- Posted by MG UG
- On March 24, 2021
- 0 Comments
- Education, Training Opportunity
Here are a few new thoughts from the edge of my map when it comes to geospatial education and COVID over this past year. As educators during this unprecedented time we have learned to ‘pivot’ to a new form of learning for our students. For some this has been a painful and confusing struggle, for others it may have seemed like a natural progression. I know, for myself, I was already delivering content in person and online with a learning management system, so that was a relatively painless endeavor. I did however struggle with moving to teach desktop software online and the rush last March and April getting this sorted was a painfully slow process (as was using the software on a remote data server). This year in a blended delivery mode with some classes on campus and others online, I have had to implement new tools, lessons and software that has enabled me to, hopefully, provide a better education. Early in the pandemic, ESRI provided a wealth of training, lessons and pivot plans for geospatial educators of all skill levels regardless of technology requirements. They provided free software and lessons for all grades, skills and subjects from a 15 minute web lesson to complex advanced lessons on all their platforms all of which are still available and being added to on a regular basis.
There is nothing good about a global pandemic, but the one ray of light has been the access to so much more online content,
“virtual conferences” and training opportunities, which for the most part were free and who doesn’t like free?
There is nothing good about a global pandemic, but there has been one ray of light (in my humble opinion) and that has been the access to so much more online content. In particular “virtual conferences” and training opportunities, which, for the most part were free and who doesn’t like free? In prior years I was only able to attend local conferences that were driveable to, cheap and in Canada (but mostly Manitoba). This past year almost every organization moved to a virtual conference and I was able to attend several conferences and take part in a couple of dozen workshops or lunch and learns right from the comfort of my home office. Many organizations offered FREE registration to conferences that usually have cost several hundred dollars, when combined with a limited travel budget would normally put these conferences out of reach.
I have also engaged MeetUp and EventBright in a more meaningful and structured way. For a few years the MGUG board have been using these platforms to provide tickets and opportunities to MGUG members for in person activities. Over the past year MGUG has spun up Meetup to organize and promote monthly get togethers’ and EventBright to organize our virtual AGM this February. This too is great, as a non-perimeter MGUG member and Board Representative I have always struggled to feel part of the larger organization as I could only attend in person board meeting once or twice per year and other than the AGM and Fall Conference never attended any other networking events due to travel distance and time requirements.
I have started courses or attended webinars on Python, Jupyter Notebooks, Spatial Data Analytics, Open Data Portals, OSM and Red Cross Humanitarian Mapping to name just a few, from a variety of education institutes and organizations. I have kept abreast of ESRI applications and education updates and lessons with webinars, workshops, podcasts and virtual training sessions. ESRI had provided free access to its international user conference and educators conferences, other education organizations like the US-based GeoTech Center and the National Council for Geographic Education (NCGE) have provided open free resources and educators conferences. I have come to realize that as an educator I have to colour outside the lines, by getting up at 5 am to take part in a webinar delivered from Australia and that I need to do this in order to stay up to date and be a lifelong learner.
I leverage MeetUp, EventBright and subscribe to social media feeds, not only to keep involved with MGUG,
but to access more professional development from beyond Manitoba
So where do I go to get all the info on training, resources and opportunities? I subscribe or follow a dozen organizations via email and social media feeds that offer resources, lessons, webinars, training and conferences. One of the most engaging I find is ESRI Canada’s Education blog and GIS Ambassador program. Feeds, blogs and email updates lead me to webpages with even more information and detail. These include ESRI and ESRI Education opportunities, the NCGE and GeoTech Center mentioned earlier. I follow geospatial evangelists, GIS and education influencers on a limited social media (Twitter, IG and Facebook). I troll or follow a variety of organizations and groups on both MeetUp and EventBright, by just searching for some key terms like GIS, geospatial education, Manitoba education, etc.
What is in store for the near future? Rumour has it that both the ESRI User & Educators Conferences this year will be online and free again. The GeoTech Center Educators Conference has recently opened (June 8-10 https://survey123.arcgis.com/share/30a6583c121d462e8f5b907b385576b6) and open events to come for NCGE as well. My Meetup and EventBright calendar over the next few months include Making Sense of Maps & Data, Adventures in Spatial Analysis and Mapping, Disease Risk Modeling and Visualization and the Teacher Tech Summit, not to mention the regular MGUG networking events.
While the pandemic has led to humanitarian, social and economic crisis, it has also changed delivery methods and broadened opportunities and access not only for educators but the geospatial community in general and that is the one small ray of light. Regardless of your skill level there are many opportunities to learn, take advantage of free and take part in learning a new skill, use some online lessons to engage your students or just watch a couple of web videos to freshen your mind on a plethora of topics. Need some help to get started? Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org, we would be happy to help! — Steven Hills, Education Director