Tag Archives: storymaps

Crowdsourcing, story maps, and location privacy

We have had the capability to create story maps (multimedia-rich, live web maps) for a few years now, and we have also had the capability to collect data via crowdsourcing and citizen science methods using a variety of methods.  But now the capability exists for both to be used at the same time. One way is with the new crowdsourcing story map app from Esri.  To get familiar with this new app, read this explanation and explore a new crowdsourced story map that, after selecting “+ Participate”, prompts you for your location, photograph, and a sentence or two about attending, in this case, the Esri User Conference.  If you did not attend, examining the application will give you a good sense for what this new app can do.

We have also written about location privacy concerns in the book that Jill Clark and I wrote about GIS and public domain data.  The story Map Crowdsource app is different from the other Story Maps apps in that it enables people to post pictures and information onto your map without logging in to your ArcGIS Online organization.  Thus, the author does not have complete control over what content appears in a Crowdsource story.  Furthermore, the contributor’s current location, such as their current street address or locations they have visited, can be exposed in a Crowdsource app and appear with their post in these maps as a point location and as text. This may be fine if your map is collecting contributions about water quality, invasive plant species, or interesting places to visit in a city, where these location are public places. But it may not be desirable for other subject matter or scenarios, especially if your students may be posting information from or about their own residence.

Thus, it is up to you as the author of a Story Map Crowdsource app to ensure that your application complies with the privacy and data collection policies and standards of your organization, your community, and your intended audience.  You might wish to set up a limited pilot or internal test of any Story Map Crowdsource project before deploying and promoting it publicly in order to review if it meets those requirements. And for you as a user of these maps, make sure that you are aware that you are potentially exposing the location of your residence or workplace, and make adjustments accordingly (generalizing your location to somewhere else in your city, for example) if exposing these locations are of concern to you).

Thus, the new crowdsource story map app is an excellent example of both citizen science and location privacy.


Example of the new crowdsourcing story map app.

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Adding Audio to Story Maps

I wrote an essay about creating a story map that made extensive use of audio files, the result of which was a tutorial about names of landforms in the Lakota language.  Since the essay was published, I have had inquiries about the specifics of how to encode the audio links in captions of photos in Story Map tours.   This essay explains how to do this.

First, save your audio files.  In my case, I had a long interview as one file, and used Camtasia to cut it into individual audio files.  You could use Audacity or other audio or video editor to do the same thing.   Then, move your audio files to a website.  Story maps need to point to online content, not content that is stored on your local computer.

Then, edit the captions section for each of your stops on your map tour.  These stops can be photographs or videos.  Note that my “lake” stop is a video and the rest of the stops  are photographs.  The HTML code that I used for one of my captions was as follows:

<audio controls=”">
<source type=”audio/mpeg” src=”http://josephkerski.com/storymaps/lakota-sound/lake.mp3″type=”audio/mpeg”></source>does not support?</audio>On this and the following: <font color=”#FFFF00″>click Play </font>above to hear the sounds in English and in Lakota.

That’s it!  The beauty of HTML 5 is that my code above helps the browser know that an audio file will be played, and the browser knows how to configure an audio player without any extra coding on my part.   Here is more information on how the HTML audio tag works.

This illustrates that (1) story maps are truly multimedia, and audio can be an effective part of these maps.  Think of the audio you and your students could be using in their story maps, comparing the calls of different birds, the sounds of the ocean on different days in different weather conditions, narrations of all kinds, and much more; and (2) knowing just a bit of coding, as I did with HTML in this example, allows you to extend the capabilities of story maps and ArcGIS Online in simple but powerful ways.

Adding audio to captions in a story map

Adding audio to captions in a story map.

–Joseph Kerski, Education Manager, Esri.

