Thursday, October 30, 2008

ESRI Seminar on New Features in ArcGIS 9.3

I went to an ESRI “Improving Your Entire GIS Workflow” or as it used to be called “What’s New with 9.3” seminar recently and I want to report back what I learned. You can also open up your recent copy of ArcUser magazine to find out the top ten features new with ArcGIS 9.3 and save yourself a trip away from the office.

Note: I have not installed 9.3 on any machine as yet so all that is written here are from notes scratched on a note pad. I haven't tried any of this out.

First off, notable to me and a validation of sorts, the ESRI presenters were using Windows XP.

There was a marked excitement from the reps that ESRI was moving towards a more integrated web approach to data delivery and analysis. “We are moving from mainframes to PCs to the web.” Okay, welcome to 2005 and the launch of Google Earth. There was a nice demo showing the ease of use of ArcGIS Online data. Go to File -> Add Data from Resource Center.

As is typical with most ESRI learning content, the focus was on public works GIS analysts, county planners, manhole cover librarians. Just look at the name of the seminar to know who the audience is. Another typical feature of this content is that it is done using ArcInfo. We do not have ArcInfo. Educational lab licenses tend to be in the ArcView category. So one needs to be careful when seeing a new, cool feature, not to get too excited because ones version of Arc may not have that functionality when one goes back home.

There is improved backwards compatibility with 9.3 with 9.x versions. That should be good.

ESRI is supporting more data formats: web coverage service, web feature service, enhanced mapping services, FME 2008 engine, support for new FDO, GeoRSS, Autodesk 2007, City GML, and enhanced KML delivery. They “improved our importing of KML.” Yeah.

There are updates to new supports for raster formats ENVI, NITF, and HDF. I only recognize ENVI.

We can convert graphics to features. I thought we could do that in 9.2, but this is especially useful when using a pen and tablet PC.

ArcReader allows for inking and you can Export the Markup.

There is a new mosaicing tool as part of the new Image Service. This might be only with ArcInfo, so be careful. In toolbars open the Image Service tool. You can define the extent (outlines) of your orthophotos and show overlaps in your tiles. The Image Service also looks very helpful for managing multiple years of orthophotos or other rasters.

We were told to go check out the ESRI Resources page, so you should.

If you go to resources for ArcGIS Desktop or ArcGIS Explorer, click on Content and Layers and you can get to some freely available data layers (see above).

The Mapping Center was mentioned, though I’m not sure if this was part of the Maplex extension (which we do NOT own). There seemed to be improved labeling (disperse markers) without losing the integrity of the data, offset shadows for building footprints so that they look 3D on your map. When printing to PDF you can click the Advanced tab and add feature data so that some of the functionality transfers to the PDF document and to the end-user. There is easier transparency functionality that updates the maps, legend and the TOC. You can click on Pause Labeling while you’re navigating so your map will draw quicker.

There is a new toolbar for geocoding and you can use Address Inspector which is like a reverse geocoder tool. The geocode wizard is more interactive and you can use the Address Inspector to address match on your own.

You can use a graphic drawn from the Drawing toolbar to clip a raster. That is cool because you used to have to create a shapefile of your clipping shape and then use Clip.

There are new Spatial Analyst (we DO own this!) capabilities: weighted regressions, proximity analysis, scatter plots, and ordinary least squares.

The demo of ArcGlobe was painfully slow. It was not good. It did not convince me that we should be using ArcGlobe in our teaching. Flying around from place to place was clunky. Perhaps they were on wireless and that was why ArcGlobe was so slow.

This was funny “3D is going to be a very growing area in GIS.” Going to be?!

In ArcGIS Explorer (free data viewer, GIS-lite) you can access a range of web-accessible data. You can import .csv files.

That was my day. As is usually the case, it is nice to talk to the ESRI people face-to-face and ask questions. We still haven’t loaded ArcGIS ArcView 9.3 but I plan to for the Spring 2009 semester. Then we can really try out some of these new features!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Newspaper Candidate Endorsements

This is a captivating mapping site showing 2008 and 2004 presidential candidate newspaper endorsements. Some interesting flips from 2004 to 2008. Missing: the Anchorage Daily News' endorsement of Barack Obama this morning.

Thank you, Ken!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

If the World Could Vote for the Next US President

More interesting mapping, this time asking the WORLD to cast a vote for either of the two major party candidates for president on the United States. The results as of this writing are stunning.

Scroll down to see the results by country, as shown below.

Thank you, Kirsten!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Electoral Map in the New York Times

There was a fun map in the 10/25 New York Times Op-Art section showing the state of the states and which way they are leaning, politically. Billed as "a whimsical electoral map created by Chris Harris and Stephanie Chen," thankfully, they did not go with reds and blues. But because it is newsprint (at least how I saw it) the cartographers had to go to all those creative patterns and shadings that are better left unused. I especially liked Washington: "Fed up with the whole mess: switched over to Canada," and Alabama: "Lord I'm comin' home to you." A little whimsy is good right about now.

Monday, October 20, 2008

What if You Don't Want to Tilt as You Zoom into Google Earth?

