Dec 312008
 

EveryTrail is one of my favourite iPhone Apps (related post) and the good news is that it now appears as an official layer in Google Earth (found in the Gallery layer) It’s a web-based application that lets you create and share journeys, along with associated stories and images.

EveryTrail round my block

EveryTrail round my block

I discovered a couple of my Trails in the layer that I created with my iPhone (download above example in Google Earth), though the pictures are (as expected) pretty dreadful.

It’s not necessary to use an iPhone – you can upload any .gpx file from a GPS device to create a trail. If you don’t have a GPS it’s no problem, simply mark a path on the map provided. You can import photos from a Flickr account, and if they’re geotagged, they’ll automatically show up in the right spot.

Sidmouth Flickr images

Sidmouth Flickr images

My Sidmouth photos in Every Trail

EveryTrail is a great option for fieldwork notes and images, and is quite simple enough for students to use independently. The ease with which trails can be created shared, displayed and seamlessly viewed with Google Earth make it a really great classroom application.

Nov 042008
 

… and ran around school with it. The rest of the class watched live on the interactive whiteboard while demanding their turn.

We used My Moving Map for this activity (mentioned in a recent post), which was designed as a quick 5 minute demonstration of some of the differences between paper and digital maps.

download the GPS track for Google Earth

Oct 262008
 

The aim of this review is to compare four different GPS applications for the iPhone. I selected them on the basis of generally positive reviews in the App Store, potential as an educational tool, and value for money. Over the course of preparing this piece, I had the opportunity to reflect on the perfect neo-geography iPhone application, and the ideal handheld learning device…

The applications on test are..

The applications on test

Each application was tested on a short bike ride around my block. I live in a rural part of the South West and phone reception is patchy – though actually O2 is the only carrier that works properly in my area. There’s no wifi or 3G reception and part of my route takes me through a GPS blackspot consisting of a lane with high banks and overhung with trees. I recorded a track and then uploaded it to the relevant web site. If the application permitted, I took  photographs and recorded waypoints.

The first application to be tested was My Moving Map website / iTunes

My Moving Map

This is a simple application that transmits your position to a website from which others can view your location, simply by entering your email address. It was extremely simple to set up and use. In operation, one merely taps the screen to broadcast the location of the device, which can also be seen on a Google map. The My Moving Map website not only offers a real-time map showing your location, that can be embedded in a blog (not WordPress I found) but also allows tracks to be downloaded as a csv file and KML for viewing in Google Earth. Here’s a map showing a recent walk during which My Moving Map constantly pinged my location.

Without the ability to create waypoints, the application is limited, but could be fun for certain classroom situations. You could envisage giving your phone to chosen students to go on various missions around the school while their progress is being tracked on the interactive white board. The application is is missing a software lock (necessary for all GPS applications on the iPhone) It didn’t seem to work well in my jacket pocket either. For what is does though this is a great application and well worth £1.19.

Next I tested RunKeeper. website / iTunes

RunKeeper

RunKeeper is a free application and simply records a track that is uploaded to an excellent website where it can be viewed on a Google Map and speed evaluated against altitude. The RunKeeper site also logs your trips. The track data is very accurate, but there’s no export option which is a shame as it precludes the use of sites such as Magnalox and GPS Visualiser. A software lock works well.

RunKeeper is very highly recommended and I’ll be using it frequently. I’m not convinced that there’s much value to the geographical curriculum though for a collaboration with the PE department it would be excellent. Ollie Bray has also reviewed this application and seems to be impressed. It would be my first choice for monitoring runs and bike rides.

Next up was EveryTrail website / iTunes

EveryTrail

This is a really useful application for geotagging photos. Just walk around and use the camera. At the end of the trip, upload the details to the EveryTrail website where it can be analyzed and viewed in a mumber of ways. The EveryTrail website is a popular resource among the geotagging community. See the details of my test here.

The GPS track was very accurate, the application has a software lock and is extremely easy and reliable to use.  The trail can be exported to Google Earth or as a GPX file. A great little application and definitely worth the £1.79. There is a real niche for this kind of application for fieldwork. I’d love to be able to add notes and recordings as well. The only other limitation is the notoriously poor iPhone camera!

Finally I looked at iTrail website / iTunes

iTrail

I really wanted to like iTrail, having chosen to review it ahead of the more expensive GPS Kit. Like RunKeeper, iTrail is a tracking application; it’s USP is that it also records waypoints. In practice I found it difficult to use. iTrail crashed on several occasions, and I was unable to complete a journey without experiencing a problem. I’ve had several attempts, but each have ended up in frustration. The programmer mentions on his site that iTrail is in constant development, which is encouraging news. There are two modes – Quick Trail – which you’d use if you just wished to monitor a walk or run (though RunKeeper would be a free alternative). In Trail Mode you can add waypoints (though not photos). I found the lock button worked sporadically, more often than not resulting in the selection of Quick Mode, after which it was confusing to regain Trail Mode. The application crashed several times when entering waypoint information. I’d like to see the lock button moved to a different part of the screen, and a button to toggle between the modes. When it worked, the GPS track was accurate, and the program does give you an indication of GPS strength. A strong point is the ability to export KML and GPX data formats direct to a computer (rather than a third party web site) I’m going to watch out for updates to iTrail, though at the minute I wouldn’t rely on it. I’d like to think that out of the four applications, this one has the most potential for further development.

