GIS Education Helps Prepare Students for High-Tech Careers

Hawaii Adds ESRI’s K–12 Statewide GIS Software License to Existing Higher Education Agreement

Redlands, California—April 28, 2009—With the signing of its K–12 statewide software license, Hawaii becomes the first state in the nation with a comprehensive set of license agreements that offers students in elementary and secondary schools, as well as those in colleges and universities, the opportunity to use the full complement of ESRI’s geographic information system (GIS) software products.  State officials are enthusiastic about the potential for job creation through a greater emphasis on spatial literacy in the educational system.

"It’s great to hear that GIS software will now be universally available throughout our school system, from K–12 on through to the college level," said Abbey S. Mayer, director of the State of Hawaii Office of Planning. "This underscores the recognition among our educators that understanding the value of location and being able to analyze spatial relationships are advanced skills that will enhance the quality of our education system and better prepare our graduates for high-tech job opportunities. This breakthrough will greatly contribute to one of our state’s strategic objectives: develop a workforce with the skills required for an innovation-driven, globally competitive economy."

Added Salim Mohammed, maps/GIS librarian at the University of Hawaii, "Spatial literacy is becoming more and more important. Most academic disciplines at the college and graduate levels are now incorporating geographic information systems  in some form or another. Access for K–12 students to GIS software is a step in the right direction. Students who are exposed to GIS are likely to be more successful in their academic paths. This site license provides an opportunity for K-12 teachers to incorporate GIS into their classes with localized examples and to help their students explore geographic regions outside Hawaii.

According to Charlie Fitzpatrick, K–12 education manager at ESRI, "Because all the schools in Hawaii have access to the software, they can collaborate on projects, share data, exchange project files, and so on, once their schools have implemented GIS."

One bonus is that the Hawaii Department of Education (DoE), which has been using GIS for administrative purposes for the past five years, can now install and use ESRI software on any number of instructional and administrative computers. Any school in the state will be able to do facilities management, safety planning, demographic analysis, and more.

The Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB) is another strong advocate of the statewide licenses for GIS education and encouraged the DoE to expand its licensing agreements with ESRI. Isla Young, program manager for the Women in Technology program, said, "The MEDB’s Women in Technology program is so excited to partner with Hawaii’s Department of Education to provide GIS throughout the state. We truly value our STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics] Education Coalition partners and know that providing this cutting-edge tool is one of the keys to our local students developing skills for high-tech careers. We are very proud to be the first state in the nation with the full range of ESRI’s geospatial tools available throughout our K–20 educational system."

Some schools have already included GIS instruction in their curricula, and the new licensing agreement will expand the opportunity for GIS project collaboration among students throughout the islands. For example, the nationwide Environmental and Spatial Technologies (EAST) Initiative has supported technology-based projects, including GIS in Hawaii, for several years. Maui High School graduate Jacob Davis used the experience he gained in EAST for his successful application for an internship at the Pacific Disaster Center, where he continued to develop his GIS skills. In the opening Plenary Session of the 2007 ESRI International User Conference, Shanoa Miller, another EAST student and graduate of King Kekaulike High School on Maui, showed thousands of GIS professionals how she used GIS to study invasive ant species and track a banana tree virus.

Concluded Barbara Gibson, director of the Ka’Imi’Ike program, University of Hawaii, "Affording Hawaii’s K–12 students the opportunity to learn and use GIS in their schools is a tremendous step from a higher education standpoint. Not only does it give K–12 students greater exposure to cutting-edge technology, it provides them with an early base of spatial thinking skills, as well as knowledge of college majors and career possibilities they may never have considered before. All these will be beneficial as they enter college and the workforce."

About ESRI
Since 1969, ESRI has been giving customers around the world the power to think and plan geographically. The market leader in GIS, ESRI software is used in more than 300,000 organizations worldwide including each of the 200 largest cities in the United States, most national governments, more than two-thirds of Fortune 500 companies, and more than 7,000 colleges and universities. ESRI applications, running on more than one million desktops and thousands of Web and enterprise servers, provide the backbone for the world’s mapping and spatial analysis. ESRI is the only vendor that provides complete technical solutions for desktop, mobile, server, and Internet platforms. Visit us at