Tag Archives: GIScience

Why Data Quality Matters – Now More Than Ever

Not long ago, obtaining data for a GIS-based project was an arduous task. Because great time and effort was involved with either creating your own data or obtaining data that someone else created, you had to think carefully about the quality of the data that would go into your project. While it can still be cumbersome to obtain data at specific scales for specific areas, cloud-based data services, crowdsourced maps and databases and real-time streaming make it easy for anyone to obtain vast amounts of data in a short amount of time.

In such an environment where so much data is available, is data quality still of concern? I believe that yes, data quality does matter. In fact, because data is so easy to obtain data nowadays, and with the advent of crowdsourcing and cloud-based GIS such as ArcGIS Online, I submit that data quality considerations actually matter now more than ever before. And for those of us who are GIS, STEM, and geography educators, I believe this topic merits inclusion in many courses. In fact, I have found that discussing this topic connects well to critical thinking, spatial thinking, location privacy, and other relevant themes that we need to address in our courses.  In these three examples, I illustrate in an article I wrote for Directions Magazine, I focus on why data quality matters both now and in the future.

The first example describes my mapping of a GPS-collected track in ArcGIS Online.  The second example focuses on mapping health data for Rhode Island towns.  The last example is entitled “Walking on Water?” – and it has to do with resolution and scale.  But I won’t spoil it for you – read the article, and then below this essay, I look forward to hearing how you teach about data quality.

Why Data Quality Matters - Now More Than Ever

Why Data Quality Matters – Now More Than Ever. Examples.

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New book released – STEM and GIS in Higher Education

The new e-book from Esri, STEM and GIS in Higher Education compiles 19 university case studies describing innovative ways faculty are incorporating GIS to advance STEM related activities in higher education. As a successor to the 2012 Advancing Stem Education with GIS this book explores how faculty, staff, and students are successfully using GIS to analyze and better understand data in their specific STEM fields. As a sequel, this book is designed to foster the expansion of spatial analysis throughout the sciences and engineering. The content highlights successful experiences that describe innovative approaches to the collection, analysis, and display of spatial data and the unique benefits of applying GIS methods.  The nineteen chapters are assembled into three sections.

Section 1: Campus Support for Spreading GIS into STEM Disciplines

Demonstrate how major universities have established technical and academic infrastructure to support the use of GIS across campuses. These institutions represent models of “Spatial Universities” that have committed to the establishment of infrastructure to foster multidisciplinary spatially oriented learning and research. The examples provide a glimpse of how these organizations are serving as catalysts to stimulate interdisciplinary collaboration. Specific examples demonstrate new approaches to data sharing through enhanced library functions, highlight new ways to utilize cloud based servers for realistic technical training, and preview cutting edge geodesign applications. They also illustrate ways to incorporate GIS to support campus facilities and foster interaction with local communities.

Section 2: Teaching and Learning about Spatial Analysis

Provide examples of ways that GIS and spatial analysis can serve as the focal point of courses in STEM disciplines. These examples should be useful to faculty in STEM disciplines who desire to incorporate innovative new activities for their students. The case studies demon-strate how GIS can be used to expand the technical abilities of stu-dents, helping to improve their understanding of real world problems while generating products that foster communication skills. It is significant that these experiences strongly suggest that the new breed of GIS software, such as ArcGIS Online and Esri Story Map app, will provide a fast track to curriculum deployment.

Section 3: GIS Applications in STEM disciplines

Describe research projects conducted by faculty and students in sci-ence and engineering that incorporate spatial analysis. These examples are designed to clearly demonstrate the value of GIS oriented research methods to traditional scientific investigations.

The contributions to this book were selected from submissions in response to a widely distributed call for chapters. These chapters cover activities at a wide range of institutions that include a cross section of Carnegie One private research universities, major state universities, smaller engineering colleges, and state supported regional campuses. The authors include biologists, engineers, physicians, environmental scientists, chemists, and psychologists. These lighthouse authors empower their students to discover, create, analyze, and display spatial data within the constraints of traditional university settings.

