Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Education for the Future

The Geospatial Education Technology Initiative (GetIT) partnership is providing Moodle based geospatial technology curriculum at no cost to participating school districts throughout America. The goal of the program is to get youth interested in careers in geospatial technology in order to help meet future needs for trained personnel for the geospatial intelligence workforce of tomorrow. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) has been identified as one of the top ten high growth career fields by the U.S. Department of Labor. The National Geospatial Intelligence Agency has identified a serious shortage of skilled workers required to support our nation’s national defense needs. These organizations recognize the need to increase the number of youth with interest and knowledge in this STEM related field.

Schools throughout our nation are suffering from budget cuts, a lack of affordable training materials and teacher training opportunities that are needed to introduce geospatial technology curriculum into their school systems. Our program and the Tuscarora Intermediate Unit 11 (in rural Central Pennsylvania), are developing a comprehensive curriculum program to meet these needs and is supplying this program to schools at no cost.

Our curriculum is designed to be easily modified to use local geospatial data, therefore it is more interesting to the students taking the courses. The GetIT program currently supports many schools with an interest in teaching their students geospatial technology by taking a three pronged approach to training youth in geospatial technologies. The National Science foundation promotes this approach to engage youth in STEM related careers through K-12 in-school programs, after-school programs, and summer programs.

Washington College also offers exciting and challenging summer camps in geospatial technology. The camp combines GIS with other disciplines such as chemistry, environmental science, and underwater robotics to apply the geospatial skills to other STEM related disciplines. Washington College also runs summer camps for teachers who want to use GetIT in their classroom. Our students make significant contributions to updating and editing the curriculum materials. Each student provides a unique ability that adds to improving and strengthening the curriculum. While some make sure that the materials have a finished appearance, others validate technological processes, create quizzes, or publish it in the Moodle environment. Their work is delivered directly to teachers in the field on a daily basis.

Megan Wise ‘10:
“I am finishing up quizzes for the Introduction to GIS section of the Moodle website. I have completed many quizzes and from these I am strengthening my teaching skills. As an elementary school intern it is important to learn what information needs to be assessed in a lesson. Completing quizzes for GIS helps me establish and enhance these skills by using them on a weekly basis.”

Samantha Bulkivish ’09:
A past intern of the GIS Lab, Samantha now works as a staff member. Among other projects, Sam teaches in a traditional classroom setting as a guest lecturer. She also teaches distance learning to adults from all over Maryland. They all have jobs ranging from working with NOAA and DNR to Easton Utilities. Taking Samantha’s Introduction to GIS class, the adult students hope to further or change their careers. Even though they can get frustrated easily, Samantha is able to divert the situation by walking them step by step through their problems. She is also involved in a three week Introduction to GIS class with Kent County public high school. The lab is also working with Easton, St. Mary’s, and Queen Anne’s county high schools. She believes Moodle is a good tool which makes learning GIS easier and will take the lab many places.