Monthly Archives: January 2015

Go Places with Spatial Analysis via a MOOC from Esri

Looking to improve your spatial analysis skills or maybe step into the world of spatial analysis for the first time?  If so, sign up for the next offering of the “Going Places with Spatial Analysis” MOOC from Esri, beginning 4 March 2015.  If you are new to MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), they are wonderful experiences featuring hands-on work with tools, solving problems, learning key content via videos and other means, networking with colleagues, and testing your newfound knowledge.

The Going Places with Spatial Analysis MOOC is for people who know something about data analysis and want to learn about the special capabilities of spatial data analysis. Spatial analysis focuses on location to gain a deeper understanding of data. Spatial analysis skills are in high demand by organizations around the world. You’ll get free access to the full analytical capabilities of ArcGIS Online, Esri’s cloud-based GIS platform. Previous experience with GIS software is helpful, but not necessary for tech-savvy problem solvers.

This course features:

  •  Hands-on exercises, short video lectures, quizzes, case studies and discussion.
  • 6 weeks of instruction, requiring 2 to 3 hours of study per week.
  • A certificate of completion and prizes.
  • Course dates: 4 March – 15 April 2015.

Could you and your career go places with spatial analysis?  Sign up today!

Going Places with Spatial Analysis Esri MOOC

Going Places with Spatial Analysis Esri MOOC.  Sign up today!

Posted in Higher Education | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

New Textbook: Discovering GIS and ArcGIS, by Bradley Shellito

Our colleague Dr Bradley Shellito, from Youngstown State University, author of Introduction to Geospatial Technologies, has authored a new textbook entitled Discovering GIS and ArcGIS.  This book uses hands-on experiences and focuses on both the “how” and “why” of Geographic Information Systems. Students learn to combine an understanding of basic GIS concepts with practical ArcGIS skills, following step-by-step instructions to accomplish a wide range of real-world tasks and applications while always keeping sight on the conceptual basis and practical impact of what they are doing.   Discovering GIS and ArcGIS is appropriate for introductory GIS courses, or advanced or applied GIS courses. Instructors will find the coverage they need for a single intro-level course, a single advanced or applied course, or a two-course sequence.

One of my favorite things about this resource is the fact that the data for the exercises are conveniently hosted on the publisher’s (Macmillan) web page.  Also very thoughtfully included at the same location are high resolution images for instructors’ use, a test bank, solutions to exercises, and much more.  Chapters include how to use data and attribute data, how to conduct spatial analysis, how to create data, layouts, and models, and how to use 3D, Lidar, and elevation data.  The textbook is relevant, up-to-date, and focused on problem solving.  I was glad to see that Dr Shellito’s resource includes hands-on work with ArcGIS Online, as well.

I met Dr Shellito years ago when he had just written his Introduction to Geospatial Technologies book, and have had great respect for him ever since.  Congratulations, Dr Shellito!

If you use this book in your instruction, be sure to jot a note below and share your experience with the community.

Discovering GIS and ArcGIS, by Dr Bradley Shellito

Discovering GIS and ArcGIS, by Dr Bradley Shellito.

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Comparing the Spatial Accuracy of Two Location Apps on a Smartphone in the Field

Building on past field investigations where I studied the spatial accuracy of GPS receivers and smartphone location apps, I recently compared the spatial accuracy of two location apps on a smartphone.   My goals were twofold:  (1) To determine which of two location apps was more spatially accurate in varied terrain and conditions; and (2) To model a field activity that integrates geography, science, and mathematics that students can engage in easily and effectively.

On a hike in the chaparral hills of Southern California, I used my smartphone to collect my tracks using two apps–Motion X GPS and RunKeeper–at the same time.  Once the hike was done, I then exported the track lines and points as GPX files and uploaded them into ArcGIS Online.  The results, shown below, indicate that the two tracks were quite similar; within 1 meter of each other.  I was pleased with the spatial accuracy of both, despite the very steep terrain and considering that the phone was in my pocket most of the time rather than held up high to capture a theoretically stronger set of GPS and cell tower signals.

