GIS in Archaeology Woven Throughout New Book

As we have frequently noted in this blog, GIS is rapidly becoming a key tool for research and instruction in an increasing variety of disciplines.  These include business, mathematics, health, and sociology, just to name just a few.  Equally encouraging is that in disciplines where GIS has long been used, such as geography, environmental science, urban planning, and wildlife biology, GIS is now being used in deeper and more meaningful ways.  One of these disciplines–archaeology–is featured in a new book from Texas A&M University Press entitled The Archaeology of Engagement:  Conflict and Revolution in the United States, edited by Dr. Dana L. Pertermann who teaches at Western Wyoming College, and Dr. Holly Kathryn Norton,  who is the State Archaeologist for Colorado.   Conflicts in the book include the 1836 San Jacinto battle in Texas, Robert E. Lee’s mid-1850s campaign along the Concho River, the battles of the River Raisin during the War of 1812, and others.

The book focuses somewhat on the physical artifacts that archaeologists uncover, but even more so on the human side–the people involved in conflicts and their social mores and understanding of power.  It is a significant step forward as I believe it represents a weaving of cultural geography and spatial thinking into archaeology.

Readers of this blog will find Chapter 7 particularly interesting:  This chapter, Georeferencing Maps and Aerial Photos for the San Jacinto Battlefield Analysis, by Peter E. Price and Douglas G. Mangum, goes into great detail, but in understandable language, about how to bring geospatial data and analysis to archaeological studies.  While the chapter is focused on how to bring historical aerial photographs and maps for the San Jacinto battle near Houston Texas, the methodology they describe will be helpful for others preparing data sets for their own instruction and research.  Educators can use this and other San Jacinto chapters in conjunction with the story maps gallery of historical maps, which include Civil War and other historical battles.

The Archaeology of Engagement book.

The Archaeology of Engagement book.

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Sharing Data through Story Maps

Many methods of sharing mapped data are now available and easy to use. Using these methods can foster critical and spatial thinking by engaging the ArcGIS platform.  We have written about a variety of ways to share mapped data in this blog.  One method is to create a spreadsheet, publish it to ArcGIS Online, and making it editable in the field to enable your students to do citizen science-based mapping.  Another idea we wrote about is to crowdsource your photographs that can be used in multimedia maps.  We have also written about the many ways that you and your students can map their field data.  With increasing interest in story maps, how can data from more than one student be shown in a story map?

Several methods exist for educators and students to create data in the field or in the classroom and map it via a story map, with more on the way.  One way is to create a map in ArcGIS Online that includes an editable feature service, as shown in this example where I invite educators to map tree species on their campuses.  You can then create a story map, such as the one shown below.  Here, I chose the “basic story map” when I shared my map to a web mapping application.  The story map updates each time tree data is added.  Data can be added in the field using the Collector for ArcGIS app if the map has been shared with a group and the user has been invited to that group.  Data can also be added via a web browser on a laptop or tablet computer, and if the map has been shared publicly, with no log in required.

While you cannot have multiple editors work on a single story map, one method for instruction is to designate a person in your class whose ArcGIS Online account keeps the “master” story map.  Other students develop content in ArcGIS Desktop, Pro, or Online that they upload and share that content with their peers within their Group in ArcGIS Online.  Then, the person responsible for the master map searches for that content and adds it to their ArcGIS Online map.   The story map, as in the example I show below, automatically updates because it is pointing to the original editable map.

I mentioned above that “more methods are on the way.”  These include the upcoming crowdsourcing story map application, so keep an eye on this blog for further updates.

Crowdsourced Tree Mapping Project in a Story Map.

Crowdsourced Tree Mapping Project in a Story Map.

