Training Recruiters: A New "TwiST"

A 1.838Mb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

A question often asked of surveyors is "Are we doing all we can to get the word out to the next generation of potential surveyors?" As a professor of geomatics at Oregon Institute of Technology (OIT), I am also responsible for establishing a recruiting program for the Department. I taught a course on plane surveying to high school students one term, and the teacher was very excited about learning more so that he could continue with GPS and GIS and quadrangle maps and hand compasses. That got me to thinking. I liked this idea of having teachers spread the word of our profession, and what better way than to teach them the basics and let them instruct their students.

I wondered what other forms of recruitment of students could be implemented. The Land Surveyors Association of Washington (LSAW) has for a number of years sponsored K-12 teachers travel to New York State for a week-long course, then titled the Conference on Remote Sensing Education (CORSE). Attendance was limited to what the LSAW budget could afford, usually four or five teachers a year, and the costs were continuing to rise.

I like a good challenge, so at an LSAW Board of Trustees meeting, I volunteered to look into establishing the same course on the West Coast, preferably at OIT. I contacted Amy Work, the CORSE program coordinator at the Institute for the Application of Geospatial Technology (IAGT) and was able to obtain a license through them to reproduce it locally. At about the same time, IAGT was looking to change the name of the course. Amy and I discussed this and Teaching with Spatial Technology (TwiST) was born.

After an attempt to host the program at OIT in Klamath Falls, with lower than expected enrollment, I decided to move the course to Chemeketa Community College in Salem. This was much more central to many of the attendees and it proved to be, with twenty-three teachers and one other guy enrolling in the inaugural course. That "other guy" is Vic Banks–a mostly retired surveyor from Washington that LSAW has employed to be their outreach coordinator–and what a job he accomplished through his outreach efforts.

Vic cajoled and twisted arms and talked and discussed the merits of the course until he had fifteen teachers signed up. LSAW had previously voted to fund the registration and travel costs for these teachers, making it a great deal for them. Vic worked closely with Gary Anderson, his counterpart at the Professional Land Surveyors of Oregon (PLSO), who was able to get six Oregon teachers signed up, one of them being Vic’s sister. The last two teachers were from California, and were set to go to New York, but Amy steered them to the course at Chemeketa Community College.

Perfect weather crowned the last week of June, and because the college was between terms, our use of the facilities was unimpeded. The beautiful campus is on the east side of Salem, right off the I-5 corridor, and about a mile south of the 45th Parallel. The school provided excellent meeting and computer facilities, good food services, and pleasant lawns and open areas suitable for GPS and other fieldoriented exercises.

While a week-long course might seem to offer plenty of time to cover a myriad of subjects, after a few planning sessions, it was decided that a concentrated effort on using GPS and GIS would be the focus of the course. Thrown in for good measure was a half day session titled "No Batteries Required," where the use of quadrangle maps, scales, hand compasses, and pacing were taught to the teachers. Based on all of the feedback received, this mixture was a hit with them.

A couple of weeks prior to the course, ESRI announced it would provide ArcGIS software to the attendees if they would receive the standard 16-hour Intro to ArcGIS I course. The GIS Manuals had to be purchased and thanks to the PLSO Board, a donation was received from them to support this purchase. The teachers left the Intro to ArcGIS I course with their certificates in hand, something they did not think was attainable when they first arrived.

To make the GIS training and exercise meaningful to the teachers, it was decided to have them work on a final project that they each were familiar with: their own school campuses. Digital data was individually provided and their continued interest really perked when they had to create a GIS for their school and query certain aspects of it. This was learning at its best, and I am sure will be carried forth to their students.

Another tool that was put into the hands of these "recruiters" was a Garmin GPSMap76 GPS unit. This model was selected for its ease of use for first-time users and capability to link to a computer for the transfer of data. Plenty of that was done during the course. The "number one" item they learned when using a GPS unit was about datums and the importance of utilizing the correct one. They were tested on this by scaling the latitude and longitude of a corner of one of the buildings on campus from the quadrangle map and then going outside to see how close they had scaled the point. There were many surprised yet enlightened teachers when they realized there is a difference between NAD 27 and WGS 84.

Being flexible while teaching is critical, and it smacked us right in the face during this inaugural course. After the first GPS session, both in the classroom and then in the field, it became obvious that the teachers were struggling with the use of this technology. Rather than push forward with the pre-planned schedule, a change-order was instituted and another GPS field exercise was completed where many questions were answered. The teachers, who all had been through many continuing education sessions, were most appreciative of this change.

So, what did the teachers think of the course? The almost unanimous comment was, "It was overwhelming– thank you! Most teachers’ workshops are extremely boring!" This was an exciting, vibrant, profitable, and educational workshop. It is planned to be an annual offering.

As for the benefit to the surveying profession, what started here was a snowball effect. All of the teachers now are conduits into their schools for our visitation program. All of the teachers are now voices promoting surveying and mapping as a career. All of the teachers are now able to direct students to surveying and technology colleges. Most important, all of the teachers will pass the word to their fellow teachers, that we surveyors are ready and willing to assist in teaching with spatial technology.

Of course, this training would not have been possible without the excellent support and instruction from two of my colleagues at OIT. Dr. John Ritter is a Professor in the Department of Natural Sciences, OIT and also an ESRI-authorized instructor. Mr. Mason Marker, PLS, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geomatics at OIT. I am indebted to you for your efforts with TwiST.

Tim Kent is an Assistant Professor of Geomatics at Oregon Institute of Technology in Klamath Falls. He’s also a licensed land surveyor who worked for the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management for nearly 40 years before joining the OIT faculty in 2005. Tim is a member of PLSO and LSAW and is currently the Area 10 Director for the National Society of Professional Surveyors. 

A 1.838Mb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE