Sunday, April 29, 2007

Question About the Availability of Google Earth Workshops

I gave a talk at the American Association of Geographers meeting last week on the use of Google Earth in higher education, and following the talk there was no time for questions. I did get one question emailed to me, and because I think it's a good one, I'd like to answer it here. I'm posting the question(s) and my response in case someone reads this and wants to add to the discussion. I won't include the professor's name and school.

April 21, 2007

Hi Meg,

I greatly enjoyed your presentation yesterday at AAG in SF. In terms of my current interests, it was the best presentation of the day. Thank you. (I wanted to talk to you afterwards but unfortunately had to dash to meet up with one of my students before the Lopez/Solnit session).

I am writing because I have a full sabbatical in the Fall to work on developing improved graphic teaching tools for my geography courses. Part of the sabbatical project involves learning to use the more advanced features of Google Earth. I would greatly appreciate it if you could suggest the best way to quickly get up to speed on making my own KML/KMZ files, uploading images, and creating movies/fly-throughs. Are there any workshops on these topics that you're aware of? Any especially good books or online tutorials? Any advice or help you may be able to offer will be greatly appreciated!

Warm regards,
Professor of Geography

My response:

Dear Professor of Geography,

Thank you for your kind words on the Google Earth presentation and your interest in some Google Earth sabbatical ideas.

First off, I don't know of any workshops or training sessions available for Google Earth. I'm self-taught. But as I said in the talk, it's pretty easy software to work with and you can't break anything when you're trying to figure things out. I think that Google Earth is new enough that there aren't any how-to books out there (that I know of) and that use is growing organically. Likewise, there are no resources available that talk about standards for use in a classroom setting.

Secondly, always get the most up-to-date version of Google Earth. I think I said that in my talk, but it should be restated. I find that I can do most everything I need to do with the free version of Google Earth. You mentioned making a movie; that would need to be done with the pay-for version (Google Earth Pro at $400/seat). There is a movie-making tutorial that you can follow.

When I give demos to faculty members on campus, I usually try to give them a copy of a Google Earth Users Guide is pretty useful, though I think it is very wordy. But all of the things that you mentioned that you'd like to learn are listed there.

Frank Taylor's Google Earth Blog has a nice short list of some things you can do with Google Earth, like describing the overview map and playing a tour, but also clarifying any confusion between a KML or a KMZ? I get that sometimes. And then the Google Earth Blog also points to tutorials.

And these seem to be video and audio podcasts Google Earth tutorials (I must admit I haven't tried these but they look useful).

Finally, there was a terrific KML that I stumbled upon and now cannot seem to dredge up. It was a great step-by-step on how to make a placemark with different types of text, with an embedded URL, and with an image that pops up in the placemark bubble. Where is that!? If I find that one, I'll send it along to you. Just keep in mind that the placemark "description" can be written in HTML. My guess is that I found that helpful KML back before I started the gisatvassar blog. Now when I find something useful, I stick it right on the links side (or post a note about it). So what I'll do with your email and my answer (leaving out your name, of course) is post it to the blog.

When you get into your 'free' time of your sabbatical, please get in touch with me if you have Google Earth questions.

Best regards,

Friday, April 27, 2007

Fifth Annual Teaching With Technology Forum

Another great year for Vassar's annual Teaching with Technology Forum, we had twelve interesting presenters showing posters and demonstrations of a variety of interesting uses of technologies in teaching. We also had a keynote speaker discussing the uses of visual images and (gasp!) getting presentation materials from Flickr. It was great.

As I mentioned in the Save the Date announcement awhile back, there were six posters given on geospatial topics. Five of the six had not presented at a Forum in the past. So, hurray for new users to GIS, mobile mapping and Google Earth!

Eventually, we in Academic Computing Services will put all of the lovely posters up on the web as we have done in 2006, 2005, and 2004. Please stay tuned. Until we get it together, please enjoy the posters that I helped put together. You'll notice one extra, non-geospatial poster, on the list. Yu Zhou talked about her use of Google Docs in class, a tool I love to use and love even more to promote. So check it out. Click on each for a larger jpeg to read. Here's the list in alphabetical order (with departmental affiliation):

Robert Fritz and Keri Van Camp (both in Biology), "Using Tablet PC Technology to Examine the Effect of an Invasive Species on Plant Diversity at the Vassar Farm"

Brian Godfrey (Geography), "Making Maps with Census Data"

David Jemiolo (Biology) and David Kennett (Economics), "Sugar, Rum and Squash: Going to Barbados with Google Earth"

Lucille Johnson (Anthropology), "Field Archaeology: Tablet PCs and Digital Photography Enhance Research and Reporting"

A. Marshall Pregnall (Biology), "Finding the Bathymetry of Sunset Lake and the Change Over Time Using Spatial Analyst"

Jeff Walker (Earth Science) and Mary Ann Cunningham (Geography), "Analyzing Regional Agriculture Through GIS, On-Line Water Budget Mapping and Soil Nutrient Modeling"

Yu Zhou (Geography), "Using Google Docs (aka Writely) as a Collaborative Writing Tool"

Monday, April 23, 2007

GIS in Higher Education

"Understanding Place: GIS and Mapping Across the Curriculum," an edited collection by Diana Stuart Sinton and Jennifer Lund, just came out and is now available on-line at Amazon. My thought is that this book will be useful for all the people that I created this blog for, people who use and teach with geospatial technologies in an academic setting. It is published by ESRI. Order a copy for your library today.

Here is a book description:

"This collection of case studies describes how experienced instructors have used GIS within the traditions of a classical undergraduate education, spanning subjects as varied as the natural sciences, social sciences, arts, and humanities. These stories offer creative ways for teachers to help students analyze, manage, and visualize information by describing how instructors have integrated mapping software into their syllabi, pursued the learning goals of their discipline, and strived to create a realistic learning environment in which students practice inquiry in their fields."

Saturday, April 21, 2007

American Association of Geographers Meeting - Virtual Globes Session Today

Just had the Virtual Globes session this afternoon in San Francisco for the AAG conference. Needless to say, all the virtual globe sessions (yesterday's as well) were very well attended.

So, as promised, here's the slide presentation from today's talk on using Google Earth in higher ed. I think it went pretty well.

Though I'm not going to post the text of our talk, here is the abstract; I would say that we stayed pretty true to the original message of the abstract.

Sharing Project Data Using Google Earth: Doing GIS Without Learning GIS

Author(s): Meg Stewart*, Mary Ann Cunningham, Kirsten Menking, and Ken Bolton - Vassar College

Abstract: Google Earth transformed the public's ability to visualize landscape features through imagery and is amplifying spatial literacy and geospatial awareness. Increasingly this program is serving as a platform for GIS data with more individual purposes. We have begun to use Google Earth to serve data to other users on campus, in order to facilitate communication about research projects, to support teaching, and to aid in community outreach. Beginning with a set of data for a collaborative stream monitoring project, we have used this approach to present our data to the public, as well as to provide cross-platform data access to participants of various projects. We have also used Google Earth with locally-produced data sets to support workshops and demonstrations in non-GIS classes and across disciplines. While this application is in early stages of development on campus, it has proven a useful tool for these communication purposes. The intuitive interface of Google Earth allows us to more quickly and easily produce maps and distribute them by way of the Google Earth community bulletin board than we can if we used an internet mapping service product or traditional GIS software. We present our progress here to show our methods, to demonstrate the strengths and weaknesses of this approach to data distribution, and to help initiate exchanges of ideas on these kinds of directed applications of this software.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Using ArcMap 9.2? Recover Your 9.1 ArcMap Document

From Lynn Carlson of the GIS At Brown (sound familiar?) blog came this helpful hint about dealing with two versions of ArcMap, 9.1 and 9.2. We have this situation as our GIS lab has 9.2 but our tablet PCs have 9.1, so be aware that you do not need to re-create your map nor curse ESRI (this time). Thanks, Lynn!

Did you open/create an ArcMap document (*.mxd) on a computer with version 9.2 installed, and now you cannot open the file on a computer that is still running version 9.1?
All is not lost.

In version 9.2, the "File -> Save A Copy As" pulldown menu allows you to select the older software version.

Simply choose "ArcMap 9.0/9.1 Document (*.mxd)" from the "Save As Type" selection options.

Remember to give this copy of your .mxd a different file name to indicate that this is your older version.

