Wednesday, October 24, 2007
The National Council for Geography Education (NCGE) Conference Oklahoma City
Oklahoma City: N: 32º 57.589' W: 095º 55.408'
The National Council for Geography Education (NCGE) Conference
Oklahoma City, October 18th-21st.
Coincidently this conference was on at the same time that I had planned to visit George and the others in Dallas. The council is the long established mouthpiece and professional body for geography educators in the US and each year conducts an incredibly detailed and comprehensive conference. Even though the conference theme was focused on the Native American Culture the workshops covered a wide range of geographical content, methodology and aspects. Go to the NCGE site at http://ncge.org/events/meetings/currAMdetails.cfm for information on the conference programme. Naturally I spent most of my time in the GIS and technology workshops and found them very valuable. In particular I enjoyed the workshops on the free web mapping software, ESRI AEJEE free product, podcasting and related technology and the demonstration of a practical approach using GPS with free Internet mapping software. I also attended at 6.30 on the Friday morning a discussion group on GIS education research which was exploring the question of what are the research needs for the implementation of GIS in education and spatial thinking in particular. What amazed me from this discussion with the key GIS players in the US was that they were facing the same difficult questions of how we get teachers and educational authorities to embrace the technology and see spatial thinking not as an add-on but an imperative when discussing the needs of citizens in the 21st Century. ESRI US held the discussion group because they are considering supporting a range of research in an effort to highlight the nature of spatial thinking in schools and the needs for a coordinated and effective approach to the area of GIS implementation in the classroom. In particular they are looking for supporting research which will show that spatial technology does enhance spatial learning for students. No answers from the discussion but again affirmation that in Australia we are asking the same questions and hopefully finding some of the answers. Such research would be very useful for us to convince educational authorities in Australia about the need for spatial thinking skills for students and the associated use of spatial technology.
One of the highlights for me at the conference was viewing the work of the 4H students who have worked on GIS projects in their community. 4H is a US Government youth community based programme which was developed in 1907 to enhance leadership, citizenship and life skills amongst youth. Go to more information on 4H at http://www.4husa.org/. The students were so enthusiastic and had done some great work on local recreational facilities, bushfire precaution via hydrant locations, mapping of heritage buildings and rubbish location. What was impressive is that all their projects are linked into the local councils who see the students work as a way to improve their local government area. The students came from all over Oklahoma and had a really unique way of presenting their ideas and thoughts on the use of GIS.
Instead of just writing up the workshops in detail I have selected 10 of the top things I learnt from the conference in terms of resources, observations and perceptions.
1.The US standards in education expectations and national assessment (called standards in US) procedures are making it very hard for schools to innovate and introduce spatial technology into the curriculum (these are called TEKS in Texas and stands for Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills at http://www.tea.state.tx.us/teks/)
2.The early adapters of GIS in US schools talk about the difficulty of getting teachers to learn the technology due to it not being formally in the curriculum and embedded in Standards. Again teacher training and the need to do so is a huge issue. Even at this conference of 600 geographers, I would estimate no more than 50 participated in the excellent GIS workshops provided.
3.I met Dr Shannon White from the University of Florida. She is doing some very interesting work traveling Florida on a weekly basis with a traveling technology roadshow show, training teachers in the use of technology in the classroom. This includes not just GIS but also podcasting and many other innovative technology ideas. For more information on Shannon’s work go to firstname.lastname@example.org and http://etc.usf.edu/fde/FDE%20-%20program.pdf. The initiative is supported by Florida education authorities and seems an interesting model of technology diffusion. Whilst checking out Shannon's materials also view the work of Barbaree Duke at http://gisined.blogspot.com/ who is a GIS teacher/consultant in Louisiana who was also at the Oklahoma Conference and had plenty of interesting thoughts on GIS integration as well.
4.Here are some great webmapping sites all free and very applicable to the classroom. Some are US focused but still of great use. Lists are found at http://edcommunity.esri.com/software/webmapping/ and http://www.geocomm.com/channel/webmap/featuredsite.html.
5.Although I had a quick look at AEJEE when Mick Law mentioned it in August I have not sat down and done the tutorial work. This is a great resource that does as much as many classes require with the exception of creating and manipulating data tables. This is a great free programme for primary schools and junior high schools to use if they do not wish to invest in GIS technology. Great data is included in the download. Just go to the ESRI Edu Community at http://www.esri.com/software/arcexplorer/download.html for more info on AEJEE and the free download pathway.
6.Whilst on the ESRI Edu community (http://edcommunity.esri.com/), this site just continues to grow in value for teachers. In particular the blog the ESRI Education team (George Daily, Charlie Fitzpatrick, Tom Baker and Joseph Kerski and others) are doing on a regular basis is just full of ideas and resources which should be looked at on a daily basis. For the blog go to http://blogs.esri.com/Info/blogs/gisedcom/. Also take the time to look at (http://edcommunity.esri.com/data/download/)for all the data which exists on the site – amazing.
7.Here are some sites which are some must check out locations with a brief description for each:
* http://www.arcwebservices.com/awx and http://www.lerdorf.com/php/ymap/yquakes.php shows all world earthquakes every day.
* http://lifehacker.com/software/maps/technophilia-top-ten-nongoogle-map-innovations-211149.php - a great technology innovation site clalled Technophilia.
* http://etc.usf.edu/maps an amazing collection of maps available for free on this site
* http://etc.usf.edu/te_win.html -Tech-ease, quick answers to classroom technology questions and tons more resources for the use of technology in the clasroom.
* http://www.apple.com/downloads/ - an interesting programme called Geophoto.
* http://veryspatial.com/?page_id=6 - Spatial podcasts available called "Very spatial"
8.Of special mention is the USGS site of Landsat image over time. These can be ordered for free via http://www.usgs.gov/pubprod/aerial.html. and http://glovis.usgs.gov . Also download the free global visualization viewer called TerraLook at http://terralook.cr.usgs.gov/. These free satellite downloads provide images over time which is great for change analysis.
9. Check out the 'Geography Network Services hosted by ESRI' on the Interent at http://webhelp.esri.com/arcgisdesktop/9.1/body.cfm?tocVisable=1&ID=95&TopicName=Connecting%20to%20GIS%20servers. This is a great resource to use data directly from the Internet. Go to http://www.geog.ucsb.edu/~ta176/g176b/lab1/lab1_extra.html for a description of how to use this wonderful data source.
10.The GIS community is really a very supportive group of motivated and passionate educators. I really enjoyed the opportunity to immerse myself in their world in the US and be accepted so readily as one to share ideas and resources. Their enthusiasm is infectious. The day after the conference some of them were heading off on a confluence excursion as if they were off to the latest “Wally World”. With such enthusiastic individuals heading up GIS education in the US I am sure eventually the powers to be will start listening. Particularly with the ever increasing focus on ICT, homeland security, environmental management/monitoring and the need for engaging methodologies in the classroom.
A great conference well worth attending for the learning and social networking.