More Maps–Further Explorations with ArcGIS Online

screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-1-02-15-pmSo far this month we’ve explored how to create digital pedagogy projects using both Google My Maps and Story Maps Journal. This week we’ll conclude our month of focusing on spatial literacy and digital mapping with a more in-depth introduction to GIS, or Geographical Information Systems. Specifically, we’ll discuss what you can do with a free public account at ArcGIS Online.

ArcGIS, the most widely used resource in digital mapping, is actually a suite of applications of varying degrees of accessibility and complexity. The desktop version of the program is installed in a number of the computer labs at Austin College. The web-based version, ArcGIS Online, is accessed through a browser. There are subscription-based organizational accounts, but also a free version that is referred to as a “public” account. Though some of the advanced analytic and visualization feature are only available via subscription, the free public account offers a quite robust set of features that is worth becoming familiar with. The Story Maps journal application is one such feature. However, there are many other ways that you can incorporate maps and spatially-referenced content into your teaching and research outside of the Story Maps platform. We’ll take some time in this week’s workshops for conversation and exploration of some possibilities.

Meanwhile, here’s a quick start guide on using ArcGIS Online with a free public account:

Creating Compelling Narratives with Story Maps

We continue September’s focus on spatial literacy and digital maps with an exploration this week of the “Story Maps” application from ArcGIS.

Story Mapsscreen-shot-2016-09-12-at-3-38-09-pm is a multimedia web mapping application that joins text, audio, video, photographs, and thematic and base map in a compelling environment that is perfect for communicating the results of any investigation from local to global in scale. It functions as both a content management system and a presentation platform for projects that incorporate maps and the layers of content that can be placed upon them. Story Maps can be used with any topic that references geographical coordinates or place-based information, which means that it has potential applications in practically every discipline of the academic curriculum.

Here at Austin College, English professor Tom Blake is incorporating the Story Maps platform into his ENG 331 course, “Global Middle Ages.” Tom is a Mellon grantee, and described the objectives for this project in his grant application:

My English 331: Global Middle Ages course in many ways will develop and expand DH assignments from previous courses. Serving as a global literature requirement for the English major, this course seeks to help students see medieval literature as less exclusively European and/or English and more global and cross-cultural. A core theoretical lens of this course is postcolonial theory, and a digital mapping project would imbue students with the tools to tell stories of international and cross-cultural transmission. Specifically, this course could benefit from a DH tool suited to highlighting through map and story the international journey of narrative.

In the past, I have used WordPress blogs effectively as a way for students to track medieval issues and themes to the modern day blending texts, images, and videos. However, Global Middle Ages presents unique challenges that would benefit from a more spatially and geographically oriented DH platform.

Tom’s students will be developing their projects according to the following guidelines (which he is still tweaking):

Tom’s students are just beginning to select their topics and to start the research process. We’ve introduced them to Story Maps Journal in an in-class presentation, and I’ll continue to work with the small groups as they build their projects. In the digital pedagogy workshops this week, I’ll highlight this application, and we’ll discuss the issues involved in developing this kind of assignment.

For now, to gain a sense of what Story Maps can do, browse this gallery of projects that have been created using its various templates. You can filter and search by topic to see projects across a range of subjects and scope. Story Maps has several different layouts; the one called “Story Maps Journal” is, to my mind, the most full-feature and is what I generally recommend for digital pedagogy projects. One example from the gallery that I like to point folks to for a demo is “The Amazonian Travels of Richard Evans Schultes.” As the project describes him,

Schultes – ethnobotanist, taxonomist, writer and photographer – is regarded as one of the most important plant explorers of the 20th century. In December 1941, Schultes entered the Amazon rainforest on a mission to study how indigenous peoples used plants for medicinal, ritual and practical purposes. He would follow in the tradition of great Victorian era explorers, spending over a decade immersed in near-continuous fieldwork. In total, Schultes would collect more than 24,000 species of plants including some 300 species new to science.