It was also evident that in this location, on this day, RunKeeper was a bit more spatially accurate, doing better at maintaining the trail switchbacks as I walked rather than cutting them off.   At one switchback, the two tracks were separated by 4.5 meters.  However, just downhill and to the northeast of the image below, Motion X was more accurate for a specific 10 meter stretch of trail.  It must be remembered, however, that these statements “assume” that the satellite image is the best benchmark of spatial accuracy, but it too contains distortions and error.  Furthermore, on a different day and time, with the GPS constellation in a different array, my results could vary.  Varying the speed walked, the time and date, the location app, the location at which the phone is held, the type of phone, and other factors all make for easy-to-implement field investigations that incorporate science, mathematics, geography, and geotechnologies.  And, while outside, you can have rich discussions on land use, land cover, natural processes, access to open space, animal habitat, climate and weather, and much more, as I do here.  The results are easily examined using ArcGIS Online, and students can also create a presentation or a story map in ArcGIS Online to communicate their results.

Give it a try and comment below on the results of your investigations!

Comparing the spatial accuracy of two smartphone location apps in the field

Comparing the spatial accuracy of two smartphone location apps in the field.

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Fun with GIS 171: Lighthouses

Maps are magical because they expose so much info so quickly. This works even for GIS in education. In mid-2014, the White House announced Esri’s participation in ConnectED. ArcGIS Online Organization subscriptions started being issued to any US K12 school requesting one for instruction. At the 2014 Esri Conference, we launched a story map showing these. Today, that number is about 1000.

The second map in the series shows “Lighthouses.” A lighthouse is a beacon, a guidepost for those in need, a marker for all to consider as they make their way. Some are tall, robust, and brilliant, with clarion voice; others are more quiet, less dramatic. The best lighthouses work in concert with others, so explorers can advance ever farther. Today, this map shows just one per state, but we know there are other “lighthouses of GIS in K12 ed.”

The map has a link inviting lighthouse nominations — administrative as well as instructional, informal as well as formal. Tell us about someone using GIS in K12 education, or supporting it from outside, so we can explore the story, enrich the map, and help others progress more swiftly and safely.

The other maps contain powerful content as well — educators in search of mentors, GeoMentors willing to help educators, alums of Esri’s T3G educator institute who can provide guidance, and states and districts with broad licenses. The patterns and relationships in these maps tell powerful stories, but we really want more lighthouses with which to guide others. Help us out by nominating situations from which others could learn, whether your own story or that of someone else.

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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Go Deeper with Historical USGS Topographic Map Exploration

I recently wrote about the extensive set of historical maps that are available in ArcGIS Online.  The tens of thousands of maps in this collection allow for changes due to agriculture, urbanization, reservoir construction, river meanders, seacoast modification, volcanic eruption, and from many other causes to be examined in detail.  And since the maps are all seamlessly accessible in ArcGIS Online, you can add other map layers to deepen your analysis, such as demographics, soils, historical and current satellite imagery, and thousands of other layers.

To access the historical USGS topographic maps, log into your ArcGIS Online organizational account, use the Add Data function, and Browse Esri Map Layers. Select Basemaps, and in that list, find the scale(s) of the USGS historical maps that you wish to examine.  In this essay, I wish to explore additional functionality that exists with these maps in ArcGIS Online, and for this example, I will select and examine 1:24,000-scale maps.

First, I would like to point out the ability to apply a filter to the maps, to further refine the scale or the map date desired.  In the example below, I apply a filter on the map scale and only am interested in maps older than 1965 for Manitowoc, Wisconsin, as shown below.  Note that I also selected “enable time animation” which allows me to explore maps using the time slider bar underneath the map.

Applying a filter to the Historical USGS Topographic Maps in ArcGIS Online

Applying a filter to the Historical USGS Topographic Maps in ArcGIS Online.

Second, by default, the default setting is to display the oldest map on top.  However, if you wanted to display the newer maps on top, you could change the “Image Display Order” and use the “Date Current” attribute with a date of, say, 2015, to accomplish this.

Third,  you can change the pop-up by choosing Configure Pop-up.  You could change the pop up title and create a more user-friendly sentence such as “This map of {Map_Name} was made in {Date_On_Map} and last updated in {DateCurrent}”, which would display as follows:

Historical USGS map popup

Historical USGS map custom popup.

