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Thursday, September 29, 2016

GIS Education Weekly: Which GIS Software to Teach?

Pesky Question: Which GIS Software to Teach?

Responses to Q3 of the survey
A thread on NEARC-L from Christina Herrick of the University of New Hampshire started this way:
Does anyone know if there are data available (maybe in a past survey) that summarizes GIS use by industry? ...
This stems from a discussion here on campus regarding students and their attractiveness to future employers based on the types of GIS they're familiar with. We've heard extreme arguments on both sides regarding which GIS is "best". It would be nice to be able to back those opinions with fact.
I appreciated this response from Jarlath O'Neil-Dunne from the University of Vermont (and Penn State):
Honestly I don’t think it matters, whatever you teach it will have radically changed in 2-3 years. The software packages have such similar capabilities, the challenge is not overloading students with so many different geospatial solutions that they spend more time learning the buttonology than doing things.

Leslie Pelch started a survey for employers and hiring managers titled "Geospatial Software Experience - Does the Flavor Matter?" The results, from 95 respondents, are here. Free response comments are here.

The statistic that I found interesting is that, for technician or professional level hires "sufficient experience with the specific software," "very important" is the most selected choice. For manager level hires, "somewhat important," is the most selected choice.

I feel all students should master learning or teaching themselves new software. It's one of several "learning how to learn" basics everyone should know. Since I (re-)joined Esri back in July, I've "taught myself" or updated my knowledge of perhaps a dozen apps (like Trello), full blown applications (like Excel) and languages (dabbled in Python). I'm also teaching myself some Esri software.

For Students

URISA notes the "Dead line [sic] extended to September 30th" for its 2016 GIS-Pro Student Competition.

The AAG's new Undergraduate Student Affinity Group (USAG) "is an international community of students studying geography, offering opportunities to network and socialize, get advice on graduate study and careers, and take part in academic events." Undergrads join the AAG for $38 (with full benefits) and can join USAG for an additional $1.

URISA's Vanguard Cabinet, a team of young professional members of URISA, offers a "new mentoring program for GIS professionals." It's not that new; it started in 2014 best I can tell. "Anyone in the GIS industry who feels they would benefit from a mentor, or would like to volunteer their time to a mentee, can fill out a brief survey today to facilitate the matching process."

Esri and partners are offering a contest for undergraduate and graduate students to celebrate the International Year of Global Understanding. The story maps competition offers cash prizes. Submission are due December 31st.

For Marketers

You can post your press release in AAG SmartBrief for $200. The weekly publication goes to 13,000 e-mail addresses.


Reveal, the excellent investigative journalism effort, explains the basics of its analysis in a story trying to unmask the Wet Prince of Bel Air – the top residential water user in Los Angeles. It also offers a nonlayman’s guide to replicating its analysis using open data and image analysis. Via Rick Santos.

A team led by NC State Center for Natural Resources Faculty Fellow Dr. Laura Tateosian released Py4All, an online tool that lets Python learners check code for errors and learn from their mistakes. The tool complements Dr. Tateosian’s textbook, Python for ArcGIS. Students can upload their Python code from the exercises to Py4All for automated feedback. Via NC State News.

Bad Elf's Educational Discount Program (EDP) assists students and faculty with discounted external Bluetooth GPS receivers. Students and faculty can request a coupon code to take $75 of the purchase of either the Bad Elf GPS Pro+ (BE-GPS-2300) or GNSS Surveyor (BE-GPS-3300).

Programs, Degrees and Courses

Northland Community and Technical College, NCTC, in Thief River Falls, North Dakota cut the ribbon on its newly remodeled and expanded aerospace facility last week. "The now 86,000-square-foot space features labs, classrooms and a hangar where more than 20 manned and unmanned aircraft are stored for training. NCTC has unmanned aircraft systems maintenance and imagery analysis programs as well as a maintenance program for manned airplanes."

Penn State recaps its first online graduate study abroad experience. I noted it back in the spring.


Last week, the Los Angeles County Office of Education announced the 16 County Teachers of the Year; they represent the best among the 75,000 K-12 county educators. One name may be familiar:
Dominique Evans-Bye – Glendale Unified School District, Clark Magnet High School, biology/geospatial technologies.

The MacArthur Foundation announced its latest class of genius award winners. There's a map of winners, too.

Advanced Placement News

Next Sunday is October 1, the day the AAG hoped to have all the needed attestations from high schools and colleges to move its proposal for an AP GIS&T course and exam forward. I contacted the AAG to ask how it's going. Michael Solem, Deputy Director for Research and Education, provided an update:
We currently have 51 signed attestations from colleges/universities and 57 from high schools. Most of these have arrived after people returned to campus in September. October 1 is not a hard deadline, but an initial progress benchmark. I will be providing the College Board with an update on the attestation process after October 1 and find out how much longer we have to collect the attestations. I will send this information to departments and high schools.
In the meantime, the U.S. Education Department awarded 41 states and DC $28.4 M in grants to for low income students to take AP tests. Via press release.


My alma mater, the University of Chicago, announced a platform where alumni can take courses from school faculty, in a MOOC sort of setting. I'm not expecting geography or GIS courses any time soon.

EdX expanded its MicroMasters program to 14 schools. The pilot, at MIT, involves students taking a series of MOOCs and paying for a credential. That can be the end of it, or the students can, if they are accepted into a school's master's degree program, use that credential for some of the required credits. The pilot involved a supply chain set of courses that could lead to a logistics master's.

Esri News

The Call for Papers for the Esri Education GIS Conference is open. Deadline: Oct 28. I have every reason to believe I will be in attendance for 2017! "This year’s conference theme is 'From Inquiry to Insight.' A vital aspect of GIS education is the process by which students ask questions, collect and analyze data, and make sense of the results. Esri has supported inquiry-based learning for many years, and as we celebrate the 25th anniversary of Esri’s Education Program, the Education GIS Conference will showcase those engaged in inquiry-based learning."
MSU Tobacco Free App

Jade Freeman and colleagues in Infrastructure Planning and Facilities at Michigan State posted a campus app tied to the school's new tobacco-free policies.

Earth Science Week, the annual worldwide celebration of the geosciences runs October 9-15. There are a few webcasts that provide invitations to get involved and an overview of learning activities, instructional materials, career resources, upcoming events, networking opportunities, contests, videos, and other programs. The theme this year is "Our Shared Geoheritage." Esri is offering its GeoInquriries for the occasion.

UC Davis hosts an annual 10-day “ecogeomorphology” class/whitewater rafting trip down 135 miles of the Colorado for graduate students, professors, and university rafting guides. This year the 31 people traveled in eight oar-powered rafts and three kayaks. Almost everyone was a scientist in a different discipline: ecology, geology, geomorphology, hydrology, biology, engineering. How might you capture the adventure? Capital Public radio used text, images and a story map.