This is another one of those posts that I started….stopped….started….then decided to take in a completely different direction.
K-12 education is all the rage these days in GIS. It’s gotten so popular I’m starting to question if anyone talking about it has actually set foot in a school. I’ve talked off and on about the high school I’ve worked with. I haven’t worked with them that much over the last year because I’ve been busy and distance has been an issue. Friday I found myself back at the school to load software.
They’ve got a new computer lab – I talked about it. I ended that article with “nothing bad can come out of volunteering”. I stand by that.
Back a few months ago ESRI donated software for K-12 education. I tweeted about it – my tweets were not kind. I was called out and back tracked as well as I could because I was wrong on the tweeting end of things (Imagine that). Essentially the schools get ArcGISOnline for free. Friday (September 2014) I spent time loading QGIS and ArcGIS on the new computer lab at the high school. They’ve got 20 something computers. The plan once again turned into flash drives and shoe leather. So I started. Log into one “bank” of about 7 computers and start uninstalling qgis. By the time I had walked to computer 7 I could start installing QGIS at computer 1. By the time I walked to the end I could start installing ArcGIS (desktop) on computer 1. It was a repetitive thing and I was good with that.
So shortly after the ESRI announcement another announcement came out – GISCI was pushing GISPs to help get the ESRI donation into the schools. As a consultant I had a bit of heartburn about that – I like to donate my time. I can understand an organization jumping on the bandwagon. “GISP GeoMentors will be required to help set up ArcGIS Online accounts at local schools and tutor teachers on ArcGIS Online use and administration.” Yeah….No. If I’m volunteering I will volunteer. I’m all in – like with my clients. I’ll bleed by the time this is done. At one time I had signed up with the geomentor program – never got a call. So I will do what I want to do.
I went to public schools. I could tell you stories all day about my school. Granted this was way back when and there weren’t a lot of computers. There wasn’t much of anything new – it was probably by all accounts a Title 1 school (if that existed in the late 80’s). The school I go to is Title 1. They stretch dollars for everything.
Part of our problem (as GIS People) is we don’t fully understand K-12. I couldn’t get 4 computers to log in – one kid determined I was logging into the domain and not the local admin account. She fixed it. I’ve talked about kids being spatially aware. You can thank Google earth/maps for that and their smart phone. Kids understand geography. They may not understand the relevance – but place they get.
They started getting ahead of me. I had one flash drive and I should have planned better so individual assignments started getting handed out. I assigned one kid to license ArcGIS once it had installed. I put one in charge of downloading QGIS. Suddenly the network choked. What should have been a 5 minute 200 something MB download turned into 15…then 20 minutes. A lot of the kids have chromebooks now. “WHAT! WHY? I’M SO OLD”
Another computer choked and rebooted. One just wouldn’t act right – all the computers are identical.
Right now the kids are mapping for the EBOLA outbreak for HOT. That was another conversation I won’t rehash but the teacher ties in the EBOLA outbreak with the news (which kids don’t watch) and next they are going to work on the Palestinian map (if you remember there was a little bit of issue between them and israel before the nude celebrity pic leak).
We need data – the local county has donated some of their GIS data. Can you help us download it?
I can do that and click – teachers computer has a virus which sprang to life. “Did you know your computer has a viru….”. Yes. I’ve asked for something to be done and I’m still waiting. “OK – Lemme fix that”.
By the time the kids left we had 80% of the computers finished. I kicked off the download on the computer that is now virus free and “4 hours and counting”. It’s a 4GB download.
So I sat there. GISP’s donating expertise for Education is a bit of a low ball deal. Low Ball for those who haven’t had any relatives who were used car salesmen is where you present a great offer – but then change the terms of the agreement – it gets more expensive after completion of the deal. It’s a great thing to donate software. It’s a great thing to ask GISP’s to donate their time for an anomalous objective. It’s not a great thing to cherry pick a school which is what you will have to do to feel successful. “I’m going to the private school – they all have tablets”. It is your time and you can do what you want with it – but I will call shenanigans if you don’t sweat it a bit.
When we finished up “Can I turn on the projector I want to show you guys something in OSM?” Ahem and she points up. “You’ve HAD THIS LAB FOR A YEAR…OR MORE”. We will get one eventually.
So I’m not telling you to not volunteer. I’m encouraging you to volunteer. BUT – I’m encouraging you to go in and fix things. Some schools will run with the K-12 arcgisonline donation and do fabulous things.
What you won’t see advertised is what I’m pointing out. A lab that was gained through grant writing . Computers that don’t act right. A missing projector. Computers with a virus. When I left the download was somewhere near 3 hours from completion. It would have been easier to drive to the county department and load the data on a flash drive and come back. I’m tired. We never touched GIS.
So I make you an offer – it’s the NRGS “Get your arse in a school” initiative. Go to your local school. Not that school. The one that is having a rough time of it:
- Go find someone that might teach GIS or at least knows what it is.
- Find out if they have computers and fix them. If they can’t be fixed try to get them new ones.
- Figure out how to make the teachers life easier.
Enable the teacher to do more with their equipment. If you succeed – then go in and start talking about GIS. Call ESRI to figure the K-12 donation thing. Load QGIS. Load ArcGIS. Explain GIS. Use Google Maps. Use Google Earth. Explain the science of location.
I hit one school. With travel and everything that was one day. One day to get things working to where I could explain GIS on Day2. That’s not mentioned in any press release. How many are prepared to spend Two days. Three? Four? A Week?
There are probably over 20 schools in the county.
You’ve got to want to hurt to make this happen. Not just hope you get a GISP point out of it. If you’re there for GISP Points you are there for the wrong reason.