Because these historical USGS topographic maps are part of the premium content in ArcGIS Online, they require an organizational account to use.  However, using them consumes no credits. You can also use the USGS historical topographic map explorer without logging in. Although the ”explorer” does not allow the above additional capabilities, it does feature a convenient time line slider underneath your area of interest that allows you to select the maps and time periods that you wish to examine.

Give these maps and these capabilities a try!  How are you able to make use of these resources in teaching, learning, and research?

Posted in Higher Education, Schools | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Fun With GIS 170: GeoResolution 2015

For many of us, new year’s resolutions are all too easy to make and break. So, this year, how about something different — a GeoResolution — a specific commitment to help a single teacher start mapping in class with ArcGIS Online.

Esri has made it easy to begin. There’s an ArcGIS Online Organization with starting resources just waiting for exploration.

The first button, “01.InstructionDocs”, has starting materials, neatly arranged from quick and easy to longer and more involved. The document “ArcGIS Online 5×5″ is one that a teacher with only a few minutes of experience can use immediately in class, on Macs, PCs, Chromebooks, iPads, or Android tablets.

ArcGIS Online allows educators great flexibility for instruction, so be sure to walk the teacher through the “ArcGIS Online Use Strategies” document. It has a lot of text, but highlights the advantages of each route, and lists some “best practices.” Many teachers have found it easy to move from “no login” to “public account” to “Organization” in their teaching.

ArcGIS Online Organizations offer professional mapping tools via just a web browser. Already, hundreds of teachers and thousands of students have started using these Organizations. Esri has made these Organizations available for free to US K12 schools, for instructional use. After introducing a teacher to the basics, be sure to point out the form for requesting an Organization for the school.

Time is already flying! When will you complete your GeoResolution?

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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New book: Learning and Teaching With Geomedia

Practitioners in every new field need examples that they can follow and modify for their own use.  So it is with the field of teaching and learning with GIS.  Since 1990, innovative educators began using GIS, GPS, and Remote Sensing to enhance their existing instruction in biology, chemistry, earth science, geography, and in other fields at the secondary and university levels.  They and those who followed have been sharing their results in books, articles, and conferences, some of which are featured in the Esri GIS Education Community.

Every new field also needs a research foundation.  So it is with the field of learning and teaching with geotechnologies.  Research has been conducted about the effectiveness and implementation of these technologies on educators (such as engagement in their own profession and teaching style), on students (such as connection to their community, career paths chosen, and achievement test performance), and about the technologies themselves (such as user interface, and its effectiveness in education).

A new book entitled Learning and Teaching with Geomedia, by Inga Gryl, Thomas Jekel, Caroline Juneau-sion, John Lyon, and Eric Sanchez, published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing, provides many new international examples of using GIS in education as well as new research findings.  The book is aimed at academics in the fields of pedagogy, geography and citizenship education, as well as those working in science education. The professional audiences addressed are teacher trainers at university departments, teachers in secondary schools, and students in teacher training.  The book provides both a theoretical and practical introduction to the field, aimed specifically at secondary education.  The first section consists of three scientific papers introducing the dimensions of the emerging geoinformation society. The second section of the book is specifically dedicated to teacher trainers and teachers.

My colleague Tom Baker and I are honored to have authored a chapter in this book, entitled “Collecting Geo-Data to support classroom field studies,” on pages 59-69.  In it, we feature three rich environmental field study experiences that combine mobile devices and technologies such as web-based GIS, GPS, probes, cameras, and smartphones to support rich, deep scientific and geographic inquiry. Web‐based GIS such as ArcGIS Online enables the analysis of field‐collected data to create visualizations.  These tools encourage student decision making,  hypothesis testing, and the formation of conclusions.  The three case studies—a lichen project in formal education, a macroinvertebrate field experience as part of a species documentation project in informal education, and the gathering of field data with a live web mapping service in a teacher professional development workshop—illustrate the expanding possibilities that result from these converging forces.

Learning and Teaching with Geomedia book

Learning and Teaching with Geomedia – new book.

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