Explore the story map and no-cost e-book at http://www.esriurl.com/STEMGIS

If you are interested in contributing your university’s STEM and GIS program to the map, see the geoform at http://arcg.is/2cWoYvj .

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Proposal for AP GIS&T

With support from the Geography Education National Implementation Project (GENIP), the American Association of Geographers (AAG) has developed a proposal for a new Advanced Placement course in Geographic Information Science and Technology (AP GIS&T). All U.S. high schools, colleges, and universities are invited to review the proposal by visiting www.apgist.org.

AP GIS&T is designed to introduce high school students to the fundamentals of geographic information science and applications of powerful geospatial technologies for spatial analysis and problem solving. Together with AP Human Geography, AP GIS&T offers an opportunity to engage students in outstanding geographic learning experiences and promote awareness of the many college and career opportunities available in the discipline. The course proposal has attracted broad support from prominent scientific and educational organizations, as well as major technology employers.

For AP GIS&T to become a reality, the AAG needs to collect attestations from 250 U.S. high schools that confirm they have the interest and capacity to offer the course. Similar assurances are needed from 100 colleges and universities that they would be willing to offer some form of credit to students who demonstrate proficiency on the AP GIS&T exam.

The AAG invites high school principals and academic department chairpersons to consider adding their institution to the list of AP GIS&T supporters by completing the brief attestation form at www.apgist.org. The AAG’s goal is to complete the attestation process by October 1, 2016.

Have questions about AP GIS&T? Contact the AAG at ap_gist@aag.org.

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Why GIS in Education Matters: 3 Videos

Recently I posted a document that I have been curating for quite a few years now, one explaining why GIS in education matters.  This content is also posted with graphics on the Esri Insider newsletter.  To provide another way of communicating this information, I have created a series of videos on this same theme, in three parts–Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

The reasons why GIS in education matters include critical thinking, career pathways, spatial thinking, understanding how to work with data and the limitations of data, building media fluency, focusing on the whys of where, asking good questions, solving problems, sustainability and green technology, and understanding changes over space and time.

I am interested in your reactions to these videos:  What is missing from this message? What is useful about these videos?  In what settings could you use them in your own work with fellow faculty, with faculty from other disciplines, with administrators, with parents, and with students?  What do you include in your own messages about the reasons for GIS in education?

Why GIS in Education:  Series of Videos

Why GIS in Education: Series of videos.

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Beyond Mapping: Compilation of 25 Years of Essays and Activities about GIS

The Beyond Mapping Compilation Series of the 25-year run of the “Beyond Mapping” column by Dr. Joseph K. Berry in GeoWorld is finally “soup.”  The nearly 1000 pages and more than 750 figures in the Series provide a comprehensive and longitudinal perspective of the underlying concepts, considerations, issues and evolutionary development of modern geotechnology, including remote sensing, GIS, and GPS.

Beyond Mapping Compilation

Beyond Mapping: Compilation of Essays and Activities in Geotechnologies.

The Series is organized into four online books (with hard copy options), each containing an Introduction, Ten Topics, Epilogue, and Further Readings with links to online support materials including additional online readings, color graphics files, instructor materials, and software for “hands-on” exercises that are cross-referenced to the topics.

Book IV — GIS Modeling: Applying Map Analysis Tools and Techniques (columns from 2007 to 2014).  This compilation extends earlier discussions of map analysis concepts, procedures, approaches, applications and issues affecting contemporary relevance and future potential.

Book III — Map Analysis: Understanding Spatial Patterns and Relationships (columns from 1996 to 2007).  This compilation develops a structured view of the important concepts, considerations and procedures involved in grid-based map analysis.

Book II — Spatial Reasoning for Effective GIS (columns from 1993 to 1996).  This compilation encourages the reader to extend the historic role of maps telling us “Where is what?” to “So what?”

Book I — Beyond Mapping: Concepts, Algorithms and Issues in GIS (columns from 1989 to 1993).  This compilation describes an emerging technology that goes beyond traditional mapping and spatial database management to new concepts and procedures for modeling the complex interrelations among spatial data of all kinds.