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Mapping BioBlitz Field Data in ArcGIS Online

I recently had the opportunity to advise, create, and teach a mini-course to support an NSF-funded project aimed at university students who are underrepresented in STEM, fieldwork, and geotechnologies.  This mini-course was in conjunction with Colorado State University, the National Park Service, and the national BioBlitz 2016 initiative.

As I describe in the workshop syllabus, the goals in my portion of the project were to help the university student participants to:  (1) Learn what GIS and spatial analysis are and why they matter to society and why they are relevant to this project;  (2) Learn how to upload, symbolize, and classify their field-collected data and other data into a web based mapping platform (ArcGIS Online);  (3) Learn how to spatially analyze their own field-collected data and other data in ArcGIS Online; and – (4) Learn how to create presentations and web mapping applications, including multimedia maps and storymaps, to communicate the results of their research.

After watching Penn State’s Geospatial Revolution Trailer and my Why Get Excited about Web Mapping video, we discussed why GIS is a key part of research, education, and society in the 21st Century.  We then worked with my vegetation data that I collected on vegetation types collected with iNaturalist mobile smartphone app and the data that the students had collected during that same week at Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico.  We then brought the data into ArcGIS Online, displayed the data by setting styles and popup properties for the insect, plant, and animal species they had documented, created heat maps, walk- and drive-time areas, calculated routes to re-visit the sample points, and created maps showing hot spots.   They used the trace downstream tool, created riparian zone buffers around streams, and calculated the number of observations in the riparian zones.

We also worked with some test soil pH data from North Dakota into ArcGIS Online with some additional tools.  We mapped elements in the soil (such as Zn, Pb, K, Ph), created map notes, summarized points within specific parameters, and added statistics such as lead–parts per million.  We created a new hosted feature layer from the original CSV file so that we could filter the data, selecting points, for example, where the lead parts per million was at least 200.   We then calculated a Hot Spot analysis and interpolated a surface of pH values based on that attribute.

Once the analysis was finished, we created web mapping applications, starting with my web maps, apps, and story maps presentation and creating multimedia map notes from my own New Mexico fieldwork at 36, -106 and 35, -106 and 34, -106, but we spent most of our time together in hands-on mode building the storymaps based on their own fieldwork.   We focused on creating a Map Tour Storymapa Side Accordion storymap, and a Map Journal storymap.  We then discussed and compared these multimedia maps, and discussed skills learned and how and when to apply them in this BioBlitz project and beyond.

The tools and data within ArcGIS Online supported and complemented the project very nicely, and some of these same techniques can be used by the thousands of people who are expected to participate in the national BioBlitz 2016 initiative in a few months.  I look forward to seeing the students’ final projects.

How might you and your students be able to map your own field-collected data using these tools and techniques?

Some of the field data collected in iNaturalist mapped in ArcGIS Online.

Some of the field data collected in iNaturalist mapped in ArcGIS Online.

Some of the university student participants and instructors of the BioBlitz workshop at Colorado State University.  The students represented at least 10 universities in the USA and internationally.

Some of the university student participants and instructors of the BioBlitz workshop at Colorado State University.  The students represented at least 10 universities in the USA and internationally.
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Integrating Arts into STEM: Cowboy Boots of Wimberley, Texas

Recently I created a “Famous Boots of Wimberley, Texas” story map for four reasons:  First, I wanted to show educators and the general public how to integrate art, history, science, technology, geography, and GIS.  My colleagues and I receive frequent inquiries from people asking how to integrate art into STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) educational programs, and Wimberley’s giant boots are a good illustration of this integration.  Second, I wanted to test the new capabilities of the side accordion story map configurable app.  This app is an easy and compelling way to tell a story.

Third, I wanted to demonstrate that every community has a story, and story maps are a visually compelling, easy-to-create way of telling that story.  When I visited the town for the first time after a series of presentations I gave at the geography department of nearby Texas State University, I learned about the boot project from my town walkabout.  It was so interesting to me that I began collecting information, photographs, and video, and a short time later, I had created the story map that integrates all of these types of multimedia.  The boot project brought together local artists, the Chamber of Commerce, local businesses, and the entire community, and serves as a source of city pride as well as a tourist attraction.  Fourth, it is my hope that my brief story map (see my video) can in some small way inspire people in another location to think creatively about a place-based arts project that can help build pride in their own community.