Story Map Journal projects are organized into distinct sections–you can think of them as slides, pages, modules, what have you–with each section composed of a “main stage” and a “side panel.” Each of these spaces can contain various forms of content. Typically, maps are presented on the main stage, and associated material–text, images, video, links, etc.–is presented in the side panel and associated with specific content on the map, such as a pinned location or a shaded region. The side panel can also contain links that trigger actions on the main stage; for example, zooming or panning the map, or opening a pop-up box with further information.

Here’s a screengrab from the Schultes project, showing a section of the story highlighting his initial forays into the northwest Amazon:

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The map in the main stage is layered with markers showing the locations of Schultes’s important research expeditions and discoveries in the northwest Amazon. The side panel incorporates explanatory text and photos. I’ve clicked on one of the markers, which displays a pop-up panel with further information and links (which open in a new browser tab). At the far left you can see the basic navigation tool, allowing movement among the project sections; in addition, viewers can simply scroll down the side panel to advance the project.

Further in this same section of the project, the viewer can change the main stage view by clicking on, for example, “View Map of the Rio Negro Watershed.” The map zooms to the appropriate scale and region, and a shaded layer is turned on to indicate the desired area:

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This project is a good example that uses maps created from contemporary cartographic renderings. In this case, the “National Geographic” layout was used as the base map to represent the regions in which Schultes carried out his explorations.

In other cases, projects may need to access maps from different historical eras, which obviously represent places according to the political and cultural realities of the times. For example, in the Story Maps Journal project, “Copernicus and His Universe,” an early 16th c. European map is used, quite appropriately, as the base map for visualizing important locations in the life and work of the Polish astronomer.

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The then-current political situation is represented, along with stylized markers that open as pop-up boxes (clicking a link in the side panel text zooms the map and opens up a specific content box). Again, knowledge is constructed and presented in a visually rich way that helps students to consolidate their understanding of the geographic dimensions of the given topic.

In many cases, we may already have access to a map that might be useful in a project, but only in the form of an image file or a scan. That is likely to be the case especially with vintage and historical maps as well as other more unusual maps. Such images are limited in their applicability; they can be placed into a project, but cannot be dragged, panned, and zoomed like a true map file. In addition, they can’t be marked up with content layers, such as pins. Fortunately, there is a process called “georeferencing” that can be applied to these images to turn them into a map file. This would be analogous to using optical character recognition with a scanned text, which then makes that text editable, searchable, etc. There are online repositories (for example, Old Maps Online, The Dave Rumsey Map Collection, and The New York Public Library Map Collection) that contain both map images and georeferenced maps, many of which are open access, others of which may be licensed or purchased.

We envision that Tom’s students will be drawing on some of these resources for their historically-oriented projects. We look forward to presenting our own gallery of Story Map projects from the Global Middle Ages!

Using Google My Maps For Digital Stories

Google-Maps-Drop-PinTo start off digital mapping month at #ACDigPed, we’re learning about Google My Maps and thinking about how it can be used in digital pedagogy projects. Presumably, most all of you have used the basic Google Maps service with your mobile GPS or in your browser. However, you’re probably not familiar with My Maps and how it draws on, though is distinct from, the main Maps application. My Maps allows you to build a customized map with markers for points of interest and popups/side panels to let you add text and imagery connected to each site. So if you have a project in which you want students to become familiar with a set of locations and to build a knowledge base around those locations, My Maps is a user-friendly way to accomplish that. And the maps that you build connect back to the robust capability of Google Maps itself, with access to features such as street view, earth view, 3D perspective, geo-tagged image galleries, and more.

For an example of how My Maps is being used at Austin College, let’s take a look at a project that Terry Hoops is developing in his freshman seminar (C/I) class, Restless Wanderings. Musings on Travel and the Human Condition. The class is beginning the semester by reading Bruce Chatwin’s travelogue, In Patagonia. Terry and the class have identified some two dozen locations referenced by Chatwin for further investigation. The project description states that

Our aim, for this project, is to write as a class a travel guide to the geographical Patagonia that Chatwin wandered through and to the Patagonia in Chatwin’s narrative. We will do this using the Story Map program by ArcGIS. Here’s how we will do it: each group/partnership will select some of the places Chatwin visited and use Story Map to delve into Chatwin’s descriptions and stories. Your entries should give our readers some sense of the places Chatwin visited, and then, gleaning materials from Chatwin’s descriptions and stories, provide a sense of the significance the author gave to that place.

