Monthly Archives: June 2011

A STEM Center Where Geospatial Is Literally at Your Feet… and Over Your Head

My colleague Esther Worker here at Esri and I had the good fortune of conducting a professional development GIS institute for educators recently at the new Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) center at Overland High School and Prairie Middle School in Colorado. We found out about the center after meeting its director, Dr. Richard Charles, while hosting an Esri exhibit at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) last year. My colleague Charlie Fitzpatrick recently described the connections of GIS to STEM.

The center’s mission states that “The success of the United States in the 21st century – its wealth and welfare – will depend on the ideas and skills of its population. Our nation is facing a crisis in STEM related fields. Because of this, the campus offers a BOLD new approach to education featuring a creative focus in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math with a strong liberal arts foundation. […] The courses a student selects in middle and high school can significantly impact his or her options for the future. The student must take responsibility for making informed choices, paving the pathway to success in middle and high school and in life. It is our goal to help our students make informed and wise decisions regarding his/her middle and high school programming.”

The school provides an extensive list of courses where technology is infused, from Grade 6 through 12. Students have the opportunity to select from five career concentrations that include art and technical communication, computer science and applied mathematics, engineering and technical sciences, natural resources and energy, and health sciences. This may sound like a community college or university, but remember that students ages 11 to 18 are taking these courses, which is visionary and inspiring.

The Geographic Information Systems course at the STEM center is described as “an introduction to the concepts and uses of GIS. GIS is a system of computer software, hardware, and personnel designed to visualize, manipulate, analyze, and display spatial data. A GIS can create “Smart Maps” that links a database to a map. This allows individuals to view relationships, patterns, or trends that are not possible to see with traditional charts, graphs, and spreadsheets. Through computer lab tutorials and case studies, students will learn to use ArcGIS from Esri. Some topics include City and Regional Planning, Community and Economic Planning and Development, Housing Studies, Transit and Transportation Issues, Land Use, Historic and Archeological Studies, Crime Analysis and Policing, Emergency Management and Public Works Utilities, Census and Demographic Studies, Public Health, and Business uses including Marketing and Advertising.”

What’s more, geospatial reminders surround the students and faculty, thanks to Dr. Charles’ careful work with the school’s architects and builders.

Self portrait at the half-second grid etched into the flooring. Above me are the stars of the Northern Hemisphere in their correct relative positions, represented as LED lights, on the ceiling.

This line running true north runs inside the building, but also extends beyond the building on both sides. A separate line denotes magnetic north.

My shadow in May 2011 falling on this human-powered sundial shows that the time was just before 7:00 a.m.

There is even a DNA double-helix statue outside the front door of the building.

How might you promote GIS in STEM education?

-Joseph Kerski, Education Manager

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Esri Appoints Dawn J. Wright as Chief Scientist

Dawn J. Wright
Ocean scientist, geographer, and geographic information system (GIS) author Dawn J. Wright will join Esri as its chief scientist on October 3, 2011. She will help formulate and advance the intellectual agenda for the environmental, conservation, climate, and ocean sciences aspect of Esri’s work while also representing Esri to the national/international scientific community.

“As a scientist, Wright brings a background of rigor that will strengthen our alignment with the requirements of the scientific community,” said Jack Dangermond, Esri president. “In her capacity as chief scientist, she will interface with government, business, industry, and the public and collaborate with them to understand and find solutions for our planet.”

Read more.

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Describing a Community or Region with Photographs and ArcGIS Explorer

Linking photographs to maps and saving and sharing those maps can be quickly and easily done using ArcGIS Online. These maps can be used to create a sense of place by telling a story about a community or a region. For example, I created a map of my home state of Colorado using photographs that I have taken at intersections of whole-degree latitude and longitude lines, as part of the Degree Confluence Project. Clicking on the pushpins yields a photograph that I have taken at that location, as determined by the GPS receiver that I carried to that point. Clicking on each photograph calls up a video that I filmed at that same location. Each point was added by entering the latitude and longitude in the search tool, adding a point and a hyperlink, saving the points as a map layer, saving the map to ArcGIS Online, and sharing the map with the world.

