Tag Archives: Out And About
Each year, Esri has a major presence at the AAG annual meeting. We firmly believe in the power of geographic thinking and applications, and many of us were trained as geographers. It is one of our favorite networking times of the year.
Stop by the Esri exhibit and meet one-on-one with Esri staff. We’ll have presentations highlighting new technologies (schedule here) and Office Hours where you can talk in-depth with staff from the Esri Software Development, Professional Services, and Educational Program teams. We’re ready to roll up our sleeves and dig into your toughest technical questions or talk through project ideas.
Have you always wanted to visit the Esri campus? Your chance is on Tuesday afternoon on a field trip. We will also be sponsoring numerous workshops, including map design with ArcGIS Online, creating surfaces and interpolation in ArcGIS, modeling spatial relationships using regression analysis, teaching ArcGIS Server using Amazon EC2, and Preparing Geography Students for the 21st Century workforce (joint workshop with AAG). These and other field trips and workshops are described here.
Many Esri staff are presenting in paper sessions and panels. Esri President Jack Dangermond will discuss the impact of the mobile web for making maps and GIS available anytime, anywhere, on any device and the opportunities that provides for improved understanding of our world in a lunchtime Plenary Session on Wednesday. And Esri Education Director David DiBiase is chair and organizer of “Spatial Thinking Across the College Curriculum” (session 4407), which explores the importance of spatiality as a unifier of academic disciplines and considers how a curriculum in spatial thinking can best be implemented at the college level. In all, Esri staff will be involved in dozens of sessions and workshops – too many to list here!
We look forward to seeing you in Los Angeles!
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?
I recently gave presentations at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee for GIS Day, and took the opportunity, as most geographers would, to get out onto the landscape. I walked on the Lake Michigan pier at Manitowoc, enjoying a stroll in the brisk wind to and from the lighthouse there, recording my track on my smartphone in an application called Runkeeper. When my track had finished and been mapped, it appeared as though I had been walking on the water!
Map of my walk from Runkeeper.com.
Photograph of my destination: The lighthouse at the North Pier, Manitowoc, Wisconsin.
According to my map, I walked on water. Funny, but I don’t recall even getting wet! It all comes down to paying close attention to your data, and knowing its sources. Showing these images provides a teachable moment in a larger discussion on the importance of scale and resolution in any project involving maps or GIS. In my case, even if I scrolled in to a larger scale, the pier did not appear on the Runkeeper’s application’s base map. It does, however, appear in the base map in ArcGIS Online. In the book that Jill Clark and I wrote entitled The GIS Guide to Public Domain Data, we discuss how scale and resolution can be conceptualized and put into practice in both the raster and vector worlds. We cite examples where neglecting these important concepts have led not only to bad decisions, but have cost people their property and even their lives. Today, while GIS tools allow us to instantly zoom to a large scale, the data being examined might have been collected at a much smaller scale. Much caution therefore needs to be used when making decisions when the analysis scale is larger than the collection scale.
What example have you used in class that well illustrates the importance of scale and resolution?
- Joseph Kerski, Esri Education Manager
I recently created a map in ArcGIS Online and a series of videos that shows the location of what may be the biggest city that never was: Cairo, Illinois. During the mid-1800s, many believed that this city, founded on the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, gateways to settlement of the central and western United States, could someday surpass Philadelphia or even New York City.
I created the map for several reasons. First, like many of you, I am fascinated by maps. Mapping is a natural way to tell a story, and Cairo has a very interesting story to tell. For several geographic reasons, Cairo not only didn’t live up to its expectations, and has been declining by 10% to 20% per decade for the past 70 years (2010 population, 2,831). While Cairo has a good situation on the point of land divided by the rivers, the site is flood-prone. In addition, the rise of St Louis upstream on the Mississippi River also posed challenges for Cairo. In fact, socioeconomically, Cairo remains one of the poorest communities in the region, which you can investigate for yourself by pulling up the “USA Demographics for Schools” layer in ArcGIS Online and investigating median income and median home value. It nevertheless has a fascinating and unique character steeped in history and geography.
