Tag Archives: Geography

Interpreting Our World: New book on 100 Revolutions in Geography

Looking for a new way to teach and learn about geography?  I have written a new book entitled Interpreting Our World:  100 Discoveries that Revolutionized Geography, described in this video.  This book demonstrates why geography matters in the modern-day world through its examination of 100 moments throughout history that had a significant impact on the study of geography—which means, literally, “writing about the earth” or “describing the earth.”

Geography is not simply accounts of the lands of earth and their features; it’s about discovering everything there is to know about our planet. This book shows why geography is of critical importance to our world’s 21st-century inhabitants through an exploration of the past and present discoveries that have been made about the earth. It pinpoints 100 moments throughout history that had a significant impact on the study of geography and the understanding of our world, including widely accepted maps of the ancient world, writings and discoveries of key thinkers and philosophers, key exploration events and findings during the Age of Discovery, the foundations of important geographic organizations, and new inventions in digital mapping today.

The book begins with a clear explanation of geography as a discipline, a framework, and a way of viewing the world, followed by coverage of each of the 100 discoveries and innovations that provides sufficient background and content for readers to understand each topic. Students will gain a clear sense of what is truly revolutionary about geography, perhaps challenging their preconceived notion of what geography actually is, and grasp how important discoveries revolutionized not only the past but the present day as well.

It is my hope that the book clearly provides readers with an understanding of why geography matters to our 21st-century world and an awareness of how geography affects our everyday lives and is key to wise decision making. I have also ensured that the book addresses and explains key themes of geography, including scale, physical processes, cultural processes, patterns, relationships, models, and trends.  The book also integrates time, space, and place in geography, documenting how it is not only the study of spatial patterns, but also the fact that many discoveries in geography came about because of the particular time and place in which the discoverers lived.

The book was published by ABC-CLIO and is available from the publisher and via Amazon.

And yes, the book includes plenty about geotechnologies that we discuss in this blog, including GIS, GPS, remote sensing, web mapping, UAVs, and other technologies from astrolabes and compasses to theodolites and the Internet of Things.

Interpreting Our World:  100 Discoveries that Revolutionized Geography

Interpreting Our World: 100 Discoveries that Revolutionized Geography.

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Fun with GIS 203: Index Grids Rule

Think back to your early map reading days. Do you remember using an index or reference grid — rows and columns of letters and numbers — to find a zone in which to look for something? These grids are really helpful for many learners and many purposes. Now there is an app (still beta, but robust) with which to generate such grids as needed.

It’s simple. Log in to the app with your ArcGIS Online credentials (publishing privileges are required), pan and zoom to the region of interest, set the desired number of rows and columns, click a button and drag a box, and a graphic grid appears. If you don’t like it, just hit the trash button and try it again. When happy, click the button, and the system generates a feature layer in your contents for you. It works at all scales I’ve wanted to try — from a parking lot to a continent. (Naturally, local level minimizes issues of cartographic distortion.)

Some educators have wanted a grid atop a portion of their school grounds in order to assign data collection tasks, or even to reference player positions on an athletic field. Others have wanted a grid atop a state map to support teaching about features and locations. The grids can be generated quickly for ad hoc processes, and can be labeled, symbolized, and filtered by attribute.

I like to put a grid atop just the topographic basemap, save the map, share it, and open the map in Explorer for ArcGIS. Try it, and I think you’ll agree: grids rule.

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Schools Program Manager

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Remembering 9/11

(Note: This was written for and posted on Sept 11 of 2011, the tenth anniversary. The memories, and need for learning, remain as strong as ever. Never give up. -Charlie)

On that dreadful day in 2001, under the “severe clear” September sky, in those thunderbolts of inhumanity that cost so dearly, we lost two friends from National Geographic who, with students and teachers in tow, had embarked on a mission full of hope.

The roots of that ghastly day snake back to and reach full stop at a scandalously inadequate geographic understanding, even among the ranks of those who influence the planet. The world is stunningly complex, with visible influence and hidden links far and wide. How can anyone hope to make good decisions about complex matters while ignoring the matrix of connections?

We need to see the broad patterns and fractal fabrics around us, grasp the relationships between conditions here and those over there, envision from all sides the Mobius strip connecting yesteryear and tomorrow. Without this holistic view, without comprehending the tyranny of distance yet still the web of connections over space and time, the road ahead is perilous, for each of us, and the world in which we live. Ignoring the lessons of geography, we become a braided stream of humanity, tumbling inexorably toward a cliff.

