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Thread: GIS: can I realistically teach myself?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian planr's avatar
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    GIS: can I realistically teach myself?

    And if you think the answer is yes, where do I start?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Flying Monkeys's avatar
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    Yes you can. It is my belief that persons with the passion to pick something up and at least learn the fundamentals themselves usually do better than most. A lot of the novice classes blow time on things like, 'here is the file menu, go to the create new file....' type exercises.

    First you need access to the program and the time to play. Second, get a good step-by-step type book; there are plenty for GIS. And once you get going, check your local college/Jr. college, almost all offer some type of GIS class. This is more to get confidence with an assignment.

    This is my take, I am sure others will have more. And remember, nothing worth your time was ever to easy.
    What’s in a name? – Your reputation….:)

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Moderator note:
    Moved to the Information Technology subforum, since the topic isn't specifically related to transportation planning. Carry on.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    Yes you can, I have. th eonly issue will be when you speak to "pros" they will look at you funny if you don't know teh lingo, even though you may know teh concepts and actions better than they do.

    Things to remember

    1) Key columns are your friend inb datasets, try to figure out how you can link multiple data sources through a common key - aka relational datasets

    2) Layers/feature codes are your friend - keep them simple and titled accordingly.
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  5. #5
    Where I work, there are a number of people with access to GIS but absolutely no idea how to use it or what they can do with it. They went through the basic intro classes offered by ESRI (software provider). But that will not teach you to use it. As with any software, you need to be constantly using it to really learn it. From my own personal experience, it is hard to really grasp new software "on the side" if you are not constantly using it. I tried this with CAD and had difficulty because I wasn't really using it for "real" purposes. If you can use GIS for some real work related activity then I would say that would help.

    It becomes more difficult with GIS because you also need data to play around with. There are a number of free sources out there on the internet if you don't have "real" data of your own. If you have access to data, then you can really explore the different types of analyses you can perform. I am assuming you are looking for a basic understanding (i.e., making a map to display data). I think that you could teach yourself. But again, the more you use it the better.
    In the beginning there was nothing...then Chuck Norris Roundhouse kicked that nothing in the face and said "Get a job". That is the story of the universe.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian cch's avatar
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    My husband basically learned GIS on his own, enough to perform his job as an engineering technician for a city public work's department. They hired him cause he knew CAD, but once he got there they expected him to use ArcGIS all the time. He read some of my old textbooks, played with the program, went to a couple ESRI training sessions, and ended up being the best GIS person in his department. He was even able to get a new job where his title is GIS Operator. He knows way more about GIS than I do now, even though I've been using it here and there for several years. Now he's decided to make it official and he's started working on his GIS Certificate, but so far it has been a breeze for him.

    I have to say, he is a bit of a computer nerd, so that probably helped him.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    If you want to be good at GIS, first learn how to make a good map. The weakness with GIS training is that they teach you commands. They do not teach you how to use a map to communicate. If you can produce a good map, you can learn GIS on your own, and you will be good at it.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

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    Cyburbian Queen B's avatar
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    YES YOU CAN!!!

    The only class I have ever taken was a two day intro class. Which really just tells you where the buttons are. The rest of it is merely having access and a passion to learn it..

    The passion is hard to explain. We also have a couple of people with license sitting there and no clue or will to open it and use it.. Mine is open all the time and I use it constantly and still get lost trying to find stuff.

    You can geta 30 day trial from ESRI.
    Here is a linky to a ton of Kansas data to play in. http://www.kansasgis.org/
    PM me if I can answer any other questions.
    It is all a matter of perspective!!!

  9. #9
    Cyburbian planr's avatar
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    Thanks for the info thus far! I have access to the entire ArcGIS 9.1 suite on campus. Is there a certain text I should pick up from the library/bookstore or a decent online tutorial you would recommend outside of ESRI?

    I would likely also need data to work with (thanks QUEEN B), so if anyone has some input there, I would really appreciate it as well

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Big Owl's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal View post
    If you want to be good at GIS, first learn how to make a good map. The weakness with GIS training is that they teach you commands. They do not teach you how to use a map to communicate. If you can produce a good map, you can learn GIS on your own, and you will be good at it.
    Amen....

    GIS will allow you to make a map... but some cartography skills will help turn the map from just a map to a good map.

    I sugest that you pick up a good intro to cartography book and expose your selfs to the basics. Also look through the esri map books look to see what works and doesn't work.

  11. #11
    Making a good map is an accomplishment, but there are a lot of other simple map-making softwares out there.

    The real power of GIS is in combining disparate data sets to analyze things and make decisions from the data.

    So, I would suggest picking a task that you know GIS can help you with, and learn how to perform that one task.

    Pick something that's very painful to do without the GIS tool. That way, no matter how painful the GIS might seem, you know it's an even more awful task to do "by hand" the old way.

