Friday, November 28, 2008

I'm A Tablet PC Video - What's Missing?

I haven't heard much of what went on at the WIPTE conference in October, but I did hear about this video. It's a take-off of the I'm a PC commercial. I'm posting about it because I'm fond of tablets, of course, but also, these folks missed one of the greatest reasons to have a tablet PC. They should redo this and and have some geologist in boots and sunglasses saying, "I'm a tablet PC and I'm collecting tsunami inundation measurements." Then they can add an ecologist in hip waders saying, "I'm a tablet PC and I'm mapping invasive species." Nobody asked me.

Thanks, GottaBeMobile.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Mapping Pirate Activity

I rarely watch the news. I guess I've started back up again with the heartening news of the recent election. Anyway, I heard about all this 'pirate' activity in the area near Somalia involving the hijacking of big cargo and oil freighters. Sounds scary, right? And it is, but when looking at the ICC Comerical Crime Services web mapping of pirate action, you see that these high seas terrorists are all over the place.

While I'm on the subject, the word 'pirate' connotes something romantic. These folks are ocean-going terrorists and they are all over the map, not just in the area where the U.S. gets our oil.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Short Videos Showing How To Do Functions in Geospatial Software

I recently started using TechSmith's Camtasia and hope to make some short, instructional videos showing how to do different functions in GIS and geospatial software. I'll put these videos on the GISatVassar YouTube site. And if anyone wants to see a particular function done as a video, let me know at mestewart (at) vassar (dot) com.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Google Earth and Ancient Rome

Now this is good. It took awhile to be made available but it is there now so I'm going to blog about it. Google Earth added an ancient Rome layer under the Gallery category. In it is a model of Rome circa 300 AD, which is really amazing. I learned about this Rome layer on the Google video.

Thankfully it is in easy-to-use Google Earth and not in something like Second Life. There are plenty of educational opportunities with this layer and I am sure there will be more clever layers to follow. The matchup of Google Earth with SketchUp is a great combination for educational purposes. This application of using historical data with real terrain is perfect for Google Earth and the kind of thing that people try to re-create in Second Life where it just seems forced. But I've never been a Second Life fan and now I wonder when Google will come up with Roman warrior avatars driving chariots around Circus Maximus. Now THAT would be educational!
I heard about this new Rome layer early this morning and thought that, to view the new layer, I must download Google Earth again. I don't think that is the case. My Update Google Earth function said that I had the latest version, but I did not see the Ancient Rome layer. It just took longer than I expected to see it in my Layers list (circles in green below).

Thanks, psychemedia and Google LatLong blog and Ogle Earth blog, where you'll get a lot of background information on how this project came into existence.

Monday, November 10, 2008

NERCOMP: Pen-based Technologies for Teaching and Learning

If you're in the area of the northeastern part of the United States and interested in pen-based teaching technologies, check out the December 2 NERCOMP (Northeast Regional Computing Program) special topic session "Pen-based Technologies for Teaching and Learning." I'm co-presenting with Keri VanCamp on "Enhancing Field-based Classes Through the Use of Tablet PCs for Pen-based Data Collection" at 10:10 am. Looks like all the other presenters are talking about keeping the tablets INSIDE the classroom. Lunch included.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

More on Election Maps

Today is another great day for maps in the New York Times. The Times added a new link, Voting Shifts (circled in green above), that they didn't have yesterday when I posted. What is shown above is the change in how a county voted from 2004 to 2008. Use the slider bar to see the dramatic change in voting patterns from 1992 to last Tuesday.

If you have a paper version of the Times, the headline reads, "For Most of the Country, a Blue Shift" in a section called After the Vote. In paper, the colors are more saturated than on the web and there are data for Alaska. There's also something very satisfying about opening up the newspaper and seeing full-color maps and charts and cartograms (!) of geospatial information. The Times has printed maps like these in 2000 and again in 2004.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Election is Over: Take a Look at the Maps

The New York Times has done it again with an informative, interactive web map of the presidential election results. When you hover over a state, you get the results by state. When you click on a state (try New York, for instance), you see the results by county (my third map, below). There's a time-slider (circled in green above) so you can go back and see the differences from the past.