Continue your work on this copy in ArcMap 9.1.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Mid-Hudson GIS User's Group - Second Meeting

We had a second meeting of the Mid-Hudson GIS User's Group and what follows are the minutes of that meeting. The first one was held last October. This time we met at Bard College in the Henderson Lab, where Bard's terrific GIS lab is located. We were short about 5 or 8 people, but we were not deterred and stuck with the agenda.

Mark Becker, CIESIN and Bard College
Mitchell Bring, Graphic Intelligence
Craig Vogel, Winnakee Land Trust
Girk Cakmak, Bowne Management Systems, Inc.
Susan Winchell-Sweeney, Bard College
Christopher Lindner, Bard College
Mark Halsey, Bard College
Meg Stewart, Vassar College

The meeting opened with a presentation by Mark Becker. Mark is a faculty member for Bard's Center for Environmental Policy, where he has taught the GIS program for four years. He is also the Associate Director of Geospatial Applications at CIESIN (Center for International Earth Science Information Network). Mark talked about the GIS course in the graduate program and how he is able to bring real-world data from CIESIN into his teaching at BCEP. This semester the class has been opened up to 13 undergraduates, a new approach for Bard.
Christopher Lindner gave a presentation on his archaeological work in nearby Germantown and on the Bard campus. Using GIS, Lindner and his colleague Susan Winchell-Sweeney, georeferenced a 1740 map showing settlement in Germantown and discussed German immigration patterns in the Hudson Valley in the early 18th century, populating Rhinebeck, parts of Ulster County and then into Pennsylvania. Lindner also discussed work done by students in the Historical Archaeology class who have gathered both historical and pre-historic artifacts from the Bard campus (the Bard Lands Project). (The point shown above is NOT from Bard College land.) From these surface surveys and test pits, Lindner has helped identify sections of the campus worth further archaeological investigation and has advocated for modification of site plans. There's a rich historical record in the soil at Bard.

Susan Winchell-Sweeney, Bard GIS consultant, took us on a tour of the some of the areas discussed in Christopher's lecture. Bard College is located on a beautiful and large piece of property overlooking the Hudson River. Susan discussed her work as an archaeologist at Bard. She has coordinated the mapping efforts between Buildings and Grounds, the architects of new building projects, and the archaeologists by using GIS and AutoCAD for plotting accurate locations of underground conduits, building sites and historical and pre-historic findings. It's not easy to be able to speak all those languages plus be able to make a decent map!

We ate lunch and had some more informal discussion. We adjourned at about 1:00pm.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Teaching with Technology Forum – Save the Date

Vassar’s Academic Computing Services group will host the fifth annual Teaching With Technology Forum

Wednesday, April 25
4:00 – 6:45pm
in the Aula at Ely Hall
Vassar College

There will be thirteen faculty presenters on hand to demonstrate their classroom exercises and projects using computers and poster-style presentations. Many terrific geospatial projects will be presented. It is a fun, informal and interesting event that is not to be missed.

Here’s a list of the geospatial projects (as this is a GIS blog):

Lucy Johnson (Anthropology), “Field Archaeology: Tablet PCs and Digital Photography Enhance Research and Reporting”

Brian Godfrey (Geography), “Making Maps with Census Data”

David Jemiolo (Biology) and David Kennett (Economics), “Sugar, Rum and Squash: Going to Barbados with Google Earth”

Bob Fritz and Keri Van Camp (Biology), “Using Tablet PCs in a Field Ecology Course to Examine the Distribution of Garlic Mustard”

Jeff Walker (Geology), “Food and Farming - GIS in Agriculture”

Marshall Pregnall (Biology), “Finding the Bathymetry of Sunset Lake and the Change Over Time Using 3D Analyst”

This event is free and open, so feel welcome to come and see what your faculty colleagues are up to at Vassar. Here’s what past Forums looked like (2006, 2005, and 2004). If you have any questions, please contact me.

"How do you I there?" Then ask for directions to the Aula at the Main Gate.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

GIS on the BBC - Bagdad Violence Over the Last Four Years

This is a very interesting BBC web page that shows the monthly figures for civilian casualties in Bagdad from 2003 to present. The data are from the Iraq Body Count which uses at least two media reports as the source for each death.