Monthly Archives: January 2014

Name That Place!

Can you or your students “Name That Place” based on a series of satellite images?  I have created a multiple-choice quiz about the Earth based on satellite imagery in ArcGIS Online.  The 20 multiple-choice questions I have included address such varied topics as land use change, urban rivers, natural hazards, waterfalls and canals, erosion, ports, temples, glacial terrain, landfills, urban patterns, and more.  At the end of the quiz, I include not only the answers, but discussion of each issue, why the issue is important, and reasons why two of the choices are incorrect and why one choice has to be the correct answer.  I have also created a video version of the quiz.

London, Paris, or Hamburg?

London, Paris, or Hamburg?  Earth quiz using satellite imagery in ArcGIS Online.

Those of you who have been following this blog and its focus of promoting deep and rich investigations of the Earth using geotechnologies in an inquiry-driven environment might find the idea of an Earth quiz at odds with this blog’s philosophy.   I assure you this is not so.  Quizzes such as these (1) can provide a fun and challenging way of introducing fundamental concepts and themes about the Earth, such as river systems, land use practices, sustainable agriculture, population change, and so much more; (2) can introduce and reinforce image interpretation skills; (3) can foster and understanding of the importance of scale; and (4) can build skills in using tools such as ArcGIS Online, which is the basis for this quiz.  In the quiz, unlike a static presentation based on PowerPoint, for example, you and your students can zoom in and out, and pan the image map.  The quiz is thus a dynamic, multimedia environment, and a springboard for further investigation using ArcGIS Online, where additional layers can be added and analyzed.

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New: Making Spatial Decisions Using GIS and Remote Sensing: A Workbook

Making Spatial Decisions Using GIS and Remote Sensing is the first workbook to highlight the image processing capabilities inherent in ArcGIS software. Designed to complement remote sensing textbooks in an undergraduate curriculum, this workbook teaches students image processing and analysis skills with ArcGIS 10.1 for Desktop. The book uses step-by-step instruction, guided activities that reinforce learned concepts, and independent projects that encourage students to solve problems using local data.
A DVD with Landsat imagery and other data accompanies the book along with access to ArcGIS 10.1 for Desktop Advanced software (180-day use). Instructor resources are available.

Learn more here.

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Dr. Thomas R. Baker Named 2014 Ridgley Distinguished Geographer Lecturer

Illinois State University logo

Dr. Thomas R. Baker, Esri Education Manager, has been named the 2014 Ridgley Distinguished Geographer Lecturer and will deliver the so-named invited talk at Illinois State University (ISU) in Normal, Illinois. An award-winning educational researcher, Baker has worked since 1997 to improve science and geography education through the use of geospatial tools, especially geographic information systems (GIS) in precollegiate educational settings. His unique blend of expertise in science education, instructional technology, and GIS in the K–12 setting warranted the invitation. He is expected to speak on GIS across the K–12 curriculum with a special focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM); teacher preparation; and educational research.

The invitation, issued by the Illinois State University Department of Geography-Geology, explained the annual lecture, noting, “The Ridgley Distinguished Geographer Lecture [is one] in which we invite an accomplished geographer to campus to give a lecture on a topic related to geographic education or geography in general. Douglas Clay Ridgley, the namesake of the lecture, was a pioneer in geographic education at Illinois State in the early decades of the twentieth century.” The lecture is expected to also attract students and faculty from the ISU School of Education, as Baker speaks to new efforts across Illinois to incorporate GIS in schools, using as leverage the new Esri K–12 statewide license.

Baker will be presenting the lecture at 4:00 p.m. on February 20 in Room 401 of Stevenson Hall on the campus of Illinois State University. The public is welcome to attend the lecture.