Summary of features:

Conclusion: The best GPS applications on the iPhone are the simplest. There’s little point in pretending that the iPhone, in it’s current incarnation could possibly replace a specialized GPS device for serious navigation or field studies. Poor battery life and cost are just two of the constraints. (Hence this is a rather futile post, despite the hours spent in preparation!)  However researching the post has helped me draw up a specification for the ideal neo-geography iPhone application which would…

Record a GPS track
Display a live view in Google Maps (similar to the free Maps app)
Have a screen lock and dimmer to preserve battery life
Create waypoints
Able to annotate waypoints with short written notes
Able to annotate waypoints with audio recordings
Add photos to waypoints
Geotag photos
Export in KML format and GPX format
Offer tools for analysis of performance, speed, altitude etc

I’m looking forward to seeing which developer gets there first!

Although I’m really conscious of the fact that I’m in the fortunate position of owning an iPhone (though it’s on PAYG) the era of widespread adoption of handheld devices as learning tools in schools is clearly arriving. I don’t think that the web-book type devices currently popular in some schools are quite mature enough yet for really immersive geographical fieldwork. However I’m sure that altruistic Apple developers are working away to create the ideal classroom computer, in the form of a slightly enlarged iPhone/tablet device featuring the same touchscreen interface, a better camera (and video recording) and a long life battery. The device would incorporate all the functions of the iPhone and also suport Flash, Google Docs, Google Earth and optimized versions of iWork and iLife. Not much to ask for…

OpenStreetMap

 GPS, ICT  Comments Off
Oct 062007
 

I was reminded earlier this week about Open StreetMap.

osm logoThis is a wiki-style project that aims to create free geographic data for everyone to use. I took a look at the area around my school and was delighted to discover that the coverage is very patchy, raising the prospects of a nice school project based on my favourite maxim, Chris Durbin’s ‘Real Geography, Real Outcomes’

To get going requires a little more than a GPS and a web browser. The Open StreetMap wiki provides a very good Beginners Guide. Start by creating an account and locating your home area. You then go out and collect data with a GPS. This as straightforward as walking, cycling or driving around an area while recording a tracklog. The next stage is to extract data from your GPS, save it as a GPX file, (I use Easy GPS for this) and upload it to the OSM server. Don’t forget that GPS Visualizer offers a range of options for viewing your GPX data in the classroom.
The next stage is to edit the GPX file to create OSM data. There are a few options for this, the simplest by far is to use the online Flash editor provided, that allows you to edit map data in your web browser. Finally the map is rendered and changes can be seen in OSM, (although this doesn’t happen immediately.)

I started contributing data for my local area this morning.
osm
When I’ve done a little more experimenting, I think that this could be a really excellent way of teaching mapping to quite young students.

WayFinder Earth beta

 GPS  Comments Off
May 022006
 

A virtual globe for your phone..
wayfinderearth
I’ve just downloaded Wayfinder Earth to my mobile phone. It’s a beta version, mapping application that zooms from a globe overview down to city street level, and links to a GPS to provide a phone-based satellite navigation system.

The globe is nicely rendered and pans smoothly. I was quite impressed. Providing that you have an internet connection, the transition from globe to the maps (provided by Tele Atlas) is seamless and rapid. The maps themselves are hardly beautiful, but are nevertheless functional and detailed. It can be a little disorientating at certain zoom levels with a lcak of named locations with which to get your bearings. The maps are rendered very quickly, especially by phone standards, and they take up very little memory.

If Wayfinder Earth remains free to use, then I’d say it’s an essential mobile application. I noticed that when I tried to link Wayfinder Earth to my GPS it wanted to go to an internet shop and upgrade. At this point you are buying into the existing Wayfinder Navigator sat-nav system. I’ve used Wayfinder Navigator for a while and really like it. It’s has just been improved with a nice visual makeover. As a sat-nav program it’s quite easy to use, has a postcode look up, gives very good directions and clear visual instructions and even warns of some (but not all) speed cameras. The Wayfinder website gives more information, and there’s a generous free trial period. You need a suitable phone and a bluetooth GPS.

What WayFinder Earth is not, is any kind of mobile Google Earth. As a mapping program for your phone, it’s brilliant and will work all over Europe and North America. You will want to buy a GPS and upgrade once you’ve tried it! I don’t know how much it is to purchase and use as a fully featured sat nav program , however I’m guessing it will be the same as Wayfinder Navigator, (99 Euros).

Thanks to Ogle Earth for spotting the release of Wayfinder Earth today

Apr 302006
 

gps

I have written an article about teaching with GPS, which can be found at Juicy Geography. The page includes links to some Google Maps I prepared that show how GPS Visualizer can be used to plot fieldwork data.
GPS Visualizer seems to grow new features each week and is a brilliant application for displaying yourGPS data.. The other essential utility featured is Easy GPS. I hadn’t realized until recently that it now manages GPS tracks as well as routes and waypoints. Both these programs are free.

Apr 232006
 

I have added the first of my Yellow Arrows to two locations in North Devon that are important to me. The others will be used in a Geography/Art collaboration
project.

This is the very first arrow:

shop

There are lots of surf shops in North Devon, the arrow is placed on the window of the only shop manufacturing surfboards locally. If you’re in Braunton, text the code on the arrow to the SMS number provided, for a personal message!

This arrow has been placed somewhere on a beach. I’m not saying which beach, or where the arrow is located, but it’s not hard to find!

beachyellow
There’s a message for weekend / London surfers to be discovered.

Tomorrow I will be moblogging directly from a GCSE fieldtrip on Exmoor, (providing there’s an Orange signal!) I will also be testing some handheld GPS units and Phone2GEarth as well. The idea is to use the the phone to locate and photograph the fieldwork sites. The phone images will be geotagged in the evening.

The moblog link is here

The handheld GPS units will be used in conjunction with a traditional gun clinometer to measure the gradient of the river bed and the valley sides. The results will be available on this site in .gpx format so that they can be viewed in GPS Visualizer. It will be interesting to evaluate the accuracy of the traditional method compared to the modern.