T3G – Teachers Training Teachers, ESRI HQ, Redlands, CA [Part 1]

Earlier in June I attended a training called ‘T3G: Teachers Training Teachers’ offered by ESRI, makers of ArcGIS software (and other genius applications). I was encouraged to apply to this training by a number of people and entities, namely the National Geographic Education Foundation, who funded my plane ticket, Joseph Kerski of ESRI Colorado office, and Rebecca Theobald of the Colorado Geographic Alliance. In fact, I asked the latter two for help on a few occasions during the application process while I was stuck. I had to write some essay-like answers to some questions and then I had to create my own map using www.arcgis.com, which probably took me about 8 hours total. A DEAL! Once accepted, ESRI covered the cost of the training plus my hotel and some of my meals while I was in Redlands, CA.

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For reasons of ridiculousness (plane tickets that cost both an arm and a leg) I flew into LAX rather than Ontario, so the Super Shuttle and I hung out for a while in the mean time. The Ayers Hotel in Redlands was great. No problems there.

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Start each day with Logistics and Daily Focus and ended with a Debrief and Evaluation. The first day we were there, Charlie Fitzpatrick of ESRI laid out our goal in simple terms: SAVE THE WORLD. No problem, right? We talked about the essential skill sets that a GIS professional development opportunity should include: GIS knowledge and skills, technical skills, and teaching professional development skills (especially since the idea of this training is that we, the participants, are going to go back and train others.

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Day 1:

Very first session of the very first day started with basics: What is a web map? We went through many different examples of web maps as they are being used by people and agencies. By the end of the day we had created our own map of some element of personal interest that related to Hurricane Sandy. Through these exercises we learned the core elements of GIS: creating geographic data, analyzing the data, and representing the data. There are different ways to think about your data – have you acquired the right data? is there a question that the data helps you answer? You have to explore what you have in front of you, analyze your data in terms of appropriateness to answering your question, and then act on what you have learned – what are you going to do with the information you’ve just uncovered?

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The reality is that there are different levels of usage when talking about GIS. There are those who bring up nice, pretty, premade maps for presentations or demos that help to exemplify some concept [Level 1]. Then some may go on to learn a little more about GIS through some kind of scripted activity [Level 2], which then leads on to more expanded scripts where the user really has to think about what’s in front of them [Level 3]. Once comfortable with this knowledge, a user can start creating directed projects [Level 4], and then move into creating their own custom project [Level 5].

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Educators have to think about multiple things at one time: What do the kids have to learn because of Common Core or STEM requirements or other mandated curriculum? What do the teachers need to be able to bring this technology into the classroom? What activities will engage the kids? And so on…. It seems that a teacher’s work is never done! So the person who is trying to train the teacher needs to recognize a few things. First, if a teacher is introduced to the new technology too fast, they get frustrated. If the training takes too long, they get bored. How many teachers do you think will implement their new knowledge given these two circumstances?

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Another lesson that came up over and over again is that the user needs to know where their data is coming from if it isn’t self-generated. Who put it up there in the web for you to use? A data producer is responsible for telling you when their data has been updated, where the data comes from, and so on. Be an educated consumer of data – know if your data is valid.

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Day 2:

We started learning about Organizations, Groups and Galleries within ArcGIS online. Organizations within ArcGIS are made up of Groups, Items, and/or Persons, which make use of Applications, Web Maps, and/or Layers (or a Service or Dataset). Organizations are restricted to some extent by how much geoprocessing they do while online, how much bandwidth they use, and how much they store in the Cloud. We learned something that I really wanted to know, how to embed maps in HTML by cutting ans pasting the HTML to multiple locations. We also created our own Map Apps with templates and played with ArcGIS online in more depth, eventually looking at Storyline templates.

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There are tons of ways to share maps as an educator. I have shared maps on Facebook and Twitter, as well as on this blog. I can also share maps as part of a Gallery via ArcGIS online, creating a portfolio of my maps. Students in a class could easily make use of this feature, uploading their creations throughout the semester and having all of their work be accessible from one online location. Students could also turn in assignments by posting their maps to their Galleries, via email, a private Facebook page, or through education management systems like Blackboard. Galleries could also be used for creating some kind of community atlas, where collaborative projects could be uploaded across “borders”. Institutions could also share maps and data this way.

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At this point I really started to understand how maps can tell stories. More on that later. I now received an invitation from ESRI to create an account as a Publisher. Before this I was a User. A person can be an Administrator, a Publisher, or a User (which is where we all start out initially). We navigated around this new environment – the OrgPub account. We had a lengthy discussion about Feature Services – theirs ins, outs, and upside-downs. We uploaded user-created feature services and played around with the data sets. Also had a discussion about the validity and accuracy of using someone else’s data set. Always know where your data comes from! Those with cell phones, who aren’t totally cheap like me, downloaded the ArcGIS app so we could go out into the field on Wednesday and collect data points.

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The evening session was for “Lightning Talks”, giving attendees the opportunity to show off their projects for four minutes. Randall Raymond, from Detroit Public Schools, talked about The Pollination Project, which awards $1,000 every day to organizations who want to spread good around the world. I also learned about gapminder.com, which is a data-filled interactive platform that helps educators teach things like population statistics in a fresh, new way. I heard about how National Geographic has a mapping program called Fieldscope that enables Citizen Scientists to interact with the world around them and post their data online for the benefit of everyone around them. There were many great discussions, but these are the three of which I will make immediate use.

This is the first post in a small series (2? 3?). So I leave you with the words of our fearless [ski-enthusiast] leader, Charlie Fitzpatrick:

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Emily, Doer of Stuff, Keeper of Metadata

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