Mara Scanlon recently attended a Google Docs workshop with DTLT’s own Martha Burtis and came away with a pretty impressive idea. One of the projects the Digital Whitman students at UMW (and elsewhere in the Looking for Whitman project) is a video about where they found Whitman. They are making these videos themselves, and they are composed of a reading of a particular poem in a specific place. The idea of place plays a key role in the Looking for Whitman project, and Mara thought it would be cool to have the students embed their videos on a Google map that we then embed in a webpage (how’s that for professors with cool ideas?).
So here’s the map with all the UMW students’ videos as well as one from a student in NYC— also I highly recommend you check out the videos, particularly this one and this one.
A Quick How-To for the Whitman Video Locator
I told Martha Mara’s idea—which, in fact, Martha had given her—and she built the Whitman Video Locator that we are now using on the Digital Whitman blog. You can see both the embedded map and form for entering data here. And while I didn’t build it and don’t have all the details, it appears that Martha created a Google Spreadsheet with three columns: time stamp, address, and embed code, with an associated Google Form that allows users to add the address in one field and the embed code for where ever their video lives (YouTube, Blip.tv, Vimeo, etc.) in another.
After that, there is a gadget you need to add to the Spreadsheet titled “Map,” and from there you can select the appropriate range of data—which is the address and embed code columns, not the time stamp. Afer that, you click on the Gadget and publish out the map. What’s nice is that the videos get added real time to the map when people add their address and embed code.
I hope Martha will fill in the holes if I missed anything here, because it is a truly slick use of Google Docs for quickly sharing work through a form and aggregating it instantly via a map, and all the crazier that videos of all kind embed within the map. I love the whole thing.
Jim, this is great – I never would have expected to find a solution to a GIS problem posted in a blog about the Whitman project, but that’s the Bava for you. I teach the science and IT methods classes in the Education department at UMW and we’ve been working a good bit with mapping data collected with Vernier data sensors. The sensors are relatively inexpensive, very easy to use, plug right into a USB port, and come with an interface that is suitable for elementary kids. There are sensors for temperature, pH, light, force, motion, etc. Vernier just came out with a GPS sensor, about sixty dollars, that plugs into a USB port and provides latitude and longitude information in the same table as temperature or pH or whatever you’re collecting. And that information can be sent up to Google maps, a file menu option, and published. Students see the sample location and the information they’ve collected.
I’ve always wanted to be able to publish images, videos, and docs as well – linked to the Google map sample location – but didn’t know how it might be done. We’ve been using a free, developed for education, GIS program (AEJEE) which allows us to build maps for any location using online data. The software takes the Vernier files and plots points and information, and you can write simple text files that let you hotlink points on the map to other files (pictures, videos, web sites, docs). And, of course, this is all offline and unavailable unless you install the AEJEE software.
Now the Bava tells me that there might be a way to link some of this interesting stuff to Google map locations. I’m going to spend the next few days looking into Google gadgets. This would make mapping so much easier and it would make the results available online. ’m really wondering if programs like Google Earth, NASA World Wind, and Virginia’s new VIPER system aren’t going to eventually replace GIS systems.
To complete the circle – I’ve been really pushing the idea of place-based learning in my classes. This is, very simply put, the idea that the best place to teach children about the environment, about nature, is to start by helping them understand what happens in their own schoolyards and neighborhoods. Then move on to the rain forests, global warming, endangered species, etc. And in many of the books, articles, and essays about place-based learning begin with Whitman’s “a child went forth…”
You should come by DTLT when Martha is here and we should sit down and play with this, because increasingly applications like Google Docs seem to provide a simple solution for quick and easy data mashups and republishing. Martha has been experimenting with this stuff wildly, and this solution for Mara Scanlon and Brady Earnhart’s Digital Whitman course can easily scale up for all four campuses from Camden to NYC to Novi Sad, Serbia. What’s amazing about the process, as you suggest, is just how simple it is, and it allows the entire class to take a possession of their work, while at the same time visualizing and aggregating it according to a specific logic, in this case geography.
In short, I do want to hang out again, so let’s set it up and figure this out!
I was just exploring Voice Thread (http://voicehread.com) for a project I am doing with my students, and noticed that they now give users access to the New York Public Library digital archives…and within that a whole collection of Whitman images.
Just thought I would share..
Thanks so much to the entire UMW team for its work on this. For a long time, we’ve talked about importance of mapping student videos due to the key role that place plays in the project. The fact that Martha, Mara, and Jim devised a solution that not only works well, but also is extremely simple to use, is a great boon to this project and to others like it. More generally, this kind of use of Google doc forms/maps/spreadsheets is something that I’m eager to continue experimenting with. Thanks, everyone!
This was really such an easy thing to create — it’s amazing how simple Google docs makes these kinds of creations. And if you haven’t looked at the gadgets in Google Spreadsheets, check them out. There’s a lot there to consider.
I’ve been thinking it over, and it would definitely be possible to add other information to the tooltip (the thing that pops up on the map). You’d just collect additional information in the form and then use Google Spreadsheets to do some transformations: concatenate the contents of the field, add the necessary code, etc. Apply the gadget to the reworked data (on a separate sheet w/in the same spreadsheet), and you should be able to put whatever you want in that pop-up.
Google forms is so simple, it’s ridiculous. But once you’ve used it to gather information that’s now in a Google Spreadsheet, it’s amazing how much you can do with it.
And I’ll echo Jim’s sentiments: thanks to Mara for the impressive idea in the first place. The best part of this job, I think, is when faculty come up with really creative ideas and we get to think about how to make them happen.
Awesome. Just flat out amazing. I did the same thing after reading your post just to be doubly amazed. Google Apps as a platform for application development … wow.