Friday, July 11, 2014

Flipped Learning by Animated Poster

So there is a celebration going on in the School of Geography and Environment at Southampton today as we have been teaching geography for 100 years.  As part of that we prepared posters of recent research, mine was about flipped learning (good curation of relevant literature I recently found).  It took me 2 days to prepare the poster so I'd like the audience to be wider than just the visitors to the school today so I've produced a little experiment:

Poster based in Prezi (zoom and pannable)

Youtube Clip Talk zooming and panning around

Educational Value:  I did this by:
1] pasting a series of images of the poster into Prezi
2] Setting up a series of views around the poster
3] adding animated annotations to the views
4] Recording a screencast using screenflow (but the free screencast-o-matic is robust for simple use such as this)
5] uploading to Youtube

The nice thing would be to get students to do a poster then do a talk like this and attach a QR code to the poster linking to the talk so you could scan the QR code (generator page), access the youtube clip and get the author to talk you through the poster as you stood in front of it.  It has a lot in common with a Google Earth tour, instead of a tour around real space you're flying around 'information space'.

Suggested Improvements:  It works as a concept but I didn't design with a phone screen in mind enough IMHO, text needs to be bigger.  Also, it might be nice to extend out the poster to other related media rather than just talk about the poster itself.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Image in balloon pop-up work around

I had multiple students have issues with images in pop-ups not appearing in an assignment this summer.  If you've noticed the same issue on v7 then I have a work around:  upload the image to dropbox and give your image a web link.  Weirdly you can't use Google Drive for this (AFAIK).  As a work around it has the disadvantage that images will load up more slowly than if they were in the KMZ but at least it works.  Here's the specific steps that you can give students:

1] In the Layers column of the bottom left of the Google Earth screen, untick everything (except terrain if you can see it). Delete any features from the last tutorial in the Places column.

2] The image to the left is a photo at this URL Save it somewhere sensible. right click the photo > save as

3] Set up a dropbox Account if you haven’t got one, 

4] Access your Dropbox file store via the web enter the ‘public’ folder in the list. Anything put in here is available on the web. Now click the upload icon . Its at the top of the screen. Choose the Portree photo and upload it.

5] You have now uploaded the photo to the public folder on your Dropbox website and it has a URL. To get the URL: right click the photo > copy public link > Enter it into a new browser tab to see that it works.

6] Now we will access it in Google Earth. Click ‘temporary places’ folder to make it active. Create a placemark anywhere and in the dialog box :
- Name it ‘Anywhere photo’ > Click ‘Add image’ > paste the photo URL > click OK
- Back in Google Earth click the placemark you have created. You should see a pop up balloon appear with your photo in it.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Are men better than women at navigating in virtual 3D spaces?

I have a PhD student Craig Allison who is looking at spatial understanding in maps and related 3D spaces.   He entered and won the faculty round of three minute thesis', a public speaking competition to see who could present their work best in three minutes with one powerpoint slide.  This is his talk at the final of the event competing with other PhD students from around the University.

Navigation in 3D Spaces: He covers the importance of designing 3D spaces well to assist users navigate them and the gender differences that he has found in his experiments.  It's especially relevant to anyone designing virtual field trips using tools such as streetview and/or Sketchup.

Sad that I couldn't make the talk to support him, great work Craig!

I've marked the location of the Psychology building he discusses if anyone wants a look.

Monday, June 9, 2014

What Features should a Teaching GIS have?

Sorry for the quiet on the blog, I'm only just surfacing after a lot of marking and teaching this semester.

In this post I'm going to explore the features needed to make a simple GIS for school level education. There are a lot of new services available that are excellent opportunities for educators (e.g. ArcGIS Online and the Google family of services [review]) so I think a consideration of what features a dream edu-GIS would have is a useful thought experiment.

How would we use a Teaching GIS?

My idea would be a simple introductory GIS that would be suitable to use outside of Geography, e.g. to support a biology project looking at the spread of trees in a forest.  The tool would be simple enough that students don't really need to understand they are using GIS at all, it would just work.  To teach students about GIScience itself, rather than just using it, you'd probably want another tool.  

