The National Geospatial Technology Center of Excellence located at Jefferson Community and Technical College in Louisville, KY, was founded to expand the geospatial workforce by providing a myriad of services and resources to two-year colleges and educators across the country. Among these services are providing model curriculum and courses, developing standards and competencies, mentoring and providing professional development to educators, and developing a community of practice for both educators and business leaders interested in improving the quantity and quality of workforce readiness in geospatial technology. GeoTech Center’s $3 million, three-year Advanced Technology Education Grant (DUE 1304591) was initially awarded by the National Science Foundation in 2009 and continues through the end of Summer 2016.
The five primary goals of GeoTech Center are to:
- build a community of practice between professionals from industry, government and academia
- create and disseminate relevant geospatial curricula and pedagogical tools
- facilitate professional development opportunities for faculty and professionals
- provide geospatial competency assessments; create model course curricula, programs and additional services through the center’s clearinghouse
- support student success in geospatial technology education through the creation of competency protocols, career pathways and career clusters
This article takes a closer look at the center’s primary services for goals 1-3, and upcoming events of interest to the geo community. Due to the large number of services the center provides, this article is the first in a two-part series, in which part two will discuss the services provided under goals 4 and 5.
GeoTech Center publishes a monthly newsletter devoted to disseminating geospatial technology news, events and helpful information. Anyone can submit an article to the newsletter, free of charge, for potential publication. Past articles have included: “Best Practices for Recruitment and Retention,” “Fieldwork at the Living Coast Discovery Center,” “Borough of Manhattan Community College,” "iGETT Remote Sensing Institutes,” “Mentoring; Skills for the Digital Earth MOOC” and many other titles. For access to all of GeoTech Center’s newsletters, please visit http://www.geotechcenter.org/monthly-newsletters.html.
Free GeoTech Center webinars
GeoTech Center holds free geospatial webinars on the third Wednesday of each month beginning at 2:00 p.m. EST. Speakers present on a variety of geospatial topics and webinars are recorded and posted on the GeoTech Center’s website for future retrieval: http://www.geotechcenter.org/webinarsconferencesworkshops.html
MOOC: “Skills for the Digital Earth”
During the spring of 2014, GeoTech Center partnered with Elmhurst College to offer a massive open online course entitled “Skills for the Digital Earth.” The open course generated more than 1400 participants and lasted for a period of one month. It marked the first geospatially-oriented MOOC that awarded badges as part of course achievements for participants. Future plans are in the works for GeoTech Center to offer another open course which will present the geospatial skill sets of the Geospatial Technology Competency Model recently updated by GeoTech Center in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Labor. More information will be posted on the center’s website: http://www.geotechcenter.org.
Professional development workshops
GeoTech Center hosts annual geospatial technology professional development workshops for high school faculty, and 2-year and 4-year college and university faculty. The two primary workshops are GeoEd conferences, held in Louisville, Ky. and San Diego. GeoEd-Louisville is a multi-day conference and set of workshops held every June on the campus of Jefferson Community and Technical College. At GeoEd-Louisville, participants attend presentations and interactive technical workshops. GeoEd-San Diego is a 3-day workshop held every July on the campus of San Diego State University. At GeoEd-San Diego, participants design and produce geospatial curriculum that can immediately be used within a classroom setting.
The GeoEd ’15 conference in Louisville, Ky. will be held June 8-10. The conference will feature half-day workshops on June 8 and June 9. A partial list of workshops include: “Simple Python Scripting,” “Open Source Software (QGIS),” and “Geospatial Awareness Remote Sensing and Field Data Collection.” An Educator Roundtable will be held on the afternoon of June 9. The conference will feature speakers from across the country, including keynote speaker Keith Masback from USGIF. In addition, GeoTech Center’s second annual awards will be announced, with presentations from each winner.
The workshops and conferences generally include follow-up online sessions to ensure that educators attending the workshops have the opportunity to continue the learning process. In addition, GeoTech Center offers webinars on emerging geospatial technology tools, techniques and applications. For a list of upcoming events, please visit http://www.geotechcenter.org/webinarsconferencesworkshops.html.
GeoTech Center offers a mentoring program for educators at no cost. The mentor is designed to meet the needs of each individual institution that requests assistance. The requested mentoring can be used to develop or implement a new course, implement GeoTech Center’s model courses and/or develop a completely new certificate or degree program. Once a formal request has been made, a mentor is matched to the individual school.
GeoTech Center has conducted a large amount of research and development with regards to pedagogy, recruitment and retention, especially of underserved and underrepresented populations, curriculum development and workplace competencies, including the Geospatial Technology Competency Model and related Developing a Curriculum processes.
GeoTech Center provides a mentor for up to a year, including a site visit, to help in any of the aforementioned areas. Institutions seeking to do any of the following are eligible to receive a mentor:
- offer classes for the first time in geospatial technologies
- revise existing classes based on GeoTech Center’s products
- develop or realign a certificate program
- develop or realign an associate degree program
- integrate geospatial technologies into other STEM courses
- develop and/or implement micro-credentials
For additional information regarding GeoTech Center’s mentoring program, please visit http://www.geotechcenter.org/geospatial-mentors.html.
National Excellence in Geospatial Education Awards
The National Excellence in Geospatial Education Awards were created to recognize Excellence in Geospatial Education or support for Geospatial Education focused on two-year college programs. Faculty teaching geospatial education often are unrecognized for their contributions except by their students. The Awards recognize community college faculty in three categories:
- Lifetime Achievement In Geospatial Two-year College Education
- Distinguished Geospatial Educator Award
- Geospatial Education Partner Award
The first awards were presented to Deidre Sullivan for lifetime achievement, Nicole Ernst for Distinguished Geospatial Education and Directions Magazine for Geospatial Education Partner Award. The 2015 Awardees will be recognized at the GeoEd’15 conference in Louisville, Ky., in June. Nominations open for the 2016 Awards on September 15, 2015.
Geospatial Syllabi Repository
Geotech Center is establishing a national database for GIST and geospatial technology syllabi. The new database will be accessible to anyone interested in observing geospatial syllabi from higher education institutions.
National Program Locator Map
GeoTech Center has developed a national program locator map of all two- and four-year colleges. The database of institutions contains over 3500 institutions of higher education. The map can be used to research institutions that offer courses, certificates, associate degrees, bachelor degrees and graduate work. In addition, the map shows two- and four-year institutions that are interested in working with high school programs. The contents are stored in a relational database utilizing a SQL server, which connects to an ArcMap server, and both a map service and a feature service are delivered to ArcGIS Online. The locator map can be accessed from the home page of the center: http://www.geotechcenter.org/national-map.html