Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Recap - 2014 Esri UC Adventures

The 2014 Esri International User Conference was held last week in beautiful San Diego, California.  The Online GIS team want to share their personal experiences from the trip.  It's great to see that each person took home something different from the conference.  Overall it is an awesome feeling to have 16,000 of your professional peers and mentors in one place.  There is bound to be a moment when you are so inspired that you literally have to take a moment to collect yourself.  With all that said, enjoy the first hand experiences of the 2014 Esri UC.

Leah Lewis:  The fun began for me on Saturday with the much smaller Education Conference.  For me, that’s my favorite.  The group is small and there are a lot of people doing exactly what I’m doing here at UWF.  It’s a time for me to get inspired, get involved and to be quite honest, impress people with what we are doing at UWF.  I attended a session on how to create a mobile GIS course where instead of textbooks, students were required to purchase an android tablet.  I thought that was a pretty cool idea and something that I plan to look into here on campus.  Also, I went to several sessions on web GIS and how many universities are using the platform instead of static maps.  I know here at UWF this is high on our priority list.  I also attended several round table discussions where instructors and researchers talked about how make their courses better and how they are keeping their online students engaged in the materials.

Ahh Moocs.  Mooc talk was everywhere.  Anthony Robinson of Penn State presented his research after his widely successful Mooc at Penn State.  Esri also has a Mooc opening soon.  Well….did you know UWF is developing a Mooc?  It was great to hear about all of the successes and missteps from others.  I left those sessions even more excited about our Mooc (if that is even possible). 

I know a lot of you are interested in giving back.  You need those contribution points for the GISP application or you want to make sure that today’s youth are fully able to grasp geography and maps.  If that’s the case, then you should check out the ConnectEd Initiative and Esri.  Early this year, Jack Dangermond pledged billions of dollars to schools in the hopes of having a GIS is all schools.  Esri is looking for people like you to serve as GeoMentors to local youth and teachers.  They need our help getting this implemented in schools.  The ConnectEd website is full of resources, maps, and apps needed to get teachers excited.  Just today, I sent an email to a friend at the Escambia County District to arrange a meeting with the superintendent.  I’ll keep you posted on the developments but I have a very good feeling about this.  I can’t wait!!

One last thing and I know a lot of you will be interested in this hot topic.  The GISP.  The elusive GISP.  The exam?  When will it happen?  Well, you heard it here first.  In 2015, the exam will be part of the certification process.  The exam, will not however, replace the current portfolio.  So what does that mean?  The application process is going to get tougher.  If you are close to being ready to submit, I would encourage you to do so before the end of 2014.  If you need help reviewing your materials, I would be more than happy to help. 

So, that’s just a fraction of my week.  It was amazing, awesome, and oh so exhausting, but I would do it over and over again.   The sheer number of GIS people in one place is mind-blowing at times.  I find this to be really funny considering when I first started in GIS, there were only a couple of people in my office who were using the software.  Last week, I was surrounding by 16,000 of the coolest mappers I know.  

Penelope Mitchell:  This was my first time attending ESRI's International User Conference. As the conference rookie, I was in shock and awe nearly the whole time :) The Education Conference kick started the shenanigans. The plenary lectures focused on K-12 challenges and the path and fate of higher education--both topics looking at GIS in a different way. Cindy Marten, Superintendent of the San Diego Unified School District, was an amazing and inspiring speaker. It was very easy to ascertain this woman was very action oriented. Marten spoke upon the use of geographic data to power and measure change within the community, and emphasized using data as a flashlight to guide us forward, rather than a hammer to punish. Anthony Robinson of Penn State spoke upon the high quality of online education and projected that within the next ten years at least one third of higher education enrollees will be in flexible online education programs.

Sunday evening thousands of people began rolling into downtown San Diego. Monday morning, Jack appeared, and the rock show began. To give you an idea, the User Conference Plenary was held in a giant auditorium with wall to wall screens displaying inventive maps and GIS celebrities. The positive energy in the room was contagious—a GIS nerd heaven. Jack (yes, we’re on first name basis), spoke upon global challenges and emphasized the importance of geography to provide a framework to understand the problems. He said it best, “Geography provides the science, web GIS the technology, and geodesign the process”; then called on us to be the architects of the future! Leaders in the GIS industry were then unveiled—teams of GIS professionals using GIS in innovative ways to solve problems and improve, or better yet, create their surroundings. One of my favorites was the Urban Tree Canopy Map from the City of Minneapolis. Their map allowed leaders to understand and appreciate the economic value of the existing tree canopy and enabled them to focus on canopy expansion down to the parcel level. When storms came through and tree damage occurred, canopy adjustments were made, infrastructure damage recorded, stump removal and sidewalk repair was coordinated, and tree replanting organized all in one fell swoop, saving the City hundreds of hours in autonomous site visits, data entry, and fragmented response. Starbucks also gave an interesting talk, providing a sneak peek into how they use GIS for their very sneaky marketing campaigns—a store in Memphis was highlighted (yes, Brittney had to give a shout out), showing how demographic data including spending ability was partnered with weather data so they knew down to the weekly level just when to lay heavy on their Frappuccino advertisements. They delivered this information to us all while doing some not so subtle product placement of their new juice line, we had to laugh. I highly suggest you check out the 2014 Special Achievement in GIS Award Winners for more motivation.