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Using GeoTech Clubs in Geomentoring

At the recent annual meeting of the American Association of Geographers, several of us had a conversation focused on running GeoTech Clubs–clubs focused on geotechnologies, mapping, fieldwork, and related topics, at schools.  Over the past 15 years, I have had the opportunity to run these types of clubs in elementary, middle, and high schools, and have participated in career panel presentations sponsored by geography, environmental, and GIS clubs at universities as well. With the launch of the GeoMentors program last year, I think the time has come to revisit this topic.  As an update to what I wrote a few years ago with a video I created at the same time, I would like to invite the community to discuss your experiences below with the club approach to promoting GIS at educational institutions.

Flyer promoting a GeoTech Club at a school.

Flyer promoting a GeoTech Club at a school.

An after-school club such as GeoTech provides an excellent way for students to engage in tools and experiences.  A club environment provides the freedom to experiment with different approaches and techniques.  I encourage anyone thinking of starting and running a club to make the activities fun and engaging.  I distribute maps, satellite images, and other mapping related items.  Choose a wide variety of topics and scales, including current events and relevant 21st Century topics such as energy, water, population change, natural hazards, open space trails, local businesses, weather, and the environment using GIS.

Bring in real job ads requiring GIS skills in the local area and discuss career decisions and work environments.  Make sure the club gets students out into the field, even if the field is just the school campus, gathering data about litter, trees and shrubs, social zones, cell phone reception, and infrastructure using GPS receivers and smartphone apps.  Map your field collected data in ArcGIS Online. Ask students what they are interested in examining.   After the students get familiar with some mapping tools, let the students pursue an independent project of their own choosing.  One student I had in a GeoTech Club created an ArcGIS Online map with data points and photographs to support the field trip the Earth Science teacher was conducting. Another made a map-based project comparing all of the local lunch spots that students in his school frequented. Another made a map with all of the major league baseball stadiums complete with team logos used as point symbols.

Since there is so much competition for students’ time after school, make sure that you not only advertise the club via school newsletters, announcements, and web sites, but also (1) Encourage the students in the club to tell and bring their friends, (2)  Ensure that the club is well supported by the school’s teachers and administrators, and (3) Build connections between what you are doing in the club to the school’s focus areas.

Career academies are an important part of the high school housing the GeoTech Club I facilitated most recently.  The themes of geotechnologies, inquiry, and critical thinking have become an important part of the school’s STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) academy and soon in their Business and Global Studies academy.  The STEM academy’s pathway on computer technology and its “Earth, Energy, and the Environment” theme were particularly well aligned with the GeoTech Club.

I would also like to see examples where students are directing the activities of their own club.  A GeoTech Club is also an excellent way for you to bring in other geomentors in your community to give presentations and lead activities.

If you are already running a GeoTech Club at a school, what activities do you include in it?  If you are not running such a club, I encourage you to look into it, or encourage others to do so.

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Fun With GIS 196: Esri ConnectED Showcase

Esri joined President Obama’s ConnectED Initiative in May 2014, offering a billion dollars worth of learning resources and teacher support. Two years later, one school district stands out as a model of implementation: Loudoun County (VA) Public Schools.

Since 2005, LCPS had participated in the Geospatial Semester program (through James Madison University), teaching GIS to hundreds of high school seniors (and even juniors) through a project-based approach. Lead GIS teacher Mike Wagner attended Esri’s 2013 Teachers Teaching Teachers GIS institute, and science coordinator Odette Scovel in 2014, building strategies for helping others use GIS. ConnectED opened new horizons.

Agreeing that all 89 LCPS schools needed their own ArcGIS Online Organization, Scovel released Wagner from some classroom duties with “Get them up and running.” Now, every school has an Org underway, with students and teachers logging in. The district is more convinced than ever that ArcGIS Online opens doors for student learning, engagement, and opportunities.

Some LCPS schools use GIS more vigorously than others, according to their needs and culture. But 35 elementary schools fed data to the district’s Project Daffodil, examining relationships between weather and plants. Some first graders worked with high school honors students to map kindness. Middle school students use pre-crafted story maps to learn standard classroom content in science and social studies. High school students create story maps to deepen their own learning and help others, in history, science, and even English literature. Some special needs students use GIS to help them understand and document tasks in their day.

