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Thursday, April 30, 2015

GIS Education Weekly: GeoMentor Program Launches, Open Educational Resources

Esri and AAG Launch GeoMentor Program at AAG Conference

Esri and  the Association of American Geographers formally launched their GeoMentor program at last week's annual meeting. The current goal is support for the growth of Esri's ConnectED promise of ArcGIS Online for K-12 and informal schooling in the U.S. I first wrote about the Esri/AAG collaboration back in February.

I saw very little on Twitter about the program, but did learn that organizers promise GeoInquiries 
"won't take any more time for teachers." I wrote about GeoInquiries in February, too.

I dug into the GeoMentors website. I could not identify any new content, but can confirm that existing Esri materials are well organized. The site identifies two different support communities for GeoMentors: AAG GeoMentors Knowledge Community (a Google Group) and an Esri GeoNet Group. When I signed into the AAG group, there were two members, neither of whom is me.

This statement on the GeoMentors site makes clear who is ultimately responsible for the Esri ConnectED program's success:
With the goal of ArcGIS Online usage in 25,000 US K-12 schools by 2017, the success of this program ultimately depends on people like you, volunteering your expertise as a GeoMentor and proactively seeking opportunities to bring GIS into new schools across the country.
While AAG promotes acting as a Geomentor as "giving back," there are no details on exactly what participants might gain. Does participating earn GISP points (this PR suggests yes)? Can participation be considered professional development for educators? Is serving as a GeoMentor good for one's career? Do participants get a badge they can put on LinkedIn? A page with answers to questions like these could be valuable marketing collateral.


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NASA Geography Trivia Game on Twitter

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly is working and living aboard the International Space Station on a one-year mission. He's offering a geography trivia game on Twitter.
The first person to correctly identify the place depicted in his photos will win a copy of the picture signed by Kelly after he returns to Earth in March 2016. Kelly's first game post is on Earth Day, April 22, and he plans to continue the game for the duration of his mission.
I'm disappointed NASA used the term "trivia" to describe the game and didn't suggest any educational use of it.

Stanford's New Geodata Search Tool

I checked out the tool Earthworks, before reading about it and its underlying open source code. The bad news was my search for data about Massachusetts returned an OSM map of Alabama and I went no further. I figured it was not ready for prime time.

But Brian Timoney made a great point about Earthworks and its peers, citing my good friend Gary Price's Infodocket:
Academia going to all of this trouble to make geospatial data discoverable is a telling indictment of our industry. http://www.infodocket.com/2015/04/22/stanford-university-libraries-launches-earthworks-a-new-multiple-source-gis-data-discovery-tool/ …
I'm sure there are many other academic portals like this, but I'm most familiar with the portal from Tufts University (just down the road from me). Why do institutions need to build their own portals? I know there are issues and procedures needed to access data for which the school has a license but why are we constantly reinventing the wheel?

AAAS Materials for Teaching and Learning Remote Sensing Analysis
The AAAS Geospatial Technologies Project has posted its seven case studies and other instructional documents for researchers who want to leverage satellite-image analysis, at http://aaas.org/geotech/borders. The group has also published an ethics statement about satellite imaging in cultural sites of conflict.

Open Source Geospatial Education Paper is Open!

The paper Open Geospatial Education by Mariana Belgiu, Josef Strobl and Gudrun Wallentin is published in the ISPRS International Journal of Geo-Information. Abstract:
The advances in open data, free and open source software solutions and open access to research publications have influenced the emergence of open educational resources (OER) initiatives. These initiatives permit access to openly licensed learning resources including courses, webinars, training materials and textbooks. Thereby, an increasing number of users has the opportunity to broaden their knowledge and gain new skills. The goal of this paper is to evaluate open education initiatives in the geospatial domain and its synergies with open spatial data and software movements. The paper is focusing on the Massive Open Online Course (MOOCs) movement. The advantages and challenges of open geospatial education will be thoroughly discussed.
Note how quickly this paper was published: It was submitted in February, revised, and published in April. Note too it's under a Creative Commons license. In this case that means someone (an institution, research funding, etc.) paid for everyone to have access. Thank you.

Now, onto the article. It's more about the use open educational resources than about FOSS4G. Most MOOCs, to date, have not made their content available as open educational resources (OER), which is disappointing. One counterexample is the material from this funded project. These openly licensed courses are now the core of GeoAcademy and a course at Discover Spatial.

