Explore Interesting Topics with Web Apps

March 27, 2014 Angela Alexander

Web applications (apps) are a great way to highlight a topic and spread the word about something important and timely. Explore some of the new Web apps created by the Education and Research group and find out how you can create your own Web apps, too.

Over the last few months, the Education and Research group at Esri Canada has developed various Web apps that deal with a multitude of issues. These Web apps can be used in your classroom to introduce your students to a new topic. A couple of the apps specifically focus on Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI), and its application in different contexts. VGI is a popular topic right now in GIScience circles. VGI is a type of citizen science based around the idea that volunteers can be responsible for providing information leading to the development of spatial data sets. Below are some VGI Web apps our group developed over the winter.

  •  A study conducted by scientists in Montreal suggested that due to recent climate change, there would be fewer days for outdoor skating in Canada in the future*. This study motivated geographers at Wilfrid Laurier University to create RinkWatch - a Web site for outdoor rink enthusiasts to post information about the ‘skateability’ of their rinks. The hope of the creators of RinkWatch is that through monitoring of users' rink conditions over time, trends concerning rink skateability and its relation to climate change will start to become apparent.
    The Education and Research group worked in conjunction with the RinkWatch team to develop a Web app for displaying and storing rink information. 
  • FLAP (Fatal Light Awareness Program) Canada is a non-profit organization devoted to the issue of bird collisions with buildings. An estimated 100 million to 1 billion birds die each year across North America after colliding with buildings. This is a staggering number, which FLAP Canada aims to reduce by implementing bird collision prevention policies and rehabilitating injured birds (of which over 80% are released back into the wild).
    The FLAP Mapper is a Web app developed by the Education and Research group and is designed to help users around the world more easily report the locations of bird collisions with buildings. By using this tool, an international bird collision database can be built to help us better understand why and where these collisions are occurring and develop preventative measures to mitigate this problem.

Open the map in a new window.

Another popular topic in GIScience circles is open data. An increasing number of governments at all levels (municipal, provincial and federal) are making their data freely and easily available to the public.  You can find a list of open data sites from across Canada – but that's just a start. A seasonally and timely example of available data is the Public Health Agency of Canada’s FluWatch reports, as well as similar reports from PHAC’s provincial counterparts. The Education and Research group used this available data to develop a trio of Web apps to map recent flu activity in Canada:

  1. Flu Activity vs. Lab Confirmed Cases
    Compare the weekly flu activity levels, which are determined from a number of flu-related indicators, to the number of cases confirmed through lab testing
  2. 2011-12 Flu Season vs. 2012-13 Flu Season
    Some flu seasons are more active than others (at least as seen through lab testing data) or are more active in different parts of the country. Compare the rate of confirmed cases across Canada for the past two complete flu seasons.
  3. Weekly Flu Testing Results since 2007
    Use the time slider to see how flu activity (as seen through total flu testing, total confirmed cases and confirmed cases per 100,000 inhabitants) changes from the start of the 2007-08 flu season to the end of the 2012-13 flu season.

Visit these Flu Mapping Web apps here.

Do you have an idea for a Web app and want to create your own? Learn how by using these tutorials:

 Visit Esri Canada’s Lesson Planner to find more educational resources.

 *Damyanov, N. N., Matthews, H. D., & Mysak, L. A. (2012). Observed decreases in the Canadian outdoor skating season due to recent winter warming. Environmental Research Letters, 7(014028). doi:10.1088/1748-9326/7/1/014028

About the Author

Angela Alexander

Angela Alexander is a K-12 Education Resource Developer on the Esri Canada Education and Research team. She has over six years of experience working with educators across Canada. Angela is responsible for producing geographic information system (GIS) and curriculum specific resources, conducting and creating custom workshops for educators and judging and developing the question for the annual GIS Skills Ontario competition in Waterloo, Ontario. Angela has a Bachelor’s degree in Geography and Sociology from the University of Western Ontario and completed the Applied Digital Geography and GIS certificate program at Ryerson University.

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