’s own vision. Schools seeking to replicate the MSTMA model need to be willing to cross lines, break down barriers, and let go the reins of adult control and empower students.

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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Fun with GIS 179: Learn Quickly, Please!

Dear students: Spaceship alert! It is not fair, but our survival depends on your ability to grasp complex situations that are influenced by multiple factors. You cannot possibly know everything, because conditions change, and each day brings new discoveries. We cannot let you wait until all relevant knowledge is in place.

The situations are numerous: population, food, clean water, political stability, personal liberty, group identity, economic development, environmental sustainability … and more. You must grasp complex ideas and how they relate to us: space and time, proximity and scale, cause and effect, systems and feedback, power and competition, values and tradeoffs, science and passion, creativity and inspiration, predictability and variation, permanence and mortality, privacy and sharing, law and justice.

We offer a tool to help: GIS. It lets you combine layers of data, explore here and there, see change over time, integrate different factors, analyze patterns, visualize relationships. If you can move a mouse, imagine what a bird sees, pick out a pattern, group similar things together and represent them, and ask a relevant question, you can learn and help us all.

We need you to start practicing, today, with easy tasks. It can be fun, too, seeing what you know about your neighborhood, and can learn about the larger community. Harder tasks will come soon, so we need you to practice. You can start at Esri’s K12 GIS Org, and your school can start at Esri’s ConnectED page. We depend on you. Learn quickly, please!

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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A Research Agenda for Geospatial Technologies and Learning

For the past few years, eight educational researchers have been working to produce the first pre-collegiate agenda for guiding research in geospatial technology education and learning.  The product of that labor has recently been published in the Journal of Geography from the National Council for Geographic Education.

Abstract:  Knowledge around geospatial technologies and learning remains sparse, inconsistent, and overly anecdotal. Studies are needed that are better structured; more systematic and replicable; attentive to progress and findings in the cognate fields of science, technology, engineering, and math education; and coordinated for multidisciplinary approaches. A proposed agenda is designed to frame the next generation of research in this field, organized around four foci: (1) connections between GST and geospatial thinking; (2) learning GST; (3) curriculum and student learning through GST; and (4) educators’ professional development with GST. Recommendations for advancing this agenda are included.

Author information, metadata, and sample information can be found online  at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/265432663_A_Research_Agenda_for_Geospatial_Technologies_and_Learning

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The Top Five Skills You Need for a Successful Career in GIS

What are the five most important skills that a successful professional in GIS should have? I have recorded a three-part video series (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3) wherein I address this important issue.

I begin the video series by presenting two ways of thinking about GIS in your career:  (1) As a toolset that you use in your career as a biologist, public safety officer, marketing analyst, or in another career where GIS is listed only as a required or advised set of skills;  and (2) As a GIS manager, technician, analyst, or another career where GIS or a variant is a part of the title and primary job duties.

I see GIS as a three-legged stool, one that incorporates content knowledge, skills, and the geographic perspective.  In other words, the skills alone will not guarantee success, but are a fundamental part of it.  Equally important is the content knowledge–whether in GIScience, meteorology, energy, water resources, planning, or another field.  Finally, don’t be discouraged by my mention of the geographic perspective if you feel inadequate here.  It is one of the most interesting parts of the stool, and one that might take years to develop.  Indeed, as most things in GIS, it is a lifelong endeavor, which leads me to my #1 top skill:  I can’t give it away:  Watch the video to find out!

The Top 5 Skills you need for a successful career in GIS

The Top 5 Skills you need for a successful career in GIS.

I realize that many “Top” lists are subjective, mine included.  Yet I purposely used this format for this list precisely so that the can be debated, argued, and modified.  I invite you to do so by posting your reflections and comments.

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New K-12 Climate Science and Mapping Careers Video

Climate change is a geographic problem, and we believe solving it takes a geographic solution.  Find case studies, e-Books, mapping tools, and more resources from Esri at http://www.esri.com/industries/climate or explore the Esri Climate Resilience App Challenge 2014.

Ned Gardiner, NOAA

Virtual Job Shadow in conjunction with Esri Education and NOAA brings climate scientist, Ned Gardiner  to K-12 CTE students around the country interested in mapping and climate science.

The NOAA National Climatic Data Center keeps the world’s largest climate data archive, and provides climatological analysis to every sector of the economy. And while climate change is one of the most debated topics on Planet Earth, the controversy has little to with the scientific data being collected. It’s Ned Gardiner’s job to take all that data and help us understand what it all means. Do not miss this incredible job shadowing experience!

See this video and other GIS-STEM career videos at the Esri EdCommunity’s career video page.

