In Education, the Little Things are Sometimes the Big Things

Blog Post created by jkerski-esristaff Employee on Apr 6, 2012
Two points in particular struck me as we talked with hundreds of science educators recently at our workshops and exhibit (video) at the National Science Teachers Association’s annual convention. First, ArcGIS Online offers a rich set of data, tools, and capabilities for educators and their students to begin using. And I think an important advantage of ArcGIS Online is that they could begin using it right away. Everyone we talked with could see a connection with what they are teaching, whether in earth science, biology, environmental science, chemistry, mathematics, or other subjects, and analyzing data spatially with ArcGIS Online.

That leads me to the second point: Sometimes, the thing that really resonates with an educator is something that might seem small. However, for that educator, it becomes a game-changer for a particular lesson or maybe for the entire course curriculum. It could be a tool, data set, or process that allows them to accomplish more efficiently with GIS than what they could do with paper maps or other physical objects. Using ArcGIS allows students to more quickly move to the analytical phase of a project, working with real data in real contexts.ants_in_shoshoni_wy_screenshot-300x215.jpg

One example of the small-but-big is a discussion I had with an educator from Shoshoni, Wyoming. In this arid part of the mountain west, watering dry fields to grow grass for livestock takes precious water resources. Ants are the one thing that is found in abundance. Ants cause a problem because their large colonies consume a tremendous amount of grass. Eradication with chemicals is ineffective due to the depth of the colonies. Students in the town’s high school routinely get out into the field to measure these ant colonies with GPS and tape measures. When the instructor saw that not only could he and his students use ArcGIS Online to visualize and measure the ant colonies from above, but also geotag and add field observations, audio, photographs, and video to the project, he was overjoyed. As additional fieldwork is conducted, the ArcGIS Online map becomes a living database over space and time.

What is the little thing that you learned to do with GIS that caused major changes in what and how you teach?

-Joseph Kerski, Esri Education Manager