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Monday, December 17, 2012

Valuable Resources from Sinton and Boyes

Last week an event titled Spatial Thinking across the College Curriculum was held in Santa Barbara. I didn't attend. In fact, I didn't even know about it, until I saw on Twitter that Esri's David DiBiase spoke (and posted his slides, err presi). Then, after watching the latest Penn State Geography Dept Coffee Hour (description, video), I learned my advisor, Roger Downs, gave the keynote. I want to point readers to this short write-up of the event from Diana Sinton. I have three point to make about this event/recap/topic:
  1. Read the recap. It's worth your time, especially if you are planning to attend or organize a gathering on this topic.
  2. I have observed how few of the geography/GIS education events get any write up at all. I see tweets (mostly of who is on stage next or that someone will be speaking at 10 am) and agendas, but little in the way of "this is what happened/was of interest/sparked discussion." I am hopeful organizers (even those with limited funds) can find someone (blogger, student, vendor, etc.) to document what happens.
  3. Perhaps it's time to take just a single issue or question on this topic and tackle it in a single day un-conference. I'm thinking of a variant of a code sprint. It sounds to me like the Santa Barbara meeting had many of the challenges we faced at Bucknell: too broad a topic to get much done.
Also worthy of note this week was the University of Toronto's Don Boyes' announcement via a blog post that he was sharing his online course course content for his introductory GIS courses including his lectures, videos and resource listings. Several people have already remarked on their quality via Twitter.

I watched the intro video and some of the technical lectures (How to do a query). The bite sized lectures, presented via Adobe Presenter, are essentially Boyes speaking to PowerPoint slides. The videos are demos of how, for example, to do a query in ArcGIS. The videos seem to be provided as a complement the PowerPoint "chalk talk" on the same subject. Boyes noted how much effort was required to create these lectures and videos.  I can only imagine!

As I watched I was reminded of something I heard on the Hack Education podcast this week. It was about if teachers should use "generic" (Khan Academy or other educators') videos in the flipped classroom, or make their own. The anecdotal response highlighted the value of teachers making their own videos. A high school student noted that she got math for the first time using videos her teacher makes, while another class, an economics one that used other people's videos, was considered one of the worst on campus, and students were switching out.

I for one am still pondering how best to use "home made" video in online teaching and in flipped face to face classrooms. In very process focused subjects like math, I can see how having the instructor use a consistent vocabulary and create videos that match the current state of the class as a huge plus. Is that also true in a "learning about a technology" and "learning software" type environment, too? Or does something more generic, like Esri's virtual campus courses combined with educator-created lectures work as well?

I hope Boyes and other geography/GIS educators will share their results as they try different combinations in the coming months and years.