What story does such a map tell about a community or region? In the case of my map of Colorado, the photographs clearly confirm the popular image of Colorado as a mountainous state. Yes, the state contains numerous spectacular mountain peaks and ranges, as shown in the image at 39 North Latitude, 107 West Longitude, below. But the map also challenges the notion that some people may have that Colorado is completely covered by mountains. The map shows that this is true only for roughly the central third of the state. The western third of the state is best characterized as canyonlands, while the eastern third of the state is firmly entrenched in the Great Plains. What vegetation, water, landforms, climate, and evidence of human impact are visible at each location? What point best captures the “essence of Colorado?”

As you can see, I have a few more points to visit, but I hope to complete my map someday.

How might you use photographs hyperlinked to maps using ArcGIS Online to describe and tell a story about an area in which you are interested?

-Joseph Kerski, Education Manager

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The Esri Education Community on Facebook

Stay in touch with colleagues, at your school and others around the world, by joining one of the Esri Education Community Facebook destinations!

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“Like” these pages to stay in contact and get the latest discussion and news:

We like Twitter too.

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Vespucci Summer Institute Pushes VGI Frontier

Vespucci Summer Institute Pushes VGI Frontier

This past week (6-10 June 2011) thirty-four geographic information researchers, some early-career and some well-seasoned, gathered at the first week of the 9th Vespucci Summer Institute on GI Science in Fiesole (Tuscany) to take a critical look at Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI). Participants came from North America, Europe, and as far away as Bombay and Rwanda.

Vespucci institutes are characterized not for being tutorial but rather for being group discussion and project-centered, and in this case both were facilitated by VGI experts Dr. Michael Goodchild (UC Santa Barbara) and Dr. Muki Haklay (University College London) as well as organizers/facilitators Dr. Michael Gould (Esri) and Dr. Werner Kuhn (University of Muenster, Germany). Discussion quickly spread far from the usual core of VGI examples i.e. Ushahidi and Open Street Map, to get into key perceived problems regarding trust, ethics, incentive systems and semantic interoperability.

Taken in front of the “Villa Maiano”, site of the institute.

The attendees were split into 5 working groups and they all worked 3 of the 5 days to prepare a project aimed at moving VGI from a space-based to a place-based focus. Group number 2 was the winner, with a project called MyPLACE (People, Location And Community Empowerment) that incorporated an incentive-based online game as a means to extract key qualitative characteristics of people favorite places which could then populate a knowledge base for future exploitation.

Members of the winning group are:

* Indy Hurt. U. California Santa Barbara
* Filippo Celata. U. Rome La Sapienza
* Clarisse Kagoyire ITC, U. Twente (The Netherlands)
* Stefan Kaup. U. Dortmund
* Monica Stephens. U. Arizona
* Imad Humayun. U Muenster

The Peter A. Burrough award for the best project was presented at the closing dinner on Friday, June 10. This is the first year that Vespucci makes this particular award, dedicated to the memory of Professor Burrough, who was a pioneer in GI Science and author of the first recognized GIS textbook.

A great time was had by all, not surprising given the special place, food and people. The second Vespucci institute week will take place in late July, on the topic of Process Ontology, and is oversubscribed. But perhaps you can join us next summer for a seminal 10th anniversary institute!

- Michael Gould, Esri Education Director

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Describing the Value of Spatial Analysis in Education

I recently taught a GIS short course for educators with our colleague Dr. Marsha Alibrandi, where she spoke of four adjectives that seemed to encapsulate some key reasons why we believe that spatial analysis has value in education:

• Actual: Spatial analysis provides hands-on work with the same tools that decision-makers from a wide and expanding variety of professions use every day on the job.

• Virtual: Using GIS, GPS, and remote sensing tools allow for immersive, multimedia-rich experiences that help us understand processes, places, and problems.

• Critical: Using real data to analyze issues provides critical thinking skills about the issues themselves, about the data that we choose to use or not use, about how to communicate the findings, and much more.

• Ethical: Examining real-world issues brings students face-to-face with such ethical decisions as the positive and negative impacts on people and the environment for land use decisions, whether and how to act on a problem, and how to present findings using maps in an unbiased manner.

I would like to expand this line of thought as follows:

• Social: The use of GIS in education is often best done as part of a collaborative project in the classroom, in the community, or with those studying similar problems halfway around the world.

