When I saw the E3 trailer for the next installment of Sim City, due in February 2013, my first thought was – this would be great for an Urban Geography class….or a class on sustainable development…..or a class on government….or a, well you get the picture. Just the short preview that Sim City’s developer released shows a revamped engine for Sim City 5 with nice graphics, physics systems that bump up the realism, and simulation models that really let you see the consequences of your choices in building and managing your virtual cities. For anybody out there who still doesn’t think that the gaming industry has anything to contribute to education or exploring and solving real-world problems, watch this trailer:
You have probably seen this everywhere by now. Cary Huang and his brother Michael Huang have an updated Scales of the Universe 2 which puts the scales of a surprising many entities from countries to geographies to planets, people, and protoplasm into perspective. I also enjoyed the many variations of their scales, such as the original Scales of the Universe with the ability to swirl objects or make them fall. It is like being on a roller coaster of scale. On their website, htwins.net, they have other interactive simulations like a Tidepool. According to ABC News, Cary and his brother Michael are brothers who created this projects as a fun activity. It took them a year and a half to collect all of their data and put together the graphics. They were inspired by their biology class teacher to do citizen science.
One of the reasons I enjoy going to the ESRI plenary is the chance to see the great ideas and projects that young geographers pursue after being inspired by people around them. Many organizations have mentoring programs such as ESRI’s GeoMentor Program and the Annual Association of Geographer’s (AAG) Ask a Geographer and other mentoring programs. When I first used the Scales of the Universe 2, I expected the creators to be college students or adults. The fact that they are young adults, who were inspired to do it by an educator, and then have it go viral, in turn educating many, many other people around the world who otherwise wouldn’t be interested in geography, science, or technology makes it bigger than the interactive simulation itself. It highlights the impact of readily available technology, the importance of mentors, and the one of the roles of citizen scientists in science diplomacy. The Huangs and other young people act as ambassadors for the fields that their projects touch on to the larger world.
I hope that they think about attending the many geography programs for young adults that are available and one day see them up on the ESRI plenary talking about their next big project.
It is interesting to find that there are many types of spatial immersion projects going on this summer. They provide a good contrast of how creative people can be with spatial immersion as an educational tool and the importance of experiencing an environment to understanding it in a new way.
The original Virtual Trillium Trail was a virtual ecological environment created by Maria C.R. Harrington as part of her dissertation research in Information Science at the University of Pittsburgh. It is represents real world field trips offered by the Audubon Society of Western PA and uses the Pennsylvania Department of Education Ecology Standards. Virtual Trillium Trail has been posted on KickStarter to try to get funding to make it into an online game.
School of Architecture for All (SARCHA) Polypolis is a role playing social simulation that covers different areas of current events. They are currently presenting “Polypolis Athens: Become an Athenian and experience a city in crisis” for the upcoming London Festival of Architecture on June 23-July 8. The theme of the festival is The Playful City and Polypolis is billed as a Playful social simulation, but is playful in the way that serious games allow users to play in a immersive sandbox.
Role-playing and immersion are always great educational tools; virtually or in real life. I have always enjoyed having students create their own role-play activities to share with classmates. I think that both k-12 students and adults respond well to role-pay as an educational activity. A paper on role-playing as an educational technique from 1958 sums it up well, ” Dramatic play has been enjoyed by children- and adults too, if you will — throughout the ages. It is a natural and spontaneous way of learning, but only comparatively recently have educators come to realize its worth as a teaching device.”
Of course, Sue Bergeron and Jesse Rouse have done more than talk about the role of technology, such as the contributions of GIS, to making what educators dreamed about in 1958 possible. There is a good quote from “Engaging the Virtual Landscape: Serious gaming environments as tools in historical landscape reconstruction and interpretation ” that says, “Utilizing game functionality we can add sounds, smells, and other sensory input that would be part of such landscapes, and users can begin to experience phenomena that in combination creates a sense of place. ” It is nice to see how role-playing has evolved as technology and spatial knowledge has evolved. It will be interesting to see what people come up with next.
