“Please computer show me all features where…” I think this is the sweetest phrase in all of GIS. Why does GIS rock? Analysis! It’s technology’s marvelous ability to sift through a bunch of data, and show the answer to a compelling question. The user has to provide the data and craft a clear and meaningful question that the computer can answer. For an educator, this is magic! It is a wonderfully simple, clear, and potent demonstration of problem-solving. The guts of GIS is features and their attributes, but the brain of GIS is analysis.
The latest upgrade to ArcGIS Online now makes it easy to see and practice analysis, allowing educators to build problem-solving skills from even a young age. Any feature service can now display a table of attributes, where users can sort and select and see relationships even more clearly. And properly formatted data can be filtered with queries, sifting out features that meet specific criteria.
To demo, I downloaded some data about US states – four years of 8th grade math scores in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test. In Excel, I collected summary scores from 2011, 2009, 2007, and 2005, and calculated the difference between 2005 and 2011. (For such a demo, I could have used as few as three features and three attributes, but making it realistic adds power.) I used Esri Maps for Office to convert the spreadsheet into a map layer, and then shared that layer through my ArcGIS Online organization.
Back in a classroom, students on computers or iPads could practice analysis, using the map, table, and filter tools! This is a fabulous workflow for educators – build a simple data set, publish it to ArcGIS Online, let your students bang away on it! In addition to the classification and symbolization that is a hallmark of GIS, now students can explore that table and select features of special interest.
Students can then filter out according to carefully crafted criteria, with simple queries about a single thing to very complex and even parameterized queries! And users don’t even need to be signed in if the data is shared with the public! This is awesome!
Education policy leaders are yearning for analytical thinking. Employers seek workers who can analyze information. The new geography standards and next generation science standards both call for students to demonstrate analysis. The Common Core State Standards call for analysis. STEM fields require constant analysis. This is why I’m so excited about the powerful combination of ArcGIS Online as a critical thinking arena, especially when used in conjunction with Esri Maps for Office. Opportunities for students to build analytical power are endless!
- Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager