Wednesday, March 26, 2008

WALIS Forum in Perth: A spatial experience

Spatial Worlds website
Perth, Australia: S: 31º 57 E: 115º 52
Picture descriptions:
Left image: Coastal groynes off the coast near Rome, Italy.
Right image: Transport by scooter in Athens, Greece.

Last week I was fortunate to attend the West Australian Land and Information Systems (WALIS) Conference at the Perth Conference Centre. The WALIS conference for the first time had a teacher stream, coordinated by Phil Houweling from the John Calvin College in Perth. Phil did an amazing job creating, coordinating and conducting the teacher conference for over 70 teachers on spatial education. The keynote speakers were an amazing mix of Spatial Industry personnel speaking on topics as diverse as GPS on football players, defence force use of GIS, data servers, free on-line software and global warming. The conference really showed how ubiquitous and all pervasive spatial technology is now in our society. To get details of the program and speakers go to
As always one comes away from such a conference inspired and full of new ideas and resources. In this blog I will list some of the things which really made an impression on me. The great thing about spatial and schools is that you never know what will be next and what is available. As long as one does not get ‘technology anxiety’ it is really a great area to work in. After each of the points I have given credit to the source/speaker)

1. GIS is increasingly being seen as a great enabler to deal with world problems such as population growth, global warming, loss of biodiversity, resource shortages, security and social conflicts. To solve these problems we need information! GIS is an information system with an ever increasing ability to store data and analyse data. Hence its importance in producing dynamic maps (as opposed to static or dumb maps) with a deep link of information to space continues to increase every year. (Derek Milton: ESRI Australia)

2. Free GIS viewers/applications available on the net:
* National Geographic Map Machine at
* WA Atlas at
* Geoview WA at
* Cottlesloe Coast Care Association at
* Landgate map viewer at
* Transperth at * Bike Perth at
What is interesting with many of the sites above is the growth of community participation in the map environment on the internet. (Derek Milton: ESRI Australia)

3. Many of the references on the WA Sustainable Energy Association site ( have links to spatial applications. One of great interest at the present is which shows satellite images of the melting icesheets. (Ray Wills: CEO WA Sustainability Energy Association)

4. Some spatial quotes:
“Almost everything that happens, happens somewhere. Knowing where something happens is critically important” Longley 2001.
“The term spatialisation relates to being spatially aware and thinking spatially.” Bert Veenendaal, Curtin University.
“Kids have a different understanding of space and their world view is different to that of their teachers and parents due to the impact of blogs and access to other in space. What is the implication of this? Bert Veenendaal, Curtin University.

5. Some websites to get students thinking spatially:
* Newsmapping at
* Buztracker: world news mapped:
* Mapping sex offenders: Megans Law:
* Spatial Information Centre for education at
* Virus maps at
* Geoscience Australia, Tsunami risk at
* Toxic maps at
* Google maps mania, blogs showing the use of google maps by web users:
* To put together maps at
* Google gloves to navigate google earth:
* Spatial mashups galore at Websites from Ed Parsons, Google: sponsored by PSMA Australia

6. A useful resource at for bringing together all things related to spatial education is the newly developed 'National Education Spatial Portal for Spatial Information'.

7. Check out Microsoft’s answer to Google Earth at and
The Virtual Earth platform is an integrated set of services that combine ‘bird’s eye’, aerial and 3D imagery with mapping, location and search functionality. Of interest is that Virtual Earth platform is designed to be easily integrated with other components of Microsoft technology.
Many happy hours of spatial surfing on this list!!

8. An article of interest! The latest 'Position' magazine(page 38) has a very interesting article on the Spatial Industry titled "The Industry is worth billions". The article gives a real insight into the magnitude and potential of the industry and is well worth the read. If interested in this article and other articles on GIS applications in society, the magazine is worth subscibing to for your school. To subscribe email:

9. Teaching materials for using Google Earth at
* for primary activities at:
* for local area studies at

Well done to Phil for a conference so rich in ideas, resources and good geography networking.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Just some practical fun spatial sites to use

Spatial Worlds website

Picture descriptions:
Left image: Night scene in the flooded (and increasingly flooded) city of Venice, Italy.
Right image: Train tracks and electrics between Milan and Venice, Italy.

How high is my reservoir?
The following water site is a great way to show reservoir levels around Australia and change over time:
When you open the site go to the tag 'Teaser' and each reservoir in Australia is thematasised in accordance with water levels. If you click on the reservoir it shows change in levels over time. Also check out the other great components of this water management website from the 'Water resources Observation Network' site at

Digging through the earth.
If you have always wondered what would happen if you dug a hole through the centre of the earth.......

