In a post back in October we published a series of guides (MoRSE Guides to Personal Technologies on fieldtrips) to using mobile and personal technologies for supporting Geography fieldtrips. Subsequently one of the guides (Mapping Photographs and other Resources Guide v3) needed revising due to changes in the online tools referenced particularly in the use of GeoRSS feeds (Google are looking into this – see this Google support forum posting). This guide has therefore been revised (see Mapping Photographs and other Resources Guide v4) and provides alternative routes to achieving the same outcomes (using KML files rather GeoRSS feeds).
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At the beginning of the MoRSE project a survey of students personal technologies was undertaken to provide a baseline for the project and it was interesting to note that most students students believe that mobile phones can support their learning in a variety of ways:
- De Montfort University Personal Technologies Survey
During the period of the project mobile and personal technologies have continued to develop at a significant rate, as demonstrated by the rapid increase in the range and type of smart phones on the market and the new generation touch screen tablets that have emerged since the beginning of the project. This has been coupled by the growth of the mobile application “App” market, development of 3G mobile infrastructure and new regulations introduced in the EU covering roaming charges. These developments will no doubt have impact on the type of personal technologies that students own and the way that they will use them to support their learning. However it is likely that it will be heterogeneous mix of technologies and probably very fragmented. Therefore it is probably important to focus on the learning and those technologies that are widely and freely available running across multiple platforms. It is worth noting that some of the key technologies used as part of this project have been around for many years including RSS (geo-RSS), SMS and MMS and continue to provide a baseline to contributing from devices that today would be considered basic.
Four field guides for Geography students (and staff) to support the use of mobile and personal technologies on fieldtrips have been developed. These are available below:
Like the desktop/server/mobile demo a few people have expressed an interest in how the geocollaborative Twitter map was used in our landuse survey exercises. A demo was presented at the 2009 Esri User Conference in San Diego and you can view it here.
A few people expressed an interest in seeing how we set up the data and how we went from desktop to server and to mobile. Here’s a Captivate demo of 98% of the process (sans the sync back to the Server) from the original Isle of Wight testing phase.
The live test with mobile devices on the Isle of Wight to a server located in Kingston worked flawlessly. Unfortunately the ArcPad 8.0 desktop client didn’t demonstrate that functionality well.
Recent live demos using ArcPad 10 and PDA screen sharing software do demonstrate that the technique works flawlessly (even on a portable server) as demonstrated at the 2010 AGI GeoCommunity event.
Tim Linsey and Richard Hall presented at the CETIS Mobile Tech meeting this week on ‘Mobilising Remote Student Engagement: Lessons from the Field’
Today saw the students spending another day in Mellieha correcting the epistemological and ontological issues of their data collection from the previous day. With a better understanding of landuse types, their equipment’s limitations and a common conceptual framework for conducting their mapping they produced a much better product.
The staff rewarded the students by saving them a significant amount of time at the end of the day aggregating their data – here’s a brief explanation.
Typically at the end of a day of mobile mapping using PDAs the students need to get together in their groups, download their data to a laptop and then spend a significant amount of time (in the past between 3-6 hours) collating and editing their data.
To change the focus of the task from data manipulation to examining the data collected KU GIS lecturers Dr Field & Dr O’Brien decided to implement some of the ESRI technology at our disposal while demonstrating to the students the changing trend from desktop to server in the GIS industry.
By implementing an ArcGIS Server on a Panasonic Toughbook laptop we could bring the server into the field with us and using a mobile wireless router students could connect to it anyway (providing they were in range of the WIFI). As a side note we could have done this using a 3G data connection but roaming costs in Malta are astronomical.
What’s the advantage of this? Well the Server is running a spatial database that supports versioning of data. That means that when uploads of the same data take place they are tagged with a username, date and time so that “good” data from one student group can supercede “bad” data from another group. This database also provides a place for all of the data to be uploaded.
By making this server mobile and accessible via WIFI students don’t need to cluster around laptops. Instead (as we did tonight) they can sit on the roof of the hotel within range of the WIFI network and simultaneously upload their data to the server which will collate it and if necessary stream it back to the students so they can all have an up-to-date copy on their PDAs. This evening it took longer to explain the process to the students than it did to synchronise the PDAs and collect the data on the server. Within 5 minutes of the process starting the students were able to view the data within ArcCatalog on the screen.
The students could then have started their laptops, connected to ArcGIS Server using the desktop ArcGIS client and downloaded the data for further analysis.
Future developments of this (3G roaming charges permitting) would have the students regularly uploading data to the server during the day and sharing it with staff and other groups. This enables students to see each other’s progress, for staff to keep an eye on areas of interest that are being missed, student groups locations to be monitored and data quality to be checked (e.g. if staff know the landcover of a particular area and it’s incorrectly tagged this can be corrected while the group is still in the field).
This development is novel as servers are traditionally located in secure, temperature controlled environments – not the rooftops of Mediterranean hotels (or anywhere else the staff need to set it up). Students have traditionally spent a significant amount of time engaging in menial data aggregation tasks to the detriment of the more important data analysis tasks (a problem that no longer exists). Instead the students can focus on analysing the level of agricultural change which is the focus of this exercise.
The GIS students returned to Mellieha to restart (reboot?) their mapping of Mellieha today armed with more experience of their mobile devices, a desire to map more consistently than the day before, an agreed schema, instructions to make even greater use of Twitter to interact with their lecturers and a novel data aggregation approach at the end of the day.
The students made an excellent start getting into the field and mapping early on, twittered and received support back from staff about technical issues and demonstrated excellent initiative making use of multiple GPS devices to capture different types of data (e.g. Trimble Junos for landcover/landuse, Garmin eTrex for point data and Magellan Triton 400s for road network – all in the same group).
The students productive data gathering saw them rewarded at the end of the day with the implementation of a novel technical solution from the academic staff (see the next blog post for details about that).
The students reflected on the repeated exercise at the end of the day and noted that consistency of data acquisition was the key and while they might have collected more data yesterday today’s was definitely of higher quality and across a wider area. This was largely due to the staff assigning the students to specific “service areas” built using ArcGIS Network Analyst which ensured each group had an equal distance to walk (even if the amount of elevation change in their service area wasn’t uniform). The students again commented on the utility of Twitter as a support mechanism (both in tweets – seen at www.personal.psu.edu/~jao160/bin-release/malta10wc.html and also verbally during the debrief).
The GIS students on Malta have conducted their first day of land use surveying using mobile GIS tools. The structure of the exercise was loosely structured and the parameters defined by the students. As expected the data was of relatively poor quality and the area covered was insufficient.
During the debrief students discussed their exercise and what they could have done differently. Staff then led a discussion assisting the students with devising sampling strategies.
Tomorrow the students will be making use of service areas created by the staff using ARCGIS Network Analyst. They’ll be discussing concepts using Twitter and txttools and will be synchronising their data using ESRI’s ARCGIS Server.