Ann and Joe lost their lives while working to build geographic understanding for all … young or old, teacher or student, rural or urban, American or global. It remains for us truly a mission in which failure is not an option. For those who live in anonymity on up to those whose decisions shape us all, understanding the power of place and past, and the gravity of patterns and relationships, is vital for navigating safely between the shoals of ignorance and apathy, toward a secure and sustainable world. Let us resolve to ensure that all gain experience in thinking geographically, and hail the disposition to do so about matters large and small.

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Schools Program Manager
Link to Facebook group remembering Ann and Joe

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Alexander Von Humboldt’s Biographer Andrea Wulf to Keynote Esri User Conference

Each year I look forward to the Esri User Conference, and the day of the plenary is always one of my favorite days there.  This year I have particular interest in hearing our keynote speaker, Andrea Wulf, because I just finished reading her magnificent biography of Alexander Von Humboldt, entitled The Invention of Nature:  Alexander Von Humboldt’s New World.  A historian and master storyteller, Wulf is the author of five books and has written articles for many well-known publications. Her latest book about Von Humboldt was a New York Times bestseller and recently won the 2016 Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the science and technology category. It is listed as one of the “10 Best Books of 2015” by the New York Times.

Nowadays, we take for granted discussions and investigations into human impact on the environment, climate change, and the interconnections between Earth systems such as the atmosphere, hydrosphere, and lithosphere.  We make maps of the variation of vegetation by elevation.  We weave together the sense of place and the description of flora, fauna, weather, landforms, and people.  But it wasn’t always this way:  Von Humboldt (1769-1859) was a pioneer in all of these areas, and more:  He was really the first to integrate the arts into STEM education, which sounds strikingly 21st Century!

One of the things I like about Wulf’s book is that she takes the time to investigate those who Von Humboldt influenced, such as Thoreau, Emerson, Bolivar, Darwin, and Muir, just to name a few.  Von Humboldt frequently met with the poet, writer, and statesman Goethe.  I would have loved to sit in that room or tag along on one of their many walks together, as they discussed art, science, and literature.

As a geographer, I knew about Von Humboldt before I read Wulf’s book, but I wasn’t aware until after I read the book that he really only made two epic treks in his lifetime:  To South America (with some time in Central and North America as well), and to Russia, all the way to China and Mongolia.  In fact, he walked all the way to China when he was 59 years old.  While he also traveled extensively throughout Europe, it is even more amazing that he accomplished what he did with these two trips:  It shows that he listened to others, read widely and gathered as much data as he could.  He was meticulous in his mapping, drawing, and research.  But my favorite thing about him is something we are always mentioning in our workshops with students–Be curious, and ask lots of questions.  

I won’t say any more – you need to read this book for yourself!  Then I encourage you to use Wulf’s book in your own instruction, discussing the above geographic themes that Von Humboldt pioneered and why they mattered in the 19th Century and why they matter now.  You could examine his traits in career focused discussions.  In addition, your students could create a story map about Von Humboldt, or those who he influenced, highlighting where they traveled, what they discovered, and what they thought about.

I look forward to seeing Ms. Wulf and all of you at the Esri User Conference and the Esri GIS Education conference as well.

The Invention of Nature, book by Andrea Wulf about Alexander Von Humboldt

The Invention of Nature, book by Andrea Wulf about Alexander Von Humboldt.

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Geography Summer Camp 2016: Online 5-Week Geography Course

Geography summer camp?   I will be offering an exciting 5-week online course beginning 25 May 2016 entitled Teaching Geography for the 21st Century.  You can register here.

Geography Summer Camp:  Online Course

Geography Summer Camp: Online Course 2016.

Geography is considered one of the world’s oldest disciplines, pioneered by Eratosthenes in 250 BC, and has a rich tradition of scholarship and innovation. Yet geography has always embraced new technologies, research practices, instructional methods, skills, and content. How can geography be taught in the 21st Century, embracing its rich heritage and yet looking forward to emerging and exciting tools and perspectives? What content should be included? What skills should be developed?

Furthermore, why should geography be taught in the 21st Century? Why is it relevant to the understanding of and decision-making in 21st Century society, the environment, and current events?

I will teach this course through eNet Learning, whose mission is to provide high-quality professional development, content, and resources that support educators and student learning.  Watch this friendly video to discover more about the course.