This summer, Wagner will lead two days of ArcGIS Online training for elementary teachers, and a week of activities for middle school and high school teachers. Such investment positions LCPS well for the huge market of GIS jobs in the region and beyond. This vision and action earned LCPS a Special Achievements in GIS Award in 2015, and already yields benefits in student learning. Kudos to LCPS for recognizing opportunity and rising to meet it! (For more info, contact Mike Wagner.)

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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Geography Summer Camp 2016: Online 5-Week Geography Course

Geography summer camp?   I will be offering an exciting 5-week online course beginning 25 May 2016 entitled Teaching Geography for the 21st Century.  You can register here.

Geography Summer Camp:  Online Course

Geography Summer Camp: Online Course 2016.

Geography is considered one of the world’s oldest disciplines, pioneered by Eratosthenes in 250 BC, and has a rich tradition of scholarship and innovation. Yet geography has always embraced new technologies, research practices, instructional methods, skills, and content. How can geography be taught in the 21st Century, embracing its rich heritage and yet looking forward to emerging and exciting tools and perspectives? What content should be included? What skills should be developed?

Furthermore, why should geography be taught in the 21st Century? Why is it relevant to the understanding of and decision-making in 21st Century society, the environment, and current events?

I will teach this course through eNet Learning, whose mission is to provide high-quality professional development, content, and resources that support educators and student learning.  Watch this friendly video to discover more about the course.

This course is designed to build geographic concepts, perspectives, and skills for those teaching geography and those teaching other disciplines who seek to use the geographic framework.  The goal is to enable and equip educators to teach the subject of geography in engaging and informed ways; to help educators and their students to understand why and how geography is relevant to 21st Century life. Population, land use, urban, economic, health, hazards, and other themes will be addressed. A focus will be on scale, systems thinking, critical thinking, time and space, and place, through an inquiry-driven, hands-on, problem-based format. The course includes pedagogical strategies and technological tools to teach conceptual foundations, skills, and geographic perspectives. Hands-on activities will offer deep immersion in several tools, including ArcGIS Online, which provides an easy-to-use, powerful platform for analysis and investigation.  We will also use the Urban Observatory, the Change Matters viewer,  storymaps, and other exciting tools.

If you are already thinking spatially and wondering about the photographs at right, I took the top image in Savannah, Georgia, and the bottom on the shoreline at the UCSB campus in Santa Barbara, California.

Participants will be equipped to: 1) Identify, describe, and discuss urban, economic, land use, natural hazards, health, and population issues foundational to geography at different geographical and temporal scales. 2) Apply geographic principles to effectively teach geography with the geographic perspective, and 3) Understand how to incorporate geospatial technologies, including dynamic web maps, charts, and data, to teach geography.  If you have colleagues that you are trying to “nudge” into spatial thinking and the use of geotechnologies, please tell them about this opportunity.

See you online in our “Geography Summer Camp”!

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Embedding ArcGIS Online Maps and Storymaps into Microsoft Sway Presentations

Thanks to collaborative work between Esri and Microsoft, ArcGIS Online maps and web mapping applications can now be embedded into Microsoft Sway presentations.  Microsoft Sway is a tool by which you can easily create compelling and multimedia-rich presentations that are stored online and thus can be easily shared and viewed on any device. It can also be used to create newsletters, reports, and personal stories.  The ability to embed ArcGIS Online maps and web mapping applications, such as storymaps, into Sway presentations enables a seamless, flowing presentation that takes advantages of the interactivity of ArcGIS Online and the capabilities that Sway offers.

For example, I recently gave a presentation at the AAG annual meeting entitled Communicating Geography to the General Public.  When you open this presentation, you will see that it includes photographs, video, and text.  But scroll down in the presentation for something even better:  You will see several live web maps:  An Open Street Map in ArcGIS Online that begins with Europe, a storymap I created for the University of Denver campus, a crowdsourced map of 2,000 points collected in the field by educators using the Collector for ArcGIS app, and a proposed trail in Osceola, Iowa.  I was able to include these live web maps and apps using the embed code capabilities of Sway.

