Response to Derek Reeve's afternthoughts

by Karl Chang, August 21, 1998

I appreciate Derek's comments about interfaces vs. contents (raw materials) in GIS education. An analogy to that is use of ArcView vs. ARC/INFO for hands-on exercises. ArcView provides student-friendly interfaces but is limited in data creation and analysis. I used to use ARC/INFO only in my GIS classes; now I use ArcView and ARC/INFO and try to take advantage of both packages in my teaching.  How to balance between the two has been challenging. But the challenge is why I am paid to teach. Derek's comments seem to overlook the role of the teacher.  Web-based materials are supposed to assist the teacher in developing better, current teaching materials. The teacher or the curriculum developer is still responsible for the quality of GIS education.

Let me offer an example. The number of civil engineering (transportation) students taking my introductory GIS class has increased over the past two years.  My course materials were set up with students from natural resource fields in mind. Although civil engineering majors could follow most examples I offered in class, they (and their faculty members) would like to see transportation-related examples. Last year I added a network exercise using data from a transportation planning project I have been working on. I would certainly like to add another exercise, or to substitute the one I prepared, if there are good GIS-T materials on the Web. I still need to learn more about GIS applications in transportation planning, but the availablity of courseware would save me time in putting together a good GIS-T exercise.

By the way, I went to IGE meeting with the idea of learning about the mechanism and availability of IGE. I did learn a lot, although I must admit IMS stuff was overwhelming. I still have several hundred pages of IMS stuff I downloaded from the Internet on my desk.

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