This course is designed to build geographic concepts, perspectives, and skills for those teaching geography and those teaching other disciplines who seek to use the geographic framework.  The goal is to enable and equip educators to teach the subject of geography in engaging and informed ways; to help educators and their students to understand why and how geography is relevant to 21st Century life. Population, land use, urban, economic, health, hazards, and other themes will be addressed. A focus will be on scale, systems thinking, critical thinking, time and space, and place, through an inquiry-driven, hands-on, problem-based format. The course includes pedagogical strategies and technological tools to teach conceptual foundations, skills, and geographic perspectives. Hands-on activities will offer deep immersion in several tools, including ArcGIS Online, which provides an easy-to-use, powerful platform for analysis and investigation.  We will also use the Urban Observatory, the Change Matters viewer,  storymaps, and other exciting tools.

If you are already thinking spatially and wondering about the photographs at right, I took the top image in Savannah, Georgia, and the bottom on the shoreline at the UCSB campus in Santa Barbara, California.

Participants will be equipped to: 1) Identify, describe, and discuss urban, economic, land use, natural hazards, health, and population issues foundational to geography at different geographical and temporal scales. 2) Apply geographic principles to effectively teach geography with the geographic perspective, and 3) Understand how to incorporate geospatial technologies, including dynamic web maps, charts, and data, to teach geography.  If you have colleagues that you are trying to “nudge” into spatial thinking and the use of geotechnologies, please tell them about this opportunity.

See you online in our “Geography Summer Camp”!

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GeoInquiries for Advanced Human Geography Released!

A new collection of geoinquiries for high school advanced human geography has been released.  The collection contains 15 activities and maps tied to the AP benchmarks for human geography and the most commonly used textbooks.  Like the Earth Science and US History geoinquiries, each activity is intended to take about 15 of instructional time to deliver to students.

The authoring team included Dr. Seth Dixon, Mr. Chris Bunin, and Dr. Megan Webster.  Maps.com produced much of the data and many of the maps used in the collection.

The human geography geoinquiry collection contains the following activities:

Distance, transportation, and scaleUnderstanding Globalization

World Population

USA Demographics

You claim it, you name it! (Toponyms)

Language and Religion

Sacred space – sacred place

Migration – On the Move

Borders, boundaries, and barriers

Farming, vegetation and the rural landscape

Agricultural Patterns

The Human Development Index

Comparing country development

What’s the range?

Urban areas and edge cities

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Fun with GIS 192: Sustainability and Students

“Sustainability” was not a word I heard in high school. I could comprehend ecosystems; I lived on a small pond, and saw it evolve before I could drive. Looking back, I loved systems, whether the meshing gears of my fishing reel or the feedback cycles in the 3-gallon pond aquarium in my bedroom. In hindsight, Earth Day 1970 marked the dawn of my metamorphosis from biologist to geographer, and a never-ending thirst for patterns and relationships.

On that first Earth Day, Esri was in year one of helping communities plan a better future. That mission continues, but now at all scales. Sustainability is a planetary concern; our future is not fixed; nothing is guaranteed. The interplay of many complex systems works like a herky-jerky conveyor belt; population, food production, biodiversity, climate, water, land use, economics, culture, and history push us … and we push them. We must grasp intestinally how actions have consequences, and how holistic vision can inform action.

Esri’s “Sustainable Development” website shows how individuals, governments, non-profit organizations, and business can collaborate. Our future depends on our capacity to think holistically, about how various elements (or layers of data) appear and conditions shift between here and there. To see the big picture — globally, yes, but even down to a local level — we need to harness technology, as data streams become fractal torrents, and patterns can hide like zebras on the savanna. Interactive geographic analysis clarifies such patterns, adjusting our focus.

Building skills with data takes experience, which means time. Educators can help students start, easily, online, with quick classroom content or extended projects. Any US K12 educator can do this for free, at www.esri.com/connected, with lessons and a free school account. But students need not wait for their teachers to begin learning. Students can explore and learn, unfettered, at esriurl.com/k12gis. Intros, examples, videos, and other guidance await explorers of any age. Students contemplating careers, seeking coding resources, or just concerned about their future world, can launch on their own, for free.

We have begun creeping toward sustainability, but that global conveyor belt makes our net progress uncertain. We need students to arise, look around, view the patterns and relationships, gauge the net movement, and lend fresh vision, passion, and mission to the push toward sustainability. Thinking geographically, using GIS, will help.

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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Mapillary: Capturing, Sharing, and Exploring Street Level Photos

Mapillary is a tool that allows anyone to create their own street level photographs, map them, and share them via web GIS technology.  The idea behind Mapillary is a simple but powerful one:  Take photos of a place of interest as you walk along using the Mapillary mobile app.  Next, upload the photos to Mapillary again using the app. They will be connected with others’ and combined into a street level photo view.  Then, explore your places and those from thousands of other users around the world.

