Monthly Archives: November 2013

Is your data still “CRAAP”?

Earlier this year, I discussed the CRAAP test on spatial data quality, focusing on measures of Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose.   Since then, data quality has been a topic of discussion more frequently than ever before–not just in GIS circles, but in general daily news.  Why is data quality important, and how can it be measured?  I thought it therefore appropriate to create a new video reflecting upon some of these considerations.

Is your data "CRAAP" video.

Is your data “CRAAP” video.

We can download a wide variety of data; we can also stream data from a variety of sources that Jill Clark and I describe in the Spatial Reserves blog and in our book The GIS Guide to Public Domain Data.  As data become easier to use, they become easier to misuse. It is easy to pull data from a variety of different sources, scales, dates, organizations, and lineages without a second thought, and then use those disparate data sources to make a key decision.

Don’t get me wrong–I don’t pine for the days when simply getting any data set into a GIS environment was a long, laborious process.   I still vividly recall, for example, the month-long effort I went through in spring 1993 to get one county’s worth of census tract demographic data, plus streets and the census tract polygons, into ArcInfo version 4.   I love the ability we have today to quickly gather and analyze data–and more and more of it possible in a cloud-based environment.  I just want people to be more mindful than ever about the implications to making decisions with GIS.  All of those decisions are ultimately based on the data that were used as inputs.   And the above test is one way to assess whether that data is any good.  And issues of data quality are fruitful topics to discuss in any GIS class to foster critical thinking.

Posted in Education | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Stating the Obvious? GIS in Education

I miss the days when John Madden provided “color commentary” about National Football League games for two reasons.  One, I believe he helped foster the notion that the love for football is not just about the game, but the socio-geographic culture surrounding the game gives it meaning and richness.  As he was grilling brats outside Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin, for example, one got a strong sense of his enjoyment of the entire phenomenon.  And he liked to travel by bus to the games to really get a sense of the geography by observing the landscape and talking with real people in real places.  Another thing he did that I found interesting (and hilarious) is to state the obvious:  ”If this team doesn’t score more points, plain and simple, they won’t win this game!”

As my colleagues and I frequently write about in this blog, the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology in the classroom fosters data analysis, critical thinking, spatial thinking, scholarship, communication skills, community connections, career pathways, and much more.   Like John Madden, are we simply stating the obvious?  Not quite.  Due to a variety of educational, social, and technological factors, the value of spatial thinking in education and the use of inquiry-driven tools such as GIS has still not taken root throughout the educational system on a global scale.

As long as we are able, rest assured that my colleagues and I will continue to advocate the use of GIS throughout the curriculum, at all levels.  And we rely on you, the GIS education community, to partner with us on sharing that message with policymakers, administrators, educators in other disciplines, students, and parents.  Maybe someday the benefits will be obvious to everyone.  I hope so.

Community Mapping Workshop

Community Mapping Workshop.

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

New Book – Tech-Enabled Field Studies

A complete guide to designing, implementing, and analyzing classroom fieldwork using a variety of data collection devices in desktop and online GIS

Tech-Enabled Field Studies

Designed for educators, the latest book from Tom Baker (Esri Education) and Roger Palmer (GISetc) includes the technology and information to implement field study projects in classrooms and after-school settings.

Created specifically for educators who want to do research with learners – typically classroom teachers working with their students in Earth Systems, Environmental Science, Geography, or History.  The book is useful for those running outdoor education or field research programs for students of all ages; however, the focus is on tech-enabled methods, tools, and analysis.  The content assumes that the research will be conducted outside or “in the field”.  This volume, available in print and digital editions, makes a great addition to any reference library on field research techniques.

Chapters include:

  • What are field studies and why use them?
  • Designing a field study
  • Data, Data, Data
  • Field Instruments
  • The Student Data Mapper
  • Student Smartphones, Google Docs, and ArcGIS Online
  • ArcGIS Online and Field Studies
  • Geotagging Images for Field Studies
  • Editable Feature Services and ArcGIS Online
  • Mapping and Data Analysis in ArcGIS for Desktop
  • Model projects

Learn more at

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

Fun with GIS 153: Learn Today, Change Tomorrow

Kids can be so brilliant. Recently, I worked with 100 students in grades 7-12 from varied backgrounds. They had spent the day learning to use GPS and GIS, and were on an evening mission around memorials in DC, gathering data to map the next morning. After learning about and witnessing the third of six memorials, one older fellow turned to a youngster in the group and says “Well, C_, what’s your thought about all this?” Seventh grader C_ pondered for a moment, then said calmly “Learn today, change tomorrow.”

It’s such simple brilliance that I asked later if I could use it (promising to credit him), and C_ agreed. It seemed for him such an obvious truth as to be unworthy of fuss. Happily, it is the default mindset with which many kids operate.

Part of the magic of geospatial technology is its personal relevance. As we moved through the memorials, the kids recorded locations, took pictures, and jotted down what they observed and felt. They were contributors in a collaboration, sharing knowledge, recording data, preparing for analysis in the morning. They were engaged, melding the modern and the historic, walking as learners in the footsteps of men and women who served heroically.

In the morning, they assembled the collected data, anchoring their thoughts and pictures to the landscape, using ArcGIS Online and tablets. The map became personal, the data their own, in a way that was new and powerful even though some had been there before. This investment in learning, in building or digging into layer upon layer of data and meaning, provide users of GIS the rich yet nuanced view of areas and conditions that we all need them to have. For only when truly seeing the many layers of patterns and relationships can they — or we — draw the full measure of meaning necessary to make good decisions.

As we approach an unusual collection of anniversaries, amid persistent challenges, let us resolve to engage learners of all ages and backgrounds in building deeper understanding, so that we too can “learn today, change tomorrow.”

