Spencer Elford is a 4th year undergraduate student from the School of Geography and Earth Sciences at McMaster University. You can follow Spencer on Twitter @SpencerElford.

The late fall and winter season was an incredibly busy time for me both inside and outside the classroom. Despite the unnaturally warm December temperatures and the stark lack of snow cover, the holiday season was in full effect. However, to the dismay of many a university student, this wonderful time of year also coincides with final examinations. As such, I found myself drawn away from my blog and towards the textbooks and notes found on my desk and study. Now with a new term beginning, I have the chance to reflect on the experiences and activities that capped off my 2015.

November 30th saw me make my way to Toronto for the Esri Canada GIS in Education and Research Conference. The conference began with Dr. Michael Goodchild (a former Mac grad!), offering a very interesting presentation regarding the current challenges faced in GIS education. His thoughts on the importance of geographic literacy in society I found to be especially thought-provoking. The morning session presented the opportunity to view research paper presentations. This proved exciting as in addition to the numerous presentations by students from across Canada, here was my first opportunity to support my own Mac colleagues during presentations of their own research. While there were many speakers presenting simultaneously, I made sure to attend as many as I was able.

Spencer Elford attending the GIS in Education and Research Conference.

In the afternoon, I was fortunate enough to register for a technical workshop focused on using the Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS to design and construct useful Web apps. This was an excellent introduction to using JavaScript and HTML in GIS app development taught by Krista Amolins from the Education and Research group at Esri Canada. I look forward to building on these skills in the coming months, particularly in preparation for this year’s ECCE App Challenge. As the day wound down, I had the opportunity to introduce myself to Dr. Brent Hall, the Director of Education and Research at Esri Canada (and another Mac graduate!). With the conference now long past, I can confidently say the experience was incredibly valuable, and I look forward to attending several conferences in 2016!

In early December, I participated in GIS Day 2015 at Mac, assisting in an introductory lesson on online Web mapping. GIS Day allowed me to share my experience in GIS with geography students from two local high schools. This gave me the opportunity to speak with students about their own aspirations and goals pertaining to geography and GIS, and it was enjoyable to hear the plans of each student I chatted with. Additionally, I had the opportunity to speak with Jasmine Sohal from Esri Canada (yet another Mac graduate!) who was there to help with the event, who offered some guidance in completing some of my own goals beyond my undergraduate education. I had a great time meeting everyone on GIS Day, and I found it quite enjoyable to speak with younger students just beginning their geography and GIS journeys.

With 2016 just beginning, I look forward to continuing my work in the new year with a course in Advanced Raster GIS taught by Patrick DeLuca, the ECCE App Challenge in late February, and the Esri Developer Summit in March. I am excited to see what the new year has to offer!