Disaster game
An interactive site for students to simulate disasters. Stop disaster game from the UN.

A different way to look at the world
This cartogram site enables students to view the world in a different way. and

Juicy geography
This is an excellent internet site developed in the UK. It is really interesting to look at and provides some great step by step activities to incorporate the basic GIS applications of Google Earth in the classroom. The site has quite a bit of info - click on Teaching and Learning and there are a number of other activities that also use this the basic google earth GIS applications. The site is

Sea level simulations

Air quality site
Some interesting spatial websites on air quality in London and Sydney

Monday, March 3, 2008

Webmapping: GIS on the internet

Spatial Worlds website
Picture descriptions:
Left image: Train travel, German style. The German inter-city Ice-sprinter extra fast trains.
Right image: English countryside around Cumbria.

Webmapping: free GIS interfaces on the internet
There are thousands of GIS interfaces available free on the internet. These interfaces often referred to as interactive maps or webmapping are a great way to start using GIS in the classroom without buying any GIS software. The site below lists a wide range of webmapping sites using ESRI based GIS software. They give an excellent idea of the application of GIS in government and industry whilst providing some potential learning activities for the geography classroom.

Other webmapping sites are:

National Soil Resource Institute
This website is a great resource to use when studying soils. The interactive map of UK soils and associated topographic maps provide plenty of practical examples of the relationship between soils and location.

From the USGS and Smithsonian
This dynamic planet resource provides an interactive map of the earth showing plate boundaries with a GIS interface (called the interactive map) to add and change the layers displayed. This is a great resource for natural hazards topics. Also have a look at the interactive map for the Arctic and Antarctic via the home page.

The home page at:

The dynamic viewer at:

This sites provides a desktop Internet GIS for Apple and PC. A free user friendly Internet GIS is available to be downloaded from teh site at

US Census Bureau
The US Census is also a great source of webmapping facilities and resources. If you are interested in doing any geography related to the US, then this site is incredibly rich in data. Go to the following links to access free data and mapping applications

Cartographic boundaries:
On-line mapping:
Landview: A Viewer for the Environmental Protection Agency:

Free GIS sites

Open license GIS software
Genesis 2: GIS software
Map Filter: An image processing program to use with Genesis 2
Geomatica FreeView
Flowmap: A spatial analyst tool to display and analysis linear data.
GPS utility: For uploading and manipulating GPS data:
GPS tracker
Spatial data site: The Office of Spatial Data Management (OSDM)at charged with implementing the Australian Government Policy on Spatial Data Access and Pricing.
AvisMap GIS Viewer - Free AvisMap GIS Technologies is a leading GIS company in Asia, specializing in the development of GIS software.
3map is a Free Software project being built with the support of the Telstra Broadband Fund that provides the client and server capabilities to deliver the Web Augmented Virtual Earth.
AGIS for Windows includes a tutorial to help you with making your own map displays has also been prepared. This is contained in an installation file called
Chameleon is a distributed, highly configurable, environment for developing Web Mapping applications. Chameleon is OpenSource, this means that you can use it freely for your own applications, and that you also have access to the source code.
GIS ObjectLand is a universal Geographic Information System for Windows. Free non-commercial license.
MapEdit, a low cost solution (free to educational and non-profit organizations) for making image maps come alive. Simple image maps and html still outshine many mapservers.
MapServer is an open source development environment for building spatially-enabled web mapping applications and services. It is fast, flexible, reliable and can be integratated into just about any GIS environment.
MapWindow - Uses most standard GIS data formats including shapefiles (.shp) and ASCII grid files (.asc). Data in these formats can be downloaded from many Internet sites including GIS Data Depot, USEPA, USGS and many others. MapWindow can also handle georeferenced GIF, and BMP image files.
OpenLayers makes it easy to put a dynamic map in any web page. It can display map tiles and markers loaded from any source. MetaCarta developed the initial version of OpenLayers and gave it to the public to further the use of geographic information of all kinds. OpenLayers is completely free, Open Source JavaScript, released under a BSD-style License.
Orbit Spatial Technologies has two free products -- a GIS viewer, Orbit Explorer, and a GIS server system, EOS Lite.
Spatial Console 1.2.1 imports shapefiles to Oracle Spatial and Locator and exports to several different formats. It also enables viewing and validation of Oracle Spatial and Locator data.
SPRING is a state-of-the-art GIS and remote sensing image processing system with an object-oriented data model which provides for the integration of raster and vector data representations in a single environment.