Monthly Archives: November 2016
GeoInspirations is my column in Directions Magazine where we are sharing the stories of innovative people for the purpose of inspiring Directions readers to pursue their own dreams. In the column, I interview some of those men and women who have changed the face of the geospatial industry, shining a light on the importance of geography. It is my hope and the hope of Directions Magazine that you are inspired to make a difference with geography in your corner of the world.
We have featured people of a variety of backgrounds, interests, ages, and skills. Dr Lesley-Ann Dupigny Giroux is the climatologist for the state of Vermont, professor at the University of Vermont, and is an active leader in the K-12 education community. Madison Vorva is a student at Pomona College who has been working since age 11 as a “voice for change” in the areas of environmental science and deforestation. Robert Saveland is a lifelong learner, war hero, and geography educator. Dorothy Drummond is a writer, traveler, and educator. Grant Ian Thrall’s work has been bridging the fields of economics, business, and geography. Bob Dulli has influenced thousands of geography educators through his work at National Geographic Education.
You can use this column to inspire your students, and to encourage them to think about the types of career pathways that are possible. What sort of risks did these people take in their careers? How did mentors help them along the way? If you know someone that should be highlighted as a GeoInspiration in this column, please let me or the Directions editors know at jkerski @ esri.com or editors @ directionsmag.com.
GIS Day events were held on or around 16 November 2016 in hundreds of locations and in dozens of countries around the world, including primary and secondary schools, universities, community colleges, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and businesses. Hosting organizations conducted hands-on workshops, field experiences, map-a-thons, geo-quizzes, and presentations focused on how and why they are using Geographic Information Systems technologies to benefit their communities and the planet.
What did you do for GIS Day? Use this crowdsource story map to tell your story, here.
A sample of these inspirational GIS Day events included the following: Cartegraph wrote an article on the “Top 5 Ways to Celebrate GIS Day”, geography educator Raphael Heath in England created a global collaborative mapping event “Mapoff” about climate change, the California Natural Resources Agency hosted professional development events for GIS Users, Clemson University hosted a series of contests, and IFAL school in Angola conducted hands-on workshops that introduced students to GIS applications. AssetWorks LLC created a video called “4 benefits of GIS for Public Works.” Hundreds participated in Lakeland Community College’s GIS Day, attracting the attention of the regional newspaper. Joseph Kerski, geographer, encouraged everyone to “Make Every Day GIS Day.”]
Need another activity that uses spatial thinking, story maps, and GIS? Participate in the “Power of Parks” story map, share a picture of your favorite park, and explain why it is special.
A recent article in eSchoolNews by Dianne Pappafotopoulos, school district instructional technology specialist, posed the question, “What should we teach students about the future of technology?” She reflects about the ways that humans are increasingly relying on programmable devices and robots for their everyday lives, and in a sense “becoming” technology or at least a part of it. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is an important enabler of these technological changes as the “where” question becomes ever more important. GIS has undergone a series of massive paradigm shifts in its 50 year existence, and with the advent of Web GIS, the rate of change not only is increasing, but is attracting applications for nearly every aspect of society, from health to business to engineering and beyond.
Beyond the technical innovations that technology brings to our world and the workforce skills to our students, teaching about technology offers many societal and life lessons. I think that the points Ms. Pappafotopoulos raises in the article about critical thinking, safety, privacy, ethics, and copyright connect well to what I believe we should be incorporating into our GIS instruction. In fact, many of these topics are central to the themes in the Spatial Reserves blog that Jill Clark and I have been writing for nearly 5 years, along with the book we wrote on the same subject for Esri Press. It is also a topic that we frequently write about in this GIS education blog.
Geospatial data are often personal, because they reflect the locations where individuals live, work, and travel. Collecting spatial data and creating and analyzing maps requires students to ask questions such as: Where did these map layers come from? Who created the data, and can I trust it? How does the scale of my analysis and the parameters I use for the buffer or intersect tools affect the results of my analysis? Do I have permission to use this photograph in my story map? Should I share the location of where I live or where I took my morning fitness run with the world on a map? Will I compromise the privacy of individuals who participate in my crowdsource map?
The recommendations for educators in the article have natural connections to GIS. The creation of required courses that focus on these issues, inviting guest speakers (who could be from the GIS community via the Geomentors program), and project-based learning activities (such as SpatiaLABS, the Learn GIS library, and GeoInquiries) are excellent starting points.
- Teaching with GIS is an important part of teaching about technology and its implications.
Nathan Heazlewood of Eagle Technologies wrote a very useful essay about “garbage in, garbage out” in relation to geospatial data. In it, he not only ties this oft-heard phrase to the importance of GIS data quality, but he also details the checks that GIS analysts should go through when they are assessing a data set. I would argue that this checklist is also useful for educators and for students as they document their own work for two reasons: (1) Paying attention to data quality is even more important now than ever (as I described recently in this blog), and (2) nowadays, with the advent of Web GIS, everyone working in GIS is a potential data producer.
The list of 30 items is grouped under checks for positional accuracy, topological logic, geometric considerations, projections and coordinate systems, attribute and data structure checks, and attribute and data structure checks. Extremely helpful are Nathan’s diagrams showing tables lacking null values for non-null attribute data, values outside permitted ranges, and orphan records in related tables.
Nathan includes many considerations that are not often discussed but can lead to enormous problems, such as the different standards and formats of dates being used around the world, from year-month-day to day-month-year to month-day-year (which Nathan dubs the “super dumb American date format”). Another consideration is one I can identify with that was a significant challenge for me during a GIS workshop I taught in Turkey–the numbers in my data set were formatted such as 100,000 for one hundred thousand, but the software in the university lab, given its location, was naturally configured for one hundred thousand to be coded as 100.000.
How might you be able to use this data error checklist in your own instruction? What checks would you consider adding to this list when you are teaching GIS?