The class is using another mapping application, Story Maps Journal (about which more in the weeks to come) for the main project platform, but the base map is being developed in Google My Maps (and will then be embedded in Story Maps Journal).

The main view of the base map looks like this (you can check out the full interactive version here).

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Each site has a pop-up that zooms the map to the appropriate location and opens the corresponding side panel. So, for example, clicking on the second site, Viedma, takes us here:

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We’re in view mode here (not editing mode); you can see that the side panel has modules to add both textual description and photos/images. The map has basic zoom/pan controls and can be dragged and recentered. But notice also the “View in Google Maps” link in the panel; that allows us to easily access the full functionality of the main Google Maps application. Clicking on that link, and then choosing satellite view and opening the image gallery gives us this:

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Now we have access to resources such as geotagged images, street view, and 3D tilting, among others. Students can tap into this trove of assets to visually explore the location and to gain a better sense of its natural and human-made topography. These resources can then complement the further materials that students will construct based on their wider research of each location. Narratives and multimedia elements for this project will be combined with the My Maps base map in the Story Maps Journal platform, as noted above. As groups of students fill out detailed background for each location of Chatwin’s journey, the full story of his travels will come more richly into view. Follow along at the main Story Map project site.

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So at this week’s workshop we’ll learn how to build a base map in My Maps and have some conversation about possible applications within our own disciplines.

Digital Pedagogy Fall Lineup

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Autumn Leaves, by Luan Anh CC-BY-SA https://www.flickr.com/photos/luananh/15391727113

This year AC Digital Pedagogy will once again offer regular (more or less weekly) workshops and sessions to provide opportunities for faculty, students, and staff to explore and experiment with digital resources. We’ve decided to try an approach in which we devote each month of the semester to a specific theme or topic around which our events will be organized. Here’s what is currently planned for the fall:

  • September:  “Geographical and Spatial Literacy–Using Digital Map Resources in Teaching and Learning”
  • October:  “3D Scanning, Modeling, and Printing–Introduction and Use Cases”
  • November:  “Digital Publishing Options and Opportunities”

We’re starting with digital mapping and geospatial literacy because there are already quite a number of faculty/student projects of that type. Terry Hoops’s C/I class has a strong digital story map component (about which see more below), Tom Blake and Randi Tanglen will be using digital maps in their literature courses, Lourdes Bueno is planning a map project in conjunction with an upcoming study abroad course in Spain, Don Rodgers continues to implement GIS in his community development courses, and the Psychology department  is interested in digital maps for a departmental project. And there are probably others that I’m leaving out here.

Our first workshop sessions will be Tuesday, September 6, at 4:30 pm, with a repeat on Friday, September 9, at 1:30 pm. Location is the Digital Pedagogy Studio (Abell 102). We’ll ease into the mapping theme with an introduction and exploration of Google My Maps. Then in succeeding weeks of September we’ll continue to critically examine and discuss the pedagogical opportunities of digital maps.

As always, we are flexible and welcome ideas and suggestions. If folks express interest in a topic, we’ll go there. Looking ahead to the spring, we’re thinking about monthly themes focused on topics such as games and learning, text mining and analysis, and a reading colloquium on critical digital pedagogy. Of course, any time you want to consult on any topic or issue related to digital pedagogy, Mo and Brett are available and ready to help.

As the new semester swings into full gear, the workshop series is just part of how the Digital Pedagogy initiative at Austin College continues to gather momentum. Thirty-three AC faculty are implementing digital pedagogy projects, practices, and applications in their courses, thanks to grants from the Mellon Foundation. Beyond this number, other faculty and students are exploring new ideas and activities that draw on digital resources. It’s particularly encouraging to have several of the freshman communication/inquiry courses incorporating practices such as student blogging and the creation of digital story maps. Introducing students to knowledge creation on the open web at the beginning of their college experience lays the groundwork for a deeper appreciation of what is coming to be known as the “digital liberal arts.” This is a term that a growing number of schools are using to describe their own initiatives in digital pedagogy and scholarship (see, among others, Whittier, Occidental, Middlebury, and Grinnell).

