Tag Archives: Mobile

Fun with GIS 201: Instructional Guide for the ArcGIS Book

The ArcGIS Book offers “10 Big Ideas” about mapping, in hardcopy, free downloadable PDF, and free online in multiple languages. Equal parts coffee table book, text book, and workbook, some educators began teaching with it immediately after its release at Esri’s 2015 User Conference. It worked well having students reading on one screen (even a phone) and mapping on another.

The Instructional Guide for The ArcGIS Book now makes it even easier for educators to leverage the original. The Instructional Guide works like an outrigger, matching the concepts and technology of each section, speeding solid comprehension thru carefully designed activities. Linked movies launch chapters with an easy hook. Step-by-step guidance thru a bank of scenarios ushers even novices steadily into the power and flexibility of online mapping, via generic tools in browsers, browser-based apps, and mobile apps. End-of-chapter tasks summarize the fundamental ideas and skills. Many activities can be done without logging in, but many valuable ones require the powers of an ArcGIS Online organization account, and the Guide shows how educators in different situations can acquire such an account.

Coupled with the original volume, the Instructional Guide for The ArcGIS Book is a terrific resource for educators who want to see and employ true GIS power with online tools. And, especially for educators in Career/Technology Education (CTE) programs, or anyone who wants to see STEM in GIS, this demonstrates powerfully how online GIS can be engaged in day-to-day scenarios relevant to many different industries.

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Schools Program Manager

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Fun with GIS 194: Coding. Maps. Future.

Computer Science for All is Pres. Obama’s effort to get all US K12 students to learn computer science. My previous blog showed how easily kids (or teachers) can make a map-based web app from a template, in minutes, even with a free public account on ArcGIS Online. But users in an Organization account (which any US K12 school can get for instruction for free) have more tools (with cool powers!) for developing content.

AppStudio lets developers build once and deploy on multiple platforms. The “Basic” level is available to any Org member just by logging in, and allows working with existing templates. Users of Survey123 may see familiar processes because Survey123 was built using AppStudio. It’s a powerful tool!

I find the Web AppBuilder even easier. It’s accessed from the “Share/ Create a Web App” panel inside the ArcGIS Online MapViewer, but is tucked behind and easily overlooked.

With a bank of templates and widgets, one can construct a finished app in minutes, and update the app just by updating the source map. I built a simple app so users can scribble and sketch on a map; it was just for fun, 20 minutes from concept to completion, and usable on any web-enabled device. For a more serious app, widgets let users in a private group explore and extract custom data from a private nationwide data set which I update weekly.

Why build apps? To grow skills, solve puzzles, save time, integrate capacity, or address very specific needs. “Service” means “doing something for others;” “service learning” requires understanding the needs of someone else. Being an entrepreneur demands grasping what a customer thinks, wants, or needs. Building one’s future no longer means mastering a process and repeating it forever in the same way. Coding helps developers build skills in problem-solving, communication, and thinking outside the box; it helps them try, fail, try again, fail better, try again, and overcome. Doing it all with maps helps coders build crucial background knowledge during construction and testing, which supports understanding the world today, and making better decisions for tomorrow.

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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Fun with GIS 191: Survey123

Gathering great field data can be a challenge. A new Esri tool makes it much easier. Survey123 is robust and easy for educators to begin using.

Survey123 relies on a carefully crafted spreadsheet to define the data elements and parameters. The power and familiarity of a spreadsheet make the task manageable even for non-data-wonks. A simple survey can be built and published in a minute (watch the video!), and tested and expanded iteratively. The result is a powerful survey for deployment in the Survey123 app on iOS and Android tablets and smartphones, online or offline, supporting picture attachments, with a map. And anyone in an Org can use it.

Android tablet and iPhone view of same survey

The short intro video (on YouTube) shows the guts. The browser approach is very simple, but the more powerful spreadsheet process takes a little getting used to, and an example helps. I have built a spreadsheet that anyone can download and use inside their Org (as is or customized) to gather some non-invasive personal data, in English or Spanish. Watch the video, download the spreadsheet, and examine how it was built. Publish it once as is, and have students create data on mobile devices, populating the feature service you’ve published. Then look at the data in ArcGIS Online, and finish by dreaming aloud about the data you could gather to amplify learning.

