by Joseph Kerski on October 24, 2014 (REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION)


I was intrigued by a recent article by a director at Teach for All, Nicholas Enna, who listed 10 skills the workforce of the future will need.  As I was reading the article, I could not help but see the connections between the 10 skills and the tenets that we in the GIS education community hold dear. The first skill identified is that “They will need to know how to create new worlds.” Modeling the real world’s complexities has been a mainstay of GIS, and more recently, GIS has been used to envision and plan the future, such as in the emerging field of geodesign.  The second skill identified is that “They will need to think holistically.”  By seeing the spatial and temporal connections to such things as watersheds, human settlement, natural hazards, soils, weather patterns, landforms, and land use, students using GIS are required to think holistically about communities, regions, and the planet.

The fourth skill, that “they will turn information into matter and matter into base information on the fly,” is also relevant to teaching and learning with GIS.  Students turn data from text, tables, images, videos, and spatial data layers into information to make a decision, whether it is for the optimal site for a new wind farm or library, or areas of unstable slopes near a ski area.  They become critical thinkers about the data and information that they create.

Skill number 8, that “They will all be data analysts,” is at the heart of working with GIS. As my colleague Charlie Fitzpatrick wrote, GIS is a “thinker’s tool.”  It requires analyzing data from a variety of sources, time periods, scales, and themes to make sense of a problem and begin to address its pertinent issues.   Data is messy and unpredictable, but the students who are not afraid to dig into and analyze data will be well positioned for the workplace.

GIS Classroom

The number 9 skill identified by the author is that, “The ability to tell a good story will be valued over spreadsheets, graphs, and data points.”  For thousands of years, maps have been used to tell stories because of their compact nature but rich content.  Digital maps offer all of the advantages of paper maps and much more.  Students can create presentations in ArcGIS Online, story maps, embed multimedia into their maps, and embed the maps into web pages.

Finally, the author’s number 10 skill identified that “Our future workforce must be ready to become “shallow experts” very quickly on many different types of software, platforms, and services” in some ways connects very well to GIS.  While I do believe that an immersion in GIS cannot be shallow if one wants to use it effectively, I have observed countless times that GIS is a holistic set of skills.  Using GIS requires that students have skills in a wide variety of computer and non-computer skills, as identified by the Geospatial Technology Competency Model and others.

How could you use this list of 10 skills to make the case for the use of GIS in education?

See more at the esri site.

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