Other benefits of include:  I can easily copy a Sway to another file and edit that for a different presentation or workshop, and thus do not need to completely start over.  Furthermore, at the conference I could use any computer that happened to be at the podium to present my content.  I could easily direct the audience to view and even interact with the presentation and its live web maps as I was giving the presentation, or during the following week as they returned to their workplace.

The capability of embedding live content from ArcGIS Online represents another example in the flexibility of the ArcGIS platform to be incorporated into a growing number of tools to meet a growing number of needs–in this case, as a powerful communication tool.

Embedding ArcGIS Online maps and storymaps into Microsoft Sway

Embedding ArcGIS Online maps and storymaps into Microsoft Sway.

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Fun with GIS 195: Map Contest!

Nifty idea, Minnesota! They are running a map competition for the state’s middle school and high school students! Build a “finished product map” — a presentation, app, or Story Map — using ArcGIS Online. Five entries each for the two divisions (grades 6-8 and 9-12) will receive equal awards.

Mapped content must be inside the borders of the state — perhaps a region, a watershed, a city, a neighborhood. This limits the students’ possible content to a somewhat “known universe,” while permitting an unlimited array of topics from which to choose.

This is a nice model for states or even school districts that want to nudge students toward thinking of geography as more than “states and capitals,” and promoting futures in the geospatial tech arena. In fact, students in MN must have a “personal learning plan,” so building maps into their future is a good strategy.

Since any US K12 school can acquire an ArcGIS Online Organization account for instruction for free, and since many classes suffer from spring fever as the weather warms, this new opportunity to acquire and apply skills may spark some extra focus. (The judges may have their hands full!) Kudos, Minnesota!

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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Mapping BioBlitz Field Data in ArcGIS Online

I recently had the opportunity to advise, create, and teach a mini-course to support an NSF-funded project aimed at university students who are underrepresented in STEM, fieldwork, and geotechnologies.  This mini-course was in conjunction with Colorado State University, the National Park Service, and the national BioBlitz 2016 initiative.

As I describe in the workshop syllabus, the goals in my portion of the project were to help the university student participants to:  (1) Learn what GIS and spatial analysis are and why they matter to society and why they are relevant to this project;  (2) Learn how to upload, symbolize, and classify their field-collected data and other data into a web based mapping platform (ArcGIS Online);  (3) Learn how to spatially analyze their own field-collected data and other data in ArcGIS Online; and – (4) Learn how to create presentations and web mapping applications, including multimedia maps and storymaps, to communicate the results of their research.

After watching Penn State’s Geospatial Revolution Trailer and my Why Get Excited about Web Mapping video, we discussed why GIS is a key part of research, education, and society in the 21st Century.  We then worked with my vegetation data that I collected on vegetation types collected with iNaturalist mobile smartphone app and the data that the students had collected during that same week at Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico.  We then brought the data into ArcGIS Online, displayed the data by setting styles and popup properties for the insect, plant, and animal species they had documented, created heat maps, walk- and drive-time areas, calculated routes to re-visit the sample points, and created maps showing hot spots.   They used the trace downstream tool, created riparian zone buffers around streams, and calculated the number of observations in the riparian zones.

We also worked with some test soil pH data from North Dakota into ArcGIS Online with some additional tools.  We mapped elements in the soil (such as Zn, Pb, K, Ph), created map notes, summarized points within specific parameters, and added statistics such as lead–parts per million.  We created a new hosted feature layer from the original CSV file so that we could filter the data, selecting points, for example, where the lead parts per million was at least 200.   We then calculated a Hot Spot analysis and interpolated a surface of pH values based on that attribute.

Once the analysis was finished, we created web mapping applications, starting with my web maps, apps, and story maps presentation and creating multimedia map notes from my own New Mexico fieldwork at 36, -106 and 35, -106 and 34, -106, but we spent most of our time together in hands-on mode building the storymaps based on their own fieldwork.   We focused on creating a Map Tour Storymapa Side Accordion storymap, and a Map Journal storymap.  We then discussed and compared these multimedia maps, and discussed skills learned and how and when to apply them in this BioBlitz project and beyond.

