teaching and learning

Need some Button Clicking monkeys? Anyone?

There’s a great post (My GIS is Better Than Yours (and other Lies)) by John G. Van Hoesen yesterday over at the Directions Magazine website. He has hit upon a topic close to my own heart, which is this:

  • The Geographic Information Software product(s) you use are not an indication of your knowledge and ability in the arts of Geographic Information Science

It’s really very unfortunate that ‘science’, ‘systems’ and ‘software’ all start with an S!

In an article that is filled with sentiments I, unashamedly, share, two particular quotes stood out:

“The GIS&T doesn’t specify software, the GISP certification doesn’t specify software, and the Geospatial Competency Model (GCM) doesn’t specify software… So let’s be honest and admit your GIS isn’t better than mine (or theirs). You might be more comfortable using a certain suite (life-long learning anyone?), you may have written special scripts (pssst, you migrated from AML – Avenue – VB – Python, you will be OK), and you might enjoy a semi-seamless integration between various products (I get it, I do) but it doesn’t make one version, suite or option better.”

and

“…should I be making decisions based on software or what is necessary to understand how to create and query a database (no, I didn’t specify a geodatabase) to produce a cartographically accurate and aesthetically pleasing visualization?”

The answer to this question should be obvious, but it seems to me that the battle has always been to differentiate the science from the tools. And its one we as a profession seem not to be winning…

Technology changes, always will. Teaching a strong core of disciplinary foundations and discipline-based problem solving and critical thinking skills enables students to adapt and grow as the type of problems they are working on and the tools they have available constantly morph around them.