This is a great tool for getting students actively engaged in generating data. The whole class could collaborate on design of a survey, or teams could build their own on different topics — about wildlife in the community, local water quality, visitors to a regional attraction, nearby historic sites, features along routes to school, locations that could support butterfly gardens, and so on. Check out the sample spreadsheet and Survey123!

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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Fun with GIS 185: Integrating STEM

“In which class does GIS belong?” I’m often asked. “Wherever you encourage critical thinking,” I reply. With furrowed brow, they continue, “We don’t teach geography, so maybe US history, or environmental science? Certainly not English or math or language. But, high school career tech, or middle school gifted, or what?” I smile and say “All of those, for sure, but more. Wherever you want students to dive in, explore, analyze data, integrate, present, and collaborate. Certainly from 4th grade on up, for every student, in all subjects, but even younger students can benefit. Web-based GIS means it is accessible on any connected device, anytime, anywhere.”

School should be a process in which all students learn why and how to learn; scaffold thinking skills; find, analyze, and interpret data; practice making decisions; engage deeply; integrate, communicate, and collaborate; create and share; listen, observe, and reflect. The content can vary widely, and GIS can be a great tool for all of these, whether examining community demographics, national history, soil productivity, urban planning, factors affecting variation in climate models, or the density of ant colonies across the school playground.

The recent meeting of the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) featured a presentation by the Math, Science, and Technology Magnet Academy of Roosevelt High School, from the Boyle Heights neighborhood of East Los Angeles. Four seniors and two alums, plus the 11th grade English and Social Studies teachers and principal, shared their story. Each year, the juniors have a major project that is service learning, community based, personally chosen, team designed, data driven, justice-oriented, intensely researched and analyzed, and mapped, written, and taught. In this STEM school, two “non-STEM” teachers coach the class on how to use ArcGIS Online to enrich their experience, expand their skills, integrate their knowledge, gather field data to expand their findings, and power their presentation. The standing ovation by state and national leaders at SETDA is what students in all grades, all subjects, all schools should be earning.


(Above: Adult and student presenters. SETDA presentation visible there, or see this presentation by MSTMA/RHS at Esri’s 2013 User Conference, before 10,000 GIS professionals.)

Any US K12 school can have the same GIS used by MSTMA, for free, via Esri’s ConnectED offer. Teachers who want an easy starting point will find instructional materials with which to explore the basics, in classic content or one’s own vision. Schools seeking to replicate the MSTMA model need to be willing to cross lines, break down barriers, and let go the reins of adult control and empower students.

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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Fun with GIS 183: Earth Science Week 2015

South Carolina recently suffered a lesson in earth science. El Nino watchers prep for another, and friends of Nepal weep over yet another. Earth science affects us all, like it or not, admit it or not. This year even more than usual, Earth Science Week is an important opportunity for educators.

The 2015 Earth Science Week theme is “Visualizing Earth Systems.” Esri’s Earth Science GeoInquiries help educators show and explore critical content in earth science, with just a computer and internet connection. No downloading, installing, or logging in needed. Whether in a one-computer classroom with projector, or a fully stocked lab, or 1:1 tablet situation, teachers and students can explore key content and discover the power of GIS for visualizing patterns and relationships.

Check out all the Earth Science GeoInquiries, built as part of Esri’s commitment to the ConnectED Initiative. Visualize these earth systems, so students grasp how these powerful forces influence us … and how we influence them.

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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Fun with GIS 181: Enviro Justice

EJSCREEN is a sobering look at environmental justice. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released this tool using the ArcGIS Online platform. EJSCREEN lets users compare some demographic and environmental characteristics with nationally standardized data. This means economically advantaged or disadvantaged areas can see their environmental situation relative to those of other places, near and far.

It is important to read the EPA’s description of data sources, uses, and limitations. Any nationally consistent data source has issues because of the tradeoffs made for the sake of consistency and spread. But this would be a powerful tool in the hands of students for learning about conditions and relationships, and a very interesting way for students to learn key concepts in math, science, and social science.

EJSCREEN employs an ArcGIS app and therefore works on any device connected to the internet: computers, laptops, tablets, and even (with careful scrolling) smartphones. Any device, anytime, anywhere connected, about the entire USA.

