EAST heads west for T3G


EAST heads west for T3G
8/4/2015 3:08:02 PM

Thanks to grant support administered by the EAST Initiative, four facilitators and a member of the EAST staff were able to attend the Teachers Teaching Teachers GIS (T3G) Institute this summer hosted by Esri, the makers of ArcGIS, in Redlands, California.

The goal of the conference, which is open to educators worldwide at all levels of education, is to seed interest in GIS software by encouraging participants to take what they learn in the conference back home and then instruct others to use GIS – students, other teachers, and so on.


“Esri started this several years ago as a way to start introducing their software to the educational community, where they’ve donated it to be licensed for free, and opening it up to the kids to use within their classes,” said James Hopper, project and development coordinator with EAST. “The hope is that students will then like and use GIS and keep using it in college and then go on to a career in it.”


Hopper attended T3G along with facilitators Carman McBride of Don R. Roberts Elementary in Little Rock, Josh Worthy of Sonora Elementary in Springdale, Karla Garrison of Harrisburg Middle School and Brittany Berry of Helen Tyson Middle School in Springdale.


The six-day annual conference, open to approximately 100 participants, amounts to about 60 hours of training and proved both challenging and well-paced, said McBride.


“GIS can be very intimidating, but it can also be very basic. And that’s what’s really neat about it. I think some people are very intimidated by it, I being one of them before I got to go to training,” she said. “But if our kids know how to use it, it’s going to make our projects really good, even if they’re using it at the most basic level.”


And one of the benefits of the conference, said Garrison, was that it offered a step-by-step plan for how to teach the material to a broad audience, such as other teachers in the home district.


“They designed lessons and showed us how we could engage an audience that didn’t really speak GIS. So we can incorporate that with other people,” she said.


“We spent a whole afternoon with some of the T3G advisors from Esri on what’s the next step and kind of putting in an action plan for teaching and training others,” said Worthy. “That was great for the five of us from EAST who went, because now we have our plan of what we want to do both within EAST, but also at our own schools and in our own districts.”


Part of the appeal to educators for the T3G conference is that Esri offers to cover attendance fees, hotel and some meals, so participants are largely only responsible for airfare. This year, EAST was able to help offset that cost thanks to funds earmarked by the Arkansas Department of Education for GIS training and awarded as grants through EAST. Once facilitators had applied and were accepted to T3G, they were encouraged by EAST to apply for the grant.


“Really, your biggest responsibility is getting there, and that’s a big chunk of change. So it was very helpful,” said Worthy.


Garrison, who had considered T3G four years ago and decided this was her year even before the grants were announced, agreed it was a welcome assistance. But both she and McBride said the conference was worthwhile, even if the expenses had to be paid out of pocket.


“Could I have paid out of pocket? Sure. It was great, and it was definitely worth it. But that’s hard,” McBride said.


Assistance or no, the time invested pays dividends, Hopper said.


“The biggest gain is going to be for students, because facilitators are going to know more about what’s possible with the software,” he said. “But also it can be a really great inroad to building community. People who go can then provide professional development for colleagues, and that enables them, if they want, to take more of a leadership role back home.”


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