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The GeoSpatial Semester

Does the United States have enough properly equipped airports to monitor all of its borders with drones? Where are the cheapest areas in Iowa to drill water wells based on aquifer levels and rock types?  How do the number of ‘bird strikes’ at airports across the U.S. differ based on the season?  These are a selection of research topics in the ‘Geospatial Semester’-a college geography class where students use GIS to study and conduct their own projects (some of which are shown with this post).  What makes this course unlike your typical college class is it doesn’t take place at a university and it doesn’t include college students.  The Geospatial Semester is composed of high school juniors and seniors, learning how to apply GIS and GPS technologies in a variety of fields, at their own campus.

Through a unique partnership between James Madison University (JMU) and 23 high schools in Virginia (and one in New York), nearly 2,000 students have earned ~6,000 college credit hours while learning geospatial technologies with the support of ESRI.  The classes are offered as dual enrollment and are taught by Career and Technical Education (CTE), civics or science instructors while two JMU professors make monthly classroom visits and offer electronic technical and project support.  So what makes this dual enrollment program so different?

In a break from the increasingly rigid structure of many high school classes, the Geospatial Semester is designed to accommodate the many needs of different schools.  Participating teachers can navigate around the often-restrictive nature of subject pacing guides and high stakes testing by gearing their instruction towards a variety of content and curriculum.  Students can learn the core components of the software through application to a range of subjects and fields.  This interdisciplinary approach, in turn, helps keep learning relevant for students by allowing them to use GIS to explore content relevant topics, and develop their critical and spatial thinking skills.  For their final exam students provide an oral defense about the interpretation and meaning of their projects before a panel of JMU professors. In this ‘Problem Based Learning’ environment students get the chance to explore issues that relate to their community, current events or even their personal interests.  Students stay excited and engaged throughout the year when instead of performing stock activities, they get to address real issues such as evaluating patterns of crime, assessing the fire vulnerability of a national forest or even analyzing Real Madrid’s passing efficiency when playing against Lionel Messi and FC Barcelona! 

The Geospatial Semester is a mentored dual enrollment program that continues to evolve thanks in part to a design that stays flexible and relevant while focusing on problem based learning.   Students continue to learn new technologies and stay engaged in learning while they apply them in fields of interest, and teachers get the opportunity to guide this learning and learn themselves.  Nine years after its inception, the Geospatial Semester not only continues to expand in Virginia but is helping launch similar programs in both Arizona and Oregon.

For more information on the Geospatial Semester, please consult its website http://www.isat.jmu.edu/geospatialsemester or contact a member of the Geospatial Semester team.

Also see the Geospatial Semester Replication Guide, a series of strategies for creating your own geospatial semester.

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Fun with GIS 124: Problem-Based Learning at Esri International User Conference

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

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No-cost NCGE Webinar: Starting Your Own Geospatial Semester

Looking for ways to engage high school seniors with geospatial problems? Trying to find ways to bring geospatial technologies into the curriculum? Want to explore a state-wide site license for GIS? Searching for different ways to engage students with Geography?

The Geospatial Semester is a collaborative effort between James Madison University (JMU) and Virginia school districts (part of the Virginia-Esri state-wide site license). Students take a semester- or year-long course in geospatial technologies and pursue an extended, locally-based project. Faculty from JMU support the high school teachers and provide technical and project support. Best of all, students can earn JMU credit for their efforts.

Currently in its 7th year, the Geospatial Semester has provided opportunities for students to get engaged with geographic thinking and geospatial technologies. In this webinar, we’ll share details about the Geospatial Semester, examples of student work, and discuss how you can get the Geospatial Semester started in your locale.

Sign-up now for this NCGE webinar!

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Fun With GIS 114: Street Address Matching

Innovate. Adapt. Be entrepreneurial. In addition to everything else, students must exhibit these critical skills in the new world of work. So, too, must Esri. Web-based apps evolve especially quickly.

ArcGIS Online received new capacities last week. The Map Viewer app can now geocode points from US street addresses. (This has been possible within ArcGIS Explorer Online, but is new to Map Viewer.) With a simple but well-designed table containing street address, city, state, and ZIP Code, users in the US can push up as many as 250 points at a time into a map. If the table has additional attributes, those elements can be used for analysis, through custom classification and symbolization.

A new video lesson at ArcLessons demonstrates the capacity, using a data table from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. Using a typical school district with 60 schools, it shows how the data can be downloaded as a spreadsheet, cleaned up minimally, and converted into points on a web map for subsequent analysis.

What can you do with this capacity? Map students in a grade, members in a troop, teams in a league, participants in a club, bus stops in a town, sponsors of an organization, or businesses with special features. Use the attributes to analyze and display special characteristics, pop a photo, or link to web sites.

There are new capacities beyond this, and more coming every few months. Check the ArcGIS Online blog regularly for updates. And consider how well you model for others the ability to innovate, adapt, and embrace change. This is what every worker in every career needs to consider: “How am I taking advantage of new capacity to do my job better?”

- Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri School Program Manager

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