Monthly Archives: July 2012

Fun with GIS 124: Problem-Based Learning at Esri International User Conference

At the 2012 Esri International User Conference, 14,000 people thunderously applauded stars of problem-based learning (PBL). At the opening plenary session, four students stepped out on stage and confidently displayed their experience with GIS, gained during just their senior year of high school. Their work was so real, so powerful, and so like what GIS professionals do that the demos were sifted in among those by other users, instead of isolated as a special student group. You can see their presentations, and the teacher’s summary here: Esri 2012 UC Plenary Videos
Choose “Mid-morning”, see “21:40-26:35″, “43:50-47:00″, “61:08-65:30″

Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, VA is a good school. These are bright and inquisitive students, and the teacher masterfully weaves together relevant content, powerful technology, and incrementally greater challenges. But the model of PBL with GIS used by these and hundreds of students across the Virginia Geospatial Semester program is the real star.

In school after school, teacher after teacher help students build skills in GIS by tackling real-world challenges. They construct maps of things around them, analyze the patterns and relationships they see in daily life, and struggle just like adults to integrate information and derive sensible answers in complex situations for which there is no “cookbook answer.” With a steady diet of such experiences, they build a disposition for challenges. Combined with the technical savvy and creativity of youth, this is serious power. In the hours and days following the WLHS students’ presentations, everyone I met agreed that these students were ready for college and career.

Across the US, employers and politicians (save only for one party in one state) clamor for students to have 21st century skills, including managing and thinking critically about all kinds of information, collaborating, communicating, and working with powerful tools. Lucky kids whose teachers or after-school activity leaders employ PBL with GIS get to practice this even from a young age. These kids will survive and thrive tomorrow, as the thunderous applause at the Esri Conference attests.

Are students in your community preparing for tomorrow by tackling real-world challenges without a cookbook? Can they demonstrate it using technology beyond a Number 2 pencil?

- Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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Esri Education GIS Conference Plenary – Sunday (#esrieduc)

Last update: Sunday, July 22 at 9:25 am.

The Sunday plenary for the Esri Education GIS Conference featured educational policy, administration, and global perspectives.

Social media: Twitter at #esrieduc , Flickr at #esrieduc, and the education community blog.

Educational Policy resources from Charlie Fitzpatrick and Sarah Bednarz

GIS in Education: Instruction and Beyond with George Dailey and Scott Sires

During the Esri Education GIS Conference Sunday Plenary, George Dailey (Esri) and Scott Sires (Brookhaven College) explored taking GIS in educational institutions from instruction and into administrative areas that support the learning mission.

Here are a number of resources they mentioned in their segment.

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DiBiase kicks off 2012 Esri Education GIS Conference

David DiBiase, Esri’s Director of Education Industry Solutions, kicked off the first plenary session of the 2012 Education GIS Conference this morning in San Diego. David introduced the conference theme – “Education Community 20.2 – the Next Generation of GIS Education.” He pointed out that 2012 marks the 20th anniversary of several relevant milestones. One was the development of the first World Wide Web browser with a graphical user interface. Another milestone was the coining of the term “Geographic Information Science” by Michael Goodchild. A third was Esri’s launch of ArcView 1.0, and Jack Dangermond’s founding of the Esri Education Program, both in 1992.

David asked the audience reflect on how much has changed in our field since 1992. He argued that the convergence of three trends now creates the condition of possibility for a new generation in GIS education. The first trend is greater ease of use and accessibility of GIS technology and data, exemplified by ArcGIS Online and Esri Community Analyst. A second trend is the emergence of mapping technologies as pervasive and cool – a trend some have called the “geospatial revolution.” Finally, David spoke about the democratization of education, observing that:

Cloud-based media-sharing platforms enable learners to become producers, not just consumers, of educational resources. Social movements like the Open Badges initiative empower any organization to assess and recognize educational achievement. An era of volunteered geographic education has begun. Our challenge is to harness these social trends to advance educational access and quality.

