Geospatial Education and Interactive White Boards

Recently, I have been developing a tutorial for using electronic white boards for education. What I never noticed before, because they work so well together, is the symbiotic relationship between the use of electronic white boards and geospatial technologies. In an ENO by Polyvision demonstration, today’s modern classroom (of 4 years ago) includes a Google Earth based geography lesson. Other demonstrations include the use of Google Sketchup on an Eno Board.  A short video from Bayside Secondary in Ontario demonstrates the geography classroom of today using iPad apps and a Smartboard in a geography exercise. Interactive white boards are a natural fit for geography because of the creation of interactive wall maps by many former static map publishers, such as those developed by KIDS Interactive or StrataLogica NECC. According to ESRI’s educational model for building geospatial proficiency, presentation is the first rung in developing geospatial literacy. A conference paper on the “Place of the interactive whiteboard in higher education of the Polish educational system” specifically discusses its use in teaching GIS and spatial literacy.

However, the integration of geography, GIS, and electronic whiteboards doesn’t stop at K-12 education. At the GIS Conference 2012: Logica/CGI demonstrate their collaboration between ArcGIS and SMART Board that can be used with ArcGIS Online. The Montgomery County Emergency Management Agency in Tennessee likes to use a a Smartboard in conjunction with their GIS, in order to all be “on the same page”. I think I am so used to thinking of collaborative GIS as being done on a horizontal touch screen or table top device, like the TouchTableweTable, and other multi-touch environments, that I overlooked the power of the humble interactive white board.

Upcoming Hack for Change: National Day of Civic Hacking

Intel Labs is sponsoring a national civic hacking event June 1 -2, 2013 in order to solve community challenges using publicly-released data. They are calling it the National Day of Civic Hacking, probably because national day of collaborative software coding sounds like work.  The event is supported by 20 government agencies including NASA, U.S. Census Bureau, FEMA, NSF and other offices. The event challenges are place specific and are focused on addressing the local needs of each community. According to the Hackforchange about page people, sponsors,organizations, and city, state, federal, government looking to get involved can attend, contribute data, or promote the event in their community.

The concept was created by the same researchers who started  wethedata.org to address grand societal data challenges using open source data. These four topics have often been discussed on VerySpatial in regards to geospatial technologies and neogeography including digital access, digital literacy, digital trust, and openness. However, despite the fact that generally over 75% of local data is geospatial and their specific data is very location heavy, the Civic Hackers identified are engineers, technologists, civil servants, designers, artists…. but no geographers, neogeographers, geospatial analysts, or GIS is mentioned. Maybe everyone from the GIS community should get involved so that next year we all get a shout out.

 

GIS and Oklahoma Disaster

Many geospatial professionals, such as those on the GIS Stack Exchange, have asked what they can do with geospatial technologies to help in the aftermath of the tornadoes in Oklahoma or for other disasters.  There are several crisis maps online including Google’s Oklahoma Crisis Map and ESRI’s Public Information Map.  The American Red Cross has the Safe and Well Communication site and a map of available shelters.   The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the NOAA National Weather Service, and other

There are organizations that do crisis mapping, the most well-known being the URISA GIS Corps. Many times local areas have their own crisis mappers organizations which work with local geospatial groups, first responders, and municipalities.  The volunteer profile for Sean Bohac from RECON Environmental gives a good insight into what it is like to be a GIS volunteer in a disaster situation. Anahi Ayala Iacucci talks about other types of crisis mapping on her Diary of a Crisis Mapper website.

Crisis mapping is often an overlap of  existing geospatial infrastructure, when available, and disaster response by geospatial professionals and neogeographers. The National Academy of Sciences has an open book called, “Successful Response Starts with a Map: Improving Geospatial Support for Disaster Management (2007)” by the Board on Earth Sciences and Resources (BESR).  The City of Moore, Oklahoma publicly available interactive map includes tornado damaged parcels from 2003 and many utilities including fire hydrants, which many towns have not located and mapped yet. They also ask that donations be made through The Red Cross.

I wasn’t able to locate any information related to directly related volunteer efforts, so please feel free to post any information you might have. Thank you.

 

 

The Apostrophe’s Last Stand

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting, spatially relevant article on regulation and standardization of place names and the disappearing apostrophe in U.S. signage, “Theres a Question Mark Hanging Over the Apostrophes Future: Its Practically Against the Law to Use the Mark in a Places Name; Sorry, Pikes Peak.”    Read the title again to catch the humor that Barry Newman uses to construct a brief history of place signage.

He states that the U.S. is the only country that standardized out apostrophes because they were seen as conveying private ownership of a public place. The USGS Board on Geographic Names set up in 1890 by President Harrison has eradicated around 250,000 apostrophes from federal maps. In contrast, the Apostrophe Protection Society kept the Mid Devon council in England from banning the use of apostrophes in street signs.  According to an in-depth article on the loss of the apostrophe and the history of Fell’s Point or Fells Point, Maryland, “What’s the Point?” from the Underbelly: From the Deepest Corners of the Maryland Historical Society Library, only five natural features have official license to use the possessive apostrophe in 2013.