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The People’s Guide to Spatial Thinking

One of our colleagues and leaders in spatial thinking in education, Dr. Diana Stuart Sinton, has written a book entitled The People’s Guide to Spatial Thinkingalong with colleagues Sarah Bednarz, Phil Gersmehl, Robert Kolvoord, and David Uttal.  As the name implies, the book provides an accessible and readable way for students, educators, and even the general public to understand what spatial thinking is and why it matters.  It “help[s] us think across the geographies of our life spaces, physical and social spaces, and intellectual space.”  Dr. Sinton pulls selections from the NRC’s Learning to Think Spatially report and ties them to everyday life.  In so doing, she also provides ways for us in the educational community to think about teaching these concepts and skills in a variety of courses.   Indeed, as she points out, spatial thinking is particularly essential within science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, as well as geography.

The People's Guide to Spatial Thinking

The People’s Guide to Spatial Thinking.

Particularly because spatial thinking has no established “home” in the curriculum, I believe this book is an important contribution to help educators and everyone realize how and why these concepts are critically important to 21st Century education and society.  I also believe that tools such as geotechnologies that are now easily available to teach spatial thinking skills and concepts merit serious consideration in the curriculum at many different levels and in many different disciplines.  I highly encourage you to order the book from the National Council for Geographic Education, read it, and comment on this blog post in terms of your reactions to it.

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Exploring Mexico through Dynamic Web Maps

One of the people I regard most highly here at Esri has created an online atlas of Mexico.  He started it off as an Esri storymap, but as he continued to add content, it soon become a “story atlas.”  As an educator I was immediately struck by how useful the atlas could be as a tool to teach and learn about Mexico.  I am continually amazed and also hear from educators at how little American students really know about their neighbor to the south.  The maps can be accessed in many different ways, such as an ArcGIS Online presentation with a description here, as an iPad iBook, but I think most importantly, as a series of story maps.  Each of these separate story maps contains 1 to 6 thematically related maps on the following topics:

You can use this resource of over 30 thematic maps to teach and learn about population, landforms, climate, historical landmarks, caves, indigenous cultures, tourist attractions, and more.  Many features such as volcanoes and landmark buildings are accompanied by popups with photographs and descriptions.  Best of all, since the maps reside in the ArcGIS Online, they are dynamic maps:  Unlike static digital maps in PDF or JPG format, these maps can be explored at different scales and interacted with.

The atlas includes a unique set of cartograms showing the states of Mexico mapped on a number of different variables.  Another nice feature of the atlas is that it includes data about the individual states of Mexico.   How many students know that Mexico is comprised of 31 states and 1 federal district?  The individual states can be investigated with this atlas.  Finally, like all good maps and atlases, this atlas may challenge students’ preconceived notions.  For example, the murder rate by state map shows that even though Mexico is not crime free, there are states with murder rates comparable to the safest European countries.  And the famous volcanoes of Mexico are concentrated along a fairly narrow band of latitude.  Enjoy this resource and I look forward to hearing from you how you use it in the classroom!  Saludos cordiales!

Mexico story map with precipitation theme.

Mexico story map with precipitation theme.

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AP Human Geography Online Courses and Certificate Program

Do you know what the fastest growing Advanced Placement (AP®) course is?  It’s AP Human Geography!  Over 113,000 students took the APHG exam in 2013, up from 2,000 just 12 years ago, and there are an estimated 3,200 AP Human Geography teachers in the USA alone.  That’s the good news!  But the challenges are that (1) the scores on APHG are among the lowest of any AP exam, and (2) there is a growing demand for experienced geography educators who can effectively teach these courses.  To help educators and their students gain key geography content, skills, and perspectives, Elmhurst College has designed a series of online courses specifically for secondary educators in a Graduate Certificate Program in Human Geography.  This program focuses on teaching spatial concepts as well as basic themes, skills and perspectives of human geography and how to apply them in the classroom.

In this program, in small cohort based online settings, you’ll work with real geography educators as peers and colleagues.  I am thrilled to be one of the instructors for this program, instructing the “Teaching Urban, Economic, & Population Issues” course, and I have enormous respect for the courses my colleagues on the instructional team are building and teaching.  These colleagues include Rich Schultz, Diana Stuart Sinton, Seth Dixon, Judy Bock, Margaret Chernosky, and myself.