If I can do this for a community that I had just learned about, how much more can you and your students tell a story for which you conduct more in-depth research and may even have local knowledge about!

Cowboy Boots of Wimberley Texas story map

Cowboy Boots of Wimberley Texas story map.

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Storymap with a Cause: Race for the Cure

Recently, I and 30,000 others walked in Race for the Cure in Denver, Colorado.  The Denver event is one of the largest of the Komen Foundation’s events to raise awareness, education, and fundraising for breast cancer research.   Our Esri Denver region team, named “Mapping the Cure”, was also there to support the event.  The event raised more than $2 million, according to Komen spokesperson Amarilis Viera.  It was a great but bittersweet day as my family and I were walking in memory of a dear friend who has passed away from the disease, leaving a husband, two wonderful daughters, and a classroom of students missing their great teacher.  We walked with one of the daughters.

I decided to map the route of the Race for the Cure using Esri Storymaps. Storymaps provide an excellent means of telling a story through live maps and multimedia.  I took pictures and video on the 5 kilometer route with an ordinary smartphone, added them to my storymap, and added my track from a fitness app (RunKeeper).  See if you can find the two loops we walked that, from above, look like the ribbon that the Komen Foundation is noted for.

I used the same procedures I wrote about in my “The 15 minute story map” essay.  That is, I uploaded my geotagged photos from my phone (an iPhone in this case) to an online publicly accessible folder (Picasaweb in this case).  In ArcGIS Online, I uploaded my GPX track file.  After one more simple but important step–adding some documentation (metadata) to the map, the map was done.

Had I wanted to engage some analysis, I might have added a land use layer and determined how much of the route crossed each type of land use.  I could have recorded the temperature as the sun rose to warm our walk, or the noise from the cheering crowd, and mapped how these or other variables changed along our route.

Each year when I walk the Race, I make a story map.  If you look at my story map from the 2011 race, you can see how quickly the Esri cloud GIS technology has evolved in just a few years.

This is another example of an event, issue, or phenomenon that you and your students could easily create a story map from.  And in this case, one that brings many memories.

Race for the Cure Storymap

Race for the Cure Storymap.

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Exploring Mexico through Dynamic Web Maps

One of the people I regard most highly here at Esri has created an online atlas of Mexico.  He started it off as an Esri storymap, but as he continued to add content, it soon become a “story atlas.”  As an educator I was immediately struck by how useful the atlas could be as a tool to teach and learn about Mexico.  I am continually amazed and also hear from educators at how little American students really know about their neighbor to the south.  The maps can be accessed in many different ways, such as an ArcGIS Online presentation with a description here, as an iPad iBook, but I think most importantly, as a series of story maps.  Each of these separate story maps contains 1 to 6 thematically related maps on the following topics:

You can use this resource of over 30 thematic maps to teach and learn about population, landforms, climate, historical landmarks, caves, indigenous cultures, tourist attractions, and more.  Many features such as volcanoes and landmark buildings are accompanied by popups with photographs and descriptions.  Best of all, since the maps reside in the ArcGIS Online, they are dynamic maps:  Unlike static digital maps in PDF or JPG format, these maps can be explored at different scales and interacted with.

The atlas includes a unique set of cartograms showing the states of Mexico mapped on a number of different variables.  Another nice feature of the atlas is that it includes data about the individual states of Mexico.   How many students know that Mexico is comprised of 31 states and 1 federal district?  The individual states can be investigated with this atlas.  Finally, like all good maps and atlases, this atlas may challenge students’ preconceived notions.  For example, the murder rate by state map shows that even though Mexico is not crime free, there are states with murder rates comparable to the safest European countries.  And the famous volcanoes of Mexico are concentrated along a fairly narrow band of latitude.  Enjoy this resource and I look forward to hearing from you how you use it in the classroom!  Saludos cordiales!