Working with this constraint defines the general area of functionality we want to cover, we are not thinking about GIS analysis functions (e.g. calculate how many trees are within a particular polygon), we actually need GIS just to visualise the data.  

What Features do we need in a Teaching GIS? 
So now I've defined the scope of what I'd expect my edu-GIS to achieve, we can dive in and think up some functionality lists.  I've assumed there are various features common to all GIS already inherent in my all GISs such as layer control, data importation, navigation tools.  Beyond those needs I've come up with two lists:

Must Have:
  1. Usability:  This isn't a feature but is listed as IMHO it's the prime consideration.  Whatever other features are available they must be robust, easy to understand and easy to use for students. 
  2. Collection via Mobile devices:  The GIS must allow users of mobile devices with GPS's to go out and collect data via customisable forms and upload the data seamlessly to a shared map.  E.g. users go out in the forest with smart phones and log locations of different tree species which then uploads to a central map.
  3. Photographs:  There should be a variety of ways of easily bringing photos into the map.  In Google Earth these are screen overlay, balloon pop up and ground overlay.
  4. Symbology Styling:  The major groups of symbols (points, lines, polygons) should be available and it should be possible to change the style of a symbol depending on an entered variable.  E.g. a bigger icon for trees bigger than 10m.  There should be suggested colour palettes for shading but also the ability to customise colour completely e.g. illustrate tree species with shades of green but then highlight one particular tree species using a bright orange.  
  5. Attribute Table:  Related to point [4], it should be possible to access the spatial data as a table and be able to edit it, e.g. for one tree change its height from 20 to 30m within the GIS.
  6. Base Maps:  It's important to have an option to chage base maps for different purposes e.g. with lots of data you want to plot it on top of a subtle map that doesn't visually complicate the view.  In other situations you may want to use satellite data imagery as your base map.  
  7. Map Overlays:  Images should be possible to import as map overlays, e.g. bring in an image of an old map of London and overlay it on the existing topography.  
  8. Layout Tools:  It should be possible to add titles, a legend, a scale bar and annotations to a map in a simple way to allow it to be output as a well made static map.
  9. Story or Tour Tools:  There should be tools for constructing 'video' like stories with an audio narrative.
  10. Export:  The raw data and styling data (data about how the map is styled such as title size) should be exportable and be possible to import into a non-cloud service such as ArcGIS or QGIS.  This allows students to backup versions as they go along, if something goes badly wrong with the cloud file they are working on in the edu-GIS then they can use an older version elsewhere.

Also Could Have:
  1. Streetview:  A great bonus for education is the ability to be able to snap in and out of 'real world view'
  2. 3D:  Having true 3D rendering as per Google Earth can be very powerful e.g. in looking at conditions on mount Everest but for most applications, 3D is actually not necessary.
  3. Cross Section Tool:  A very useful addition in lots of applications but not core.
  4. Group working:  This is natural advantage of all cloud applications.  Being able to collect data to make a map is a core function number [2] but beyond that, IMHO group working on a map is not really core unless you are in a distance learning situation.
  5. Models:  Having 3D rendering of buildings can be very useful but, as with the point about 3D, it's not core.  For Geologists 3D models are much more important but I wonder if it would not just be better to build a separate program for making these sorts of models, do they have to be within a GIS?
  6. Historical Imagery:  A great resource for an edu-GIS but the patchiness of good data limits its use much as the fact that streetview is mostly consigned to public roads at the moment.  
  7. Time animation Features:  Very powerful but on the edge of what is possible within a school teaching situation, its quite abstract to get students to put these together.
  8. KML:  To explain this point I'll consider the Google Earth situation:  for power users, it is endlessly useful to be able to access the code that controls the data itself (KML) and manipulate it outside of Google Earth to go beyond the core functionaility.  For example, I have spreadsheets that I can use to produce KML outside of Google Earth and import it in, for example, creating custom Google Earth tour flight paths and speeds.  This extends the power of the GIS beyond the functions that are built in.