Click on County Bubbles and see the map above which is instantly recognizable as showing that the more densely populated counties went blue and more rural areas went red, generally speaking.

So, if you clicked on New York, and hover over Dutchess County, you would see that the county went blue and by what margin. This is the first time in the 13 years I've lived here that our county went to the blue side. Hurray for maps and for democracy!
Thanks to Lloyd Benson of Furman University for pointing this out.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Talking About Funding Technology in the Classroom

The financially tight times are hitting us all and academia and Vassar College is no exception. Each Fall we submit budget requests for projected needs for the coming academic year. I recently made my requests for some various instructional technology needs but was told that, given President Hill’s recent statement, there would be slim to no money and that, if we did get any money, it would have to be heavily justified. That’s fine. My feeling is that all of us in my group of instructional technologists should not go hat-in-hand to anyone at the college at this time and we should be trying to find our own funding sources. Now, what I really think is that all of us in instructional technology should be writing a detailed justification for any item that we ask for, whether it is a new piece of software for teaching in a lab, a site license for some software that has taken off on campus, or a new piece of equipment that professors are asking for in their teaching, or you, the instructional technologist, thinks is the next great thing since the toaster. The practice of critical writing to argue one’s point is rarely required of us. It should be. We might see far fewer high-expense items used by one professor and more low-cost to free solutions used by, well, more than one professor. What I am saying is that we instructional technologists should be writing grant proposals.

I discovered just recently, when clicking through the MacArthur Digital, Media & Learning awards, and trying to figure out how we could get one, a white paper written by the Economist Intelligence Unit and sponsored by the New Media Consortium discusses results from surveys of 289 executives at higher education schools and corporations. The report is titled, "The Future of Higher Education: How Technology Will Shape Learning." Rather than distill the whole report, I encourage you take a look at it, but what I found most interesting and highly relevant for our current financial situation was this finding on corporate/academic collaborations:

Corporate-academic partnerships will form an increasing part of the university experience, at a time when locating funding and controlling costs are key concerns, and when only one-quarter of university chief information officers (CIOs) have a place at the table when it comes to setting strategy. To attract corporate partnerships, institutions will need to demonstrate a commitment to advanced technologies.
Identification of funding sources, team formation, grant proposal writing, and management of grant-funded projects has been an interest of mine for years. If I wanted to get my graduate school research work done, I needed to write proposals and win grants.

As many of you know because I blog about it from time to time, we have a tablet PC program, or a Mobile Mapping lab, in which we use tablet PCs for outdoor geospatial education. We teach with tablet PCs outside using GIS and other data-collection software and the program has been very successful. Could we have purchased 15 to 20 tablet PCs back in 2004 at a cost of about $2,000 each, plus all the software, plus the GPS receivers? Well, if we could, I never asked. To think on it now, it seems absurd to spend over $40,000 on something that 'seems' like a good idea. But a 'good idea,' if written well and sent to the right funding source, can turn into a successful instructional technology implementation. We got our first Hewlett-Packard grant in 2004, we replaced our tablet PCs this Spring with Dean of the Faculty funding that was pledged before we sent in the first HP grant, and with a second HP grant we made a video highlighting our mobile mapping project.

There is value in corporate/academic collaborations because that is what our mobile mapping initiative has been. I hope to see an increase in sources like HP for funding innovative educational initiatives in higher education to keep the creative juices flowing from academia into the workplace.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Just Not Into It

So Microsoft's chief software architect, Ray Ozzie, is not that into tablet PCs. Calling tablet PCs "truly niche" is something I've heard more than a couple of times around here. But as we see the price of tablet PCs come down and the touch screen or "surface" alternatives continue to be priced formidably high, I will continue to hear professors asking to borrow one of those "pen computer things." I predict that soon there will be a small percentage of faculty members here who ask for a tablet PC instead of a laptop or desktop machine. Try to put a Surface on your office desktop or run a GIS app on an iPhone!

Thanks, Rob, at GottaBeMobile and
Warner, at GottaBeMobile.