Poweful (and Free) Mapping Tools for Utah Educators

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Educators in Utah have long enjoyed a great relationship with ESRI, who has provided powerful mapping software to any Utah educator who wanted to use it in their instruction. The vast majority have not heard of ESRI unless they have participated in the summer CMAP or the fall GMAP workshops, but the software they provide to us is the same that city planners, forest service, BLM, even some schools districts use to plan, track and maintain all of the roads, sewer, water, power lines – you name it.

Since, in the past, we have used the same tools that the professionals use, there was a seriously steep learning curve. Most of the learning that was going on was on using the tool, and not the content and location-based experience. This is changing. Rapidly.

ESRI has released some new online tools that are much easier to use and manipulate, and are great for location-based learning, mapping and visualization. There are other desktop and device applications out there now that are also easy to use, free, and actually enable teachers and students to make a map with a few clicks, and gather all of the information needed (location, data, photos, etc.) on one device. No longer is it a requirement to have a dedicated GPS device to do location- and project-based learning – as long as you have access to an iOS device.

I’ll do my best to demo each solution below, and I’ll archive the presentation as a Google Hangout On Air so that you can review the session or share it with a colleague. Let’s get started.

ArcGIS Online: http://www.arcgis.com/home/

ArcGIS Online is a slimmed down version of ArcMap or ArcView – software that used to take a 3-4 GB installation – that is ready to make maps as soon as you get to the home page. Learn more about ArcGIS Online here. A wide array of base maps are available, as well as a wealth of layer-data that you can search for and add to your maps with a few clicks. You can also easily add your own map points in numerous ways:

  • by ‘plopping’ points directly into the map
  • by importing waypoints and tracks directly from a GPS unit
  • or by creating a data sheet of your waypoints, collected data, even photo URL’s in .csv format and importing them into a map.

In addition to making your own maps, you can browse their gallery of pre-made maps, developed by professionals, to help you and your students visualize location-based events and data – like comparing pre- and post-tornado maps in Oklahoma or a map of USA Median Household Income.

You can create a public account here (look for the ‘Create a Public Account’ button on the lower left), but if you’d like to be able to do more with your maps, you can request to become a member of the UEN ArcGIS mapping group.

Garmin BaseCamp and Google Earth

Have a GPS unit or a set available for your class,? Then you may want to take a look at these free applications. These two applications, for both Mac and PC, will allow you to easily access, view and map waypoints and tracks from your GPS. BaseCamp will also allow you to export out your waypoints and tracks as a .csv file that you can then edit and add data and photo links in a spreadsheet program like Excel, Numbers or as a Google Spreadsheet that you can then save back out as a .csv that can then be added as a new layer in ArcGIS Online. Download Garmin BaseCampDownload Google Earth.

Tap Forms Lite

Don’t have access to GPS units or cameras, but DO have access to a set of iPod Touches, iPads or even your student’s iPhones? Then Tap Forms Lite is your solution for not only mapping, but for any sort of project where data collection is required. You can read the full details on how to use Tap Forms for mapping projects if you are interested.

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