Ars Technica is reporting an interesting article for science, I think. Researchers at George Mason University have looked at climate reporting in the New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today between 1998 and 2010 to see how often climate change models are referenced. The answer? A depressingly few number of times – 100 out of 4,000. Why does it matter? Well, how can anyone really understand the conclusions without at least understanding some of the methodology that went into the conclusion? Without understanding the utility of models in general and climate change models in particular, it is all too easy to cast aside climate change as junky science.
If you ask me, irrespective of the climate change debate, I fear we don’t do enough to explain the science behind the conclusions, particularly with highly politically charged issues like climate change. It seems a bit disingenuous to me that we would present one argument without explaining the logic behind it. It is then up to the reader to decide which argument makes more sense to them. At the very least, we potentially raise scientific knowledge among the general population, and that can’t be a bad thing.
If you have watched the GeoBee then you probably feel as though you need to spend more time with your globe and atlas. It was great to see President Obama ask one of the questions showing that someone at the White House gets the importance of Geography and its impact on the world.
ESRI recently sent out reminders about submitting static paper or interactive maps for the 2012 ESRI UC Map competition. This year they have added a User Software Applications contest for applications using Esri technology or customized Esri software product. The map gallery and user software application fair are huge events with hundreds of submissions, but don’t let that discourage you from submitting to their or other upcoming map contests.
The North American Cartographic Information Society (NACIS) is sponsoring its 14th Annual Student Dynamic Map Competition to promote cartographic excellence and innovation. There are two competition categories: narrative maps and interactive maps. Entries must be submitted by Friday September 14, 2012.
National Geographic has several map competitions for college and young professionals through the Association of American Geographers/Cartography award, British Cartographic Society award, and the Cartography and Geographic Information Society (CaGIS) award
The Barbara Petchenik International World Map Design Competition has a new theme for their 2013 competition: My Place in Today’s World. Many teachers worldwide use the competition as part of their geography or GIS curriculum. The rules for the 2013 competition can be downloaded in September.
And because I think that video game maps use many of the same geo-spatial skills and design techniques as other types of interactive maps, I have included video game layer map contests. The Source engine based Multiplayer game, Nuclear Dawn, has a Nuclear Dawn map contestwith prizes due by June 25. Beanstalk, a search engine optimization company, is promoting a contest to create Minecraft maps based on the beanstalk theme with prizes due by May 31st.
Whatever form they take map contests are a good way to encourage students, professionals, and the general public to think about maps in creative ways.
If you have met me, you know that I would love to teach a geography class using the book World War Z by Max Brooks, a journalist who uses a zombie apocalypse to discuss current events and world geography. David Hunter, a middle school teacher in Seattle, Washington beat me to the punch. He is asking for help on Kickstarter to create a Grade 5-8 Standards Based curriculum “Learning Geography skills through a Zombie Apocalypse Narrative”. His concept is not as far fetched as it seems. At the WV Association for Geospatial Professionals conference this week Sheila Wilson, Executive Director of the GIS Certificate Institute (GISP) started off her talk with the CDC Zombie Preparedness Guide. She talked about how in the guide a GIS team who were prepared to spatially analyze zombie hot spots, were prepared for anything. According to Cartographia, Austin TX has been prepared for a zombie outbreak since 2007.
Joking aside, I think that the zombie apocalypse creates a “sandbox” for researchers, educators, and society to analyze and understand complex, interconnected geospatial issues in a non-threatening way. I’m not the only one who feels this way. Edward Gonzalez-Tennant a geography professor at Monmouth University is hopefully going to be presenting a paper on “Popular Culture and GIS: Using Geospatial Technologies to Model and Prepare for the Zombie Apocalyze.” at the 2012 ESRI Education User’s Conference (EDUC). There is also a 2012 ESRI International User’s session dedicated to Health, Behavior, and Zombies. Preparing for zombie outbreaks on Earth is inspiring geospatial professionals to innovate and think big much like Star Trek has inspired decades of engineers.
If you want to experience your own zombie attack, Class 3 Outbreak is a zombie outbreak simulator played via Google maps at hundreds of locations world wide.
