Several documents over the past 20 years have played key roles in shaping GIS in education and remain excellent resources for making the case why the work of the GIS education community is necessary. One of the first and one of my personal favorites was the U.S. Secretary of Labor’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS) report. This report identified that the “task of learning is the real work of today, whether at school, in the university, on the job…” (1991, page 5). SCANS then stated (1992) that core subjects must be taught and learned “in context.” “In context” means learning content while solving realistic problems. Students are learning software, cartography, and GIS skills while using GIS to study world biomes, a regional watershed, or local community traffic, but they are also learning content.
SCANS identified five competencies important for future work success: Resources, interpersonal, information, systems, and technology. “Resources” include identifying, organizing, planning, and allocating, while “interpersonal” means working with others in a diverse team. “Information” includes interpreting and communicating, and “systems” include understanding complex interrelationships. “Technology” is identified as working with, selecting, and applying technologies, and this too is fundamental to the work done with GIS. When we teach with GIS or about GIS, we typically use multimedia software and hardware, desktop and cloud tasks and data, smartphones and GPS, field probes and sensors, different operating systems, databases, data in many formats, spreadsheets, and scanners, just to name a few technologies, all in an applied fashion.
The SCANS report can be effectively used as a means of communicating why it is vital that GIS education must continue. Moreover, it can help justify the case why GIS in education must increase in the disciplines where it is already established and spread to those that are not fully engaging with it. The GIS education community must make clear and well known the ties between our work and the SCANS report. Given the escalation in the importance of such critical issues as food, natural hazards, population, biodiversity, water, and energy in our world, spatial analysis through GIS is even more relevant to education than when these reports were written 20 years ago.
How might you use the SCANS report to communicate the importance of your work in GIS education and gain support for that work?
BibliographyU.S. Department of Labor Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills. 1991. What Work Requires of Schools. Washington DC: U.S. Department of Labor.U.S. Department of Labor Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills. 1992. Learning a Living: A Blueprint for High Performance. Washington DC: U.S. Department of Labor.
- Joseph Kerski, Esri Education Manager