My last night concluded with the Academic Fair. We met potential students and GIS professionals from around the country and globe. A few government employees from the country of Jordan stopped by our booth and were beyond excited about the Online GIS Training Academy…they were also pretty stoked to take some of our cool blue sunglasses home to their kids. We even had the ESRI celebs rockin blue shades.

And before I shut my trap, in case you have not heard, I want to share one of the coolest things ESRI recently unveiled: GeoNet: a forum to discuss, collaborate, and network with fellow GIS people! Log in, it’s pretty awesome.

Brittney Markle:  July in San Diego is always such an exciting time of the year. Learning the new goings on in the world of ESRI and GIS are just the tip of the iceberg. Visualizing where and how we can apply current and new concepts to our content is where it really interesting. Here’s a list of some of the things I took away this that I hope can be implemented in our program to update materials, provide resources (to student and instructors), exemplify current applications, promote our courses (across campus!), and engage student participation.
·         If the education conference taught me one thing it was the importance of campus & local connections. Campus wide connections (other departments that could use GIS- History, biology, chemistry, public health, political science, etc) as well as other local connections (community colleges, local high schools and middle schools, etc). 

·         Web GIS is the future. That statement might not be 100% accurate but it is getting big and student exposure to this world should increase. There are a multitude of ways to apply web based mapping can be applied to our labs. I can't wait to see how to integrate web mapping fundamentals and tools into lab instructions and assignments.

·         GIS programming is not limited to Python. I made it a point to step out of my comfort zone and learning another programming language, JavaScript API for ArcGIS, and man did it blow my mind! I think I went to about 3 session on JavaScript. My favorite was a hands on lab in the Education Conference called “Intro to programming for non-programmers”. This lab was great and could easily be integrated in the Programming course and an early module. I was introduced to the Developers Sandbox which I had heard of before and honestly it scared the mess out of me. In reality it proved itself to be a very useful resource when using JavaScript. Oh yea-- this type of scripting language is used heavily in web mapping. 

·         10.3 and ArcPro- This was the big deal of the UC. I have pages and pages of notes on both but in the end was still left wondering to what extent ArcPro will be available to us. The beta version is available now with the full version to release sometime in November of this year. There will be ESRI training courses pertaining to ArcPro upon full release. ArcGIS 10.3 is set to be released in September! ArcPro looks like it could be a lot of fun. It’s an application that fuses together ArcMap, Catalog, Globe, and Scene... whoa! Various capabilities include:

o   Faster 2D & 3D rendering
o   Multithread display
o   Ribbon platform
o   Multiple layout display
o   Easy publish and sharing capabilities
o   Tasks in the form of guided workflows
o   Simple search and query
o   3D editing and analysis
o   Temporal analysis
·         Resources:
o   ESRI Higher Ed:
§  Facebook

o   Content:
·         Serious data, content, and student resource right here!

In the last session I went to the speakers were joking around and one of them asked what we thought Arc stood for. The humorous answer was “Always Right Click”. I thought that as pretty funny and very true... and that’s the last tid bit I have to share. I sure does feel good to purge all of that information!

Jeremy Mason: As a newcomer to GIS, I had little idea of what to expect at the UC. But once I arrived, I had an amazing revelation - these are my people! I was amazed by the sheer number of them - 16,000! I thought that I would spend most of my time in presentations to learn the tips and tricks of GIS, but I found that the UWF GIS program had already prepared me well enough that I decided to spend more of my time networking. I met some amazing people in all manifestations of the industry - from environmentalists to emergency response to regional planning, GIS is present everywhere. I also got to hang out with the (super cool) UWF GIS team! In the end, I learned that while the certificate is a good start, there's nothing like a bit of experience to make your resume shine. I got some really great leads for internships, and I'm excited to finally make my transition into the career of my dreams. Thanks UWF!

Congratulations, you made it to the end.  Esri UC 2015 - we hope to see you there!  Check out the 2014 Plenary here - http://www.esri.com/events/user-conference/agenda/plenary

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