Malcolm McInnery – GIS envangelist!

 GIS  Comments Off on Malcolm McInnery – GIS envangelist!
Nov 112007

I met with traveling Australian teacher and GIS evangelist Malcolm McInnery at the Royal Geographical Society this week. We were joined by Judy Mansell from the RGS and David Rayner, the newly appointed National Subject Lead for Geography who is responsible for introducing the revised KS3 curriculum in schools.

Malcolm is traveling to Hong Kong, Canada the USA and the UK to research spatial technology and spatial literacy in schools, with a view to continuing the work that he has been doing to raise awareness of GIS in Australia. His thought provoking questions left us reflecting on why the implementation of GIS in UK schools is still patchy, often depending on an enthusiastic individual teacher, rather than being firmly embedded in the curriculum. Given the rapid expansion of GIS in industry and public services, and the associated demand for spatial literacy skills in students, as well the entitlement arising from the new National Curriculum, it is certainly time to reflect on the role that spatial technologies should have in the classroom.

Is there a problem with spatial literacy?
lorry source

Malcolm describes our discussion on his Spatial Worlds blog. One of the main points arising for me was the reaffirmation of my conviction that the best use of GIS stems from students being involved in the collection of data rather than just working with existing data sets. Projects can and should be aimed at real world decision making. Council departments should become used to dealing with enquiries following the latest revealing discoveries from local students. My local crime enquiry is somewhat dated now but is the kind of thing I’m suggesting. Equally there is plenty of scope for students to share data and ideas across national and international boundaries. As schools take on a more international dimension (see previous post) the sharing of geographical information could become more prevalent. My Visualizing a Safer City lesson, where students locate a new hospital in San Francisco was commented on by local residents. This gave the work much more credibility. It would be great for a class in the USA to do the same activity for a new building in my home town.

I look forward to following the rest of Malcolm’s travels via his blog.

Updates to Google Maps and Live Local

 GIS, Google Earth, Google Maps, Teaching resources  Comments Off on Updates to Google Maps and Live Local
Apr 052007

New developments to the leading online mapping applications are widely reported today. Geography teachers should be aware that some of these features are going to be really useful for writing up fieldwork notes and coursework projects, especially as some form of GIS experience is required by the new Key Stage Three proposals.

Mapperz highlights the new version of Live Local, which is an essential resource for teachers who work in an area deprived of acceptable Google Earth imagery. One of the best new features is the opportunity to subscribe to collections via RSS. At some stage I’m going to repost my own Live Local Collections with the feed link in case anyone would be interested.

Ogle Earth has compared the relative merits of the drawing tools in Live Local and Google Maps in a useful article. I’ve pleased that a number of my students seem to have enhanced their GCSE projects this year with quite good annotation of map and photo data.

Finally, Google Earth Blog is one of several blogs to comment on the new My Maps feature of Google Maps. What’s really exciting is that you can create a My Map and then see the results in Google Earth.

Jan 312007

Updated 4/2/07
Gapminder is a BRILLIANT way to analyse development indicators. A range of development data can be plotted on a map or chart and animated over time. Gapminder website

Here are some suggested activites to introduce the Gapminder site to students

Download an illustrated guide to Gapminder (Word doc) Thanks very much to Val Vannet who produced the first version of this document. This could be printed off and laminated. Thanks also to Alan Parkinson for mentioning the Trails feature in his recent comment. Gapminder also provide an excellent tutorial on the application here.

Mapping development indicators
Start by selecting Map, and looking for patterns by selecting different development indicators for the countries.
gap map

Correlating development data
Select Chart and compare different indicators, for example Life Expectancy and Income. What correlations can be found?
gap chart
Students could be asked to try and identify data that gives a positive correlation on comparison (e.g. carbon dioxide emisions and income) or negative correlation (e.g. fertility rate and phone use)

Analysing trends
Try choosing Life Expectancy and analysing changes over time (select Time for the x axis.) Track selected countries by selecting them, clicking the Trails box and playing the animation.
gap time

In the screenshot I coloured the countries by income , but why has Botswana, a middle income country, seen a dramatic decline in life expectancy in recent years? Students really should know why!

Exploring urbanization trends
Compare Urban Population and Time, and track countries from different income groups. In the screenshot example I changed the circle size to one size and the colour to Income Group.
gap urban

In a recent lesson, these activities proved sufficient to turn the students into fairly competent Gapminder users.

I recommend watching Hans Roslings’ entertaining presentation at the TED Talks and visiting the site for more resources and downloads.

Arc GIS Explorer news

 3D visualization, GIS  Comments Off on Arc GIS Explorer news
Nov 182006

A tempting preview of the long awaited new product from ESRI, ArcGis Explorer is available as a podcast. You’ll learn how to pronounce “ESRI” correctly, but more importantly the interview with a member of the development team offers an insight into the nature and scope of the new virtual globe. This page contains a showcase of ArcGIS Explorer’s potential.

The new product is not designed to compete directly with Google Earth and isn’t really a consumer product, but a platform to publish GIS data. It is powered by ArcGIS Server and should be regarded as a series of globes with worldwide data on a range of topics. The globes will be called ArcGIS Online Services and encompass a range of themes, for example worldwide streets, terrain and physiography and more. The new virtual globe will be free, though you’d the full Arc GIS product to create new content. It remains to be seen whether ArcGIS Explorer will be a useful classroom tool, though ESRI do actively promote the use of their products in schools.
According to the podcast, ArcGIS Explorer is on the point of being rolled out. Link to download site

ooh Heat Maps!

 GIS, Google Maps  Comments Off on ooh Heat Maps!
Nov 122006

Recently Ogle Earth mentioned the GeoIQ API friom Fortiusone that can generate heat maps from geospatial data. The demographic battle between NYC and San Francisco demonstrates the potential.

Heat map click to enlarge

As one zooms to street level the data is recalculated, and switching to satellite view enables a close analysis of the data. Fun, and useful not only as a GIS demonstration, but as a resource for teaching urban geography.

Oct 312006

I’m upgrading the resource page for my Google Earth lesson “Visualizing a Safer City”

screenshot click to enlarge

Thanks to Andrew Field whose recommendation of Wink, an excellent free screen capture program, helped me prepare a Flash-based tutorial to the project files that the lesson requires.

tutorial click to enlarge

Hopefully, more teachers will have a go at this activity, which has been thoroughly tried and tested. “Visualizing a Safer City” offers students the opportunity to understand the principles behind GIS. The visual nature of the activity appeals to all types of learners and the students will appreciate that city planners in San Francisco will be doing an identical task using similar data sets. The task demonstrates the extraordinary potential of applications such as Google Earth to achieve real and meaningful outcomes without the “tech subverting the teach” (to hack a phrase from Ewan Mackintosh thanks to Ollie Bray!)

Get the tutorials, project files, a video and a pdf guide to the resources in one folder.
I have made a short video to introduce the lesson as well as a PDF guide to the teaching resources. These are available free of charge, together with all the other resources on CD ROM or via email. Contact me if you would like them. (A small donation or a free trial of eMusic via this link or just a couple of your own resources would be nice in return)