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Know a colleague that is interested in using spatial thinking and geotechnologies in instruction? An upcoming 5 week course may be just the thing that could bring the "a-ha!" moment in terms of understanding how and why to do so. The course, entitled “Isn’t that Spatial? Analyzing Our World Using Digital Maps and Spatial Thinking (TSA101)” is offered through eNet Colorado, a provider and clearinghouse of professional development resources for educators.

The goal of Teaching Using Spatial Analysis 101 is to provide confidence, skills, and the spatial perspective necessary to foster spatial analysis in geography, earth and biological sciences, history, mathematics, computer science, and in other disciplines.isnt_that_spatial_course_enetcolorado_screenshot-300x242.jpg

It will accomplish this through a series of hands-on activities where participants investigate a series of fascinating issues relevant to the 21st Century, including population, natural hazards, energy, water, current events, sustainable agriculture, and more. These activities will be supplemented by short readings and reflections that will build a community of educators focused on the value of investigating the world through a spatial perspective. Students who are ultimately impacted by what the educators will learn through this course will benefit through key career and critical thinking skills in data management, inquiry, multimedia, and geospatial technologies. I am teaching this class and will be assisted by eNet Colorado staff. The class ($75) begins on 19 September 2012 and is 5 weeks long, running asynchronously, with an estimated time of 3 hours required per week. Graduate credit through Adams State University is available as well. See my video for more information about the course.

Each week includes the following tasks: 1. Read the introduction. 2. Read the background readings and respond in the forum. The background readings include items written by the National Research Council’s “Learning to Think Spatially” committee, Phil Gersmehl, myself, and others. Reading others’ reflections and responding is one way to build community, which is key to success in spatial analysis and GIS in education. 3. Complete the hands on activities using ArcGIS Online and other tools and respond to the questions I pose. 4. Complete a five-question quiz. In addition, during Week 5 there is an additional assignment: Complete a plan describing how you would implement these skills, activities, and/or geotechnologies in the classroom.

The themes for each week are: Introduction to spatial thinking, population dynamics, natural hazards, change, and analyzing field data.

Do you know some colleagues who might benefit from such a course? How would you structure such a course if you were teaching it?

- Joseph Kerski, Esri Education Manager
Who has ever looked in the newspaper or online and read that day’s extreme high and low temperatures for your country or for the world? Who has ever wanted to map that data? I thought so! Three years ago, I did exactly that when I created a data set and lesson on extreme daily temperatures for ArcGIS for the USA, which I updated last month for ArcGIS 10. But I also have just created a version for ArcGIS Online, which was easy to do given ArcGIS Online’s geocoding capabilities, and the lesson provide a pathway to spatial analysis with a fascinating data set.extreme_temperatures_usa_agol-300x252.jpg

What is the relationship of temperature extremes to latitude, altitude, seasons, and proximity to coasts? Previous experience with GIS is not necessary to use this lesson, but the geographic perspective is important. Ideally, this lesson would be run during a unit on climate and weather. Data layers include extreme temperatures, a topographic map, and cultural features. The temperature data was gathered with the help of a stellar secondary school student. The map shows the locations of all of the places that recorded a high or low temperature extreme in the USA for each of the 31 days in January 2011 and the 31 days in July 2011. For example, on 15 January, the high temperature in the USA occurred in Santa Ana, California, and the low temperature on that date occurred in Northway, Alaska, and in Chicken, Alaska. Therefore, Santa Ana, Northway, and Chicken all are symbolized appropriately on this map.

As expected, the January highs are mostly in the low latitudes and near coasts, such as Hawaii, southern California, Texas, and Florida, but by July have migrated inland to Arizona, Nevada, and Oklahoma, reflecting the southern plains heat wave that year. The January lows occur in the high latitudes of Minnesota, Montana, and Alaska. By July, some remain in Alaska but others migrate to high altitudes in Montana, Oregon, Colorado, and even as far south as Arizona.

I couldn’t stop there, because another data set just aching to be mapped were the historical high and low temperature extremes for each state. I have now also mapped these in ArcGIS Online and packaged with a lesson. This map shows the locations where the all-time low and high temperature occurred in each state, dating back to the late 1800s. As such, fascinating patterns in space and time are visible, such as record highs from the Dust Bowl years that still stand today, and the effects of latitude, altitude, and proximity to coasts. Both of these data sets and lessons could find good homes in climatology, meteorology, and geography courses, but also in mathematics courses and in the last example, in a history course. Feel free to modify either lesson with your own questions.

How might you be able to use these resources in your courses?

- Joseph Kerski, Esri Education Manager
Last week I had the opportunity to participate in BioBlitz 2012 at Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, USA. BioBlitz is a 10-year partnership between the US National Park Service and National Geographic with three goals: (1) Highlight the diversity of national parks by conducting a taxonomic inventory; (2) public outreach; (3) to inspire young people to pursue careers in science and geography. During one day, I went into the field to collect and categorize macroinvertebrates in a beautiful montane stream (shown here in ArcGIS Online) with 40 students aged 11 to 13.

Collecting macroinvertebrates in stream.

After collecting the data over a period of five hours, the data was identified by the students according to a detailed classification chart.

The data was then input into a web-GIS called FieldScope, created by National Geographic and based on Esri technology, and viewable that same evening by anyone on the web.

It was wonderful to work with our partners at National Geographic and in particular, with students, and four things struck me through this event. First, it is important to get students into the field repeatedly, and at young ages, to provide rich experiences and a love for the outdoors and the environment. During the next day, I met environmental and youth advocate Juan Martinez, who had a powerful experience with an Eco Club in south Los Angeles that changed his life. I was impressed by the high quality and collaborative nature of the students’ work. They were interested not only in getting wet collecting data, but they were just as interested in classifying the data. In fact, they were so immersed that nobody happened to notice a bear about 100 meters away, documented by a photograph that another group showed our group later that day!

Adding citizen science data to FieldScope.

Second, powerful things can happen when students and professional scientists collaborate, as evident here and with such efforts as GeoMentor, GIS Corps, and Project Budburst. BioBlitz brought together hundreds of students, over 100 scientists, and thousands of the general public whose two days of data collection resulted in over 400 bird, fungi, macroinvertebrate, animal, and vascular plant species that had never been documented in this particular national park before. Third, the event reinforced the concepts that Jill Clark and I wrote about in the book The GIS Guide to Public Domain Data: As citizen science projects gain in popularity, enabled by powerful, easy-to-use web-GIS and field collection instruments, how can data collected by a wide variety of people be managed and cataloged that is useful and allows people to understand how that data was collected, categorized, and mapped?

What are some meaningful field experiences that you have had?

-Joseph Kerski, Esri Education Manager

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