The APHG curriculum correlates with the curriculum that the College Board has established.  Moreover, in this program, you will use new and exciting techniques and tools such as ArcGIS Online, the Urban Observatory, GapMinder, and others to grapple with issues of agriculture, political organization of space, urbanization, demographic and land use change, and more, from local to global scales.  You will be able to explain the patterns and implications of those patterns, associations, regions, and trends of our changing planet.   You will be grounded in key readings and videos that delve into core geographic and spatial thinking fundamentals.

This is a 5-course part-time program that can be completed in less than one year. Through the Elmhurst College Online Center, the program is fully online and offered in 8-week sessions.  Graduate students in the APHG certificate program complete 5 course credits (15 semester hours) with the successful completion of all 5 core courses.   You may also choose individual courses to take that may be of interest, too.  Those who wish to complete only elective courses will receive 1 course credit (3 semester hours) per course.

The courses include APH 500:  Teaching APHG, APH 501:  Learning to Teach Spatial Concepts and Tools, APH 502:  Implementing Spatial Concepts and Tools into the Classroom, APH 503:  Teaching Urban, Economic, and Population Geography Issues, and APH 504:  APHG Capstone.

No, you don’t have to be a AP Human Geography instructor or even a secondary school instructor to take any of these courses.  The courses will be valuable to anyone teaching geography, on any level.    For more information, see this video I created, and then navigate to this link at Elmhurst College.

AP Human Geography online program through Elmhurst College.

AP Human Geography online program through Elmhurst College.

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The GeoSpatial Semester

Does the United States have enough properly equipped airports to monitor all of its borders with drones? Where are the cheapest areas in Iowa to drill water wells based on aquifer levels and rock types?  How do the number of ‘bird strikes’ at airports across the U.S. differ based on the season?  These are a selection of research topics in the ‘Geospatial Semester’-a college geography class where students use GIS to study and conduct their own projects (some of which are shown with this post).  What makes this course unlike your typical college class is it doesn’t take place at a university and it doesn’t include college students.  The Geospatial Semester is composed of high school juniors and seniors, learning how to apply GIS and GPS technologies in a variety of fields, at their own campus.

Through a unique partnership between James Madison University (JMU) and 23 high schools in Virginia (and one in New York), nearly 2,000 students have earned ~6,000 college credit hours while learning geospatial technologies with the support of ESRI.  The classes are offered as dual enrollment and are taught by Career and Technical Education (CTE), civics or science instructors while two JMU professors make monthly classroom visits and offer electronic technical and project support.  So what makes this dual enrollment program so different?

In a break from the increasingly rigid structure of many high school classes, the Geospatial Semester is designed to accommodate the many needs of different schools.  Participating teachers can navigate around the often-restrictive nature of subject pacing guides and high stakes testing by gearing their instruction towards a variety of content and curriculum.  Students can learn the core components of the software through application to a range of subjects and fields.  This interdisciplinary approach, in turn, helps keep learning relevant for students by allowing them to use GIS to explore content relevant topics, and develop their critical and spatial thinking skills.  For their final exam students provide an oral defense about the interpretation and meaning of their projects before a panel of JMU professors. In this ‘Problem Based Learning’ environment students get the chance to explore issues that relate to their community, current events or even their personal interests.  Students stay excited and engaged throughout the year when instead of performing stock activities, they get to address real issues such as evaluating patterns of crime, assessing the fire vulnerability of a national forest or even analyzing Real Madrid’s passing efficiency when playing against Lionel Messi and FC Barcelona! 

The Geospatial Semester is a mentored dual enrollment program that continues to evolve thanks in part to a design that stays flexible and relevant while focusing on problem based learning.   Students continue to learn new technologies and stay engaged in learning while they apply them in fields of interest, and teachers get the opportunity to guide this learning and learn themselves.  Nine years after its inception, the Geospatial Semester not only continues to expand in Virginia but is helping launch similar programs in both Arizona and Oregon.

