Tag Archives: GPS
Earth Day invokes reflection. Earth Day #1 was 1970. Cars, computers, climate, education, population … much is different, some better, some more troubling. We dance along some very slippery slopes. We need more respect for our little spaceship and its layer upon layer of complex, interconnected, and powerful but by no means indestructible systems. Only education can save our planet, and education requires engagement. We can all live more sustainably. But educators bear extra responsibility, to involve youth in more activities embracing our world. Not through fragmenting knowledge but through integration … activities that engage youth with the richness of the planet, the wealth of subjects and senses, and the passion of a holistic experience.
It is easy to do, even with only a little bit of field data. Think about an activity you do, or what your students would like to do. Gather some data, take some photos, record the experience, construct a table, drop it on a map, and bring forth a simple story.
A simple video shows the process, from designing a table to moving data onto a map to saving and sharing the story. You will see how utterly simple it can be, and how engaging. (See the video via YouTube or DropBox.)
Try it. Better yet, share the video with kids and let them do it. Let them do projects that entice them to think holistically. We need young people to care enough about Earth to explore, learn, and make critical decisions, thinking holistically, not just about one single measure. Start small and build.
Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager
A number of educators in our community have long been using Geocaching to foster interest in fieldwork, to familiarize students with GPS and data collection devices, and simply to get students onto the landscape. Geocaching is the high-tech treasure hunt that challenges participants to find an object that people have placed on the ground or one that naturally exists on the ground using latitude and longitude coordinates. In education, I favor virtual geocaching such as Earthcaching to avoid placing objects on the ground and the associated risk of not having them available when I need them, and also to be more environmentally sensitive. I have created numerous geocaching courses over the years at schools, along riverbanks, in parks, and at educational conferences, many of which are on the ArcLessons library. Mine usually have a story woven through them, such as the Revolutionary War, “Aliens Land at City Park”, and “Then and Now: Historical and Current Transportation”. I think the geocaching movement has done wonders in getting people re-connected with nature, learn geography and technology, and is a fun way to get in some exercise.
The advent of ArcGIS Online brings a platform that is very useful for geocaching in a number of ways. First, you can use ArcGIS Online to plan your trip to existing geocaches, using the topographic and satellite image basemaps and the “measure point” function to pinpoint your desired destination.
Second, you can use it to lay out a course that you want others, such as your students or your colleagues to follow, as I have done at right, described in an ArcLesson and posted to ArcGIS Online as a map. I used the metadata page attached to the map to describe the course. By using the metadata page, the participants only have to go to the web map to get both the map and the course. The course includes 23 questions along with a final challenge in a story called “The Case of the Missing Map.” For example, question 13 is: Continue to 40.15436 north, 105.29686 west. What occurred on the slopes to the southwest in the past but its evidence can still be seen today? ___________.
Third, the ArcGIS Online app can be used on a smartphone to navigate to these points while out in the field.
Thus, ArcGIS Online extends the capabilities of geocaching, and any fieldwork. How might you use ArcGIS Online to enhance what you are doing in the field?
Now that it is easy to gather tracks and waypoints on a smartphone and map them in a GIS, it provides a good opportunity to remind students about the importance of being critical of and paying attention to data. I recently went on a walk around a local reservoir and used the Motion X GPS app on my iPhone to collect my track and a few waypoints. I emailed the data to myself and added the GPX file to ArcGIS Online so I could map and examine the track. I made my results public and made it visible below to feature some teachable moments.
Zoom in and examine my track and its attributes. How many times did I walk around the reservoir, and in what direction? What, then, is the line that extends from the reservoir 630 meters to the northwest? When I first turned on the smartphone and began my track, the GPS in the phone did not have enough information to plot my true position. Therefore, the positions plotted were nearby, but not exactly where I was walking until later. Examine the track and its attributes to determine how long I had been walking before the positions become accurate.
These “zingers” or inaccuracies often occur with tracks recorded on a smartphone, and on a standard GPS receiver as well. These results reinforce what we’ve long held as a “best practice”—to wait at your starting point as long as you can after starting your GPS or your Smartphone’s GPS app to ensure the most accurate positions possible on the data you will gather.
After the first 10 minutes, I was quite happy with the accuracy of Motion X GPS, within 1 to 2 meters as compared to the imagery in ArcGIS Online. Using ArcGIS Online you can clearly see each of my three laps around the reservoir. You can even see my attempt to write something in the parking lot using my smartphone using GPS drawing techniques, explained in this video I filmed. Although my letters should have been larger for increased clarity and avoid bumping up against the spatial accuracy of the GPS, I was still pleased with this portion of the experiment.
How might you use GPS apps on smartphones and ArcGIS Online to teach the principles and skills of accuracy, precision, GPS, and critical thinking?