    Have someone help you get started by setting up the datasets & layers. But you should not lean on that person to perform the analysis or task.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian jread's avatar
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    A blind monkey can learn how to use GIS software as far as creating simple datasets, plotting maps, etc. You will have no trouble at all with this. Just start playing with the software and learning how it works.

    It gets more complicated when you get into heavy analysis, etc. I also think that anyone wanting to go far in the field needs a very strong technical background (database management, programming, etc.) as GIS is very much an IT field.
    "I don't suffer from insanity... I enjoy every single minute of it!"

  13. #13

    Gis

    I am taking an online class (no credit - like an audit) and it has been a great help. We go to class once per month and get all our assignments on-line (Temple College at Temple TX) We have a great text also, called GIS for the Urban Environment, and some have said it is the best they have seen for applying GIS to City applications.

    I think it would benefit you just to buy this book (pricey at $79 from ESRI but Amazom has it for around $50) and do the exercises in it.........

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Flying Monkeys's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jread View post
    A blind monkey can learn how to use GIS software
    A blind monkey !! Why would a blind monkey use GIS ! I can just imagine him trying to find the keyboad and mouse...then what would he do with the output ! He can't see it.....

    Just monkeying around...


    P.S. Another good book is the 'Getting to Know ArcGIS', I think it is by ESRI also.
    What’s in a name? – Your reputation….:)

  15. #15
    Suspended Bad Email Address teshadoh's avatar
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    My biggest recommendation - learn GIS by using it for a specific task. You can take classes of all types, but unless you know what you're going to use GIS for - it will be a waste of time.
    Pudding will not fill the emptiness inside me... but it will help.

  16. #16
    Quote Originally posted by jread View post
    A blind monkey can learn how to use GIS software as far as creating simple datasets, plotting maps, etc. You will have no trouble at all with this. Just start playing with the software and learning how it works.
    I wouldn't go that far. The problem I see with people that want to get into using GIS is that they think it is simply for making pretty maps, which you can do. What most people don't understand is underlying data management. I guess it depends on the particular situation. If you are given the data in a nice orderly fashion then yes, creating a map is easy. However, in many cases you have to assemble the data, clean it up, and organize to best suit your needs. Again, like I said before, repetition is the key. The more you use it the better you will become. And one thing to keep in mind with GIS- there is always more than one way to do something
    In the beginning there was nothing...then Chuck Norris Roundhouse kicked that nothing in the face and said "Get a job". That is the story of the universe.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian planr's avatar
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    thanks for the replies

  18. #18
    Cyburbian
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    I taught myself ArcView 3.2 and then moved later on to teaching myself ArcGIS 8.1 and later on to ArcGIS 9. I pretty much fooled around on the software (ArcMap, Toolbox, Editor, etc), and it was all pretty simple. I was even able to get several internships using both ESRI and non-ESRI software, went to a few GIS conferences, etc. I don't use it that much in my current job, and I'm really okay with that I like the software in how it helps determine relationships between different data which helps me on the analysis side. But not planning on returning to a job as a GIS technician anytime soon.

    Being more design oriented, I prefer using AutoCAD (again, AutoCAD, not CADD, not Microstation, but Autodesk software). To be proficient in that program, you really have to know cad commands and programming, lsp commands, express tools, etc. I used CAD for several years, but it was really a crash course when I started work at my current job, and took me several months to master. Unless I write the stuff down, I think I would forget alot of it. I havent taken a CAD course since high school and that was done on a green screen back in the mid 90's. I wouldn't know what the quality of CAD courses are today.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian tsc's avatar
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    I have been using GIS for almost 20 years. I find people with good computer skills can easily learn GIS. And I agree totally with prior posts... creating a great map requires good graphic skills. The autoformatting and labeling is not usually the way to go. Also, using the analysis end of gis is another issue. I would take some of the online courses that are free at ESRI. They give you a good start.
    "Yeehaw!" is not a foreign policy

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  20. #20
    Cyburbian jread's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by WouldBePlanner View post
    I wouldn't go that far. The problem I see with people that want to get into using GIS is that they think it is simply for making pretty maps, which you can do. What most people don't understand is underlying data management.
    True, but they don't always have to understand it. As you said, it just depends on what you're doing. If you're a data-entry monkey (as is the GIS Technician title), then you don't have to know a whole lot to get your job done. I've worked in the field for 10-years and have found that there are two types of GIS workers: those who know absolutely nothing about it and only care to know what they need for their specific job, and those who have the interest and technical aptitude to really see what all they can do.

    Not to go off subject, but I have a serious problem with the GIS certificates/degrees as they are today. I have yet to find one that actually incorporates the relevant computer science and IT concepts that are vital to a successful GIS.
    "I don't suffer from insanity... I enjoy every single minute of it!"

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