This is a quick, from the hip, set of thoughts.  It would be interesting to hear what other's agreed/disagreed with on my lists.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

San Francisco Earthquake Exercise Part II

Two years ago I posted some enhancements to an earthquake exercise by Noel Jenkins of Juicy Geography.  Since then, I've worked the practical up further

It was part of a recent first level course for Geographers here at Southampton University.

New Features:
  • Teaches students about earthquake amplification and liquefaction using YouTube videos
  • Uses Google Earth Tour Builder
  • Uses a 'clipping' technique for just showing a sub section of a YouTube video (howto)
  • Gets students to create 3 locations and then choose one of the three and justify it in the description box.
It's published under a CC edit but share alike license so please go ahead and use it. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Will educators miss Google Earth?

Over at Google Earth Blog Frank Taylor nails an issue I've noticed too:  support for Google Earth and development of the product seems to have dropped off Google's todo list.  Frank interprets this as being a bad sign for the future of Google Earth and I think he's right.  Its been clear for a long while that the client (Google Earth the program as compared to Google Earth in the browser) had a limited shelf life, it simply makes more sense to have things in the cloud for Google.  What is worrying is more that when the transition comes educators are going to lose out because important functionality may not be maintained in the brave new 'cloud maps' world.

Stuff educators would miss:  Firstly, and possibly most importantly, school teachers use and know Google Earth.  They are pretty averse to change in my experience, mostly they're not over excited by the newest functionality available, GE does what they need it to and learning to get that done through a cloud mapping service is going to annoy them.  If its considerably different from Google Earth I suspect people won't bother learning it or may even go elsewhere.

Save KML: Secondly, being able to whack 'earthquake Haiti KMZ' into Google and finding some useful resources to be able to mashup something for a lesson was endlessly useful.  And while we're talking about KML, its a really useful language for the semi computer literate - you could bash some ugly spreadsheet concatenate functions together and build a simple model to make maps.  Will KML make it through the 'cloudification'?

All under one roof:  Finally, part of its strength lies in the range of functionalities available.  Being able to bang an overlay map in, mix in some streetview visits, pull up a cross section and also explore all the great things in the Layers column in one software package is very powerful.  I've just set our first years a locate a task about locating a hospital, they were straight in there going beyond my instructions exploring hospitals in the area concerned by pulling data in from the layers column.  Will all that be maintained?

And:  I'll have to get myself a new blog name of course.... :)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Google Presenter/Google Earth Tour Builder mash up

About three years ago I wrote a post about the value of mashing up Google Earth with Google Presentations.  With the appearance of Google Earth Tour Builder I thought I'd look at the idea again.

Idea:  If you use a GET for a presentation its really useful to mashup presentation slides with maps and virtual flights in Google Earth.  What I tend to do is flick between the two while I present which isn't ideal and takes a bit of skill.  Much better if you could combine the two.

Old Solution:  My previous experiment involved putting Google Presentation slides into the client.  It was kind of useful but clunky to put together.

New Solution:  Links are possible in GE tour builder.  They've changed Google Presentations so that its less easy to link to an individual slide in a presentation but its still possible.

Example using Google Earth Tour Builder

1] Create a Google Earth tour with the builder tool

2] Create a presentation using Google Presenter.

3] Within your presentation, in edit mode, go to the slide you wish to use

4] Within your tour, choose the place slide you wish to link from.  In the 'TELL THE STORY' box, create a link to your presentation slide.

5] repeat 3 and 4 as many times as you wish

6] Click done editing

MUCH easier than my first experiment to put together!  You can now navigate to different places and click the links to get to the slide.  If you right click > "open in new tab" on the link the presentation will open and you can just close that tab when done and go back to the tour.  However, it takes some time for the slide to load up as you are actually loading all the slides at once.  If you just open the link, you'll lose your place in the tour when you come back as you will get bumped back to the start of the tour.

Also you don't have the ability to have the bullets appear one by one, you just get a static slide.

In conclusion, easy to put together but GETB needs be developed so it play's nicely with Google Presenter to make it a really powerful tool.