For more information on the Geospatial Semester, please consult its website http://www.isat.jmu.edu/geospatialsemester or contact a member of the Geospatial Semester team.

Also see the Geospatial Semester Replication Guide, a series of strategies for creating your own geospatial semester.

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Fun with GIS 155: Resolutions

Did you make any resolutions for this new year? Do you have a new device with which to explore the world and analyze data via maps? Even if you answer “no” to both, there is much you can do, easily. Resolutions are easier to keep if they are both worthwhile AND easy to accomplish.

“I have a smartphone!” See FunWithGIS152 and make a simple swipe app, centered on the region of interest for you. You can read the blog (do it on a larger screen), experiment with the sample, download the instructions, make the maps, build the app, test it on the phone, share it, and tweak it, all in under an hour, even if you haven’t built apps before. After making the sample, think up a more useful combo.

“I have a tablet!” Open a browser and visit the K12 State License AGO Org (even if you aren’t a school person and don’t know about state licenses). Scroll right, to the “Mapables Atlas” (USA or World), and try one of the maps. Tablets can’t do everything quite as easily as full computers can, but many maps and apps work just fine on any tablet with screen at least 1024×768. There is unlimited content to explore on a tablet!

“I have a computer!” Master data tables. See these blogs and their linked resources: FunWithGIS143, FunWithGIS112, FunWithGIS106, FunWithGIS104, FunWithGIS93, FunWithGIS90. Get good at making a clean table. These repeated blogs are necessary because many people have trouble with tables, because there are many ways to make tables, and they are easy to mess up, so maps made from them may not work or may be wrong. Practice with something small (yielding adequate variety while making it easy to find and fix errors), like five fields about 10 states, or about 10 field data collection sites. Use the blogs’ links to help troubleshoot data entry, then turn the tables into maps. Absolute mastery of table creation (not just “I think it’s close”) is fundamental to analyzing data, and supports powerful analyses in maps.

“Got bandwidth!” Wired or wireless internet access rocks! Explore the K12 State License Org and its resources. Even without devices or bandwidth for every student to work solo, most of these resources can be used for learning in pairs, groups, or all at once. Show the direction in which GIS use is heading — integrating tools, connecting users with professionals and their content. Think about an integrated project for your students, crossing boundaries between classes, using maps that are accessible from multiple directions, on multiple devices, in school and out.

“Sorry, no new tech, still low bandwidth.” ArcGIS Desktop is ever more capable, and the wonderful introductory Mapping Our World lessons for ArcGIS Desktop can be downloaded once and shared across a lab. The Esri Press page shows a host of books, and links to a page where educators can request desk copies. Esri’s periodic hardcopy publications can help educators demonstrate where students can go with skills.

It’s a new year. You can help your students, the community, and the world. Make a difference with GIS, even with just a single new thing.

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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Using Local Live GIS Portals in Education

Many organizations are putting their information on a smart map–by using ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Server technologies–to make their operations more efficient,   The portal from Keith County, Nebraska is one of my favorites.   You, as the educator, can make use of local live GIS web mapping portals like this to teach a wide variety of concepts and skills.  I describe how to use it in further detail in this video.

For example, with the Keith County Nebraska portal, created by the GIS professionals at GIS Workshop Inc., you can teach about how the Public Land Survey System (PLSS) was implemented to divide up the land into parcels, sections, townships, and ranges, and how it affects our lives to the present day.  Examine and measure the extent and location of historical wildfires.  Teach about latitude and longitude, center pivot irrigation and other land use, image characteristics (determine the time of day and time of year that the image was taken), and study changes from nature (river meanders) and from humans (urbanization and agriculture) over time by comparing historical to current imagery.  Examine housing types type using the ground photographs on the site with the property values and age of construction to illustrate how towns grew and changed.

Using Local GIS Portals in Education:  Keith County, Nebraska

How could you use this web mapping portal in education?  What other local GIS maps  have you found useful? I invite you to share your discoveries with the community.

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