Monthly Archives: June 2013

Get Hands-on Experience at the Esri Education GIS Conference

One of the unique features of the Esri GIS Education Conference is that it offers numerous opportunities for you to get hands-on experience with GIS tools.

Workshop at the Esri GIS Education Conference

Workshop at the Esri GIS Education Conference

To browse the list of workshops offered, search on the keyword “workshop” in the online agenda.  Make sure that the Education GIS Conference and that “All Days” are highlighted.  Type in “workshop” in the search box to see the listing.  All workshops are 75 minutes long, so you can choose among many workshops.  None of the workshops require a separate registration.

Want to map your spreadsheet data?  Drop by the Esri Maps for Office workshop.  New to GIS in education?  Try the Teaching with GIS–Getting Started workshop.  Map your campus with the Community Maps program, create surfaces and interpolation in ArcGIS, tell stories with Esri Story Maps, visualize space-time data, get started with Python scripting, learn about ArcGIS Online, or try one of the other workshops.

All of these workshops are taught by people who really know their stuff.  And while gaining technical skills, you can reflect how you would teach these skills and concepts to your own students.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Posted in Education | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Teaching Spatial Concepts with Zonal Statistics

I recently created a set of activities based on using web-based GIS tools to teaching spatial thinking using drive-time buffers, and another set of activities that use viewsheds.   Another type of spatial analysis computes and summarizes data from points, lines, or polygons, and is called “zonal statistics.”  To easily use an application of zonal statistics, use this map to summarize population in specific areas.

Calculating population of Atlanta area

Calculating the population of the Atlanta area with zonal statistics tool.

After accessing the map, click “Summarize Population” in the  lower left section of the map and then draw a polygon that encompasses Atlanta, Georgia.

What is the population of the Atlanta area?  Why is your result likely to be different each time you draw the polygon?  How does the population of an area of similar size in rural Georgia compare to the population of Atlanta?  How does the population of an area of similar size in rural Wyoming compare to rural Georgia?  Compare your counts to areas of similar sizes in the Ganges River basin in India, or to an area in the Sahara Desert.  Why is the base data that is being used for the population counts critical to the specific results you receive from these calculations?  Test the results over the ocean:  Do the counts total zero?

How might you be able to use this tool in teaching and learning about issues of map projections, data quality, zonal statistics, and other spatial concepts?

Posted in Education, export | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Teaching Spatial Concepts with Viewsheds

I recently posted a set of activities based on using web-based GIS tools to teaching spatial thinking using drive-time buffers.  Viewsheds are another type of buffer.  Viewsheds indicate how much terrain is visible from specified locations.  Viewsheds are important not only in planning scenic overlooks along trails and highways, but help in everyday decisions such as siting optimal locations for cell phone towers, determining how much terrain would be in shadow if a certain high-rise were to be constructed, helping plan safe roadway curves, and much more.  Open this map to create your own viewsheds.

Teaching spatial concepts with viewsheds

Teaching spatial concepts with viewsheds.

This map service shades the terrain viewable within 5 miles of your chosen point.  Say you are interested in taking photographs in San Francisco but you only have 2 hours to do so, during your airplane’s layover at SFO.  You want to be as efficient as possible, choosing locations that allow you a magnificent view.  Click in several locations on the map and observe the viewshed after each location. Your viewshed should be greater if you click on one of San Francisco’s many hills.  For example, I created the viewshed shown here using the above link.

Judging from the shape of the viewshed, at this point would you be standing on a south-facing hillside or a north-facing hillside?  Next, click on the Golden Gate Bridge (leading northward from San Francisco on US 101).   Why is the 5 mile viewshed so much greater in area at this location? What is the viewshed from Fisherman’s Wharf? From Telegraph Hill?  From the Financial District in the streets amongst the tall buildings?

How might you be able to use these viewshed tools in your teaching?

Posted in Education, export | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Unconferencing the EduC

The 2013 Esri Education GIS Conference includes some new activities that we’re introducing for the first time this year. Most ambitious of these is an “unconference” track scheduled for 10:30 am until 5:30 pm on Sunday, July 7.

