Esri has a long history of donating software and support to non-profit organizations and educational institutions. This support has come in many forms, from reduced software costs, hosting a dedicated national GIS education conference, mentoring programs and online resources for educators. This tradition of philanthropy ties in with a vision for how GIS can build community and solve problems that the president and owner of Esri, Jack Dangermond, has made a mainstay in the ethos of the company. It is not surprising then that President Obama invited Jack Dangermond to the White House as part of his administration’s ConnectED initiative, to discuss the ways in which Esri has been getting GIS technology into the classroom and lesson plans.

About the ConnectED Initiative

According to the Office of Educational Technology’s ConnectED website, “The ConnectED Initiative announced by the President on June 6, 2013 sets four clear goals to transition to digital learning across the country in 5 years:

  • Upgraded Connectivity: Ensure next-generation broadband and high-speed wireless is available to virtually all of America’s students in their classrooms and libraries.
  • Access to Learning Devices: Ensure students and teachers have access to affordable mobile devices to access digital learning resources at any time inside and outside of the classroom.
  • Supported Teachers: ConnectED invests in improving the skills of teachers, ensuring that every educator in America receives support and training to use technology to help improve student outcomes.
  • Digital Learning Resources: Ensure availability of high-quality digital learning resources and materials for students and teachers.”

How Esri Supports STEM Projects in Schools

In a May 2, 2014 interview with Bloomberg TV, Jack Dangermond, described the project based STEM instruction projects Esri has supported in hundreds of schools across the country. Providing students with GIS tools for real world investigation was exemplified by a classroom project to map lead poisoning in Detroit that was born out of one student’s experience with a brother who was affected. The student’s research indicated that the lead poisonings in the city were correlated to the location of dilapidated housing. The results of the project were used as the basis for further research and the city council supporting a “Get the lead out” campaign that the students participated in.

After hearing about these types of success in supporting education, President Obama asked Jack Dangermond, “Why don’t we scale this up, provide every kid, every school, every teacher with access to this new cloud based geography for learning?” Jack’s response was “Ok, let’s do it,” – meeting the president’s challenge for industry to help transform education, by providing a billion dollar pledge to provide ArcGIS online mapping resources.

More information and an invitation to join the Esri’s ConnectED initiative can be found on the Esri website.

Additional Information on Towson Universities STEM Teaching Community Project can be found here.