An Easy Pathway to Create Storymaps

Creating storymaps has never been easier.  One of my favorite methods is one I use in creating “map tour” storymaps, involving smartphones and geotagged photographs.  For example, I recently created a story map during my visit to Whitworth University.  The procedures I used adhered to those I describe in my essay entitled “The 15 Minute Story Map.”  As the name implies, I created a storymap in 15 minutes with my smartphone and the Esri story maps platform.  I created it to encourage faculty I met with there, and ultimately, their students, to create storymaps on even more compelling topics than the simple campus tour that I created.  They could do the same for a field trip to a meadow of trees killed by invasive species, or a neighborhood undergoing rapid social and demographic changes, or a river where they are measuring water quality, or other topics local to global.

My workflow to create these types of maps is as follows:

1.  Record Day 1 track on phone. I used a fitness app (Runkeeper) but you could use MotionX GPS or many other apps.  The app you choose needs to be able to export your track as a GPX file.
2.  Take photographs with smartphone with location services turned on.
3.  Email photographs to Picasaweb/Google Plus into a folder named “Whitworth University”.   This is a folder I set up in advance.  The time saving innovation here is that the photographs sent with “Whitworth University” in the subject line automatically are placed into a folder with the same name on Google Plus.  This makes it easy to point to that folder when creating a storymap and access all of the photographs at once.
4.  Send campus video to YouTube.
5.  Create storymap using Map Tour template.  Save and share your map.  At this point, you’re really done, but the additional steps below are enhancements I made to the original storymap.
6.  Add Day 1 track to the ArcGIS Online map as a GPX file from my smartphone.  This ArcGIS Online map is the map that is driving your storymap web application.  It is visible in the “My Content” area of ArcGIS Online.
7.  Trace Day 2 track onto the ArcGIS Online map.  I did this to demonstrate a different way of adding your route; here, simply by tracing on the map, rather than uploading it from a smartphone.
8.  Add Day 2 photographs to the existing Storymap.  I did this to demonstrate that you can add content to an existing storymap just as easily as creating one from scratch.
9.  Edit the photo captions.  This literally is the most time consuming step but is an important part of the story.
10.  Save your map changes and make sure you are still sharing your map.

Some additional details that might be helpful include:  After recording the Day 1 track, I uploaded it to my ArcGIS Online web map as a GPX file simply with the “add layer from file”, where my file on my computer was my GPX file that I had saved onto my local computer.  Note that when I was inside the HUB building, the app lost GPS signal, resulting in a few spikes that are evident on the map.  I left them in the map, rather than editing them out, as a springboard to a discussion about spatial accuracy and triangulation from GPS, cell towers, and Wi-Fi hotspots.  My Day 2 track was traced onto ArcGIS Online map and saved as Map Notes.

A few of my photos, especially those taken inside buildings, were auto-placed a few hundred meters off of their true location.  Therefore, I manually relocated these, which is another feature of the storymap template.  The rest were already within 1 to 2 meters of their true location, so I left them as they were.  But the accuracy of geolocation is another great learning moment when your students are creating their storymaps.  You will note that one of the locations is not a photograph at all, but a video, which is easy to insert into your storymap.

For more details on how I created this, see the playlist of videos I created here.

Storymap of Whitworth University campus

Storymap of Whitworth University campus.

Joseph Kerski

About Joseph Kerski

Joseph Kerski is a geographer who believes that spatial analysis through digital mapping can transform education and society through better decision-making using the geographic perspective. He serves on the Esri education team and is active in GIS communication and outreach, creates GIS-based curriculum, conducts research in the effectiveness of GIS in education, teaches online and face-to-face courses on spatial thinking and analysis, and fosters partnerships to support GIS in formal and informal education at all levels, internationally. He is the co-author of Spatial Mathematics, The Essentials of the Environment, The GIS Guide to Public Domain Data, and other books. Follow him on Twitter @josephkerski
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