National Public Radio (NPR) has been closely following the story of Happy Feet, the penguin who got off course and ended up in New Zealand. They recently posted a heart warming story about the NZEmperor website created by SIRTRACK, the makers of the Sirtrack KiwiSat 202 Satellite Transmitter donated to keep tabs and map Happy Feet’s location. Dr Gareth Morgan, a scientist raising New Zealanders’ awareness of the importance of the area between Stewart Island and the South Pole, is sponsoring the satellite costs. He has a Happy Feet tracking page on his Our Far South website. Everyone interested in the story is waiting with baited breath to see if Happy Feet’s tracking system starts working or why it might have stopped. No matter what happens this was a great news story that might get many citizen scientists involved in learning more about the issues and technology involved in a part of the world they might not normally think about. Dr. Gareth Morgan’s website also discusses his upcoming trip to raise awareness of the region and features a very diverse crew of researchers, conservationists, and others, who are going to be on the trip as well.
At the ESRI Education User Conference Plenary this morning a few things struck me as significant for GIS use in the classroom. Bern Szukalski reviewed some of the ArcGIS.com revisions that occurred last Wednesday and these are what I thought could enhance the use of GIS in the classroom:
Intelligent Mapping – Essentially pop ups that display data in graphical formats about the feature selected ( fun stuff like pie, bar and line charts).
Time enabled mapping – The ability to connect to time aware services and bring them into the ArcGIS.com mapping environment and have a time slider available.
And what I feel is the most significant advance, “Drag & Drop Mapping” where a text or Excel file can be dragged directly into the mapping environment to add features and their associated data. Remember creating an Excel sheet with Latitude and Longitude fields, displaying events, and then exporting that event as a layer? Not anymore, just drag that excel file over the map and drop it!
While the emphasis of the plenary was to enable GIS education, the undertone was that of increasing the capabilities of web mapping and the continued integration of cloud services. The Pennsylvania State University also announced today for the first time publicly that it will be offering an open course tentatively titled “GEOG 8xx – Cloud/Server GIS“. Enrollment for this course will be open on November 7th 2011.
Pack your bags and your GPS, June – August are GIS Summer camp months! All over the world GIS themed summer camps, summer internships, and classes are taking place for everyone from kids to adults. The Harbor Discovery Camps, an interactive marine and environmental science program that teaches GIS among other skills is hosted by the New England Aquarium. This summer, the Hip Hop Scientist’s Summer Science & Technology camp in NC is focusing on the achievements of African Americans in robotics, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Washington College is offering a Geospatial Technology Summer Camp for students in grades 7 -12 where kids will make a 3D model of their local town and help preserve its watershed. If you wonder where traditional camp crafts like macrame and bead work have gone, you can always create a bead work map like the one created by Haraldur Thorleifsson.
For “big kids” or adults who miss going to summer camp, there are many GIS summer camp opportunities. GIS Taiwan is one of many GIS symposium going on this summer for undergraduate and graduate students. GIS Taiwan theme is global initiatives. Like many summer courses taking advantage of teacher’s being out of school during the summer, The WV GIS Technical Center is offering GIS in K-12 summer camp for educators in August. Don’t forget the biggest GIS summer camp of all the ESRI User’s Conference and Education User’s Conference.
On this memorial day weekend the History Channel is kicking off a week of Civil War themed shows. While watching I thought I’d see if there were any interesting maps available on the intertubes. What did I find? Some wonderful animated maps from the Civil War Trust ! The maps are flash based and progress through some key battles of the war. The site also provides users historical maps and new digital maps that are static.
Additionally, the site has available BattleApps. The BattleApps are virtual Civil War tour guides for the war or specific battles for the iPhone or iPad. The apps are location aware and throughout the tour one could view video clips from the national park service and see locations of troops of both the North and South. Another great example of giving old paper maps a new lease on life with digital innovation!
Throughout history, cicada and locusts have produced fascination, food, and frustration, among other f words. The Cicada Mania site “Dedicated to cicadas, the most amazing insects in the world.” provides TONS of information on cicadas. Other calls for citizen scientists include those of University of Georgia, Dept. of Entomology, asking for pictures and locations of cicadas and shed cicada skins. Their call recommends that parents participate with their young children because their children will not see this amazing event again until they are adults.
