2 years, 2,895 miles, 4,659 km, 5,790,000 steps

When beginning work on a chapter about geotechnologies for an upcoming book entitled Practical Sports CoachingI began testing smartphone fitness apps.  Upon the recommendation of my co-author Jill Clark, I started using Runkeeper.  Now two years later, I have walked the distance across the North American continent.  While this distance is nothing to what my lifelong walking and running colleagues have accomplished, it touches on several aspects of geotechnology that we frequently write about here and elsewhere.

First, this provides a good illustration of the added value that mapping lends to understanding something.  Like other fitness apps, Runkeeper keeps track of your activities in a variety of graphs and maps, as shown below.

One of the reports from Runkeeper

One of the reports from the Runkeeper fitness app.

However, mapping brings added value and understanding.  I loaded a week’s worth of walks into ArcGIS Online by loading the routes from Runkeeper as GPX files, and symbolized each by the day the walks were taken, shown in the above link and in the image below.  Using the same technique, you and your students could map the locations of your fieldwork, and so much more.

My walks in Redlands during the week of our teacher professional development institutes.

My walks in Redlands during the week of our teacher professional development institutes mapped in ArcGIS Online.

Second, how are these reports and maps possible?  Runkeeper, like so many other apps nowadays, make use of location based services and GPS, and are part of the “Internet of Things” – the geoenabling and monitoring of everyday devices.  My colleague Jill Clark and I frequently write about this on Spatial Reserves, our blog about geospatial data and the implications surrounding that data.

Third, the videos I have made from these walks reflect a great variety of climate, landforms, landscapes, ecoregions, “walkability” of cities (or the difficulty thereof!), weather, seasons, and much more, which might be useful in physical and cultural geography courses.  These include walking in the desert to a saguaro to the rainforests of Costa Rica, through leaves and on land that had been burned, across the Golden Gate Bridge, through a snowy field in Kansas, the forest in Oregon, on a ridge in the chaparral biome, on cobblestones in Belgium, through a cornfield in Wisconsin, on the busy streets of Taipei, and elsewhere. I also have walked in what may be the strangest place of all, near the rental car complex at DFW airport.  As long as my knees hold out, I intend to keep walking!  It is a great form of fieldwork that allows geographers, and others, to really observe what is below, around, and above us.

What privacy implications do the geoenabling of everyday devices have?  What societal benefits does the geoenabling of devices and cloud-based GIS bring to society?

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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