Mexico story map with precipitation theme.

Mexico story map with precipitation theme.

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Live Maps, Live Cameras

If you are a reader of this blog and are an advocate of the use of GIS in education, it should be obvious by now that live web maps, many of which are powered by ArcGIS Online, are all around us.  They can be used in a variety of ways to enhance teaching and learning.  But did you also know that an expanding number of them are tied to live webcams?   The examples below represent a small fraction of these; I encourage you to share your own favorites by commenting on this blog.

I created storymaps of Bruges, Belgium, and the Front Range of Colorado.  In each map, select the webcams tab to examine such places as The Markt and the foothills near Golden to teach about current weather, landforms, land use, climate, cultural diversity, vegetation, and more.

The following maps were created by my colleague here at Esri, Matt Artz, who runs his own excellent blog on GIS and science.

You can use the Oregon State University’s Facilities Dashboard to see what’s happening on campus, but also for inspiration for the storymaps that you might build for your own campus.

Use the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Health Advisories by Country live web map as a useful resource in planning your next trip, but also for a good model on how to build a storymap with thumbnail maps and web sites instead of photographs.

Use the Owens Valley Live Dustcams storymap to teach about landforms, climate, current weather, and the influence of human activity and natural conditions on air quality.   You could do something similar for a larger region using The High Sierra web map, which features webcams pointing at highways and even ski runs!  Or, to examine ecoregions, vegetation, climate, land use, and landforms of some of the most spectacular areas of the entire USA, use this live web map of The National Parks (shown below).

Monitor headlines around the world with this storymap linked to current headlines of newspapers, and consider why certain regions’ newspapers have the headlines they do, and which stories are common to multiple locations.

One of my favorite maps gives you the ability to monitor current conditions of oceans and ports using the Our Oceans storymap.  Or, use the Volcanoes of the World story map as part of your unit on investigating different types of volcanoes, where they exist, and the threats they pose.

Colorado National Monument from The National Parks story map

The Colorado National Monument from The National Parks story map. One of my all time favorite parks.  OK, I’m biased–I spent a lot of time hiking here as a child.

What could you do with these and other live web maps linked to webcams?

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Race for the Cure: Telling the Story through Maps

This Fall, I and tens of thousands of others walked in Race for the Cure in Denver, Colorado.  The Denver event is one of the largest of the Komen Foundation’s events to raise awareness, education, and fundraising for breast cancer research—perhaps THE biggest.   Our Esri Denver region team, named “Mapping the Cure”, raised $1600.  It was a great but bittersweet day as I and my family members were walking in memory of a dear friend who has passed away, leaving a husband and two wonderful  teenaged daughters.  We walked with one of the daughters.   I made a Story Map of the experience here.

Race for the Cure Story Map

Race for the Cure Story Map

I used the same procedures I wrote about in my recent “The 15 minute story map” essay.  That is, I uploaded my geotagged photos from my phone (an iPhone in this case) to a folder in an online site (Picasaweb in this case), and made that folder publicly accessible.  I uploaded a GPX file from my phone (this time from the RunKeeper app) into ArcGIS Online.  In ArcGIS Online, I saved my map with my route correctly mapped and then published it to the Story Map Tour web application.  As I did so, I simply pointed to the folder that contained my geotagged images.  After one more simple but important step–adding some documentation in the metadata fields helpfully provided–the whole thing was done.

Had I wanted to engage some analysis, I might have added a layer classifying the land visible in the photos (parkland, residential, commercial, industrial).  I could have recorded the temperature at specified intervals as the sun rose to warm our walk, or the decibels from the cheering crowds, and mapped how these or other variables changed along our route.

