TIC Talk: Innovative Approaches to Geographic Information Science (GIS)
Written by Laura Mansfield
Jung and Lopez are both assistant professors in the UW Bothell School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences.
When talking about geographic information science, Jung prefers the abbreviation “GISci” to communicate the philosophy that GIS is “not just a tool, but a science.” Jung said GIS “helps us understand the procession of place. We are living in a completely new era. We have unprecedented power to map anything, anytime. What does that mean?”
Jung’s work focuses on qualitative GIS, which he said provides a new way to collect and analyze information. To illustrate the power of GIS, he described a research project he is working on that explores how children perceive their community. Jung and his colleagues interviewed children about the places they visit in their community and then used GIS technology to show the community on a visual basis.
“When you show the community on a visual basis, it provides different truths about that neighborhood. It also makes it possible to visualize barriers and opportunities.” Jung said. As he compared children who live in cities to children who live in suburbs, it became apparent that children in in the city have a smaller “activity space” than those in the suburbs. Jung defined “activity space” by the amount of space children have to move and walk around.
The SENSEable City Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is using GIS technology in Rome, Italy. To visit that site, go to : http://senseable.mit.edu/realtimerome/.
Lopez said he uses GIS “to help ask important questions about the space we live in, and to visualize that information.” There is an unprecedented amount of data being created,” he said. “How do we incorporate all the information to create knowledge?” Specifically, he is looking at changes in the landscape and what factors triggered those landscape changes. There is an unprecedented amount of data being created,” he said. “How do we incorporate all the information to create knowledge?”
Lopez described his research project which involves visualizing changes in physical systems in the tropical Andes region. “The human aspect of climate change in tropical Andes is larger than in Antarctica,” he said. “By the end of the 21st century, the region could experience a change in temperature from 4.5 to 5 degrees. The effects include the shifting of grasslands and recession of mountain glaciers.” Glaciers are important to regulate climate and to provide water to human populations, he noted.
Lopez uses thematic mapping to illustrate his data. “With thematic mapping you can start asking questions and visualize changes,” He said. “GIS allows accurate longitudinal characterizations of landscapes. We need to find innovative ways to find linkages between spatial data and human behavior.” Ultimately, he hopes to determine the key factors to environmental change.
TIC Talk: Increasing Engagement and Learning in STEM Education
Written by Stacy Schultz
On day two of the four-day UW Bothell Innovation Forum, professors from the university presented cutting edge research related to increasing students’ engagement and learning in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). “We are trying to imagine new ways of designing learning environments for STEM education that takes learners’ prior knowledge, interests, and identities into account,” said Carrie Tzou, assistant professor of education.
As members of the audience ate lunch, Tzou along with Kelvin Sung, professor of Computing and Software Systems, and Robin Angotti, associate professor of Education each took the stage to share their work.
Tzou discussed her research as a science educator working with elementary and high school students. Her goal, she said, is to bring what is important and culturally relevant in students’ lives into the classroom while at the same time expanding scientific inquiry into students’ everyday lives outside of school.
She said young students who are given a chance to identify with STEM-related projects in school are more likely to pursue higher education degrees in those fields later on. “They learn to participate in science and have that identity formation as someone who can do science,” she said.
Her projects have included fifth grade students who learn about microbes through a scientific examination of how their families maintain healthy habits at home. Another project involved high school students who studied the effect of pollutants on fish in Puget Sound and how their own use of personal care products might be contributing to the problem.
Sung reported on his work with faculty and students using video games. The conventional thinking, he said, is that students like to play video games so educators should find ways for students to learn by playing. Actually, he said, many students want to learn how to build games.
Sung saw video games as a potential tool for faculty to teach basic computer science skills. The goal of his project is to give faculty some expertise in game programming so they can incorporate games in their lessons. “I’m interested in giving professors a tool to teach what they want to teach, but not for it to take over the entire class,” he said. “We are teaching computer science coding concepts through building simple games.”
The logic behind the coding is the same when you are making changes to the front end, or user experience. “The professor doesn’t need to know so much about gaming,” he said. Still, many professors are not “gamers” he pointed out, so he offers two-day workshops for teachers to learn how to build their own games.
Robin Angotti, who focuses on math education, says that 21st century students need to know more than just how to compute numbers. “There’s a shift in math education to more critical thinking skills,” she said. Students need to do creative problem solving, they need to develop flexibility in thinking, and the ability to question, she said.