Many countries have set up citizen science watches to keep tabs on what is happening this year. According to a Charlotte news report, the 14 state Cicada Watch citizen science project had hundreds of volunteers in Mechlenberg County, NC alone this year. Other watch projects across take place across the globe. The Australian Government of Agriculture,Fisheries, and Forestry has an up to date section for “Current Locust Situation and News“. The Desert Locust Watch is produced by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations for desert regions such as the Sudan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia,
I’ve been fortunate enough to look over the shoulders of a project funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and featured in the Chronicle of Higher Education. The project titled “On The Line” is an online, interactive history of schooling, housing and civil rights in the city of Hartford, Connecticut that was created by Jack Dougherty of Trinity College. What makes this online text ‘spatial’ is the series of interactive Google Maps linked to historical redlining documents, as well as view historical photos in Historypin, and examine historical data in linked map viewers.
The site also provides a series of excellent lesson plans ready for educators to use in the classroom.
I just played a fun online game called, “Where on Earth” by Point 2 Explore.com which was developed for educational museums and science centers. It shows landmarks from across the globe using NASA satellite photos and a player has three guesses of the location. If you have ever attended any geo-spatial related conferences, it is a computer version of the raffles they often hold to see who can guess the location of printed satellite imagery.
Other fun remote sensing games online include several from NASA such as the adventures of Amelia the Pigeon and Echo the Bat and an older short one called “LandSat Game” from an extensive remote sensing tutorial.
So, yeah…a little something to round out Earth Observation Day 2011. Can I just say it is WAY harder to do a single take 5 minute video than it is to do an hour long audio podcast that ends up as 30 minutes.
I am releasing a series of 10 video podcasts over the next three months to support an NC Space Grant I received last summer. The grant, of course, is through the day job, but since it is being released under a Creative Commons license why not plaster everywhere, right?
The series’ home is at ObservingTheEarth.com which has already gone through many themes and layouts in the week and a half it has been around. After the AAG, the Observing the Earth site will be finalized and the accompanying materials for the podcasts (maps, data, lesson plans, etc) will find there way on to the site. I also plan to do an online workshop in June that pulls together the content topics that will be covered in the podcasts and more for educators (formal and informal).
Geocaching isn’t just for science class or the serious geography geek! A cache is simply a hiding place, and caching is hiding something like a treasure. Nature is full of treasures waiting to be explored. A popular movement called “geocaching” gets folks outside with their GPS units to find treasures hidden by other geocachers. If you haven’t tried it yet, it’s great fun! (www.geocaching.com) Folks are geocaching all over the world!
Many educators are taking that idea to the classroom to do campus investigations. Now you might expect that it’s the science teacher out looking at nature, but surprise your students in English Language Arts class with an outdoors writing assignment! Realizing that not all classrooms are created equally, here are some low-tech options as well as the spiffy high-tech ones. Either have students locate specific cached items or let them explore the landscape for surprises. Anyway you do it, get creative and allow the students to explore their creativity.
1. Create a map of your site with destinations. Use a hand-drawn map with destinations or use a tool like Sketch-A-Map (http://edgis.org/sketch) to create your map for students.
2. Students can create a poem or story based on the destinations on the map. Nature is an excellent way to pull more adjectives out of a student. I used a similar activity with my students in my book, Reading, Writing and Thinking around the Globe: Geospatial Technologies for English Language Arts Classroom and Beyond (www.barbareeduke.com) where students create topographic and geographic definitions for words. Visualizing vocabulary can help cement those words into a student’s personal dictionary.
Several recent requests for proposals (RFPs) by NASA go along with this weeks theme. They are NASA’s 2011 Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences (ROSES) goals and most of them are spatially related. They include not only Earth surface observations and Earth systems modeling but data analysis and research related to space and MARS missions. According to the ROSES RFP, the NASA Strategic Plan is being revised. Some of these revisions are in keeping with what you hear from other agencies to meet the challenges of climate and environmental change but others are the stuff of kid’s (and adults) dreams. NASA wants to “understand the Sun and its interactions with the Earth and the solar system” is a given but how about search for Earth-like planets and the potential for life elsewhere. NASA is ready to go where no man has gone before and that is definantly a geo-spatial goal worth pursuing.