What makes an unconference so different? First and foremost, it’s that participants set the agenda, not the organizers. This approach is consistent with the purpose of the EduC. The main reason we organize it is to strengthen the GIS education community. Feedback from last year’s event tells us that participants want more opportunities for conversation, and to be more involved in setting the agenda. The unconference format makes sense for both of these goals. Besides, we thought it could be fun!

Unconference is not a new approach.  It originated in the 1980s with a concept called “Open Space Technology” devised by Harrison Owen. The concept is well documented online.  Many variations on the Open Space approach have emerged in recent years, including EdCamps, TeachMeets, BarCamps, and Birds of a Feather sessions. Most of these variants share a few common characteristics:

1) Unconferences begin with no formal agenda, other than an overarching charge or theme.

2) Participants determine the agenda voluntarily and democratically.

3) Sessions report back to the entire group.

Our charge to conference participants is a pair of questions: First, what are the established and emerging best practices in GIS education? And second, what challenges remain to be addressed in GIS education?

Setting the Agenda

The unconference track will begin at 10:30, following a morning plenary session on “Emerging Best Practices in ArcGIS Online for Education” and a coffee break. Participants will gather in the Marina Ballroom E, in the South Tower of the San Diego Marriott Marquis & Marina. There participants will find seven bulletin boards. Each bulletin board corresponds to one of the seven meeting rooms available to us for unconference sessions.

The boards will be printed with grids that divide  the track into five hour-long time slots for unconference sessions  beginning at 11:30, 12:30, 1:30, 2:30 and 3:30. As participants enter the Ballrooms to set the agenda, they’ll receive a handout that includes a couple of large post-notes. Those who wish to organize and lead a session will write their name and proposed topic on a post-it, then stick the post-it on a board in the time slot and meeting room they  prefer. Those who don’t wish to organize a session can simply stand back and choose which sessions they wish to attend.

In some cases, more than one session will be proposed for the same room and time slot. We’ll resolve such conflicts by combining similar topics or, if need be, asking participants to vote on competing session topics. Members of the Esri Education Team will be standing by to answer questions and resolve conflicts. If there’s no space left in the agenda for a proposed session, proposers are free to set up ad hoc meetings at other spaces, such as the hotel coffee shop, or by the pool, or in the bar.

Unconference Sessions

Sessions will begin at 11:30, after the agenda is. Session leaders will convene their sessions with remarks about how their topic relates to the twin themes of the unconference: emerging best practices and remaining challenges in GIS education. Then the session will proceed with group discussion, presentations, or whatever format the session leader proposed. Between sessions, participants will return to the Ballroom to review the agendas posted on the bulletin boards and choose their next session.

At the end of each session, the leader(s) will summarize the session in preparation for his or her report back to the entire group.The report may be a post to a social media channel, or a lightning talk session back in Marina Ballroom E starting at 4:30 pm. We hope that a cash bar will contributed to a lighthearted set of three-minute summary presentations.

Embracing Chaos

We hope most EduC attendees will choose to participate in the unconference track. If they do, this this will be an unusually large unconference. Everyone should expect it to seem a bit chaotic at first, until the agenda is set. If you’re unsure what you’re supposed to do at the event, just look for an Education Team member who will be on hand to answer your questions. Meanwhile, think ahead about a burning issue you’d like to propose.

Those who choose not to participate in the creative chaos of the unconference will find plenty to do in EduC Computer Labs or the Expo, which will be open all day in Marina Ballroom F&G in the South Tower.

Posted in Education | 2 Comments

Teaching Spatial Concepts with Drive-Time Buffers

Teaching spatial concepts and analysis can be effectively done with web-based GIS tools.  One type of spatial analysis involves the use of buffers–areas that show proximity to mapped features.  One kind of buffer is a “drive time” or “service area” buffer, which can be used to calculate and display the amount of time required to walk, bicycle, or drive to or from a certain location.  This developer map is also useful for teaching  to create some buffers, in this case, drive time.