The second reason I created the map was because ArcGIS Online allows for the easy integration of multimedia elements to tell a story. In my case, I created the map only after having the opportunity to visit Cairo this year en route to Murray State University, taking videos and photographs to be sure, but also getting a “sense of place” for Cairo. During my visit, my discovery of a tiny community just north of Cairo dubbing itself “Future City” seemed to fit perfectly with the above themes. At the river confluence, a weathered monument in the shape of Lewis and Clark’s boat the Merrimack standing in a rather forlorn state park seemed to reinforce the fact that this was the Biggest City That Never Was. The photographs and videos I took there were easily integrated into my ArcGIS Online map.
What important places on the landscape have you visited or read about, and how might you create stories about them using ArcGIS Online?
–Joseph Kerski, Esri Education Manager
Last week I had the opportunity to participate in BioBlitz 2012 at Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, USA. BioBlitz is a 10-year partnership between the US National Park Service and National Geographic with three goals: (1) Highlight the diversity of national parks by conducting a taxonomic inventory; (2) public outreach; (3) to inspire young people to pursue careers in science and geography. During one day, I went into the field to collect and categorize macroinvertebrates in a beautiful montane stream (shown here in ArcGIS Online) with 40 students aged 11 to 13.
After collecting the data over a period of five hours, the data was identified by the students according to a detailed classification chart.
The data was then input into a web-GIS called FieldScope, created by National Geographic and based on Esri technology, and viewable that same evening by anyone on the web.
It was wonderful to work with our partners at National Geographic and in particular, with students, and four things struck me through this event. First, it is important to get students into the field repeatedly, and at young ages, to provide rich experiences and a love for the outdoors and the environment. During the next day, I met environmental and youth advocate Juan Martinez, who had a powerful experience with an Eco Club in south Los Angeles that changed his life. I was impressed by the high quality and collaborative nature of the students’ work. They were interested not only in getting wet collecting data, but they were just as interested in classifying the data. In fact, they were so immersed that nobody happened to notice a bear about 100 meters away, documented by a photograph that another group showed our group later that day!
Second, powerful things can happen when students and professional scientists collaborate, as evident here and with such efforts as GeoMentor, GIS Corps, and Project Budburst. BioBlitz brought together hundreds of students, over 100 scientists, and thousands of the general public whose two days of data collection resulted in over 400 bird, fungi, macroinvertebrate, animal, and vascular plant species that had never been documented in this particular national park before. Third, the event reinforced the concepts that Jill Clark and I wrote about in the book The GIS Guide to Public Domain Data: As citizen science projects gain in popularity, enabled by powerful, easy-to-use web-GIS and field collection instruments, how can data collected by a wide variety of people be managed and cataloged that is useful and allows people to understand how that data was collected, categorized, and mapped?
What are some meaningful field experiences that you have had?
-Joseph Kerski, Esri Education Manager
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
Soccer fields and playgrounds provide some means of allowing youth to get outside. But, as Richard Louv so well stated in his book Last Child in the Woods, these adult-constructed environments are no substitutes for “wild places” – those places that are untouched or minimally touched by humans. “Wild places” could be a local ridge or hill, a stream or pond, or even a vacant lot.
For me growing up in western Colorado, I loved the riparian zones that were adjacent to local gullies, what the locals called “washes.” In this semiarid landscape, walking down into these riparian zones was like descending into another world. They were sometimes so much lower than the surrounding landscape that sharp cliffs in the shale enclosed them. A different and a greater abundance of vegetation added to their character—indeed, they were a mini-ecosystem, but to a child growing up, like a whole different world. They were filled with sage, willows, yucca, and tamarisk—some native species, some invasive, all fascinating and so different from the alfalfa, orchard fruit, and corn being grown in the fields above. Another adventure awaited every autumn after the irrigation canals were shut off and drained. All sorts of strange things that had been hidden all summer were now in view along the canal beds and underneath the bridges that spanned them. How our senses were awakened to every new sound, smell, and sight in these washes and dry canal beds.
Nowadays, we have a wide variety of electronic means at our disposal, from probes, GPS receivers, smartphones, to other devices, to record phenomena while in local wild places. The data can be easily mapped in ArcGIS Online. Yet I submit that before taking full advantage of learning with these means, three things must first be in place. The first is the ability to use one’s own senses and interpret the results of one’s own observations. The second is curiosity, and from curiosity comes asking questions. The third is the spatial perspective—seeing the world geographically.
These three things sometimes take years to cultivate, and one could argue that this cultivation is a lifelong endeavor. Yet I certainly don’t recommend that instructors wait until all students exhibit curiosity before embarking on a field-based experience. Being purposeful about using all five senses takes practice. In addition, most students will have no idea at first what it means to “think spatially.” And don’t be discouraged if despite your best laid plans, some students appear completely disengaged from your carefully designed field experiences. Go back to Richard Louv’s advice on outdoor education—start early, and do it often.
What are some of your methods of instilling curiosity about the world around us—beginning with your own local wild place?
- Joseph Kerski, Esri Education Manager
Monday, June 1, 1992, changed my life. I had grown up a biologist, became a geographer in college, and spent 15 years teaching social studies in grades 7-12. Apple’s 1982 launch of the IIe began my enduring marriage to digital exploration and analysis of data about places. At the AAG conference in spring of 1992, I saw the beta of ArcView 1. Six weeks later, I began at Esri.
I struggled with my first task: week-long Unix-based ARC/INFO class. But I had seen ArcView for Windows and Macintosh, and knew what they meant: Anyone could analyze geographic data, see the relationships between things in different places, and investigate the interplay of multiple factors. It was only a matter of time before this would sweep education. My teaching brethren, I was sure, would embrace such powerful critical thinking tools with open arms. I figured it would take four years.
Seasons passed, elections came and went, technology zoomed, the World Wide Web arrived, data moved up a J-curve, and educational standards were born. With the latter came the powerful but sadly misguided vision of standardization, as if learning were neither art nor even science but simply “one size fits all” delivery. Booms and busts in economy, technology, and geopolitical stability caused some to hunker down, others to pinball to the latest idea.
Across this span, Esri’s Education Industry Team grew with a constant focus: To help all the world grasp the geographic nature of any situation, question, or problem; and to foster the ability of educators and students to examine anything with powerful tools, skills, and understanding, in order to make good decisions.
It has taken longer than I first reckoned to get the message out. But the rise of web-based and mobile-based geographic analysis through ArcGIS Online, with its ready access to vast banks of data and easy investigation, blows open the doors. A broad spectrum of ArcGIS tools means anyone can build capacity incrementally. And the expanding commentary that critical thinking and problem solving, effective communication and collaboration skills, and a sense of ethics and responsibility are more important than Pavlovian accumulation and regurgitation of bubble-ready facts gives hope for a more sensible pedagogical tomorrow.
The planet is in greater jeopardy on more fronts than it was 20 years ago. The mission to save the world through education continues, stronger than ever.
- Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager
For the last several years now, every spring and fall, I volunteer to help the local Girl Scout council, not unlike many you GeoMentors. We plan and implement a large geocaching event. The event, now called “The Geocache Party” typically has 100 to 300 Girl Scouts involved. If you have ever planned a sizable geocaching (or Open Caching) event with several activities, you know placing, tracking, and reclaiming your caches can be a real nightmare. For a single event last year, we placed nearly 100 caches across 175 wooded acres. Just try to remember where all those caches are when you pick them up, at the end of an event!
Like many outdoor geo-activities, geocaching can be enhanced by using GIS. To support individual (traditional) geocaching or large geocaching events, I have assembled my seven ideas for leveraging GIS – to plan, manage, or even evaluate your caches and performance.
- Map your geocache coordinates before you leave home with the ArcGIS Online map viewer. Explore the geographic features, hazards, and public lands wherever you are headed. You can even add real-time weather to your map.
- Track and record your geocache finds in your own map at ArcGIS.com. This allows you to tell your geocaching stories, your way.
- Preparing a geocaching event? Use a GIS to map and manage your caches. Cache type, location, activity or purpose fields help explain where and why a cache is placed. (image below)
- Print out your GIS map and take it with you for reference while geocaching. Selecting the best base map can often lend helpful data to your hunt!
- Report out! Add your GPS track, routes, and waypoints to your geocache coordinate map to see how well you did finding caches – in ArcGIS Online. (first image)
- Report out! Take all the photos and video you want while geocaching. You can place media in “notes” and geotag to document your trip.
- Learn GIS career skills while enjoying a great geo-hobby!
By the way, both the Boy Scouts of America and the Girl Scouts now offer Geocaching badges, each at certain age levels.
- Tom Baker, Esri Education Manager