To prepare for the next generation of GIS education, David announced that the first Education Community Advisory Board would convene during the conference. The Board’s purpose is to help Esri’s Education Team make sure that its strategic priorities align with the Community’s. He stressed Esri’s commitment to be a trusted partner that supports the Education Community – including learners as well as educators – as it enters a new era.

Following his introductory remarks, David invited comments from the audience throughout the plenary session, and facilitated discussion between the audience and plenary speakers at the end.

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Esri Education GIS Conference Plenary – Saturday (#esrieduc)

Updated 9:45 am Pacific

The Saturday plenary for the Esri Education GIS Conference featured online mapping platforms, open educational resources, and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).

Online Mapping Platform links: Tom Baker & Danny Edelson (National Geographic)

Open Educational Resources: Joseph Kerski & Diana Sinton (University of Redlands)

STEM resources: Esther Worker & Richard Serby (GeoSearch)

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The 2012 Esri Education GIS Conference is nearly here!

Tomorrow, Saturday July 21 marks the kick-off of the 2012 Esri Education GIS Conference at the San Diego Marriott Marquis and Marina. The event with its record-breaking registration, starts promptly at 8:30am in Salons D & E of the south tower on level 3 (take the escalator next to the Starbuck’s in the lobby).

If you have already registered, received a confirmation email, and do not need to make a payment, you may check in and pick up your conference badge at the Marriott Marina Foyer in the South Tower on level three on Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. or Sunday from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. A photo ID is required for badge pick-up, and a $20 fee will be assessed for any lost badge. It is recommended that you bring a copy of your confirmation email to expedite your check-in process. If you have not yet registered or need to change an existing registration or make a payment, please visit the Onsite Registration area in the San Diego Convention Center in Hall E. Learn more here.

Special Events
The Saturday Plenary (8:30 – 10:00) will be hosted by David DiBiase and include speakers Daniel Edelson from National Geographic, Richard Serby from Geosearch, and Diana Sinton from the University of Redlands. Later Saturday morning, Julian Rotich, co-founder and Executive Director of Ushahidi will be presenting.

Making the Most of the Event
Concurrent sessions, computer labs, and technical sessions run throughout the day. Check the online agenda for scheduling. And be sure to visit the GIS Solutions EXPO launch at 4:30pm for the day’s finale!

Plug-in to the EdUC’s social media channels:

  1. Esri Education Community blog
  2. Twitter with #esriEduc
  3. Flickr images tagged with #esrieduc
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Using a Smartphone and ArcGIS Online to Teach Accuracy, Precision, GPS, and Critical Thinking

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

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Fun with GIS 123: T3G2012

The Fourth Annual “Teachers Teaching Teachers GIS Institute” held at Esri headquarters in Redlands, CA, has come and gone in a blur. “T3G” is an event for educators who are GIS-savvy, with experience teaching with technology, and a background and continuing interest in providing professional development for educators. Based on a challenging application, a set of Esri staff and outside educators invite 30. T3G participants have ranged in experience from novice to retired educators from all levels of formal and informal systems including geoprofessionals who mentor and support educators.

Use of GIS is exploding across industries, and more careers than ever before engage GIS. At the same time, new technologies like ArcGIS Online make it easier than ever to bring GIS into education. The mission of T3G is to build the community able to provide powerful professional development for educators and lend expertise to education policy influencers, at local to national levels. Participants are charged with providing instruction, sharing the vision of GIS as a technology for solving problems, and continuing to build their own skills.

With activities modeling specific instructional practices, discussions of pedagogy, reflections on experiences, and a constant mix of modes and styles, participants explore new tools, new ways of thinking, new modes of operation, and new visions for what is possible, in one exciting but exhausting week. This year’s events featured extensive work with ArcGIS Online including publishing map services, creating web applications from static maps, and gathering and instantaneously publishing shared field data (including photographs) collected via smartphones and tablets by accessing a single webmap with an editable feature service. As their content appeared live on these shared maps, in the field and the classroom, a common cry was “Oh yeah, they’re gonna see this when I get home!”

