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NEWSLETTER: VOL IV, # 3, February 27, 1999

Expanding GIS training in the College of Natural Resources
 By Tom Miller*

*This article first appeared in the Sundial: ‘Leading-Edge Teaching and Learning’ 16 (December 4, 1998), a weekly UW-SP newsletter for faculty and staff.  It is part of an ongoing series on technology, one of many topics covered in the newsletter.  It is reprinted with permission by the author and the newsletter.  Tom Miller is a staff writer for the "Sundial." Clive David in the classroom
Clive David, forestry [UW-Stevens Point], is playing a leading role in introducing students in the College of Natural Resource to some of the latest technology.

Two technology-based grants allow him to use state-of-the-art instruction in his courses and encourage forestry and soils students to develop their skills. The varied learning styles of today's students require instructors to move beyond the traditional classroom lecture format, he says.

Over the last two years, he has attended several workshops in instructional technology and last spring he attended Keith Rice's GIS (geographic information systems) class to refine his skills.

According to David, a variety of GIS tools are being applied in the forestry field. GIS is a computer-assisted system for the storage and analysis of geographic data. He plans to expand appropriate GIS technologies to many of his forestry and soils courses.

"A knowledge of GIS applications in forest management and related fields is becoming indispensable for graduates," David says. He is now incorporating GIS exercises in his upper-division courses. "My long-term goal is to ensure that as many forestry majors as possible get a working exposure to GIS tools—particularly as they are applied in silviculture, the subject of a core forestry course."

"Without sufficient instruction in GIS techniques, I believe that many of our students will be limited in their ability to compete for employment after graduation. These grants present me with an opportunity to enhance the possibility of success for forestry majors."

David credits his colleagues in the Department of Geography and Geology for their efforts in developing UWSP's capability for instruction in GIS. He believes it is important for CNR faculty members to use these tools to help students enhance their skills.

"Faculty training in modern instructional technology applications—including tools such as GIS—translates into benefits for our students that should last well into the next century," David says.

In recent years, forestry majors have been taking Geography 476 (GIS I) in increasing numbers. Unfortunately, they usually take the course as seniors, so that they miss the opportunity to apply it in introductory courses. Also, the facilities on campus have placed limits on the number of students who can enroll in Geography 476. David believes that having more faculty members trained in GIS techniques will help with these scheduling restrictions.

He has three key goals for using the technology grants: first, to increase the number of students who are exposed to GIS-based instruction; second, to enhance the delivery of his curriculum in order to improve students’ understanding of course materials; and finally, through distance technology, to improve the content and techniques offered in forestry-oriented continuing education courses.