The quoted arguments for the apostrophe is that it is part of proper English language usage, that it connotes information about the history of a place, and that not using them can cause confusion and miscommunication. What is most interesting about the WSJ article is who isn’t quoted – cartographers. How do cartographers feel about the vanishing apostrophe in place names?

 

 

 

 

 

Build Your Own Cicada Sensor

NPR had a  March story on “The Cicadas are Coming! Crowdsourcing An Underground Movement”  about the public’s involvement in predicting cicada emergence, and the time is now. If you live on the East Coast, where the Magicicada Brood II is making its “squishy and crunchy” 17-year reappearance according to Radiolab’s Cicada Tracker, be a part of citizen science tracking cicada’s. Research Scientist’s at the University of Connecticut Ecology & Evolutionary Biology department provide a tracking form, Radiolab provides instructions for a cool home made cicada sensor or a cheap soil thermometer detection method to map “Swarmageddon”.

Other cicada projects include:  The Mid-Atlantic Cicada database project is collecting brood reports to map for the mid-Atlantic region. The College of Mount St.Joseph and the Indian Academy of Science have a self-report site for mapping the Indiana brood at the IAS Cicada Web site.  According to the IAS website, Gene Kritsky, author of the Indiana Academy of Science’s book “Periodical Cicadas, the Plague and the Puzzle” found that Magicicada Brood II was mentioned by Thomas Jefferson in 1724 and are still found in the same place today. Leon Weinman’s poem, “Cicadas, Monticello” for Cerise Press begins, “Numberless, in cradled isolation, they nurse their common fate. Years, beneath cool pines, they wait in their white silence, emerging finally, at once, in thick surrender to the air.” While I am not sure if it refers to Jefferson’s Monticello, Georgia‘s, or somewhere else, it captures the spirit of a cicada emergence.

If you want more information on cicadas, Cicada Mania is a website “Dedicated to cicadas, the most amazing insects in the world”! with detailed information, maps, videos, photos, songs and a gift store. Other sources for information include:  National Geographic provides information on Cicadas at it’s website, Animal Planet explains “Why are Cicadas so Noisy?”, and University of Maryland the Cicadamanics reveal “Cicada-licoious: Cooking and Enjoying Periodical Cicadas” for the exceptionally curious.

 

What is Your Real Geospatial Age?

By now almost everyone with a computer and some spare time has taken the Harvard Mouse Click Age Test, which tries to determine a person’s age by how proficient they are at using a computer mouse. I personally scored about 15 years younger than my real age making me almost a teenager again, so thank you: 1. Harvard, and 2. geospatial computing.   A younger “computer age” might not have the same impact on a person’s quality of life as the results of The Real Age health assessment test, but it can often have an impact on your career.

Keeping up with new technology has always been a challenge in the job world, but today’s employee is faced with the intersecting need to keep up with the huge growth and changing type of technologies, the use of these technologies following them outside of work, the cost associated with the technologies and training, and many other factors. Several recent Wall Street Journal articles highlight the influence of social media, cloud computing, mobile recruiting, and other new technologies in finding and keeping a job, such as the increased use of smart phone apps for advertising and filling out applications. Many of these technologies have geospatial underpinnings that drive the technology. In addition, over the past few years the number of professions using  GIS, remote sensing, and other geospatial technologies  in their work on a routine basis is rapidly expanding.  Careers such as facilities management, utilities, weather, municipal government, and a myriad others. Larry Wall blogged about how he thought that retiring from the oil & gas industry would mean he no longer had to keep up with technology, found that even part time jobs at the mall requires knowing how to use the latest devises.

Despite the ability to keep up with technology, age discrimination is a very real problem, even if there is no skills gap.  The Statesman.com newspaper has a insightful article, “Older Workers Without Jobs Face Uphill Climb“, about the technology job scene in Austin that describes the situation faced by older IT workers.  However, although HR departments often confuse professionals who work with geospatial data with IT workers, it is a different profession that involves complex skill sets that are both art and science.  Many times this is developed over years of education, experience, and continued training. The geospatial workforce shortage that was explored as early as a 2005/2006 ESRI ArcNews Online article on “Defining the Components of the Geospatial Workforce – Who Are We?” and continues in reports such as The National Academies Press “Future U.S. Workforce for Geospatial Intelligence” and Geospatial Today’s “The Who’s Who in the Geospatial Sector Share Their Views on How The Industry Will Unfold in the Days To Come… Outlook 2013” which highlights the need for geospatial professionals across fields that are able to think dynamically and adapt quickly.

It would be interesting to find out if geospatial professionals were quicker “on the draw” or on the click, than other professions thanks to using ArcGIS and other geospatial software.

Happy Shakespeare Day!