The T3G2012 crew is now part of a growing body of educators able to help clubs, schools, districts, and states figure out how to add GIS into their educational programs. This is especially important as more states establish and engage statewide site licenses for k12 education.

Information about T3G2013 will be available in September.

- Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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From Observations, Curiosity, and the Spatial Perspective to Asking Questions

In my last column, I argued that one’s senses, curiosity, and the spatial perspective are essential for understanding our world and for making the most out of field experiences. In this column I wish to make the case that these three things guide the questions you ask. And the questions that you ask are most important thing about any investigation, and about learning.

I also believe that you must be comfortable with the fact that in our complex world, some of the questions cannot be answered without additional investigation, and that some of the questions indeed may never be fully answered. In our world of instant information and standardized testing, quick and easy answers are difficult for many students—and sometimes, instructors—to accept.

Consider a recent video I made on the beach on the coast of the Caribbean Sea where I asked a series of geographic questions. I considered issues in physical geography including sediment transport along coasts, beach sand, storm surges, and hurricanes, and issues in cultural geography including the pros and cons of developing resorts along coasts. I could partly answer some questions I posed in a few minutes, while others I left open for students and instructors to discuss in class.

The questions you ask determine what data and information you will collect, what devices you require, and what methods you will use. We certainly have more means of collecting data than ever before. I believe that geographers from Eratosthenes to Davis would have been thrilled to have and use the tools we have today. We also have an expanding number of ways to map field-collected data. Some of these ways even allow for something that many of us have longed for years to be able to do—to collaboratively and simultaneously gather data in their real-world coordinates by a group of students while out in the field, and have that data automatically appear on a continuously updating map. These can be done using the Student Data Mapper or from shared Google spreadsheets as developed by my colleague Tom Baker, or via editable feature services using ArcGIS 10.1 and ArcGIS Online as shown in the image below.

Yet unless we are curious, using our senses, asking insightful, thoughtful questions, and using the spatial perspective, the effectiveness of even these tools will be limited. What are some of the means you have used to foster good questions to be grappled with?

- Joseph Kerski, Esri Education Manager

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Mapping Independence Day Place Names in the USA

This being the time for Independence Day in the USA, wouldn’t it be interesting to use GIS to investigate if place names having “Independence Day” origins have a spatial pattern? Ask your students what names come to mind when they think of Independence Day. I chose four—Liberty, Independence, Freedom, and America (I even have a niece named Liberty!).

I started ArcMap and added the world street base map from ArcGIS Online. I then loaded the most comprehensive American cities shapefile I could find, with 23,435 cities. I used Find tool to locate all cities with Liberty, Independence, Freedom, or America in any part of the name, saving them one at a time into individual layers. Liberty was the most popular with 29 place names, the largest of which was Liberty, Missouri. Independence came in second with 10 instances with Independence, Missouri, topping the list with 112,301 people. Was Missouri the site of most of these 4th-of-July names? The maps showed Missouri to have a few, but the names were scattered from the mid-Atlantic states to the Midwest, 4 Liberties in eastern Iowa, a few names in the deep south and far west; nothing in Alaska or Hawaii. Was this pattern what you expected?

This exercise shows how easy it is to perform tasks in ArcGIS. I used the Find tool, highlighted place names matching the criterion, and then used Select because it allowed me to find all instances of the place name, wherever the chosen place name appeared, in any field. Second, using Selection -> Create Layer from Selected Features provided a quick way of creating new layers without having to create layer files or exporting the selection to new shapefiles or feature classes. Third, one can easily use standard symbols in nonstandard ways; the ovals I chose came from the Businesses symbol set. Finally, this exercise shows the ease of using ArcGIS Online data as a base map.

What other place names could you use in similar ways to investigate patterns?

- Joseph Kerski, Education Manager, ESRI.

Originally published, Jul 2, 2009

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