Her research has focused on implementing a technology called “Kinect” that uses infrared laser tracking, voice recognition, and face recognition to teach math principles. The technology allows teachers to incorporate movement into math lessons. Angotti calls it “gesture-supported learning.”
Using volunteer members from the audience, Angotti demonstrated how it works. Students come to the front of the room and stand a short distance from the Kinect device. The device tracks motion as they move their bodies, either walking back and forth or moving their arms. Software created by programmers at UW Bothell display the results in graph form on a large screen and then students are asked to describe in mathematical terms, what the graph shows.
“Everything I used to write up on the board, I can have students demonstrate by moving their bodies,” Angotti said. There is not research yet to show whether gesture-supported learning improves students’ understanding of math concepts, she said, but it does seem to increase the interest of students who are not otherwise excited about math class.
One member of the audience wondered if gesture-supported learning could be used to help students gain insight about the Roman Empire. Another audience member talked about using the technology for teaching physics. Angotti agreed there are many possibilities. “There’s so much more that I could do with this,” she said.
Skip Walter is a serial entrepreneur, consultant, angel investor and affiliate faculty member in the Department of Human Centered Design and Engineering and an instructor in the Foster Business MBA program at the University of Washington. As part of his commitment to HCDE, he serves as the Chairman of the External Advisory Board. Skip has over forty years of experience in executive management, software product development, and new venture development. He was the founding CEO of Attenex which was sold to FTI Consulting for $91M. Skip and UW Bothell Professor David Socha regularly collaborate on principles for designing innovative software products and teaching human centered design.
Too Much to Know – The Death of the Long Form Book?
At dinner the other evening at Crush with my valued all things marketing and branding colleague, Katherine James Schuitemaker, I shared with her that I finally produced a draft of the book on Attenex Patterns I’ve wanted to write for a long time. She patiently listened without interrupting as I energetically talked about the topics and ideas I wanted to highlight.
When I finished and took a deep, expectant breath, I asked “so what do you think?”
Providing the gift that only long time colleagues have permission to do, she looked at me and then said “Skip, that is so old school. You’ve waited so long to publish your first book that the world of book publishing has passed you by. Toss the book idea out and start developing the iPad app that both of us really want.”
While this was not the comment or pat on the back I was looking for, I knew I was about to get something better. So of course I had to ask “what do you think that app looks like?”
Katherine was at her most eloquent, software conceptualization best as she launched with the synthesis of threads we’ve talked about for twenty years since we first met at Aldus (now Adobe). Energized, she leaned across the table and lamented “I am so tired of the linear book. I am so tired of reading books and making notes in them that become completely inaccessible. What I want is to have a tool that is the combination of the two tools we built at Attenex – Structure for authoring and Patterns for making sense of all the reference materials.”
“I want you to provide the same content that you were going to put in your book but now do it in app form. But most importantly, I want that app to be the starting point of what I need. I need to be able to put in a current project that I am working on and have your application point out the gaps between your framework and what I am doing. I don’t want more information in the form of static content. I want dynamic, connected knowledge that is ‘news I can use’ when I need it and in the context of what I need.”
“Skip, you have to go back to your original vision at Attenex of connecting authoring (Structure) with discovering (Patterns). Stop with this book nonsense. This is your legacy that only you can do. The previous forty years are all prelude to preparing you for this killer app.”
Well, she had me know. Legacy. That was really unfair to entice me with the thought of producing a legacy.
While one part of my brain knew that she was on to something important, I couldn’t let go of the idea of writing a book now that I finally had the energy, motivation and stamina to do the writing. With my high tolerance for ambiguity, I looked her straight in the eye “I’m going to be incongruent for a bit. My gut tells me that you are right on. Yet, my analytic brain is fighting your idea something fierce. So I’m going to let my analytic self argue with you for a half hour and then I am going to agree with you and change course in some fundamental ways.”
Katherine was very patient with me for the next half hour as I served up objection after objection. She did her best not to laugh as we’d played this game many times before. Finally, as my “objection energy” ran out, I said “OK. New game. How do we marshal the resources to make it happen?”
As we parted, Katherine turned to me and commanded “Skip, free us from the tyranny of the linear book!”