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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

The 3 “I’s” of GeoLiteracy, and GIS

In a “What is Geo-literacy” video, several key staffpersons from National Geographic define geographic literacy, but make a case for why it is important.  One of my favorite things about the video is defining geoliteracy in 3 ways, all starting with the letter “i”.  In this essay, I wish to expand on these ways and suggest that the use of geotechnologies can help teach these important themes.

The first way is Interactions–Understanding the world in terms of systems and how those systems work together, such as climate, ecoregions, and population dynamics.  Second, Interconnections has to do with how one place is connected to other places, through such ties as physical, social, or economic.  Recently, while teaching in Abu Dhabi, I took the photograph below.  Think about all of the ways that this photograph suggests interactions and interconnections.  Obviously, humans have immensely modified the environment here, and the pace of that modification is astounding.  Humans depend upon the environment for water, building materials, natural resources, tourism, and much more.  There are less obvious but equally strong interactions and interconnections at work here as well, including the rapid immigration over the past decade to support the government’s initiatives and expanding economy, the global trade networks that Abu Dhabi is an integral part of, its geographic location in a pivotal part of the world, and many more.

How do people and the environment interconnect in this scene in Abu Dhabi on a local scale and also on a global scale?

How do people and the environment interact and interconnect as exemplified by this scene in Abu Dhabi on a local scale and also on a global scale?

The third “i” is Implications.   What are the implications of our actions, as individuals, and as societies, from a local to a global scale, and how can the geographic perspective help us make wiser decisions?

As National Geographic Vice President for Education Danny Edelson makes clear in the video, (1) Geoliteracy is critical to the future of our society, and (2) We have not invested as we should in helping students understand the world from a geographic perspective.

I believe that teaching with GIS can help increase geoliteracy for a number of reasons.  Examining maps and working with data as layers in a decision-making toolkit that is a GIS helps students understand how such systems as climate, ecoregions, and human populations interact.  In so doing, they gain critical thinking skills by solving problems.  Working with real-world scenarios such as siting businesses and protecting natural resources helps students understand the implications of their decisions by allowing them to analyze the “what if’s” of different inputs and variables.

How do you think that using GIS in education can help foster geoliteracy in society?

Posted in Education | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Call for Papers, Transactions in GIS special issue

GIScience Research Track
Esri International User Conference
14-18 July, 2014
San Diego, California

Call for Papers, Transactions in GIS special issue

GI Science researchers are invited to present original manuscripts for a peer-reviewed journal and presentation in the GIScience Research Track of the 2014 Esri International User Conference.

Papers in this special track must focus on cutting-edge research in GIScience and need not be Esri software related. Full papers will be included in a special issue of the journal Transactions in GIS to be distributed at the 2014 Conference. Abstracts (500 words) must be submitted to Dr. John Wilson, University of Southern California, by 15th December, 2013.

The Transactions in GIS editorial team will review abstracts based on their GIScience content and select a maximum of nine abstracts to become full papers. Notice of acceptance will occur by end of December, 2013. Full papers (maximum 6,000 words plus figures, tables, and references in appropriate format for publication) must be submitted to Dr. Wilson for independent review by 15th February, 2014. Reviewed papers will be returned to authors by 15th March, 2014 and final manuscripts must be returned by 8th April, 2014, to be included in the special issue of Transactions in GIS.

A listing of the 2013 accepted papers can be found at the journal website:

For questions or guidelines on this GIScience Research Track, please contact Michael Gould at

Abstracts should be submitted via email with a subject line “Esri GIScience Abstract, Authors Last Name” no later than 15th December, 2013 to:

Dr. John Wilson,

Posted in Education | Leave a comment

Fun with GIS 152: Easy SwipeMap App

At the FFA conference this week, in the first hour of exhibiting, I decided to build an app. It took 10 minutes to build and 10 minutes to fine tune. It was a basic “swipe” app, usable in any browser, on computer, tablet, and smartphone. It is easy to build a simple app that can be used on multiple devices with just a few minutes of work via ArcGIS Online. The linked lesson is a “bare bones process,” to emphasize how easy it is to create. Later, you can create more elaborate maps and apps.

Check out my quick SwipeMap app, then see the lesson.

Since this is so doable, think about how to change your left and right panel maps, text, and links to show more important content. Or consider other web app templates. This one template works very well across devices; others may not work quite as well in the small form of smartphones. Experiment! It’s easy!

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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

Book: Introducing GIS with ArcGIS: A Workbook Approach to Learning GIS, 3rd Edition

Our colleague, Professor Michael Kennedy, has updated his Introducing GIS with ArcGIS:  A Workbook Approach to Learning GIS book to ArcGIS 10.1 as well as the latest theory and practice.  The book, published by Wiley, is an integrated approach that combines the essential GIS background with a practical workbook on applying the principles in ArcGIS.

GIS textbook by Dr Michael Kennedy

GIS textbook by Professor Michael Kennedy.

One thing that is new in this edition is that it allows students to experience publishing maps on the Internet through new exercises, and introduces the idea of programming in the the Python language that Esri has chosen for applications.  A DVD is packaged with the book, as was the case in prior editions, containing data for working through all of the exercises.  Esri’s Jack Dangermond wrote the foreword to the book and Dr Michael Goodchild wrote the afterword.

I have known Professor Kennedy for many years.  He is very passionate about GIS and I salute his vision and energy that has gone into this book.  I believe this book can be effectively used as a coursebook for not only introductory but intermediate GIS courses.  It is forward thinking and supports spatial thinking and analysis for those learning GIS and those seeking to use GIS in a wide variety of fields.

What books are you using for your GIS instruction?  What is your all time favorite GIS text?

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