Monthly Archives: February 2014

Spatial Analyst videos describe decision making with GIS

I have created a series of 22 new videos describing decision making with GIS, using the Spatial Analyst extension in ArcGIS.  They are listed and accessible in this YouTube playlist.  Over 108 minutes of content is included, but in easy-to-understand short segments that are almost entirely comprised of demonstrations of the tools in real-world contexts.

The videos include the topics listed below.  Videos 10 through 20 include a real-world scenario of selecting optimal sites for fire towers in the Loess Hills of eastern Nebraska, an exercise that Jill Clark and I included in the Esri Press book The GIS Guide to Public Domain Data and available online.

New Spatial Analyst videos

New Spatial Analyst videos explain how to make decisions with key GIS functions in ArcGIS.

1)  Using the transparency and swipe tools with raster data.
2)  Comparing and using topographic maps and satellite and aerial imagery stored locally to the same type of data in the ArcGIS Online cloud.
3)  Analyzing land cover change with topographic maps and satellite imagery on your local computer and with ArcGIS Online.
4)  Creating a shaded relief map using hillshade from a Digital Elevation Model (DEM).
5)  Analyzing a Digital Elevation Model and a shaded relief map.
6)  Creating contour lines from elevation data.
7)  Creating a slope map from elevation data.
8)  Creating an aspect (direction of slope) map from elevation data.
9)  Creating symbolized contour lines using the Contour with Barriers tool.
10)  Decision making using GIS:  Introduction to the problem, and selecting hydrography features.
11) Decision making using GIS:  Buffering hydrography features.
12)  Decision making using GIS:   Selecting and buffering road features.
13)  Decision making using GIS:  Selecting suitable slopes and elevations.
14)  Decision making using GIS:  Comparing Boolean And, Or, and Xor Operations.
15)  Decision making using GIS:   Selecting suitable land use.
16)  Decision making using GIS:  Selecting suitable land use, slope, and elevation.
17)  Decision making using GIS:   Intersecting vector layers of areas near hydrography and near roads.
18)  Decision making using GIS:  Converting raster to vector data.
19)  Decision making using GIS:  Final determination of optimal sites.
20)  Creating layouts.
21)  Additional considerations and tools in creating layouts.
22)  Checking Extensions when using Spatial Analyst tools.

How might you be able to make use of these videos and the processes described in them in your instruction?

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Connecting Geography, GIS, and Language Arts: The Last Great Auk

Reading and examining nonfiction and fiction books provide an excellent way to connect geography, GIS, and Language Arts.  I created a 10-part video series where I explore some of these connections through a book entitled The Last Great Auk, by Allan W. Eckert.   Because the author makes the very last of these great birds the protagonist, this thoroughly enjoyable, fascinating book reads very much like a novel.

I created the video series for another reason, too, and that is to help students and educators think about and share the pivotal moments in their youth or in their careers that helped shape their own career path.  For me, such a pivotal moment came when I read this book as an 11 year old.  I knew that these great flightless birds would go extinct at the end of the book on 3 July 1844, but knowing this is the way the book would end did not make it any easier to read.  I knew right then that I wanted to have a career involving mapping and studying the Earth in some way, and perhaps in my own way prevent future extinctions.

In Part 1 of the video series, I describe four reasons to explore the connections between geography and language arts, and about key moments in our education journey. In Part 2, I read the inside sleeve of the book. In Part 3 is where I read part of the first chapter and in so doing, introduce the protagonist of the book, who will eventually become the very last of the Great Auks.  In Part 4, I read part of a middle chapter in the book, discussing the migration patterns of the Great Auk from Iceland down to North Carolina, and how these migration patterns can be easily mapped in ArcGIS Online.  In Part 5, I read part of the last chapter.  I must admit I got a bit choked up here and if you watch the video, you will find out why.

In Part 6, I pose questions and explore key connections in the book, and illustrate how these can be taught through the geographic perspective and with ArcGIS Online. In Part 7, I discuss the physical and cultural geography of the events in the book. In Part 8, I discuss the inquiry model and the implications of connecting geography and language arts. In Part 9, I discuss how a GIS can be used to explore the book, such as ArcGIS, and how GIS can help connect disciplines through (1) hands-on work with tools such as map notes, measurement, base map analysis, (2) content knowledge about ocean currents, climate, food sources, routes of traders and the supply and demand for feathers, and (3) how to weave in the geographic perspective.  In part 10, I describe and encourage key personal connections.

The Last Great Auk video reflections

The Last Great Auk video reflections.

What is your reaction to the statements I make in these videos?  How have you made connections between disciplines through the use of GIS?

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Columbia University presentation on the importance of the Geographic Perspective and Geospatial Technologies

Being a long time admirer of the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) at Columbia University, I am quite excited to be speaking at the Columbia University library about a topic that is near and dear to my heart and I suspect to many of you as well.  On Wednesday 26 February 2014, I will present “Sleepwalking into the Future: Why the Geographic Perspective and Geospatial Technologies are Critical to 21st Century Education and Society.”  In the online link, scroll down to 26 February for the full details.  This presentation will take place from 10:30 to 11:30am in Room 208B in the Butler Library on Columbia University’s Manhattan campus.