-Joseph Kerski, Esri Education Manager
GPS devices and smartphone-based GPS apps are fun, often hugely powerful, and always great learning tools. There are challenges in an “urban canyon,” which can be seen in this little one-block hike. I opened a new map in ArcGIS Online, then dragged and dropped a GPX file onto the map. Bang, it draws! (I love that!)
I had strolled around one block, gathering data with my smartphone’s GPS app. Starting at the southeast corner, I traveled clockwise. The entire southern span has tall buildings on both sides, interfering with good signal, so, despite walking on the sidewalk, my track floats through buildings. Along the west, north, and east sides, tall buildings are only “inside” the loop. (You can even see where I crossed over to walk on the north side of the street.)
The highest elevation is the span along the west side and western half of the north side. The lowest portion is the entire east side of the loop. The south side and east half of the north side are sloped. Is there any way to see this? Yes, with a web app! After saving, I shared the map, and chose to create a web application using the GPX template.
Clicking on the template gives a nice “preview”. (An error window appeared but I just dismissed it.) The resulting app gives a time-based exploration of the route with elevation. Click the “play” button at the top. Also try hovering the mouse over the graph.
But was the southeast portion the highest? Remember that tall buildings cause signal problems. The west side — about 90 feet — was actually the highest.
Repeating this simple demo in a natural or urban canyon near you is a great way to see the need for caution around data, and the power of analysis for helping to assess trustworthiness. As we move into deeper and broader oceans of data (not just GPS), it is vital to understand how data were acquired and purposes for which they can be appropriately used.
- Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager
Visiting schools is a rush! Last week, I watched students in three schools in two states use geospatial technology. Without exception, the students were anxious to explore, diving headlong into the maps, comparing here to there. A few showed projects they had created in the last month. The catch? All these students were from grades 3-6 (age 8-12). I worked with the TravelWise program at two schools in Utah, and Waterville (WA) school’s “Literate About Biodiversity” program built in conjunction with NatureMapping.
I’m often asked “When can kids use GIS?” I’ve watched many young learners work with GIS tools and demonstrate more interest and intellectual capacity than shown by older learners. Working with ArcGIS Online and starting with a view of their immediate neighborhood, students in third grade have been able to point to parts of an image and translate them into elements and directions out the window. I’ve walked with third and even second graders as they held a GPS unit, told me how the devices record numbers, that these mean a specific place on earth that can be put on a map, and that they can then connect on the map things they see out in the field. I’ve watched as kids defined paths and measured distances, zoomed in and out for detail or context, and compared their paths with those of neighbors.
I’ve also watched learners in high school and beyond (including even teachers!) who were hard pressed to do the same. My view: “With an appropriate introduction to concepts and skills, learners of almost any age can use GIS in tasks that require spatial thinking and technological skill.” There may be a base of life experience and cognitive capacity required, and I’ve not spent as much time with second grade and younger, but third graders are definitely capable of doing serious tasks with GIS and GPS, grasping what they are doing, and articulating it.
So why are some older students and even teachers unable to do the same? Sadly, I suspect many have had their curiosity and creativity regulated into submission. Many of these older learners have been willing to follow prescribed steps to reach a supposed “correct response,” but, absent steps, were unable to generate a relevant question themselves or connect the exercise with any real meaning.
Of the many learning examples I get to watch, the most powerful emphasize personal interest. The best educators I watch are able to introduce topics and help students of all backgrounds see quickly how these relate to their lives. Then, students pursue short customized studies that build an expanding lattice of principles, facts, concepts, and skills with personal relevance. Students are encouraged to mix and match, stretch and discover, and even risk failure, as long as they keep looking.
Life doesn’t come with a handbook. Few jobs come with an absolute instruction set, finite facts to memorize, and no decisions to make. Few events in life require no grasp of relationships or capacity to note differences between things here and things over there. Kids need to build these frameworks, and can do so starting from a young age, with geotech. Young kids love critters, they understand the basics of their neighborhood, and they are naturally curious. As one of my mentors described it, “Educators need to reach in and grab students through their doors.” Young kids have substantial capacity for doing and learning; we plant the seeds of STEM early. If we can foster those, we will help the youth, our schools, our communities, and the planet alike, in the best way possible. But educators and — more important — the people who monitor and regulate them can also vaporize curiosity, creativity, and craftsmanship with frightening speed, if we let it happen.
- Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager
Geotagging, using pictures and other digital files to support student inquiry, fieldwork, and data analysis, can be a simple and fun ways to engage students in GIS and GPS. Student data, photos, and recorded audio can build on interactive basemaps and allow students to tell their own “geostories” about a place or phenomenon.
Ideal for earth and environmental science and geography teachers, this webinar will only use tools that are free and web-based, allowing educators to use tomorrow.
Join geotagging author and presenter, Dr. Tom Baker of the Esri Education Team as he shows “10 Tips for Easy GeoTagging in Any Classroom” on Wednesday, April 18, 2012 at 8pm Eastern / 7pm Central .