If you do not want your Google Earth zoom function to tilt as you zoom into a location, here is how to change the operation. This happens when you use the Plus sign on the right-side navigation tools but not when you zoom in with a mouse wheel.

Go into the Tools -> Options... menu and then click on the Navigation tab. Uncheck under Navigation Controls the box that says Automatically tilt while zooming (circled above). Google Earth 4.3 made the default setting to tilt as you zoom. Why would you want to do that?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Tablet PCs in Field-Based Classes: A Video Documentary

We made a video that I'd like to share here. It has everything that this blog seems to be about, tablet PCs, mapping, instructional technology. I mentioned this video project in my last post, but I think this deserves its own post. In April we got funding from HP Philanthropy & Education to make a student-produced video documentary showing other students and professors using tablet PCs in classes. At Vassar, we teach with tablet PCs primarily in an outdoor, field-based setting. The following is the resulting video. It is 11 minutes long, so we made several shorter 'episodes' for each of the individual classes that we highlight. We hope you enjoy it.

This episode shows how Anthropology Professor Lucy Johnson uses tablet PCs in her Field Archaeology class. Professor Johnson is involved in an on-going excavation of a site at the Mohonk Preserve and her students are helping with that research. It is believed that the site was a shelter over 6,000 years ago. The students document the test pit excavations using a tablet PC and Word for drawing and writing up their observations.

In this episode, Keri VanCamp is showing how to document and map an invasive species at the Vassar Ecological Preserve. Biology Professor Robert Fritz teaches Ecology at the Preserve and his students are part of a longitudinal study of mapping the expansion of the invasive garlic mustard. The students use tablet PCs, a camera, a Word document with the various species they might encounter, and Photogrid (used for mapping ecological research sites).

And this episode shows Earth Science Professor Kirsten Menking with her Geomorphology students along Vassar's Casperkill creek, mapping the stream meanders. They are using a tablet PC, ArcGIS software and GPS receivers as well as older aerial photographs to measure the amount of stream migration over time.

And finally, this is a shorter version of the longer video. It is simply the beginning and the ending of the longer video, but we think it gives a succinct overview of how Vassar is using tablet PCs in some of our science classes.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

At the Geological Society of America Meeting in Houston Talking About Tablet PCs, Mapping, and Higher Education

I’m at the GSA meeting for the first time in five years. The last time I went to GSA was in 2003 in Seattle at which time I discovered tablet PCs, so this trip feels a bit like coming full circle.

I gave a talk in an interesting session today, full of geoscientist educators. The session was called “Advances in Using Recent and Emerging Technologies to Facilitate Learning of the Geosciences in the Classroom, Laboratory, and Field.” I want to tell you about some of the interesting things that were discussed.

First, the talk I presented. I gave a talk very similar to the one we gave and the NERCOMP meeting in March, but today's talk was titled “Taking It Outside: Using Tablet PCs to Facilitate Learning In Undergraduate Field-Based Earth Science Courses.” The slides are here and below. I also showed for the first time to a live audience our new tablet PC video. That part could have been better; I think the laptop that I used couldn't handle the .mov file. But I will link here to the YouTube site and our Vimeo site so you can see the GOOD quality videos. I think the talk went well. I felt good about the fact that little Vassar College is doing cool stuff with technology along-side the likes of UC Berkeley, Duke and Univ of Michigan.

Not shown at GSA but still something I'd like to share, is our 11-minute long documentary on tablet PC use in field-based classes at Vassar College, here in Vimeo.

Declan De Paor showed us how he uses scanned geologic and topographic maps in Google Earth in his talk called “Deconstructing Classical Geologic Maps Using Google Earth's Keyhole Markup Language.” De Paor Photoshops TM out the extraneous edge material on the maps to make the KML smaller, and he talked about using Super Overlay to reduce the size of the image files to make the KMZ a manageable size. He showed how he uses cross sections in his KMZs and then uses the timeline feauture to 'play' the relative motion. Very interesting talk by a powerhouse in geology using Google Earth and someone who I have discussed before.

Steve Kluge, in “Encounter Earth: Interactive Geoscience Explorations,” also discussed ways geoscience educators can use Google Earth in the classroom and showed off his new textbook from Prentice Hall with the same name as the talk. The book has many geological topics covered with exercises included. It looks like a great addition to the world of off-the-shelf geospatial exercises.

The other two tablet PC discussants were George Brimhall of UC Berkeley talking about the use of GeoMapper and tablet PCs in advanced field mapping, field camp. And Thomas Hoisch of Northern Arizona Univ talking about the use of tablet PCs for professors to teach about and students to learn how to engage with optical mineralogy concepts. I have very un-fond memories of optical mineralogy, so if Hoisch can design a way to make the topic easier to understand and grasp for his students, bless him!

Friday, October 03, 2008

Seven Things to Know About Geolocation

The latest in the 7 Things You Should Know series from the Educause Learning Initiative or ELI is on Geolocation. Regarding the teaching and learning implications of geolocation:

Student, faculty, and researchers across the disciplines stand to benefit from adding a layer of location information to data and systems....Learning activities that formerly required taking a field trip might be accomplished through technologies that use location data to coordinate information and resources. Geolocation also provides students another avenue to contribute to the body of knowledge used by professionals in their discipline.