The resource is available here, and permission to use portions of the Beyond Mapping Compilation Series collection of columns for educational and non-commercial purposes is granted (and encouraged).   Navigation within this tsunami of information is aided by five separate organizational listings of the individual Beyond Mapping columns, including a Chronological Listing of the nearly 300 individual Beyond Mapping columns (.html and .pdf), an Application Listing that organizes the columns by application areas (.html and .pdf), an Operations Listing that organizes the columns by operational topic/theme discussed (.html and .pdf), an Interactive Listing that can be searched/sorted by any word or phrase, topic, theme and application area (Word .doc), and a soon-to-be-published Combined Index of keywords and phrases covering all four books (.html; in progress; planned for Fall 2014).

–Joseph K. Berry

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The Size of the Geospatial Industry

One question that we frequently receive here on the Esri education team is, “What is the size of the geospatial industry?”  Whether the question is asked in reference to a paper someone is researching, or because someone wants to obtain a sense of the “stability”of the industry when deciding whether to pursue GIScience for their career, or for some other reason, the question is a valid one, but it is difficult to definitively answer.

Up through the mid 1990s, while employed at the USGS, I used to consult an annual paper book on the size of GIS to answer this question.  Back then, it was a modest sized community of government, academia, nonprofit, and industry who were involved with producing, serving, and using geospatial data, software, and services.  But since then we have seen an explosion of geospatial technologies and data surround us in many forms and on many devices, and an expansion of users far beyond the traditional sciences and planning “core” into business, health, and just about every industry that exists.  This makes answering the question increasingly difficult.  It might be akin to “what is the size of the chemical, transportation, or <you fill in the blank” industries?”  All are enormous and have fuzzy boundaries.

Nevertheless, a few documents are helpful in at least getting an estimate of the size of the geospatial industry.   Geospatial World reported in their December 2013 issue on page 18 and following that the global geospatial industry brings in $270 billion in annual revenue, and companies in the sector pay more than $90 billion in wages each year.  This stemmed from a report published by Oxera in January 2013.  Equally interesting are the figures of how much travel time is saved annually due to geospatial technology (1.1 billion) and petrol saved (3.5 billion liters).  According to the Oxera report, this means that geospatial is 5 to 10 times larger than the video game industry, and at least one third the size of the global airline industry.  Geospatial is so large because “digital imagery and location-based services are essential components in resource management, supply chain logistics, infrastructure design, telecommunications, and national defense.  Also consider the manufacturing industry involved with creating consumer products, as well as the satellite and space industry needed to make it all work.”  Additionally, Geospatial World author Sanjay wrote this article about the business value and the major technology and solution companies. Finally, Daratech has researched and published comprehensive surveys of the size of the geospatial industry.

The Exhibit Hall at the Esri International User Conference.

One way of getting a sense of the size and diversity of the geospatial industry is to visit the Exhibit Hall at the Esri International User Conference. I am amazed at what I see there each year.  Another way is to visit http://www.esri.com/industries.

No matter what the size of the geospatial industry, one thing is clear:  Geospatial technology is here to stay.  As our world faces more complex and interconnected issues in this century that increasingly impact our everyday lives, the “where” questions will be increasingly asked.  And the technology to answer those questions will be GIS.

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Why ‘Where’ Matters: New Book

Just about everything my colleagues and I write in this blog has to do with why ‘where’ matters.  And now Dr Bob Ryerson and Dr Stan Aronoff have authored a book with this same title, focused on helping anyone who seeks to become successful with using geospatial information and tools in today’s economy.  After building a strong case for what they define as the “geo-economy”, the authors explain what the geotechnologies are, what geospatial knowledge is, and trends that these technologies are taking.  But even more important in my view is that they focus on why all of this is important, with a clear aim to enable the reader to take advantage of geotechnologies in his or her career and in society.  In fact, their goal, as they put it, is for the reader not to have to rely on “geo-luck” but rather to empower the reader to have the “geo-advantage.”