Among those C/I classes I would again note Terry Hoops’s course, “Restless Wanderings: Musings on Travel and the Human Condition.” Using a combination of Google My Maps and the ArcGIS Story Maps Journal platform, Terry’s students are building story mapping projects to more deeply interpret the travel writings of authors such as Bruce Chatwin (In Patagonia) and Che Guevara (The Motorcycle Diaries). For example, here is our initial map of key sites in Chatwin’s journey through Patagonia. This map will leverage the geo-tagged imagery and data associated with each site in Google Maps, and will then be embedded into a Story Maps Journal, where students will provide further narrative and visual content to enrich their understanding of Chatwin’s travels.

Another C/I using innovative digital pedagogy is Patrick Duffy’s Two Hundred Years of Solitude. Strange Tales from the Americas. All the students in the class have set up their own WordPress websites and are writing about texts such as Allende’s The House of the Spirits, Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, and Lispector’s The House of the Star. Having students make their work visible in a public networked space that they own, design, and manage enhances student agency and opens their work to connect and interact with authentic audiences. Furthermore, this course is using a WordPress feature that uses syndication to aggregate all the student blog posts back to the main course website. With each post tagged with appropriate categories, it thus becomes easy to pull together related content for reading, analysis, and comment.

Again, we hope your semester is off to a good start. Let us know how we can support your teaching and learning.

 

Mellon Digital Pedagogy Grantees, 2016-2017

Mellon-Logo-SquareWe’re happy to announce that ten Austin College faculty members have been awarded Mellon Digital Pedagogy grants beginning in the 2016-17 academic year. The awardees join twenty-three of their colleagues who received grants in the previous two years, with the result that one-third of AC faculty are now directly involved in the “Collaborative Pedagogies in the Digital Age” initiative. Of course, all faculty are involved to the extent that these projects serve as demonstrations and use cases for the entire college, and because the resources of the digital pedagogy designer (Mo Pelzel) and the digital pedagogy fellow (Brett Boessen) are always available to everyone in the AC community.

The new projects span a breadth of academic disciplines and ideas/practices for digital pedagogy. You can read the project proposals of the new grantees by following the links below:

To learn more about the projects of previous grantees, see these pages for the grant cohorts from 2014-15 and 2015-16.

Congratulations to our new awardees! We look forward to the innovative pedagogy and enriched learning that you will bring to the Austin College community.

Printing Protein Models

AC biochemistry professor Jim Hebda has been conducting research into alpha-B crystallin proteins. This week he and his summer research students are using the new 3D printer to create physical models of some of these protein structures. Here’s Jim with a brief description:

Alpha-B Crystallin is a protein that helps to prevent the formation of cataracts in the lens of the eye. Formation of dimers (chemical compounds with two structurally similar units–figure A) and higher order structures, or oligomers, containing 24 subunits or more (figure B), has been linked to the stability of the lens and its ability to keep other proteins there from aggregating and forming light scattering particles that lead to cataracts. This physical unit will allow students to better visualize the protein and the locations of the mutations we are engineering.

The 3D printed structure below was printed on the Ultimaker 2+ from the Protein Data Bank (PDB) file 3L1G for the dimer and the cryoelectron microscopy image EMD 1776. for the oligomer.The printed proteins in A and B are approximately 3x1x1 and 2x2x2 inches, respectively. The PDB file was converted to a biological dimer using MakeMultimer.py (watcut.uwaterloo.ca). Both protein structures were converted to a 3D .stl file using Chimera (UCSF), and then prepared for printing using the Ultimaker’s print slicing software, Cura.

In each of the following figures, a computer visualization of the protein structure is on the left, and the 3D printed physical model is on the right.