1-2-3 minute drive time buffers

1-2-3 minute drive time buffers

Click on a location in the city of Lawrence, Kansas and wait a moment for the drive time buffer to appear.  Ask the students:  Why aren’t these buffers a perfect circle?  Click on Interstate Highway 70 and note the differences between the buffer along this limited access highway versus a buffer along city streets.  Click on a point just north of the river and note the effect of the river that blocks quick access to areas south of it.

These drive time buffers depend not only on the street location and density, but they have intelligence beyond street location:  They take into account one-way streets, stop signs and stop lights, traffic volume, speed limit, physical barriers, and terrain.  Pan the map to a rural area outside Lawrence and click on the map in that location.  What is the difference in the amount of terrain someone could reach in 1, 2, and 3 minutes from a rural area versus that from an urban area?  Why do these differences exist? Pan to the location where you live and calculate drive time buffers in different locations in your own community.

For an application of this concept in analyzing access to a specific type of business, access this map showing pizza restaurants that are within a 3 minute drive of the location you select.  Click on various locations and note the differences in the buffer and the resulting selected restaurants.  This service uses a Yahoo! Local Search to calculate its drive time, but also note that terrain is still important.  In other words, yes, physical geography still matters!

Both of these live maps and the services they provide are easy to use, fascinating, and can foster much good discussion about the practical application of spatial thinking and analysis.

Posted in Education, export | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Designing and Teaching a GeoTech Club at a School

My colleagues and I on the Esri Education Team sometimes hear from educators, parents, and those in the GIS community who have successfully run geotechnology clubs at their local school.  Over the past few years, I have also had the opportunity to run a GeoTech Club of my own, at a local middle school, and then at a local high school.  Space does not permit me to go into too much detail, and therefore I would welcome a dialogue on this topic below.  However, I wish to share the approach I have taken and what I have learned in the process.

GIS Poster from High School Student

GIS Poster from High School student participating in GeoTech Club

First, an after-school club is an excellent way for students to engage in GIS, remote sensing, GPS, and web mapping.  Second, since it is a club, I encourage you to make the activities fun and engaging.  I hand out cool maps, satellite images, and other mapping related items.  We investigate current events using GIS.  During every class, I bring in real job ads requiring GIS skills in the local area and we discuss career decisions and work environments.  Third, I start the school year with field activities–we gather data about litter, trees and shrubs, social zones, cell phone reception, and infrastructure on the school campus using GPS receivers and smartphones (“We get to use our phones in school?  Cool!”).  We map our field collected data in ArcGIS Online.  Fourth, I ask them what they are interested in examining.  Fifth, choose a variety of topics and scales:  We examine local-to-global issues such as urban sprawl, open space trails, business site selection, population change and characteristics, watersheds, weather, natural hazards, energy, biodiversity, and more.

Sixth:  Soon after the second semester begins, I start instructing less and let the students pursue an independent project of their own choosing.  One student 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 students in his school.  Another made a map with all of the major league baseball stadiums complete with team logos used as point symbols.

Seventh, since there is so much competition for students’ time after school, I make sure that I not only advertise the club via school newsletters, announcements, and web sites, but I also take advantage of the best way to grow the club:  I encourage the students in the club to tell and bring their friends.

Eighth, ensure that the club is well supported by the school’s teachers and administrators, and 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 this past year.  The themes of geotechnology, inquiry, our content areas, and critical thinking skills became an important part of the school’s STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) academy and, I hope in the future, their Business and Global Studies academy.  The career academies required participating students to focus on certain coursework and skills, and the STEM academy’s pathways on computer technology and “Earth, Energy, and the Environment” were particularly well aligned with the GeoTech Club.  I was thrilled when one of the students from the club decided to focus on GIS for her senior capstone project, an advanced research project that results in a research paper, poster (shown here), and presentation.  I was very impressed by the quality and professionalism during the day in which this student and the other senior capstone participants presented for their peers, parents, and teachers.

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.   What I would love to see is for the students to direct the activities of their own club, and ideally, run the club themselves.  Is this happening anywhere?

Posted in Education | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment