Tag Archives: Schools

Fun with GIS204: Troubleshooting

Life online involves hiccups, from momentary to long-term. “My students are suddenly having intermittent ArcGIS Online issues,” a teacher recently told me. “Maps that some people made and saved are suddenly inaccessible. Their screens are just blank, but mine is not.”

Many educators have hit issues in online mapping. Identifying and addressing these involves multiple strategies. Troubleshooting is a critical thinking skill, with value far beyond simple comfort with any particular technology. I have posted on GeoNet a Troubleshooting document that educators may want to download and keep handy for when things go awry.


Frame from movie submitted by student as documentation.

The teacher and students above (11th graders from Roosevelt High School MSTMA in Los Angeles) had uncovered a bug in ArcGIS Online. Their unusual workflow led to dead ends in many maps when someone deleted a particular shared resource. Thanks to good documentation including a phone-shot video, technicians could isolate, replicate, and solve the problem. The next software release will not have this particular issue.

Most hiccup are not bugs. Troubleshooting is both science and art. Carefully iterating variables helps, but perception and situational awareness matter too. Educators and students alike need to practice troubleshooting, to solve what they can and be better prepared for the unexpected, whether it appears on a web page, walks in a door, or falls from the sky. This is what employers seek today — someone who can identify a problem, isolate it, clarify it, and come up with situationally appropriate strategies for coping.

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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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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Fun with GIS 200: Alternatives Matter

Education means freedom, the chance to learn and grow and change. Unfortunately, life can include roadblocks. Many public school districts support “alternative schools” for students who may not have stayed on schedule at a “traditional school.” At Esri’s 2016 User Conference, students from such a school — San Andreas High School (Highland, CA) — with only a few months of GIS experience, presented their work to over 10,000 GIS professionals from around the world.

Working with educators skilled in teaching with technology (but still new to GIS), the students learned to ask geographic questions, acquire relevant data, analyze it, interpret it, and present it, to their peers at school, and before a massive crowd of professionals. The school had let them do, and you can see the results.

From the first click, GIS offers the chance to do — to engage and explore, to puzzle and ponder, to tinker and tweak, to reflect and perfect. With boundless data available, users can dive deeper, focusing on matters of personal interest, whether topical or technological. GIS offers alternatives: ArcGIS Online provides easy access and quick success, and the broader ArcGIS platform means limitless opportunity. At all experience levels, users must make decisions constantly, and learn incessantly. New tools, strategies, and data appear endlessly, and at an accelerating pace, yielding ever more choices.

At San Andreas, one teacher heard about the opportunity of GIS via Esri’s ConnectED offer, investigated on her own, brought in her colleagues, engaged the students (with pioneers becoming leaders of succeeding waves), sparked a revolution, and presented to the world, in under 18 months.

Alternatives matter. Students in alternative schools are typically just as bright, capable, driven, engaging, feeling, and thirsty for opportunity as elsewhere. The endless capacity of GIS means those most open to and supportive of engagement, critical thinking, and fostering the opportunity for students to make a difference (for themselves, the community, and the planet) will succeed. All students can succeed with GIS; San Andreas showed it.

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Schools Program Manager

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New GeoInquiry collection: Advanced environmental science and biology

The public field-testing of the fifth geoinquiry collection, GeoInquiries for Advanced Environmental Science and Biology is now open.  This collection is targeted at high school biology classrooms and includes 15 cross-curricular activities with ArcGIS Online. Activities include: 

  • Population dynamics
  • Megacities
  • Down to the last drop
  • Dead zones (water pollution)
  • The Beagle’s Path
  • Primary productivity
  • Tropical Deforestation
  • Marine debris
  • El Nino (and climate)
  • Slowing malaria
  • Altered biomes
  • Spinning up wind power
  • Resource consumption and wealth

The authoring team includes: Brandon Gillette, Perri Carr, and Roger Palmer.  Maps were created by authors and Maps.com.

You can explore the collection here: http://edcommunity.esri.com/Resources/Collections/APES_geoinquiries

A short story map for easy review of the collection is available at: http://arcg.is/1Ux3mpJ

If a teacher chooses to field test an activity, they need only submit their comments to the URL at the bottom of page two (on each geoinquiry). That URL is: http://esriurl.com/GeoInquiryFeedback

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Sharing Data through Story Maps

Many methods of sharing mapped data are now available and easy to use. Using these methods can foster critical and spatial thinking by engaging the ArcGIS platform.  We have written about a variety of ways to share mapped data in this blog.  One method is to create a spreadsheet, publish it to ArcGIS Online, and making it editable in the field to enable your students to do citizen science-based mapping.  Another idea we wrote about is to crowdsource your photographs that can be used in multimedia maps.  We have also written about the many ways that you and your students can map their field data.  With increasing interest in story maps, how can data from more than one student be shown in a story map?

Several methods exist for educators and students to create data in the field or in the classroom and map it via a story map, with more on the way.  One way is to create a map in ArcGIS Online that includes an editable feature service, as shown in this example where I invite educators to map tree species on their campuses.  You can then create a story map, such as the one shown below.  Here, I chose the “basic story map” when I shared my map to a web mapping application.  The story map updates each time tree data is added.  Data can be added in the field using the Collector for ArcGIS app if the map has been shared with a group and the user has been invited to that group.  Data can also be added via a web browser on a laptop or tablet computer, and if the map has been shared publicly, with no log in required.

While you cannot have multiple editors work on a single story map, one method for instruction is to designate a person in your class whose ArcGIS Online account keeps the “master” story map.  Other students develop content in ArcGIS Desktop, Pro, or Online that they upload and share that content with their peers within their Group in ArcGIS Online.  Then, the person responsible for the master map searches for that content and adds it to their ArcGIS Online map.   The story map, as in the example I show below, automatically updates because it is pointing to the original editable map.

I mentioned above that “more methods are on the way.”  These include the upcoming crowdsourcing story map application, so keep an eye on this blog for further updates.

Crowdsourced Tree Mapping Project in a Story Map.

Crowdsourced Tree Mapping Project in a Story Map.

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Using GeoTech Clubs in Geomentoring

At the recent annual meeting of the American Association of Geographers, several of us had a conversation focused on running GeoTech Clubs–clubs focused on geotechnologies, mapping, fieldwork, and related topics, at schools.  Over the past 15 years, I have had the opportunity to run these types of clubs in elementary, middle, and high schools, and have participated in career panel presentations sponsored by geography, environmental, and GIS clubs at universities as well. With the launch of the GeoMentors program last year, I think the time has come to revisit this topic.  As an update to what I wrote a few years ago with a video I created at the same time, I would like to invite the community to discuss your experiences below with the club approach to promoting GIS at educational institutions.

Flyer promoting a GeoTech Club at a school.

Flyer promoting a GeoTech Club at a school.

An after-school club such as GeoTech provides an excellent way for students to engage in tools and experiences.  A club environment provides the freedom to experiment with different approaches and techniques.  I encourage anyone thinking of starting and running a club to make the activities fun and engaging.  I distribute maps, satellite images, and other mapping related items.  Choose a wide variety of topics and scales, including current events and relevant 21st Century topics such as energy, water, population change, natural hazards, open space trails, local businesses, weather, and the environment using GIS.

Bring in real job ads requiring GIS skills in the local area and discuss career decisions and work environments.  Make sure the club gets students out into the field, even if the field is just the school campus, gathering data about litter, trees and shrubs, social zones, cell phone reception, and infrastructure using GPS receivers and smartphone apps.  Map your field collected data in ArcGIS Online. Ask students what they are interested in examining.   After the students get familiar with some mapping tools, let the students pursue an independent project of their own choosing.  One student I had in a GeoTech Club created an ArcGIS Online map with data points and photographs to support the field trip the Earth Science teacher was conducting. Another made a map-based project comparing all of the local lunch spots that students in his school frequented. Another made a map with all of the major league baseball stadiums complete with team logos used as point symbols.

Since there is so much competition for students’ time after school, make sure that you not only advertise the club via school newsletters, announcements, and web sites, but also (1) Encourage the students in the club to tell and bring their friends, (2)  Ensure that the club is well supported by the school’s teachers and administrators, and (3) Build connections between what you are doing in the club to the school’s focus areas.

Career academies are an important part of the high school housing the GeoTech Club I facilitated most recently.  The themes of geotechnologies, inquiry, and critical thinking have become an important part of the school’s STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) academy and soon in their Business and Global Studies academy.  The STEM academy’s pathway on computer technology and its “Earth, Energy, and the Environment” theme were particularly well aligned with the GeoTech Club.

I would also like to see examples where students are directing the activities of their own club.  A GeoTech Club is also an excellent way for you to bring in other geomentors in your community to give presentations and lead activities.

If you are already running a GeoTech Club at a school, what activities do you include in it?  If you are not running such a club, I encourage you to look into it, or encourage others to do so.

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Valuable educational tips from mentor David Neils

My colleague David Neils is one of my favorite mentors.  David runs the International Telementor Program and is very active in connecting students and faculty at all levels with industry professionals for the goal of fostering workforce skills development.  He is also one of the greatest wildlife photographers and advocates for outdoor education that I’ve ever known.

He recently summarized some of the gems he is regularly sharing in his presentations and workshops, and graciously agreed to allow me to post this for the greater community:

1. Follow up quickly and professionally on all communication with industry professionals. Dead air is common today from students. Avoid it like the plague.