Today is 449th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birthday and also according to History.com, the anniversary of his death day. There are may Talk Like Shakespeare activities to choose from worldwide including Talk Like Shakespeare by the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Shakespeare Uncovered on PBS with maps of the different scenes and their deaths, and a plethora of Shakespeare lore. King’s College London English undergraduates have created the Early Modern city map to provide context for Shakespeare’s plays.  The Kennedy Center created an interactive map on the life and legacy of William Shakespeare.

There are many 3D versions of the Globe Theatre in Trimble 3D Warehouse Search, while Flowing Data demonstrates how to use visualization to understand Shakespeare. The Folger Library has a literal approach to visualizing what Shakespeare is describing, such as Falstaff’s favorite bar, Boar’s Head Tavern in Eastcheap. A September 2012 blog post by the Shakespeare Blog discusses “Mapping Shakespeare’s Imagined World” and how his writing reflects concerns about real life property and land ownership at the time.

There are many different resources for celebrating Shakespeare that naturally tie in with geography, cartography, and geospatial analysis and visualization. Happy Shakespeare Day!

 

 

U.S. Taxes and GIS

April 15, 2013 is Tax Day in the U.S. when state and federal taxes are due to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or state tax offices. By it’s very nature, taxation is highly geospatial. According to an article on the history of U.S. property tax in The Assessment Journal, property taxation has existed in the U.S. in basically the same form since colonial days because of “the relative ease with which land and  buildings can be located and identified, and their stability over time”. It continues to be the largest single source of autonomous local revenue for most cities and towns. President Lincoln passed the Revenue Act of 1861, during the Civil War Congress, but it  wasn’t official until the Revenue Act of 1913 was signed by President Woodrow Wilson on Oct. 3, 1913 as part of the 16h Amendment, making the Internal Revenue Code 100 years old.

 

While being a property tax assessor is still a field work heavy job, in the past several years, many local municipalities are moving towards interactive maps,  computer assisted mass appraisal for property taxes and online tax maps.  Residents have come to expect to be able to access tax parcel viewers, but moving to an online system, like many municipal projects, takes time and money. Many county assessors are becoming expected to have GIS skills and training. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics most appraisers and assessors have an associate or bachelor’s degree, must be certified by their state, and earn about $50,000/yr. In 1913, an assessors salary couldn’t exceed five cents for every $1,000 appraised, according to A Treatise on the Federal Income Tax under the Act of 1913.

Mapping Baseball Statues and Google

The Guardian UK online has a media section called, “Data Store: Show and Tell“, which true to its name uses visualizations to tell a story about data. According to The Guardian Data Store team, infographics and data visualization have become the language of the Internet because everyone has access to free tools that make it possible to visualize complex data. In the past few months they have shown, among others, visualizations of  Italian election resultsTwitter’s languages of New York mapped, and an animation of Britain’s new rail network.

Their recent Show and Tell is about “US Baseball stars immortalized in statue-explore our interactive map” that shows how The Sporting Statues Project  at the University of Sheffield  mapped every baseball statue in North America. The mission of the Sporting Statues Project is to record and research statues of sportsmen and women around the world. To date they have collected information on over 600 statues; 249 of them U.S. baseball statues. The interesting part of their website is not just the maps and data, but also that the project itself grew out of a “labour of love”.  Like many GIS mapping database projects, the data was collected and mapped by people who have an interest in the topic, the geospatial skills to map it, and the desire to share that data with other interested users.  They were able to use maps, posters, conference papers, and their website to show that what they were doing was about more than just a physical statue and points on a map, but connected to world history and current events.

The Data Store team mention a disclaimer several times that Google have paid to sponsor this page but all editorial is overseen and controlled by the Guardian Datastore team.”  Google and The Guardian Datastore have a close relationship. In 2012, they hosted a live Q&A debate event focusing on the role data has to play in policy making and transparency around international development and foreign aid. Google has sponsored other journalism events, including journalism skills conferences to educate the next generation of digital journalists.

 

 

 

2013 IEEE GRSS Data Fusion Contest – registration open until May submission dates

The 2013 IEEE GRSS Data Fusion Contest scientific challenge has been held annually since 2006.  The Data Fusion Contest is organized by the Data Fusion Technical Committee of the IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society (GRSS) in order to educate and promote best practices in data fusion applications. It is comprised of two individual contests: 1) Best Paper Award and 2) Best Classification Award, users can participate in one or both contests. This year’s contest uses hyperspectral and LiDAR fusion datasets of the University of Houston campus and neighboring area.

The Best Classification Award results must be submitted between February 16, 2013 and May 1, 2013.  The Best Paper Award manuscripts need to be submitted by May 31, 2013

2013 IEEE GRSS Data Fusion Contest winners will receive one 16GB WiFi iPad (provided by DigitalGlobe, Inc.), their results submitted for peer review to an IEEE-GRSS Journal, and attendance at the Data Fusion Technical Committees and Chapters Luncheon of the 2013 IEEE International Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium in Melbourne, Australia, in July 2013.