A. Alpha-B Crystallin Biological Dimer

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B. Alpha-B Crystallin Large Oligomer

dimer1 dimer2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

On the Make: 3D Printing Comes to #ACDigPed

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A Roo keychain (hopping on a robot)

We’re happy to announce that our new 3D printer has arrived at Austin College. Thanks especially to the initiative and legwork of Tom Buttine, our institutional advancement colleague and entrepreneur-in-residence, and Brittany Derebery, also from institutional advancement, the Ultimaker 2+ has been purchased and set up in the Johnson Center Digital Pedagogy studio (Abell 102). Along with the Ultimaker, we’re also acquiring the EinScan Pro 3D handheld scanner, Rhino 5 2D and 3D modeling software, and other associated accessories. Next spring we plan to add the Glowforge laser cutter to our collection of fabrication resources. Funding is being jointly supplied by the Product Lab initiative and the Mellon Digital Pedagogies grant.

During the summer and into the fall we’ll be experimenting and learning more about what we can do with these tools and, more broadly, how we want to further develop makerspace and fabrication opportunities here at the college. One of the earliest posts on this blog, “Make Moody Hall a MakerSpace?,” broached the subject and included links to resources on campus fabrication ideas and facilities. There will be workshops and tutorials as we get up to speed and discover the possibilities for utilization across our curriculum. We have some preliminary use cases that interested faculty have described, and we welcome further input from faculty, staff and students for project ideas and suggestions. If you are a faculty member considering applying for our final round of Mellon Digital Pedagogy grants, you might want to think about projects that involve 3D printing and the resources and tools listed above. We’ll also be developing an operational guide to establish policies, procedures, and user guidelines. 3D printing is more expensive and time-consuming than regular printing, so we can’t just use that model to regulate things such as payment accounts and scheduling priorities.

You can see our first couple of “builds” above…the Ultimaker robot mascot, hopped on by a kangaroo keychain. ‘Roos over robots…

 

April Digital Pedagogy “Unworkshop”

OK folks, it’s time for our April Final Friday Faculty Unworkshop. As I noted in an earlier post, we’re trying an “unworkshop” model once a month this semester. The idea is to provide a time and place where faculty and staff can propose projects, issues, and topics to discuss and work on in a collaborative setting, without a pre-planned agenda. Is there something related to digital pedagogy (which we interpret very broadly) that you would like to explore, hack, tinker with, and talk about? Perhaps we haven’t piqued your interest with any of our regular workshop topics, or maybe the time hasn’t been right. Think of this as an opportunity to share ideas and learn from one another in a relaxed and convivial space.

Brett and Mo will be on hand to facilitate and coordinate during the afternoon. If you have something in mind that you’d like to pursue, we encourage you to comment on this post and let us and your colleagues know what you’re interested in. That would give us a bit of a heads-up for our brainstorming. Then on Friday, in the Johnson Center studio space (Abell Library 102), we’ll take the first few minutes to solicit further ideas and then sketch out a plan for the afternoon. Everyone can teach and learn from each other. We’ll start at 1:30 and be available until about 4:30 or so …. feel free to come and go as you wish or drop in for a while, whatever your schedule permits.

So drop some ideas in the comment section below, and join us this Friday afternoon.

Better Reading Through Annotating: An Anthropology Example

“This class would be a lot less fun without Hypothes.is”
—–student comment about “A History of Anthropological Thought”

At the recent conference for Mellon Digital Pedagogy grantees at Austin College, Brian Watkins, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, presented his project on digital annotation in the anthropology classroom. In his update posted prior to the conference, Brian briefly described the project and reported a largely positive experience to date:

My project has been to implement digital annotation software (Hypothes.is) into my upper level course in anthropological theory. Though the semester is far from over, I can say that it’s going better than expected. For every day in class, I have assigned short and challenging texts by significant figures in the history of the discipline and which are relevant for my plan for that day. Using Hypothes.is, each student must make three annotations to those texts prior to class. After a few days of mostly linking certain concepts to wikipedia articles, the students have started to engage the texts and each other, and happily, it spills over into class.

