Future for GIS education in a world of Embedded GIS

Future for GIS education in a world of Embedded GIS


Karen Kemp
Karen Kemp
Former and Founding Director
MS GIS Programme Redlands,
[email protected]

There is a great deal of talk currently about the impact that Google World and similar web-based geospatial interfaces will have on the GIS marketplace. There should be a similar discussion emerging with respect to the necessary evolution in GIS education as GIS and GI becomes pervasive and easily accessible to the general public.

A recently published report from the US National Academy of Sciences, Learning to Think Spatially, argues that spatial reasoning is an additional kind of fundamental skill, along with mathematical and logical reasoning, that should be recognized and incorporated into education standards, meaning that what we need to teach is far broader than just usage of GIS technology.

Of course, this is nothing new – we GIS educators have been speaking on this theme for a couple of decades now. GIS education should integrate both learning about the technology and learning about the science. As Duane Marble and others pointed out in the early 90’s, there are many kinds of GIS users and professionals – from the casual user to the applications developer to the research scientist. Each of these needs a different set of skills and knowledge within a large generically defined field called GIS.

But this move towards embedded GIS, or pervasive GIS as others have called it, implies even more about how we need to teach GIS. Indeed, what this suggests is that fundamental geographic principles (as scale, map reading, cartography and perhaps even some basic spatial analysis) need to be acknowledged to be as important as, say, learning to read and write.

However, beyond that, if people are going to start using spatially enabled applications in marketing and school administration, for example, then we need to begin to deconstruct the GIS body of knowledge into component parts and start to insert them throughout any curricula which have at least a part of their focus on geospatial information, processes and analysis. The good news is this is beginning, and we have an excellent tool with which to begin this work.