Learner-Shaped Technology

October 9, 2015

GIS and Social Justice

Filed under: data visualization,gis,history,mapping — Mike W @ 10:18 am

At a recent faculty gathering on community engagement, I was asked to provide some examples of how Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is being used to support different social justice initiatives. While there are many examples, I didn’t have much time to share, so I highlighted just a few compelling examples, which are shown below.

If you’re interested in learning more about GIS and social justice, these resources are a great place to start, although I find the inequity that the maps reveal to be very disheartening.

New Orleans

New Orleans, LA from Business Insider – http://www.businessinsider.com/most-segregated-cities-census-maps-2013-4?op=1

  1. The Revolution Will Be Mapped – This article gives an overview and describes some recent cases in which maps played a key role in highlighting discriminatory practices in the provision of public services.
  2. Redlining Maps –If you click on an area, especially those in red, you can see the disturbing (stunning, actually) area descriptions–circa 1930.
  3. Million Dollar Blocks – NPR highlighted the Justice Mapping Center’s work on visually representing incarceration rates and costs. Million dollar blocks are “areas where more than $1 million is being spent annually to incarcerate the residents of a single census block.” The maps are being used to identify areas for establishment of re-entry programs. You can check out data for Greenville County by zip code and census block here. Click on the state, then the county for details.
  4. Maps of Highly Segregated Cities – Each map provides a dissimilarity index. “A score above 60 on the dissimilarity index is considered very high segregation.” The symbology is very powerful. For New Orleans, you can clearly see the high elevation area along the river that geographer Richard Campanella refers to as the “white teapot.”
  5. Underbounding – I happened upon this term while doing a little research for the session. This is a practice by which certain groups (usually poor minorities) are excluded from annexation and associated services.
  6. Dividing Lines: School Districts in the US – This map shows how current educational funding practices limit fair access.
  7. Social Explorer – Our library is currently evaluating a subscription to Social Explorer, which should make it much easier to use the browser to map demographic data going all the way back to the 1790 Census. No desktop software required.

May 8, 2012

Elevation Profle and Google Earth

Filed under: gis,google earth,mapping — Mike W @ 7:29 pm

I took a field trip with a colleague who is headed to Guatemala in a couple of days in order to test the elevation accuracy of the iPhone, iPad, and Trimble Nomad.  I’ll post the results shortly.  I discovered a feature in Google Earth that I didn’t know existed–the elevation profile.  After adding a track we recorded of our hike back using MotionX HD on the iPad to Google Earth, it was easy to create an interactive elevation profile of the short trip.  The yellow arrows show the point-of-interest on the path and the corresponding location on the elevation profile.  Pretty cool!


June 15, 2009

Visualizing the World – Wow!

Filed under: data visualization,education,general,gis,mapping,technology — Mike W @ 12:36 pm

This is a really powerful tool for viewing global statistics that might be useful for class.  The visualizations in Hans Rosling’s presentation  are pretty amazing.

Motion Map

The tool Rosling uses in the presentation is available online (along with his blog).  It took me a little while to figure it out how to use it, but experimentation with the maps and charts, along with the video tutorial, really helped me realize how much is here.

Indicators include health, economic, education, environmental, and more data from the UN.

The site also provides information about how you can use Google Spreadsheets to make your own motion charts.  I experimented, and the process is fairly straight-forward for charts but doesn’t include the mapping piece, which is available for the UN data on Rosling’s site.


Total Oil Consumption – Let’s get on those bikes or carpool America :-)

May 14, 2009

Geospatial Revolution Project

Filed under: education,gis,google earth,mapping,technology — Mike W @ 10:36 am

Now that spring semester is over, I’m hoping to pick up my blogging pace again. Penn State University announced the geospatial revolution project recently, which involves the creation of video episodes to explain the importance and role of geospatial technologies in our world. Check out the trailer below. This looks intriguing!

Whenever I try to articulate my excitement about the power of geospatial technologies for learning across the curriculum, I’m usually disappointed in my ability to convey the message. It looks like these episodes might do a much better job of highlighting that connection. I’m currently taking GIS courses through Penn State’s online program, so I recognize at least one of the interviewees in the clip!


August 2, 2008

Campus Technology Award

Filed under: data visualization,gis,google earth,history,mapping — Mike W @ 8:21 am

Our project using Google Earth to connect Boston, NY, and Greenville in Lloyd Benson’s Urban History class won an Annual Campus Technology Award. Check it out!

Here’s a little bit more info on the project that I put together for a NITLE conference this spring.


Project FAQs

It’s amazing how quickly things change. Picasa and Flickr now automatically put geocoded images on the map. For Flickr you have to make sure this is set to ‘yes’ in the privacy and permissions section of your profile.


Here’s an example of an image in Picasa that is automatically placed on the map. I took it with an iPAQ with built-in GPS. I almost walked right through the web when getting out of my car. That would have been interesting! It reminds me of the time I put my kayak on my head to carry it, and a big spider that had set up camp started falling towards my face. I closed my mouth just in time!


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