On a cool fall day in November, Mr. Smith’s middle school science students are running around the school and community collecting data about a tiny, non-descript organism called a lichen. Lichens are actually two symbiotic organisms, a fungus and usually algae that live on trees, rocks, or even just the ground. It turns out, that frequently, lichens exhibit damage patterns when exposed to certain negative atmospheric conditions in the local community.
For many geographers this story gets more interesting when they think about the geographic distribution of characteristic damage in lichens across a town. The geographic patterns can be quite blatant or muted, depending on a host of environmental and other variables.
Mr. Smith and his students have used desktop GIS and digital globes for years with varying degrees of success, while trying to map the students’ data. Recently, Mr. Smith started using the ArcGIS.com map viewer and was able to map the data during class – in front of his students. Not only does the class engage in the map-making process, the classification of data, and the spotting of outliers, but the class also discusses geographic patterns as they are unfolding in the dataset.
Whether you’re mapping lichens or any other community data your students collect, a number of resources are at your disposal:
As this Geography Awareness Weeks draws to a close, take a moment to talk with a teaching colleague and remind them how much geography is in so many classroom topics. Whether the discipline is biology or economics, math or language arts opportunities are all around for collaborating and promoting geography and GIS across the campus and around the community.
The adventure in your community continues!
- Tom Baker, Esri Education Manager
So many map, image, video, and data sources exist along with GIS tools these days that it is tempting to think we can “get by” without doing any fieldwork. Indeed, in these days of educational funding constraints when fieldwork involves high costs, permissions, and effort, these technological resources are extremely welcome and valued as virtual field trip substitutes. But are they truly substitutes?
We on the Esri education team work closely with the education community to promote active fieldwork. Our collaboration with National Geographic on the 2011 Geography Awareness Week promotion is just one example. We have collaborated with the American Geosciences Institute on Earth Science Week and with those promoting “No Child Left Inside” initiatives; we make use of the resources from the Place Based Education Initiative, and we promote the use of probes, GPS, and even smartphones to gather primary data to map and analyze within a GIS environment. Watch my video to examine why fieldwork is important. Even if you cannot get away from campus, you can still collect data right on your own school grounds. Dr Herb Broda’s book SchoolYard Enhanced Learning provides excellent ideas on how to do just that.
One activity out of many that incorporates these elements is entitled “Get Outside With GPS”, where I use key science, math, and geography content standards in a series of 22 questions to get students racing to see who can log the fastest speed with GPS, who can find virtual geocaches, who can most quickly calculate the Earth’s circumference, how long it would take to walk around the Earth from one’s current location, and calculating sunrise and sunset times based on the current latitude and time of year.
There is no shortage of things on which to collect data in your local community—pH and conductivity in streams and ponds, tree height and species, litter type and quantity, building age and condition, or something else. Create a spreadsheet in text, CSV, or XLS format and map it with ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Desktop. Hyperlink images, text, and videos that you create at each of these points, save your maps, share them, and analyze patterns. How does water quality compare between local streams and lakes? How does tree height and species vary across a mountainside? What is the distribution of litter or graffiti in your community? Equally important as the “what” and “how” questions are the “why” questions. The spatial perspective and GIS represent a powerful framework and toolkit in which to examine your local community through your own locally-collected data.
How can you incorporate fieldwork, spatial analysis, and GIS so that you are making every day of the year one of “Geography Awareness”?
- Joseph Kerski, Esri Education Manager
This past weekend, I joined 50,000 people in Denver and many more across the country who walked and ran for the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s “Race for the Cure” event to raise funds for bre ast cancer research. The Esri Denver team wore tie-dyed t-shirts sporting our name “Mapping for the Cure.” We were 21 people strong, raising over $1,100 and counting. More importantly, the Denver event raised over $3 million. About 3,000 of the marchers were cancer survivors. I was marching in memory of my friend, a teacher, who passed away a few years ago. I marched with her wonderful family and friends, so it was quite an emotional experience. As awareness and treatment improves, we have good reason for hope. However, as all of have been most likely impacted by someone with this disease, a great deal more needs to be done before it is eradicated.
I decided to map the route of the Race for the Cure using ArcGIS Online. ArcGIS Online provides an excellent means of telling a story through WebGIS maps. I took pictures and video on the 5 kilometer route, and I uploaded those pictures and videos to public websites, hyperlinking them to points that I created easily along the route. I added a few pieces of text describing what was happening at each stage of the route. If I wanted to, I could create a presentation using ArcGIS Explorer Online and tell my story using a series of interactive slides. The results of my map are shown here. See if you can find the loop we walked on that, from above, looks like the ribbon symbol that the Komen Foundation has made famous. We did “the wave” on this loop that you can see in the linked video, and felt solidarity and hope all along the route.
What story would you like to tell using ArcGIS Online?
- Joseph Kerski, Esri Education Manager.