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Monday, December 2, 2013

A Geographer Looks at EdTech in 2013 - Part 2 - The Politics of Education/Technology

--- This post is the second in a ten part series examining top 2013 trends in education technology in the context of GIS and geography education. ---

Watters second theme for 2013 is "The Politics of Education/Technology." I will stipulate there are all sorts of education/politics/money relationships from the U.S. federal government down to the local level. When it comes to the connection between geography/GIS education and politics the relationships and dollars are far fewer. But they do exist. Here are a few that I ran into this year:

Esri Grows Statewide Education License Holders

I angered the New Hampshire Geographic Alliance when I wrote about that state's K-12 Esri education license in 2012. Here's the latest map of such licenses across the United States. I think there are valid questions to ask about investments in broad education GIS software licensing. In particular:
  • Do they preclude the use of other technologies?
  • Do they limit faculty to one company's or communities pre-made projects, labs, books and the like?
  • Is there a "get the most from your all you can eat" package mentality that encourages implementing and using software that doesn't support program, degree, course or lesson goals?
  • Does state education or GIS funding, if any is used to support the initial and longterm license, get diverted from other needs the state might have?
  • Are goals set for what sort of teaching and learning will be achieved? Are they measured? How?
Two new Esri state K-12 licenses were announced in 2013: Maryland and Arizona. Both press releases refer to STEM related motivation and goals.

Speak Up for Geography

After a concerted effort in 2011, the folks behind Speak Up for Geography went rather quiet in 2013. The effort aims to get the The Geography is Fundamental Act (TGIF), aimed at professional development for geography education, passed. The bill was reintroduced into the House of Representatives in February of 2013. So far as I know it's still in committee.

AAG Petition

The Association of American Geographers (AAG) regularly announces new signatories to its Resolution to Support Geography Education. While it's great to have so many organizations and individuals listed, the impact of the document is unclear. I think it's time to consider how to leverage this document in new ways.

States Fight to Keep Geography in K-12

Perhaps the loudest cries regarding geography education came as several states explored demoting the course of study in one way or another. In Texas the proposal was to eliminate exams in world geography and world history high school graduation requirements. It passed. In Tennessee, the proposal was for the high school World Geography/World History graduation requirement to be removed leaving geography as an elective. That passed, too. In Massachusetts there are efforts to change in what grades geography is taught.

GeoTech Center

On a more positive note, the National Science Foundation did re-fund the National Geospatial Technology Center of Excellence (GeoTech Center) until about May 2016. Vincent DiNoto will servie as Principal Investigator, based at the Kentucky Community & Technical College System in Louisville Kentucky. The center had been based at DelMar College in Corpus Christi, TX.