Mapillary is part of the rapidly growing crowdsourcing movement, also known as citizen science, which seeks to generate “volunteered geographic information” content from ordinary citizens.  Mapillary is therefore more than a set of tools–it is a community, with its own MeetUps and ambassadors.  Mapillary is also a new Esri partner, and through an ArcGIS integration, local governments and other organizations can understand their communities in real-time, and “the projects they’re working on that either require a quick turnaround or frequent updates, can be more streamlined.”  These include managing inventory and city assets, monitoring repairs, inspecting pavement or sign quality, and assessing sites for new train tracks.   Other organizations are also using Mapillary:  For example, the Missing Maps Project is a collaboration between the American Red Cross, British Red Cross, Médecins Sans Frontières-UK (MSF-UK, or Doctors Without Borders-UK), and the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team. The project aims to map the most vulnerable places in the developing world so that NGOs and individuals can use the maps and data to better respond to crises affecting these areas.

On the discovery section of Mapillary, you can take a tour through the ancient city Teotihuacán in Mexico, Astypalaia, one of the Dodecanese Islands in Greece, Pompeii, or Antarctica.  But if you create an account and join the Mapillary community, you can access the live web map and click on any of the mapped tracks.

Mapillary can serve as an excellent way to help your students get outside, think spatially, use mobile apps, and use geotechnologies.  Why stop at streets?  You or your students could map trails, as I have done while hiking or biking, or  map rivers and lakes from a kayak or canoe.  There is much to be mapped, explored, studied, and enjoyed.  If you’d like extra help in mapping your campus, town, or field trip with Mapillary, send an email to Mapillary and let the team know what you have in mind.  They can help you and your students get started with ideas and tips (and bike mounts, if you need them).

For about 18 months, I have been using Mapillary to map trails and streets.  I used the Mapillary app on my smartphone, generating photographs and locations as I hiked along. One of the trails that I mapped is shown below and also on the global map that everyone in the Mapillary community can access.  I have spoken with the Mapillary staff and salute their efforts.

I look forward to hearing your reactions and how you use this tool.

Mapillary tool for generating and sharing street level photos and maps

Mapillary tool for generating and sharing street level photos and maps.

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Call for beta testers: Advanced Human Geography GeoInquiries

GeoInquiries are designed to be fast and easy-to-use instructional resources that AP Human Geography GeoInquiriesincorporate advanced web mapping technology. Each 15-minute activity in a collection is intended to be presented by the instructor from a single computer/projector classroom arrangement. No installation, fees, or logins are necessary to use these materials and software.

The Advanced Human Geography GeoInquiry Collection (project homepage) is now in public beta testing.   If you would like to contribute your experiences using a geoinquiry activity with students, submit your comments to http://esriurl.com/GeoInquiryFeedback   

The beta collection contains the following activities:

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Fun with GIS 186: GAW in Mourning

Geography Awareness Week 2015 begins with the world reeling in pain. We who celebrate the interconnections of life were horrified by the terrorism in France on Friday. We weep for the victims, and mourn as one with the families, friends, communities, and nation. How is it that some learn to hate and destroy, while others learn to support and heal?

Thinking geographically means searching for patterns and relationships, looking at a complex situation from many angles, holistically, to see the many related elements and perspectives. We can construct models and flows, stringing together blobs of text and graphic to describe mechanically how something comes about. But there remain elements we cannot fathom, influences that do not “follow the rules.”

Last week, I wrote about “integrating STEM.” I do not believe STEM is single discipline, nor even four content areas, but a multi-threaded approach to learning how things work. It depends on analysis, logic, systems, and fractal content knowledge to support a framework. But, for living in our world, it requires context, particularly the messy elements of humankind. STEM alone cannot properly experience, fathom, explain, cope with, recover from, predict, and prevent episodes like Friday. It is like only having fabric threads running in one direction. Without the context of human experience — language, arts, government, religion, history, economics — it is only the warp, the lengthwise fibers of the loom. Equally, the crosswise weft by itself makes an unproductive loom. Only the combination works.

Geography mixes and mingles, mapping the patterns and relationships of all that is and has been. Sometimes, the patterns dazzle us; other times, they are hideous, Medusa-like, or worse. But they are real. We need to seek a full range of information, including all the perspectives, to grasp the reality.

The magic of geography is its holistic view. The power of GIS is its capacity both to isolate and integrate, and thus illuminate. The challenge for humanity is to build, and share, ever greater understanding. Our hearts are heavy, but we must go forward. Only education can save the world.

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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