Summer time is a great time for students of all ages to learn about GIS and geospatial technologies because it is a very hands-on technology. There are often GIS summer camps being offered at local colleges or incorporated into the general activities of 4-H and other camps. Some examples of upcoming summer camps by age group include:
The GeoX: Geosciences Exploration Summer Program is a FREE one-week program for high-achieving high school juniors and seniors by being offered by Texas A & M (June 1-8, 2012). It combines a mixture of classroom, campus, and field trips, along with technical and career skills. The geosciences, especially geography, is a field that takes more recruitment at the high school level because of the misconception that geography is only being able to name all the countries in the world. This is changing as more high school outreach programs like this one introduce students to real life applications of geospatial skills and awareness. Application deadline is: April 9
The TwiST GIS Summer Camp is offered by the Institute for the Application of Geospatial Technologies (IAGT), Cayuga Community College, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, the National Geospatial Technology Center, CIESIN and the New York State GIS Association to coincide with the Teaching with Spatial Technology (TwiST) Workshop for educators (June 28 – July 1). Students learn geospatial technologies such as GIS, GPS, and remote sensing by working on a real world project. Many STEM educators believe that junior high is one of the best times to get students interested in science, technology, and math related careers. Scholarships are available.
The Harbor Discoveries Camp is offered by the New England Aquarium (July 9 – 24, 2012). It is an interactive marine and environmental science program that uses geospatial technologies. Some of the activities include behind–the-scenes activities at Aquarium galleries, “excursions to Boston Harbor Islands, daily field trips to North and South Shore habitats, and an overnight experience.” Older students who have attended the camp are eligible to apply to be teachers and camp counselors. Many aquariums, museums, and nature preserves offer similar programs for students who don’t want to attend away camps.
The Teaching with Spatial Technology (TwiST) Workshop offered by the IAGT and Cayuga Community College (June 25-28, 2012) is designed to teach K-12 teachers and college faculty members in the United States how to teach and empower through geospatial technologies in the classroom. In 2011, the TwiST workshop was recognized in an Esri Special Achievements in GIS Award for 11 years of geospatial education. Scholarships are available. Application deadline is: April 15
The “SATELLITES” (Students And Teachers Exploring Local Landscapes to Interpret The Earth from Space) K12 Summer Teacher Institute at the University of Toledo (July 9-13, 2012) is an award winning teacher education program focusing on geospatial technology and climate change and student research projects. The SATTELITES teachers have gone to the have gone to the White House Science Fair for the past two years.
Application Deadline: April 17, 2012
ESRI Kid’s Camp
Don’t forget that if you are attending the 2012 ESRI User’s Conference this year, they offer a GIS Kids Camp (July 24-26, 2012) Many summer conferences offer geospatial education programs for kids attending the conference with their parents.
If you know of any upcoming summer camps, post them in the comments section.
In December, the Guardian UK website posted the questions for the notoriously difficult King William’s College quiz or General Knowledge Paper (GKP) given to students (and parents) at King William’s College on the Isle of Man. In another article on, “The Story of the King Wiliams’s College Quiz” quizmaster Dr Pat Cullen discusses the impact of the Internet on the 106 year old quiz and attempts to Google and social media proof the quiz to keep it intellectually challenging. MacLean’s Canada article on the history of the quiz is simply titled, “The World’s Most Difficult Quiz. Really.”
While only section 2 relates specifically to geography and cartography, I estimated that about 70 of the 180 questions could be considered geo-spatial. These range from questions such as, “4 Who first used continuous and broken lines to indicate fenced and unfenced roads?” to 5 Where did close neighbours claim the invention of a device for observing at a distance? The answers to last year’s questions were posted in February, so you will have to wait a while if you get stumped.
The quizmaster Dr. Pat Cullen doesn’t live in a dusty library tower, he is also a birder and citizen scientist for the Isle of Man which is home to several rare species of birds.
There are many sources for New Year’s interactive maps for 2012. The Glencoe/McGraw-Hill Education site has an interactive map and social studies quiz on “Celebrating New Year’s Around the World: Understanding Time Zones“. If you get stuck on the answers, point flags pop up on the map with additional information. Maps of the World has an interactive map that counts down the time to 2012 for each country. The BBC news online also has an interactive map which shows the most popular news stories for the day in real time. So far, New Year’s Eve Celebrations Start has remained the most popular in world traffic to the site. Last Year, Twitter posted an interactive map of Tweets on New Year’s Day calling it an “epic Tweet Day”. It will be interesting to see what 2012 holds.