I found some statements in the article worthy of consideration:
  • The paper defines xMOOCS as "exponential MOOCs." That's not what the man who coined the term meant. I for one am not aware of any GIS-focused cMOOCs (connectivist MOOCs) but suggested elsewhere it may not be out of the question.
  • There is no mention of Pace University's GIS Basics course. Apparently it was not found using the identified search criteria. It is noted at Class Central and the latest iteration just finished up April 19.
The paper's conclusions are not surprising to me, but I follow GeoMOOCs pretty closely. GeoMOOCs thus far, the paper concludes:
  • cover geography and GIS basics noted in the GIS&T Body of Knowledge and Geospatial Technology Content Model
  • mostly use ArcGIS Online (in the cloud) or QGIS (desktop)
The research questions suggested for the future are spot on:
Who are the target groups of GeoMOOCs? Are GeoMOOCs the proper venue to open up geospatial education or is it primarily a “marketing strategy” [15] for promoting specific GIS software solutions or existing educational programs? 
See how Esri thinks about its MOOCs below.

Esri Discusses its First GeoMOOC

Jim Baumann (Esri) interviews David DiBiase (Esri) in GeoConnexion. Some numbers: 
...we invited the first 1,200 students who expressed interest in participating. About 800 students registered. Of those, about 600 participated actively and 200 completed all the course content. We were pleasantly surprised by the completion rate, which is higher than most MOOCs.
The most interesting part of the interview describes how educators might use Esri MOOCs.
We want to create large-scale online courses that complement offerings by colleges and universities, not compete with them. Providing no-cost access to the analytic capabilities of ArcGIS Online is not something that a higher education institution can do without our help. Our hope is that educators will use our non-credit MOOCs as assignments or supplementary activities in their own for-credit courses. We also provide technology and staff support to institutions that request it for their own MOOCs. Whether it’s ours or an education partner’s MOOC, the key is to reach a mass audience that is, to some extent, new to GIS. 

Is the material on Udemy licensed for such use? Is it under an open license?

Free Creative Commons GIS Text from Saylor Foundation

I just happened upon Essential of Geographic Information Systems (large PDF) from the Saylor Foundation. It's culled from creative commons license materials from from Jonathan Campbell and Michael Shin book of the same name from 2011, best I can tell. The text is basic, includes nice graphics and exercises and is software independent.

Want to Bring a Mapathon to Your Campus?

This State Department intern and Colorado State University student does. She joined a group working on the Missing Maps project at George Washington University and now wants to bring it back to her school.

OSGeo Summer of Code Students Announced
OSGeo is glad to welcome the 13 accepted students and their mentors for OSGeo GSoC 2015!
OSGeo received 37 proposals, fewer than in past years.

Virtual and Augmented Reality as Learning Platforms
Chris Dede, a professor of learning technologies at Harvard's Graduate School of Education, has studied immersion and learning technologies for twenty years.
He finds that putting students into an environment like a video game and giving them a team challenge can move learning along. His Multi User Virtual Environment (MUVEs) puts students into a situation where all the fish in the pond are dead and their job is to find out why while learning about ecology. That game evolved into an augmented reality (AR) version using phones that provide insights as students visit the actual pond in Cambridge, MA.
Initial studies show significant learning gains using AR versus a regular field trip.
That's entirely possible. But is it also possible that we need to work harder at using field trips for learning? Or that we need work harder at project based learning? My gut feeling is that immersive environments remove the distraction of the real world and hence relentlessly focus on the learning at hand. Real life is just not like that…and that's why actual field trips and field projects and project based learning have a place, too.

I don't mean to dismiss such platforms; I think they have real promise. Mostly, they are a huge step forward from "drill and practice" aka "flashcard" games which are so popular now. I include iScore5 in that category, but maybe that's about test prep and not learning per se (sadly I must make that distinction). The Hechenger Report did a great article on the state of games and education with the MIT folks who ran the edtech MOOC I took. Worth a read.

NAEP Geography Scores Remain Poor, Also Unchanged from 2010
Results from the 2014 National Assessment of Educational Progress showed that roughly a quarter or fewer eighth-grade students scored at or above proficient in geography (27 percent), civics (23 percent) and U.S. history (18 percent). The overall average score in each of the three subjects is unchanged from 2010, the last time the test was administered in these subjects, although scores have marginally improved since the 1990s. What's more, there remain wide, and in some cases increasing, gender and racial achievement gaps.

Rankings for Geography Programs

Esri's Michael Gould tweeted about the 2015 rankings (methodology) from TopUniversities.com for geography programs.  He notes that the U.S. does not have dominance. Here's the press release from GIS User. If you need help selecting a program this might be a place to start, but the best source is your advisor or favorite geography/social studies teacher/professor.

ESA MOOC on Monitoring Climate from Space
Explore our planet from space and learn how Earth observation is used to monitor climate change, with this free online course.
The MOOC is free, run on FutureLearn (the MOOC platform company owned by The Open University), runs for six weeks and begins June 8. Details here via Michael Gould.

Other Post(s) this Week at Ignite Education