Why do I admire CIESIN?  Spatial data has always been a focus of mine in my GIS career.  Is it not the foundation of so much of what we can accomplish with GIS?  The staff at CIESIN has been dedicated to providing access to data and enhancing understanding of human interactions with the environment since 1989.  I first became aware of CIESIN while I was working as a geographer for the US Census Bureau, and I have had enormous respect for their data and ways they allow access to that data ever since.  Their data holdings cover topics of agriculture, biodiversity, climate, population, environmental health, natural hazards, and much more.  My colleague Jill Clark and I blog weekly about spatial data types, quality, crowdsourcing, data quality, and related issues and also wrote extensively about CIESIN and other data in the Esri Press book The GIS Guide to Public Domain Data.

If you are the area, drop by!   I have shipped some of my favorite Esri Press books there to give away.  If I don’t see you, I am happy to direct a copy of my presentation to you.

Why the Geographic Perspective and Geospatial Technologies are Critical to 21st-Century Education and Society:  Presentation

Why the Geographic Perspective and Geospatial Technologies are Critical to 21st-Century Education and Society: Presentation.

My thanks goes out to CIESIN and Columbia University for hosting me.  I am looking forward to it and I hope to see you there.

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Big Bucks: Analyzing the 10 Most Expensive Streets in the USA

What factors influence how expensive it is to rent or to buy a house in a community? What areas of your own community are more expensive to rent or buy a house than other areas?  Why? What factors influence how expensive it is to rent an office in a community?  These questions and others are explored in an activity in the ArcLessons library that uses the spatial perspective and ArcGIS Online for examining the ten most expensive streets in the USA. The activities are supported by a series of 6 videos on the YouTube Esri Education Team Channel, beginning here.

Lesson to accompany the 10 Most Expensive Streets Web Map

Lesson to accompany the 10 Most Expensive Streets Web Map.

The activity includes an ArcGIS Online set of map layers as well as an ArcGIS Online set of dynamic map-based slides spatially depicting the 10 most expensive streets, created from data reported by MarketWatch in the Wall Street Journal, based on the cost per square foot for office space.  First, use the slides.  Click on each pushpin in the presentation to access the ground photographs.  Describe three similarities and three differences that you notice in the 10 ground photographs. Which of the streets, based on the photographs, is most appealing to you if you were looking for office space, and why?

Second, use the set of map layers.  Select the “Show Contents of Map” button.  After changing the basemap to a satellite image, describe these three neighborhoods. Next, examine the map layers depicting population density, median age, and median net worth in the first three neighborhoods. Do the variables shown on these map layers appear to influence the cost of renting office space? If so, how, and why?

Next, read the article The Ten Most Expensive Streets in the U.S. Do you think that the price per square foot is an adequate measure to determine if a street is expensive? What other measures do you think would be useful? Where do you think the 10 most expensive streets were in 1900, and where do you think they will be in 2050? Now for my favorite parts of the lesson: First, write your own question about the 10 most expensive streets, and answer it! Second, zoom to your own community. What patterns of population density, median age, and median net worth exist close to home? Why do these patterns exist in your community, and how do the patterns change as you change the scale? How do you think these patterns will change over the next 20 years? What other variables do you think would be helpful to understand the price of office space? Using the Add Data button, add them to your map and describe the patterns that you uncover.

If time allows, investigate the price of office space in specific areas of your community and compare those prices to a satellite image, population density, median age, and median net worth. Create a 5 minute presentation using ArcGIS Online or Storymaps that tells your story and save it in ArcGIS Online. Give that presentation to your class.

This activity is aimed at university level but it could be used at the upper secondary level. It can be used as an independent assigned activity to students or in a whole-class discussion format. The activity’s 30 questions require an estimated two to three hours. No previous experience with GIS is necessary but this activity does rely heavily on spatial thinking and the geographic perspective. It can be run in a lab setting or with 1 computer with a projector, but requires no software other than a web browser. How have these WebGIS maps and the spatial perspective helped you to understand the patterns of office space cost?

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Fun with GIS 156: House App Contest

Congress has decided to promote apps by kids. (See Congressional info page.) Irony aside, I’m delighted to see this for several reasons:

  • Apps require a designer to be analytical. One must identify needs and solutions, and balance competing goals.
  • Apps are typically for someone else, so the creator needs to understand the needs, capacities, and challenges of the user.
  • Apps require creativity. Life doesn’t provide detailed instruction from start to finish for something totally new.
  • Apps let creators attempt, stumble, and repeat. Missing a goal is only a failure if it stops one from learning and trying again.

In a previous column, FunWithGIS152, I showed how students (and even educators) could make a simple app customized to their own community. This example should serve only to provide an initial experience in app building. Think of the useful apps students could build … and now the US Congress is encouraging it!

Brainstorm some map apps with students. Get the existing coders to explore, of course, but not just them! Ask everyone to explore the ArcGIS Resource Center, follow some links, and see what people in different industries are looking for. (See also the Esri Github site.) Encourage them to define scenarios: What capacities would help in what situations? Wander through the software samples, the users, the forums, and consider the potential futures available for individuals who can read a description, break a challenge into components, combine capacity creatively, and fail willingly temporarily. Congress wants to see what is possible!

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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