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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Fun with GIS 180: Esri K12 GIS Org

School’s open! Just in time, Esri’s ArcGIS Online Organization for K12 GIS has grown stronger. The front carousel sports easy access to intro documents, lessons, maps and apps, and videos. (Scroll right for specialty items.) Contents are curated and organized to help learners of all kinds find most quickly the resources of greatest value. This includes easy-to-use instructional materials and access to an ArcGIS Online Org for any US K12 school, as part of Esri’s commitment to the ConnectED Initiative. Use the shortlink http://esriurl.com/k12gis.

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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Fun with GIS 177: The ArcGIS Book

ArcGIS is Esri’s platform — an integrated set of mapping and analysis tools, which work together, on desktop, server, mobile, and cloud. The ArcGIS Book is a “platform book” — pretty enough to be a coffee table book, enough prose, diagrams, and big ideas to be a textbook, enough online instruction to be a workbook, and available in both hardcopy and digital form (web or 40mbPDF).

ArcGIS Book

Both digital versions are readable on smartphone (landscape or portrait), tablet, laptop, or monitor. The chapters bob and weave through banks of examples and lessons that allow users either to read about or jump in and work with various tools. The text is awash in links to scores of online maps and apps, each its own launchpad for exploration. And through it all are key ideas about maps, mapping, analysis, representation, data, tools, people, and solving problems with GIS.

I spent several hours hopping back and forth between Mac and Windows computers, Chromebook (11″), iPad (10″), Android tablet (7″), and iPhone (4″). I could jump into the text and explore most of the web links even on my smallest devices. Larger screens made it easier and more absorbing, of course, and certain tasks require specific technologies. (For instance, it can be a challenge to add an external file to a map in iOS, ArcGIS Explorer needs a Mac or a mobile device, Operations Dashboard needs Windows, and ArcGIS Pro needs a strong Windows machine.) But there are so many things to see and do with any connected device that a viewer can explore and study for days on end without needing to create a thing. Still, the book invites (and helps) you to create a free 60-day account in an ArcGIS Online Organization, and will step you through a number of lessons.

devices for ArcGIS Book

So how can educators use this? First, explore it. Learn from it. Show your colleagues, friends, and family, and say “This is STEM, art, careers, news, history, nature, people, life, problems, discovery, solutions, the world … and what we do with GIS in education.” Second, share it with your students. Encourage downloading the PDF or bookmarking the website. Challenge them to summarize a key idea, identify what makes a certain map cool, or find an important external map at least one step away from a direct link from the book (requiring both investigation and ability to repeat the route). Third, check out the ConnectED segment in Chapter 10 (p.147), and help a school get into using GIS!

But, whatever you do, do not set this book aside for “some day”! Explore the digital version of The ArcGIS Book, which makes it easy for anyone to engage!

Charlie Fitzpatrick
Esri Education Manager

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Use Field Notes App to Explore the World on your Smartphone

What’s it like on Planet Earth at the spot where you are located right now?  Use the new Field Notes – Earth to find out.  The app, available on iOS and Android, uses the power of three new global maps to help answer important questions about the current and future conditions on Planet Earth.

The three maps in the app include people (world population), life (ecological land units), and oceans (world seafloor geomorphology).  The app is an example of some of the rich content available from the Esri Living Atlas of the World and was built using Esri’s AppStudio for ArcGIS.

To use the app, either choose your current location, or any place on the planet that you are interested in, and start learning.  I used the app last week in Washington DC while I was there for the National Conference on Geography Education, which I thought was the perfect venue for using it.  In that location, the climate is predicted to be much warmer by 2050; it is 1,038 miles to the nearest volcano, but it is only 74 miles to a location that experienced a recent earthquake.  I can find out about the terrain, the nearest available farmland and fresh water, and much more.  The best part:  I can also add a second location to compare and contrast the two locations side-by-side.

Using the Field Notes Earth app

Using the Field Notes Earth app–some screens and information that you will discover.

For another reflection on this app, see the article from Time magazine.

In instruction, you could use this app to spark meaningful conversations about physical geography, cultural geography, environmental science, and much more, with themes including change over time and space, human-environment interactions, and others.   Use it but also get outside and observe using your five senses.  I daresay that this is the type of tool that you could also use in your “elevator pitch” when you are asked in your everyday experience, “What is GIS?” or “Why does geography matter”?

I look forward to your reactions and comments.

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