Saturday, 9 July 2011

Offline mapping for fieldwork? - Google Maps for Android

For many years now I have been using and advocating offline mapping software for fieldwork in technology enhance learning applications. This is software that does not rely on any internet connection and allows the user to add their own maps in GPS based applications. Why? Well there are many occasions that using a map in a remote location becomes an issue because there is no data connection. The reality is that if anything is going to hinder students learning, it's waiting for a map to load...

So I was very very pleased to find that 'Google Maps for Android' are now allowing several square mile sections of maps (as explained in this article) to be saved on your mobile device. At the moment I have no idea how well this will work, as its only just been released. But this is how it works for those interested in trying:
  • Update your Google Map to the latest version.
  • Open 'Maps' on your android device > press Menu > More > Labs (Labs are test area for applications Google are experimenting with) > Download map area
  • Once active simply click and hold in a central point of your chosen location
  • Open the icon that appears and select the bottom option 'Download map area'
  • It will show it is downloading and then a black square border will appear showing the area that is saved to your device. It should still show your map with both data and Wifi turned off!
Sadly it only downloads basic road maps, so no satellite maps available (but its a fantastic start!) Lets hope this trend moves onto the other mapping services such as the excellent educational sources provided by Edina. This could really help education for many science and technology based fieldwork locations here at Plymouth University!

Google if you're listening, the ability to download satellite maps or even to use my maps (my spaces) with way-points etc included would be fantastic!

Friday, 8 July 2011

Geospatial Focus Group

Today I attended the first Geospatial Focus Group here at Plymouth University. Anne Mather an Associate Professor (Reader) in Physical Geography, School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences (Faculty of Science and Technology) came up with the idea to combine ideas, knowledge and data with a range of individuals both internal and external of the the Faculty. The topics ranged from the following (Plymouth University staff):

Tim Absalom (Geography, SoGEES). Digimap
Richard Hartley (Geography, SoGEES) Hardware and software available for collecting and manipulating Geospatial data in Geography.

GIS resources in teaching/research (with emphasis on the cheap and simple!):
Victor Abbott (Marine Science and Engineering) Hydrographic survey
Sarah Boulton (Geology, SoGEES) River Tools
Martin Stokes (Geology, SoGEES) Landserf
Anne Mather (Geography, SoGEES) Google Earth

Also included were guest presentations in the use of Geospatial data beyond education, both extremely interesting. Thank you to both speakers!:
Commander Andrew Swain (FOST HM), Devonport

A very large array of topics. I'm always amazed how all these areas overlap in terms of how they recorded and publish data. Of course, from a learning technologist perspective I was rather keen to see how staff used their geospacial resources for teaching, meetings like this are invaluable for getting an idea of what your clients may ask you in the future!

Keith Westhead briefly introduced the very handy and excellent iGeology mobile application that is available for both iPhone/Pad and Android devices. This software relies on pulling down their geological map via a 3G data connection or similar in relation to the GPS location provided by the mobile device. As long as you have a fast data connection it works brilliantly. Having had some difficulty using any data derived mapping system such as this in 'very' remote locations, I asked if they were planning to make cached or small maps tiles available to download for use offline (contained within the programme, to ensure copyright issues). Apparently they have not, but he said that this was a good idea and would take this back to BGS and the software developers as a possible feature. I hope that they do! there is a lot of scope for such functionality in fieldwork.

Digimap aside, the availability of 'digital maps for mobile devices' (in education contexts) could be an option, so educational software developers can incorporate these maps into their own digital training material. Ideas like these are out of our hands but hopefully organisations such as BGS will consider the wider marketing advantage and offer such services.

Cdr Andy Swains presentation, on the Royal Naval approach to using hydrographic mapping and land surveying was very interesting (we are talking life and death situations! The data has to be good!), its fascinating how different organisations utilise technologies for their benefit.

A great set of talks from everyone, I will certainly be looking forward to the next meeting.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Vice Chancelors Conference @ Plymouth University 2011

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VC Conference 2011, a set on Flickr.

Following on from the TEL showcase day, was the VC's conference, this was again a display of what Plymouth University had to offer in respect to Teaching and Learning, of course there was a little TEL thrown into the mix. This was very much reflected in the Teaching Fellowships awarded and prevalent in the many sessions sharing and discussing Open Educational Resources. These are just a few photographs that capture the day.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

TEL Showcase 2011

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TEL Showcase 2011, a set on Flickr.

The technology enhanced learning team again ran another successful show and 'TEL' (as Dr Neil Witt puts it) of all the exciting things being done using technology to enhance learning. Practitioners and developers alike all showed there wares, with 3 paralleled sessions with workshops running throughout the day. Plymouth is certainly becoming a very creative hotspot for TEL development.