It is another illustration of an event, issue, or phenomenon that you and your students could easily create a story map from.  And in this case, one that brings many memories.

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Embedding videos in Story Maps Using CSV files

In the newest release of ArcGIS Online, the Story Map Tour Template allows you to incorporate videos in new and existing map tours.  This week I gave it a try and was very pleased with the results and also the ease of use.  I started with an Excel spreadsheet and included a short description, a latitude, a longitude, the URL for each video, and a thumbnail URL showing a snapshot of each video.  I saved the spreadsheet as a Comma Separated Value (CSV) file, which I then added to an ArcGIS Online map.  Then I published this map to the story maps “map tour” web application.  I added some metadata, and I was done.  Like other Story Maps, the story map is tied to the ArcGIS Online map.  The good news about that is that if you update your ArcGIS Online map, your story map refreshes automatically (it may take several minutes or even up to an hour for it to do so).  Thus, there is no need to “republish” your story map every time you make a change.

I made sure to use some YouTube videos but also some videos on other sites.  All of them worked, though the YouTube videos loaded faster and displayed with the title above them, which was a nice touch.   An important instructional note is that decent bandwidth is needed to load all of the videos and images.  Don’t fret if all of your thumbnail images don’t show or your videos don’t play right away.  Just be patient and they will appear if you have enough bandwidth.

A colleague of mine on the Esri Story Maps team shared this important tip with me:  In the Excel spreadsheet, you need to insert the string #isVideo at the end of any URL that points to a video.  The URL to the video needs to be just to the video itself, not to, for example, a Youtube page that contains the video plus other elements such as the frame around the video.   Thus, if you want to use this video, for example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4AP7XCCUcug, you can’t just use that URL in your story map. To find out what URL you need to use, click Share on that page and then click Embed, as shown below:

Next, copy the “embed” URL out of the code given:

Thus, the URL https://www.youtube.com/embed/4AP7XCCUcug becomes, once the #isvideo is added, https://www.youtube.com/embed/4AP7XCCUcug#isVideo.

My results are shown below and also online in this web map.

Story map with embedded videos

Story map with embedded videos.

Try it for yourself!  There are many powerful things you can do in educational settings with videos in your story maps–to make your stories about geography, earth science, history, language arts, engineering, political science, and many other disciplines come alive.

You can also use the interactive Story Maps builder to guide you through adding videos hosted on YouTube, Vimeo, and other sources.  That method is next on my list to try!

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The 15 Minute Story Map

Can you build an Esri Story Map in 15 minutes?  Yes!  The map I created in that amount of time shows my walk from the San Diego Convention Center to the San Diego airport.  I was in that wonderful city for the Esri Education GIS Conference and the Esri International User Conference.  Walk?  Yes, the San Diego airport is one of the few airports that you can actually walk to, and doable in just under an hour (I must admit I got a bit sweaty while wearing my map tie and dragging my luggage).  I wanted to use that walking time to reflect upon all that I had learned at the conferences, enjoy the harbor views one last time before departing, and use it as a test case for creating a Story Map.

Walking to the San Diego Airport: Storymap

Walking to the San Diego Airport: Story Map.

First, I turned on my smartphone and fired up RunKeeper, a fitness app.  I took a few photos of the convention center and harbor along the way with that same phone.  I emailed those photos to my Google Plus/Picasaweb account’s public dropbox.  Once at the airport gate, I saved my route as a GPX file, uploaded it to ArcGIS Online, and published my map as a Story Map web application.  I pointed to the location of my photographs, added some captions, and I was done.

Since returning to the office, I have resisted the temptation to edit my map to make it look just a little bit nicer, because that would defeat my purpose.  My purpose was to illustrate that (1) Esri Story Maps can be created to tell just about any conceivable type of story, and that (2) they can be quickly generated, even at a crowded airport gate!  What story of your own can you make a map of using these techniques?

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