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Expert Feature – Change the World: The Esri GIS Education Conference(by @josephkerski)
I entitled this article “change the world” because I believe that GIS is a transformational technology—it does not simply make more efficient what individuals and organizations already do. Rather, it changes how they work and how they see the world. The philosophy of most people I know in the GIS field is that the geographic way of viewing the world enabled by geospatial tools is too valuable and useful to be confined to one discipline or application. Rather, GIS needs to be embedded into business, planning, environmental science, mathematics, engineering, history, language arts, biology, chemistry, archaeology, and hundreds of other disciplines.
Those of us in the field of GIS education also believe that spatial thinking and GIS need to be used throughout all levels of education, from primary to university level. We also believe that GIS needs to be included in every person’s formal education as well as offered in informal educational settings such as libraries, museums, in programs such as 4H, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and beyond. Who will undertake the task of making all of this happen? Educators committed to critical thinking and inquiry, who understand the value that GIS brings, and are equipped to teach GIS methods and problem solving to a wide variety of audiences and settings, that’s who.
Many of these educators will soon gather for the Esri GIS Education Conference, now in its 12th year. It runs concurrently with the Esri International GIS User Conference in San Diego, California. The education conference attracts over 700 attendees from 50 countries, from formal institutions such as universities, K-12 schools, and community colleges to informal programs such as National 4-H.
The education conference seeks to help build participants’ GIS skills, in part through hands-on learning labs. But beyond skill building, topics of papers and posters include how to best teach with and teach about GIS in different educational settings, and how to use GIS in educational administration, campus safety, and in libraries. This year we will envision the future of GIS technology and pedagogy in a uniquely participatory plenary discussion.
Having attended the Esri GIS Education Conference and the International User Conference for many years as an Esri employee and also in my previous role as Geographer at the USGS, I have compiled a list of tips to get the most out of both events.
- First, attend the EdUC plenary sessions—these help you get to know people in the community and to learn about new partnerships, software, curriculum, and resources.
- Second, take advantage of the hands-on workshops. It is rare to have these at a conference with computer labs fully staffed and stocked, and they are taught by really knowledgeable folks.
- Third, attend the many paper and poster sessions offered.
- Fourth, talk with colleagues in the foyer and in the expo for some fantastic networking opportunities.
- Fifth, don’t miss the Monday plenary day at the UC. It is my favorite day of all – especially in the afternoon when the students are up on stage. Then, the map gallery and the academic program fair that follow the plenary are absolutely one-of-a-kind—the largest map gallery on the planet.
- Sixth, at the UC, as an attendee, for years I spent most of my time in the large halls in the technical workshops. I still try to attend at least one technical workshop as an employee each year.
- Seventh, the exhibit hall is enormous and fascinating, and I recommend repeated visits to it, as it is too much to take in at any single visit.
- Eighth, linger at the Spatial Outlet, a combination bookstore and GIS Stuff Mart!
The EdUC and UC are inspiring and humbling events. One truly gets an unmistakable sense that GIS is truly making a positive difference in our communities and in our world.
I encourage you as GIS professionals to consider attending the Esri GIS Education Conference. Many of you work as adjunct faculty, serve on school boards or alumni associations, have kids of your own in schools, serve as mentors through www.geomentor.org or through other means, or may be involved in education in other ways. I look forward to seeing you.
Joseph Kerski serves as Education Manager at Esri, where he focuses on curriculum development, professional development for educators, partnerships, research on the implementation and effectiveness of GIS in education, and communicating the value of the geospatial perspective to education and society. He also serves as Adjunct Faculty in the GIS program at the University of Denver and formerly worked at the USGS and the US Census Bureau. Follow Joseph on Twitter @josephkerski
For more articles that touch on the topic of GIS in Education see HERE