Today, there is no shortage of data available on open data portals, including those on ArcGIS Online (such as the Living Atlas of the World, and via ArcGIS Hub, and in many cities such as Cambridge Massachusetts and many countries such as Germany) and those we test and describe on our data blog http://spatialreserves.wordpress.com. But there will always be a need for people to map their own data. Great instructional value is inherent in doing so, including connectedness to the community, examining real world issues, field planning and methods, the use of data collection tools, outdoor education, and much more.
Thus, there is no shortage of methods in which to collect your own data. In recent GIS workshops for faculty, I focus on the following 6 methods:
The capabilities of these tools continue to become more powerful and easier to use with each update. Get out there into the field!
Perhaps this article I wrote about the status and perspectives surrounding GIS in higher education will be helpful in your own efforts as you continue to champion the cause of why teaching, learning, research, and administrative use of GIS makes a positive contribution to academia and society:
GIS workshop at a university, attended by those from the library, IT, engineering, data science, geography, humanities, biology, and other disciplines.
A few weeks ago, I shared Python scripts with Peter Knoop at The University of Michigan. He was kind enough to share a cool ArcGIS Online wordcloud generator, which as you might have already guessed, I tweaked and ran against ArcGIS Online this morning with a few Valentine's Day related terms: love and Valentine.
The Python script uses the libraries: ArcGIS API for Python, BeautifulSoup (text cleanup), and wordcloud.
The script searches the titles of up to 10,000 ArcGIS Online public maps for the keywords love or valentine and then grabs the description from the maps meeting our criteria. Using the word cloud library, the most common terms are found in the descriptions and the word cloud created.
The word "love" was found in the title of 277 maps in ArcGIS Online today. The descriptions of those maps produced this wordcloud.
Running the script a second time with "valentine" produced 57 maps with descriptions producing the following wordcloud.
I noticed "pest" showing up in our love wordcloud and the lack of "valentine" in our valentine wordcloud (at least the english version). Let me know what you see in the wordclouds below.
Happy Valentine's Day!
"By the end of day one with enterprise logins, I'd saved an entire teaching day! I'm never going back to the old, manual way of creating student accounts!"
—Matt Winbigler, Science Teacher, Cloquet Middle School (Cloquet, Minnesota)
For teachers that have already requested a free ArcGIS Online organizational account for their school, know that managing student accounts in ArcGIS Online is an important part of successfully using ArcGIS Online in classrooms, but it doesn't have to be difficult.
Why Have Student (and Teacher) Accounts?
Many schools have an ArcGIS Online organization subscription, which can hold 500 or more accounts for students or teachers. Student accounts are great for letting students create, save, and share maps and apps. Student accounts can be used to complete Level 2 GeoInquiries or even make apps to compete in the ArcGIS Online School Competition.
How Do I Make Student Account Management Easier?
ArcGIS Online allows for enterprise logins, which provide a way for ArcGIS Online to talk to your school's or district's student login system. ArcGIS Online supports the two largest student login systems used in US schools today: Microsoft and Google. Teachers will need the help of your school or district IT staff to connect ArcGIS Online with a preexisting login process.
Share this post or send the link below to your school or district IT staff and tell them you'd like to share ArcGIS Online with all the students in the school or district. Ask them to enable enterprise logins, which is a quick process when following the guidelines detailed in the link below. Keep in mind, this will create new accounts for all students. Depending on your situation, you may wish to keep using any existing student or teacher accounts through the end of the school year.
Perhaps this experiment that I conducted 4 years apart will be useful for all those teaching GIS and teaching with GIS, on the topics of GIS, GPS, and spatial resolution:
Track from 2014 (left) and 2018 (right) gathered from a smartphone and a fitness app.
Back in 2014, I tested the accuracy of smartphone positional accuracy in a small tight area by walking around a track. During a recent visit to teach GIS workshops at Carnegie Mellon University, I decided to re-test, again on a running track. My hypothesis was that triangulation off of wi-fi hotspots, cell phone towers, and the improved GPS constellation would have improved the spatial accuracy of my resulting track over those intervening years.
After an hour of walking, and collecting the track on my smartphone with a fitness app (Runkeeper), I uploaded my track as a GPX file and created a web map showing it in ArcGIS Online. Open this map > use bookmarks > navigate to the Atlanta and Pittsburgh (Carnegie Mellon University) locations (also shown on the graphic below on the left and right, respectively). Once I mapped my data, my hypothesis was confirmed: I kept to the same lane on the running track, and the width of the resulting lines averaged about 5 meters, as opposed to 15 meters on the track from four years ago. True, the 2014 track variability was no doubt in part because I was surrounded by tall buildings on three sides (as you can see in my video that I recorded at the same time) , while the building heights on the Carnegie Mellon campus were much lower. However, you can measure for yourself on the ArcGIS Online map linked above and see the improvement over those two tracks taken just 4 years apart.
I did another test while at Carnegie Mellon University–during my last lap on the track, I moved to the inside lane. This was 5 meters inside the next-to-outer lane where I completed my other laps. I wanted to see whether this shift would be visible on the resulting map. It is! The lane is clearly visible on the map and on the right side of the graphic below, marked as “inside lane.”
To explore further, on the map above, go to > Contents, to the left of the map, and turn on the World Imagery Clarity layer. Then use the Measure tool to determine how close the track is to the satellite imagery (which isn’t perfect either, but see teachable moments link below). You will find that at times the track was 0.5 meters from the image underneath Lane 1, and at other times 3.5 meters away.
Both tracks featured “zingers” – lines stretching away from the actual walking tracks, resulting from points dropped as I exited the nearby buildings and walked outside, as my location based service first got its bearing. But again, an improvement was seen: The initial point was 114 meters off in 2014, but in 2018, only 21.5 meters. In both cases, as I remained outside, the points became more accurate. When you collect data, the more time you spend on the point you are collecting, typically the more spatially accurate that point is.
To dig deeper into issues of GPS track accuracy and precision, see my related essay on errors and teachable moments in collecting data, and on comparing the accuracy of GPS receivers and smartphones and mapping field collected data in ArcGIS Online here and here.
Location based services on the smartphone still do not yet deliver the spatial accuracy for laying fiber optic cable or determining differences in closely-spaced headstones in cemeteries (unless a device such as Bad Elf or a survey-grade GPS is used). Article are appearing that predict spatial accuracy improvements in smartphones. Even today, though, I was quite pleased with my track’s spatial accuracy, particularly in 2018. I was even more pleased considering that I had the phone in my pocket most of the time I was walking. I did this in part because it was cold, and cold temperatures tend to rapidly deplete my cell phone’s battery (which is unfortunate, and the subject of other posts, many of which sport numerous adds, so they are not listed here). Happy field data collection and mapping!