The tools and data within ArcGIS Online supported and complemented the project very nicely, and some of these same techniques can be used by the thousands of people who are expected to participate in the national BioBlitz 2016 initiative in a few months.  I look forward to seeing the students’ final projects.

How might you and your students be able to map your own field-collected data using these tools and techniques?

Some of the field data collected in iNaturalist mapped in ArcGIS Online.

Some of the field data collected in iNaturalist mapped in ArcGIS Online.

Some of the university student participants and instructors of the BioBlitz workshop at Colorado State University.  The students represented at least 10 universities in the USA and internationally.

Some of the university student participants and instructors of the BioBlitz workshop at Colorado State University.  The students represented at least 10 universities in the USA and internationally.
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Fun with GIS 194: Coding. Maps. Future.

Computer Science for All is Pres. Obama’s effort to get all US K12 students to learn computer science. My previous blog showed how easily kids (or teachers) can make a map-based web app from a template, in minutes, even with a free public account on ArcGIS Online. But users in an Organization account (which any US K12 school can get for instruction for free) have more tools (with cool powers!) for developing content.

AppStudio lets developers build once and deploy on multiple platforms. The “Basic” level is available to any Org member just by logging in, and allows working with existing templates. Users of Survey123 may see familiar processes because Survey123 was built using AppStudio. It’s a powerful tool!

I find the Web AppBuilder even easier. It’s accessed from the “Share/ Create a Web App” panel inside the ArcGIS Online MapViewer, but is tucked behind and easily overlooked.

With a bank of templates and widgets, one can construct a finished app in minutes, and update the app just by updating the source map. I built a simple app so users can scribble and sketch on a map; it was just for fun, 20 minutes from concept to completion, and usable on any web-enabled device. For a more serious app, widgets let users in a private group explore and extract custom data from a private nationwide data set which I update weekly.

Why build apps? To grow skills, solve puzzles, save time, integrate capacity, or address very specific needs. “Service” means “doing something for others;” “service learning” requires understanding the needs of someone else. Being an entrepreneur demands grasping what a customer thinks, wants, or needs. Building one’s future no longer means mastering a process and repeating it forever in the same way. Coding helps developers build skills in problem-solving, communication, and thinking outside the box; it helps them try, fail, try again, fail better, try again, and overcome. Doing it all with maps helps coders build crucial background knowledge during construction and testing, which supports understanding the world today, and making better decisions for tomorrow.

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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Integrating Arts into STEM: Cowboy Boots of Wimberley, Texas

Recently I created a “Famous Boots of Wimberley, Texas” story map for four reasons:  First, I wanted to show educators and the general public how to integrate art, history, science, technology, geography, and GIS.  My colleagues and I receive frequent inquiries from people asking how to integrate art into STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) educational programs, and Wimberley’s giant boots are a good illustration of this integration.  Second, I wanted to test the new capabilities of the side accordion story map configurable app.  This app is an easy and compelling way to tell a story.

Third, I wanted to demonstrate that every community has a story, and story maps are a visually compelling, easy-to-create way of telling that story.  When I visited the town for the first time after a series of presentations I gave at the geography department of nearby Texas State University, I learned about the boot project from my town walkabout.  It was so interesting to me that I began collecting information, photographs, and video, and a short time later, I had created the story map that integrates all of these types of multimedia.  The boot project brought together local artists, the Chamber of Commerce, local businesses, and the entire community, and serves as a source of city pride as well as a tourist attraction.  Fourth, it is my hope that my brief story map (see my video) can in some small way inspire people in another location to think creatively about a place-based arts project that can help build pride in their own community.

If I can do this for a community that I had just learned about, how much more can you and your students tell a story for which you conduct more in-depth research and may even have local knowledge about!

Cowboy Boots of Wimberley Texas story map

Cowboy Boots of Wimberley Texas story map.

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