2. Look for ways to make a difference RIGHT NOW for these professionals and others who you connect with. Learn more about the industry WHILE MAKING A DIFFERENCE.

3. Be sure you set the bar at or above industry expectations for all of your student work and work outside of school. Don’t let your instructors set the bar of quality any more. They won’t set it high enough for you to be competitive. Grade inflation is rampant. Don’t be a casualty. Have all of your work reviewed by industry. You’ll find you are capable of producing stellar work and it will open up doors.

4. Make sure your education plan ALWAYS supersedes the institutional requirements of any institution you’re at. Your institution is simply a catalyst for you to blow the doors off with your interests, natural abilities, and energy. To be successful you must view your school as just one small part of your education experience, goals, and objectives.

5. Pay it forward. Help fellow students learn the ropes. Reach back into a local high school or middle school and share with students the powerful journey you’re on. Few things in life will produce more
joy.

6. Develop win-win relationships with successful alumni from the program you’re currently in. Dig in and learn all you can about these alumni before you connect. Determine why they’ve been successful. Figure out what keeps them up at night professionally, and figure out a way to help solve their challenges. Nothing opens up doors faster, nothing. Only one out of a million college students thinks this way. You’ll definitely stand out.

7. When you connect with a successful professional, use this approach:

1. Be humble, transparent, appreciative and professional in all of your communication.

2. Let the professional know you still have a lot to learn but while you’re learning you want to help.

3. Identify an area of mutual interest (you’ve done your homework) that you’d like to tackle and note the time frame, etc.

4. Be clear regarding what you’re asking of the professional and the time frame involved.

5. Note how you’re going to wrap things up and share the results.

6. Thank the professional in a heartfelt, professional way. (Handwritten thank you cards have the greatest impact).

Note from Joseph Kerski:  What are you reactions to the above?  I look forward to hearing your comments below.
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Ways to contact David:

www.telementor.org
www.linkedin.com/in/davidbneils
www.offthepavement.org

Want to be a mentor in the fields of STEM, geography, and GIS?  Or find a mentor for your school or program? One way to do so is via the GeoMentor program.

David Neils setting up one of his wildlife webcams in Colorado.

David Neils setting up one of his wildlife webcams in Colorado.

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Content forward: GeoInquiries and K12 resources for all

In American schools, teaching is increasingly gauged, in part, through student learning.  For better or worse, student learning is commonly evaluated with standardized tests, using state or national curricular standards to define the content.   It should come as no surprise that many educators would be keenly interested in activities and content that directly support the evaluated learning in a classroom.

Over the past two decades, GIS instructional materials for schools have largely focused on either 1.) teaching the learner to use a GIS in the context of a curriculum or 2.) promoting field-based or open-cycle inquiry models of teaching with GIS (such as localized, custom project based learning models). It’s arguable, based on historic adoption patterns, that these two approaches serve Everett Rogers’ Innovators – a small class of highly motivated and well-positioned technology adopters (see Diffusion of Innovation). The great news is that GeoInquiries can engage all teachers and learners and through that engagement, may drive greater interest in GIS, field work, and project based learning.

As a part of the Esri commitment to the White House ConnectED Initiative, the education team sought to develop instructional materials that would strengthen Esri’s offer of ArcGIS Online to every school in the U.S.  This commitment requires approaching the education through a different lens of learning design.

GeoInquiries are short, standards-based inquiry activities for teaching map-based concepts in many different subject areas – all in the most commonly used disciplinary textbooks. Using either a 5-E based inquiry instructional model or the geographic inquiry cycle, GeoInquiries use ArcGIS Online technology to support subject matter content teaching. Lessons include learning objectives, technical “how-to’s”, textbook references, and formative whole-class assessment items – all packed into a single page.

Today, geoinquiry collections are available for:

Later in 2016, we anticipate releasing two new collections. In the meantime, share a geoinquiry with an educator or take a read through one of the latest publications related to geoinquiries:

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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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Fun with GIS 190: Sharing Work

Got interesting student-made maps? Share them! You can, via ArcGIS Online Organizations, while controlling exposure of personally identifiable info (“PII“). Success depends on students minimizing PII in the content, Org admins creating a login for sharing, and having a location to share.

Orgs can use a single login to host the Org’s best content for sharing. (See “Showcase Logins” in AGO Orgs for Schools.) Such “showcase logins” need a well-designed and publicly visible profile that tells about the Org’s users. Org admins can then transfer into this login ownership of “completed content.” By helping students minimize use of PII during construction, good content can be shared safely.

A new GeoForm lets Org admins share a single map or app, a special collection, or the public parts of an entire Org. Follow the guidance on the GeoForm details page and you can safely share content beyond the school. Content nominated here for sharing may become accessible via the US K12GIS Story Map.

Let the world see student work! Keep the students and the work safe, while making them proud to share their best.

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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