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Jonathan Brown: December’s GIS Ambassador

Jonathan Brown is a retired community educator who’s December’s GIS Ambassador. Find out how he’s been using his professional knowledge and his networking skills to support teachers and students in learning about GIS.

Jonathan Brown is this month’s GIS Ambassador. He’s a retired educator who’s been involved in events and class visits in support of geographic information systems (GIS) and open data in Ontario.

Jonathan has worked in education for over 20 years. First as an adult, alternative education teacher and eLearning coordinator for the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board (KPRDSB) in Peterborough, Ontario from 1992 to 2000. He then joined the Ontario Ministry of Education in the fall of 2000 as the Project Field Coordinator for the rollout of the Ontario Education Number, then as Student Achievement Officer for the Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat. His last role before retirement was at the Ontario Public Service where he was an Education Officer with the Student Success Policy Branch from 2006 to 2016.

As a self-proclaimed lifelong learner, Jonathan “stumbled into GIS while exploring the impact of artificial intelligence, big data, machine learning on sustainable development.” Jonathan decided to join GoGeomatics in Peterborough, Ontario to network with other professionals and to find opportunities to get involved in GIS education.  

It was at a GoGeomatics meetup where he met Jennifer Rolph, a local GIS professional. They worked together on a GIS Day activity with a grade 11 computer engineering class from St Mary’s High School in Cobourg, Ontario. Jennifer created a survey using Survey123 that allowed students to collect tree data on their school property with their mobile devices. When the data collection was completed, the students analyzed the data using the heat map option in the Map Viewer in ArcGIS Online. They were able to view the distribution of trees by species type.

GIS Day 2018 - Jonathan working with grade 11 students from St Mary’s High School in Cobourg, Ontario.

In the last two years, Jonathan has attended international and local open data conferences in hopes of learning more about the topic and to find ways he can support data use in education. He was impressed by the way open data and digital mapping tools can be used to support real world problem solving. At the conferences, he really enjoyed hearing about grassroots organizations who use open data and mapping to enhance civic engagement. Jonathan understands there is a lot of data available at our finger tips and through analysis using spatial technology, it can help us solve complex issues in our world.

Discovering the possibilities with open data, Jonathan has been getting involved in projects close to home. He was involved in the inaugural Durham Region Mapathon in May, where high school students from KPRDSB used open data and online mapping to explore a topic important to everyone, such as the availability of free Wi-Fi and study spaces, and food sources in the Durham Region. One group focused on the mapping of banks, automated teller machines (ATM) and pay day loan in Bowmanville and Oshawa, where they analyzed the location of these financial services and the demographic data tied to social economic factors in these areas. The learning process for students included what information they require, accessing the data, analyzing the data, considering other data that could be included and then compiling the findings.

In early November, Jonathan met Debbie Verduga, a Crime Analyst and fellow GIS Ambassador at the Canadian Open Data Summit. She was presenting on the Toronto Public Safety Data Portal – an open data site that allows you to download data on Toronto crime statistics. After the session, Jonathan approached Debbie to discuss getting support in developing an app for an upcoming workshop he had at The Ontario Association of Adult and Continuing Education School Board Administrators (CESBA) conference about “using Survey 123 and story maps to make connections between students’ learning experience and their community. The students would learn how they can access open data to find programs and services in the community and conduct spatial analysis, as a way of supporting their education/career life planning at school and beyond.” A few weeks later, Debbie created The School Program Information Collector app that’s intended to demonstrate how to use the Ontario Ministry of Education’s school information and student performance open data to crowdsource and map additional local information relevant to a particular school.

In the new year, Jonathan plans to continue attending more open data conferences and would like to organize a one-day workshop for teachers with Durham District School Board to apply lessons learned from the Durham Region’s Mapathon earlier this year.

It’s wonderful to know a GIS Ambassador like Jonathan, who has the ability to connect with others and find opportunities to promote GIS and open data. We look forward to supporting Jonathan in his future endeavours and hearing more about his projects.

Explore the following resources for getting started with GIS and open data:

About the Author

Angela Alexander is a K-12 Education Resource Developer on the Esri Canada Education and Research team. She has over six years of experience working with educators across Canada. Angela is responsible for producing geographic information system (GIS) and curriculum specific resources, conducting and creating custom workshops for educators and judging and developing the question for the annual GIS Skills Ontario competition in Waterloo, Ontario. Angela has a Bachelor’s degree in Geography and Sociology from the University of Western Ontario and completed the Applied Digital Geography and GIS certificate program at Ryerson University.

Profile Photo of Angela Alexander