Why Where Matters book

Why Where Matters book, written by Dr Bob Ryerson and Dr Stan Aronoff.

As societies, economies, and geospatial technologies continue to rapidly evolve, a resource that helps students, faculty, and others gain key knowledge about this field but also the proper perspective on the broader issues is both welcomed and needed.  The book can also be used as an effective introductory GIS text and as essential reading for any student who will use geotechnologies on the job because while it provides an excellent overview, it also explains the relevance of key tools and the knowledge and skills necessary to use those tools.

On a personal note, the very first GIS textbook I ever used in graduate school was Dr Aronoff’s GIS:  A Management Perspective.   I have long had respect for him and for Dr Ryerson and I encourage you to investigate their new book.   How have you used the book?  Your reflections are encouraged here.

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Book: Introducing GIS with ArcGIS: A Workbook Approach to Learning GIS, 3rd Edition

Our colleague, Professor Michael Kennedy, has updated his Introducing GIS with ArcGIS:  A Workbook Approach to Learning GIS book to ArcGIS 10.1 as well as the latest theory and practice.  The book, published by Wiley, is an integrated approach that combines the essential GIS background with a practical workbook on applying the principles in ArcGIS.

GIS textbook by Dr Michael Kennedy

GIS textbook by Professor Michael Kennedy.

One thing that is new in this edition is that it allows students to experience publishing maps on the Internet through new exercises, and introduces the idea of programming in the the Python language that Esri has chosen for applications.  A DVD is packaged with the book, as was the case in prior editions, containing data for working through all of the exercises.  Esri’s Jack Dangermond wrote the foreword to the book and Dr Michael Goodchild wrote the afterword.

I have known Professor Kennedy for many years.  He is very passionate about GIS and I salute his vision and energy that has gone into this book.  I believe this book can be effectively used as a coursebook for not only introductory but intermediate GIS courses.  It is forward thinking and supports spatial thinking and analysis for those learning GIS and those seeking to use GIS in a wide variety of fields.

What books are you using for your GIS instruction?  What is your all time favorite GIS text?

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10 New Activities from Local to Global Scale Using Public Domain Data and GIS

Ten new hands-on activities that accompany the Esri Press book The GIS Guide to Public Domain Data book that Jill Clark and I  authored have been posted to the web, along with the data and the answer keys, on the Spatial Reserves site.

Look in the section “exercises and data for the book.”  The activities are available  through Scribd or through Google Docs.  The data for the exercises are stored on ArcGIS Online.   We contribute to the blog weekly, expanding on issues raised in the exercises and the book, such as data sources, data quality, data formats, fee vs. free, legal issues, volunteered geographic information, cloud GIS, and much more.

Exercises and Data for The GIS Guide to Public Domain Data

Exercises and Data for The GIS Guide to Public Domain Data

The activities cover a wide variety of scales, themes, and issues, and include:

Activity 1:  Assessing the Impacts of potential climate change on coasts, ecoregions, population, and land cover, globally.

Activity 2:  Siting an internet café in Orange County, California.

Activity 3:  Siting a fire tower in the Loess Hills, Nebraska.

Activity 4:  Analyzing floods and floodplains along the Front Range, Colorado.

Activity 5:  Assessing potential hurricane hazards in Texas.

Activity 6:  Analyzing land use and sustainability in Brazil.

Activity 7:  Creating a map for an ecotourism company in New Zealand.

Activity 8:  Assessing citizen science portals and analyzing citizen science data in invasive species.

Activity 9:  Investigating 3 hazards of 2010:  The Gulf of Mexico oil spill, Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland, and the Haiti earthquake.

Activity 10:  Selecting the most suitable locations for tea cultivation in Kenya.

How might you use these activities, blog, and book in your teaching GIS and learning GIS?

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Envisioning the Spatial University

There are plenty of reasons why spatial thinking and geospatial technologies have yet to fulfill their transformative potential in higher education. However, it’s likely that concerted efforts by a few key institutions could have a dramatic impact. Mindful of this, it is apparent that there are five characteristics of “The Spatial University” ….

Learn more and participate today!


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