• Psychological: The use of spatial technologies builds on research in spatial cognition, geographic and cartographic education, and other foundations, and takes advantage of multiple intelligences and learning styles.

• Creative: Through symbols, colors, patterns, video, presentations, and other means, GIS fosters inventiveness and creativity.

• Tactical: Using GIS helps accomplish a purpose—to understand something better, to make a decision, to see connections between places, processes, and phenomena.

• Logical: Whether formalized through the use of tools like model builder or not, GIS helps frame problems in a logical manner so that they can be grappled with. Another way to think of the “logical” is through the disciplines engaged, from the geological to the hydrological to the sociological and beyond.

• Practical: From its outset, GIS was created as a toolkit that could be useful in many different disciplines, at different scales, and in many different situations. It forces the user to be organized about how to access, store, and use a variety of different types of data.

• Useful: GIS is useful in many different careers. GIS is useful from a technical standpoint, on mobile devices, desktop and laptop computers, and in the cloud environment.

• Helpful: Not only is GIS used to help people make better decisions, but GIS helps improve the quality of their own lives, through better sanitation, medical care, sustainable development, and in other ways.

• Essential: GIS is essential for grappling with key issues of the 21st Century—energy, water quality and quantity, climate change, natural hazards, political instability, urbanization, sustainable agriculture, and others that grow in importance on a global scale and also increasingly impact our everyday lives. Using GIS in education is essential in order to infuse these tools into societal decision-making.

What other adjectives come to your mind when you consider the “GIS advantage”?

- Joseph Kerski, Education Manager

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Fun with GIS #86: GIS in Careers

“Careers here! Pick a job!” Have you seen the EdCommunity Careers page?

Would your kids be employable today? As graduations swell the pool of unemployed — already above 9% in the U.S. — what is the outlook for your students, near-term and into the future? Many students have enhanced their prospects for job and career by building GIS skills.

Summer is also the time of the Esri User Conference, where we meet people who use GIS in a stunning array of careers. Understanding how to think about problems and situations geographically, analyze data, collaborate, integrate information, and learn constantly are skills fostered by use of GIS and valued by employers in all organizations. (See also this recent post of an interview with EdTeam leader Michael Gould.)

See the EdCommunity Careers page for easy access to key info about jobs using geospatial tech. It’s a great one-stop portal for students, educators, and counselors, or even relatives and friends!

- Charlie Fitzpatrick, Co-Manager, Esri Schools Program

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Analyzing the Mean Center of Population Movement for Individual States, 1900 to 2010

In my last blog, I discussed a new lesson and data set, entitled “Population Drift: Mean Center Analysis 1790-2010” in the ArcLessons library, which uses spatial analysis, spatial statistics, and GIS to determine and analyze the population centers of the USA and individual states over space and time, from 1790 to 2010. One of the most fascinating parts of this lesson is examining the movement of state population centers.

This map shows the movement of mean center for each of the 48 states from 1900 to 2010, with the 1900 center shown as a blue square and the 2010 center shown as a red square. Nevada’s mean center of population moved the farthest, making a beeline north to south from the mining areas near Virginia City in 1900 toward fast-growing Las Vegas. Similarly, the influx of residents to southern California and the decline of mining tugged California’s mean center toward Los Angeles, though the San Francisco Bay cities kept the center from moving as much as in Nevada. Colorado’s mean center moved from the Rocky Mountains to the Great Plains, inexorably toward Denver. In Kansas, the center moved west until 1920 as the high western plains were settled, but then reversed as a result of high plains population loss beginning with the Dust Bowl and continuing to the present day. Why did Virginia’s center move north? Why did some state centers move very little? In which state is the population center the furthest from its geographic center?

How might you use this lesson and data set to teach about the many economic, political, demographic, and perceptual forces that pull on the population center of each state? Where will these centers move in the future? How might you use these same techniques to analyze how the population center of a metropolitan area or a county moved over time? How might you use GIS to determine where the mean center of ethnic groups in your community or people of specific age ranges are located? Why are these centers not necessarily in the same location as the mean center for the whole population?

- Joseph Kerski, Education Manager

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