After a week fully packed with interesting presentations, workshops and conversations it’s time to briefly reflect what has actually happened the last few days.
First of all, for me personally this was the most intensive AGIT/GIForum week I’ve ever experienced. But I don’t know if this is because the conferences have changed or my interests and involvements. Anyway, I’ve learnt a lot, got interesting inputs and was able to establish new contacts. Let’s see what will have the biggest impact on my research and project work …
The last conference day provided interesting lessons on GIS education. Diana Sinton gave an inspiring keynote talk about how to decide what should be taught, how it should be taught and, most important, how we can assess and ensure the quality of what we are doing; both, in educational research and in education itself. Two aspects, she mentioned in her talk, especially intrigued me:
- Diana plead for sound research, pointing to the fact that much educational research is based on anecdotes and case studies. I was a little bit surprised by her unambiguous diagnosis, because my (of course biased) impression was, that most researchers from the edu corner are proud of their “soft” approaches. I expected them to think that every quantitative, or at least representative research would be evil. Anyway, I think, Diana’s request for sound (and maybe honest) research can and should be transferred to science in general. I just need to reflect how data in my research context are sometimes used … (this can really be close to voodoo).
- She explained the challange of how to define what should be the core competences in the field of GIS? Who sets the standards, goals and minimum-requirements. Diana gave an overview of what is going on right now in the revision of the BoK for GIS&T. The main question there is, whether the process of defining the “canon” should be organized top down (as it was the last time) or bottom up. Independently from this organizational question Diana emphasized that the BoK will always be a shopping list and not a guide for how to teach GIS or how to write a curricula.
During her talk Diana provided lots of interesting resources. I tried to capture some of them:
- Road Map Project by National Geographic and other institutions
- Common Core Standards for K12 students
- SpatiaLabs collection, Diana co-edits
- UCGIS project list
Right after the keynote a great session was organized by Anthony Robinson from PennState. In an introductory talk he shared his experiences with the first MOOC on mapping which was offered the first time in 2013. What the audience got to hear was really astonishing. The numbers of registered students (50,000+), their participation in discussion forums and quizzes are tremendous. At the end of the course after all 4,400 students passed the final exam (Anthony would need 50 years to teach the equivalent number of students in classroom).
What became obvious immediately was the great value of the data and metadata generated through this course. For example the gender ratio of students in different countries of the world or the relevance of certain topics can be nicely analyzed with the data set.
After the lighting talk 4 panelists – Josef Strobl, Francis Harvey, Diana Sinton and Adrijana Car – were asked to share their thoughts on strategic issues connected to education and MOOC. Anthony decided to choose an integrated panel discussion format were he actively involved the audience. This turned out to be very productive as many experienced educators joined the session. What can be summerized from the panel discussion as essence is the following:
- It is important to address the right people for participating in MOOCs. Decision makers, teachers and parents seem to be promising as they have the biggest influence on how geography and spatial thinking is integrated in curricula and daily processes and businesses. That MOOCs won’t democratize education was already made clear by Anthony in his talk: the majority of the participants of the first run already hold a degree.
- Students must be motivated for active participation from the very beginning. Different ideas for how to do this were exchanged, but basically it turned out that attaching the learning activity to the personal lifes (“awareness”, “curiosity”, “relevance” …) and making it an explicitly social experience are the keys for high motivation among students.
- The sustainability of MOOC offers heavily depends on the overall context. It is very difficult to establish a business model for a region where university education is free from any fees. Additionally the setup and offer of a MOOC must also fit into the overall structure of a university. For PennState the MOOC turned out to be a real revenue booster. It has led to an increase of enrolled on-site students of 24%!
In the afternoon I attended the FOSSGIS Q/A session with Arnulf Christl (see his slides ), which reminded me a little bit of the GIP-Day a day before (just mirrored). Most of the attendees had more or less experience with OpenSource Software and OpenData and thus the discussion was more an encouragement to further use FOSSGIS than a discussion in the literal sense. Anyway, it was definitely worth to share experiences and views on particular problems.
Ok, now the show is over. The weekend lies ahead and I’ll enjoy to days for recovery. If you would ask me which session I liked most, I’d say the OpenStreetMap Forum which was really brilliant and today’s panel discussion on MOOCs … right, these were two favorites.
Thanks to the publisher of the proceedings (yes, GI-Forum is published as journal), all the papers are already available online:
If you are interested in what I contributed to the conferences, feel free to leave a comment, use the contact form or simply check back to my blog.