I have been bringing some of those comments into class to provoke the same kind of discussion. I’ll say that I have never had a group of ten students go so deeply into discussion about Lewis Henry Morgan’s Ancient Society or Malinowski’s Kula text. The challenge in class so far has been to reign in the discussion and re-orient it toward the theoretical content. In the past, such discussions have generated only an unfocused smattering of commentary. Some early indicators:

  • Every student in the class is so far meeting the standard set by the assignment.
  • Within the last month, students have begun to debate points between themselves on Hypothes.is, even if it takes them beyond the three annotation requirement.
  • Student performance on the first exam has been better than in previous years, though these exams do not test the same close reading practices exactly. Rather, the close reading practices may be enriching student understandings of the theoretical content of the various authors.

Here are a couple of screenshots from Brian’s class that demonstrate annotation in action. The side panel toggles open and closed, while the annotated sections passages of the main text are highlighted (student names are redacted to preserve privacy):

 

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As the semester began, Brian provided students with a set of guidelines and instructions, explaining why students would be using social reading and annotation, and how to use the Hypothes.is platform. He did not provide specific prompts to which students should respond, but rather described in general terms the kind of substantive and constructive annotations–questions, commentary, responses, close reading, contextual references–that would be required. This gave students the latitude to develop various forms of engagement with the texts.

The annotations provided Brian with diagnostic information about student reading practices and modes of textual engagement. Students are making important connections among different authors and texts, and even among different disciplines. Questionable interpretations become opportunities for deeper analysis and discussion. Sometimes, the difficulty and challenge of a passage leads students to share their frustrations with one another. At other times, students adopt a playful attitude to the text, riffing on a passage with creative improvisation. Most importantly for this class, Brian is seeing evidence that students are making new insights into the world of anthropological theories.

Colleagues at the conference were intrigued by the project and proposed several interesting observations and questions. There is extra class prep work involved in reading the annotations, but it’s a relatively small class and the benefits seem well worth it. Brian does not grade the annotations as such, but does a weekly audit to check if the work has been done and sends reminders to those who still need to complete the requirements. There are in all twenty-two texts to be read and annotated, so there was some concern about the repetitiveness of the annotation task, although one person observed that this could be an advantage for the students as they gain practice and skill over the course of an entire semester. Another question was whether the next iteration of the class will read the annotations of this current group of students. The benefits of such a cross-semester collaboration would have to be weighed against the value of having the new group of students approach the texts in a fresh form without being influenced by previous comments and markups.

If you are interested in exploring how digital annotation with Hypothes.is could enhance your course, you can chat with Brian or me about the details of implementation.

 

Call for Proposals: Mellon Digital Pedagogy Grants, Round 3

Mellon-Logo-SquareWe are now inviting proposals from Austin College faculty for the next round of the Mellon Digital Pedagogy grant program. These grants provide faculty with the funding, consultation, and support to augment their courses with digital applications, tools, content, and connections.

Here is the application form with further details. Stipends are $5,000 for the development of a digitally enhanced course that will be offered three times between 2016 and 2023.

At present, there are 23 faculty grantees. You can peruse their applications and project updates at the Mellon Foundation Grant section of the Digital Pedagogy@Austin College website. I am sure that any and all current grantees would be happy to discuss their experience with potential applicants. Of course, you can also contact Mo Pelzel, Brett Boessen, and Patrick Duffey for questions and guidance in preparing your application. Let us know how we can help you become a part of this innovative program.

Applications will be evaluated on the following criteria:

  • does the narrative make a persuasive case that student learning will be enhanced by the proposed project?
  • does the project involve strategies, practices, applications, and tools that lend themselves to being more widely shared among AC faculty?
  • is there clear potential for the project to build over time, incorporating feedback and further development from one iteration to the next?
  • does the project invite collaboration with colleagues in the department, in the division, across campus, and/or beyond campus?
  • does the project promote active student learning and student knowledge production and creation, preferably in an open networked learning environment?
  • is the project feasible and realistic?

The deadline to apply is Friday, June 10, 2016. Applicants will be notified of their status no later than June 30.

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