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App of the Month: Insulin 100: Sir Frederick Banting

2021 marks the hundredth year since insulin was co-discovered by Sir Frederick Banting. To celebrate this remarkable Canadian medical milestone, September’s App of the Month, by Defining Moments Canada and the Huron Community History Centre, tells the story of Dr. Banting’s life through a collection of ArcGIS StoryMaps stories.

Defining Moments Canada is a Canadian heritage organization dedicated to educating Canadians by telling the stories of significant moments in the history of Canada. To commemorate the hundredth year since the discovery of insulin, in collaboration with Huron Community History Centre, they created Insulin 100: Sir Frederick Banting, a collection of ArcGIS StoryMaps stories that is our September App of the Month.

I remember walking past the insulin display in the MaRS Discovery District, located in downtown Toronto, as I waited for my friend for lunch. I was early that day and I love reading plaques and displays, so I spent some time reading the display and seeing the artifacts related to the discovery of insulin. That was the first and last interaction I had with this part of Canadian history until seeing this app submitted for the App of the Month program.

Unlike the MaRS Discovery District’s insulin display, I find Defining Moments Canada and the Huron Community History Centre’s collection of ArcGIS StoryMaps stories more intriguing. The stories are like a novel I can’t put down! The story collection highlights the life of Dr. Banting and the obstacles he faced on the way to discovering insulin.

An engaging format

Often, you need to WOW people with something out of the ordinary if you want to inspire and target a new audience. For Defining Moments Canada, using stories is their wow factor. Students and teachers who are generally used to reading textbooks or watching a documentary can now turn to a new form of science communication to inspire audiences who may not necessarily have much interest in science.

Dr. Banting’s life can be segmented into many different geographic areas. In Insulin 100, stories are used to illustrate the significance of each place. Each place affected his life decisions before and after he discovered insulin. The ArcGIS StoryMaps sidecar format is the perfect way to pair the narrative and maps and tell the story.

This image shows a screenshot of an ArcGIS StoryMaps story called “Banting Before Insulin”. The screenshot shows the narration on the left and a map on the right using the ArcGIS StoryMaps sidecar format.

One thing I learned by reading these stories was about the artist Dr. Banting, not the scientist. His interest in art instigated many trips around Canada, including an Arctic expedition in 1927. The app makes great use of maps to show the expedition routes. Other destinations for Dr. Banting’s art trips are shown in the app using a single map, but transitions between each sidecar page take the readers from one point in Dr. Banting’s trips to another.

This animation, from an ArcGIS StoryMaps story called “Banting the Artist”, shows the trips and expeditions taken by Sir Frederick Banting on a map with each point representing a different destination.

Not only was the content of the story engaging to read with maps to follow along, but also, the story includes quotes and high-quality images that reflect Dr. Banting’s attitude and personality. This enhanced my understanding of who Dr. Banting really was.

This screenshot from an ArcGIS StoryMaps story called “The Discovery of Insulin” shows part of a quote block that is used in the story, which illustrates the feelings and emotions that Dr. Banting was going through when forced to give Charles Best a stern talking-to about his job performance.

Bite-sized information

An image of a goldfish.

The goldfish effect is a thing! With social media and news being right at our fingertips, our attention span when it comes to information intake has drastically decreased. One thing that instantly turns my attention off when I’m reading stories is the length of the narrative. Long stories are hard to digest and can also slow the load time of the overall application.

For Insulin 100: Sir Frederick Banting, the stories are each broken down into several different story threads, all relating to Dr. Banting, using collections. Collections are powerful as they help retain your audience’s attention by keeping all relevant stories in one spot. With the clean organization of stories, a collection can be embedded into a website, as with Defining Moments Canada’s website. Here, the collection app is flushed into the website to deliver one slick user experience.

The image shows a screenshot of a collection as the user navigates through the website of Defining Moments Canada.

When using a collection, the user can select a story of interest, taking them to that particular story. While navigating that story, the audience can jump to different stories using the navigation header located at the top of each story, or can even go back to the main collection page. This provides a clean and clear user experience for the reader.

The image shows a screenshot of the collection headers found within the “Insulin 100: Sir Frederick Banting” ArcGIS StoryMaps story. The active header is entitled “Introduction & Acknowledgments”.
With the increasing use of collections in ArcGIS StoryMaps, there have been many new improvements that have increased the flexibility in how users can style collection aesthetics. Users now have the ability to add themes to and choose different layouts for their collections

The image shows a screenshot comparing two different collection themes—one light in colour (on the left) and one dark in colour (on the right).

Back to school!

Jenifer Terry, executive director at Defining Moments Canada, reflected on the positive feedback received after promoting this app, as other organizations have expressed interest in the way Defining Moments Canada has shared and delivered their content. This app was created with teachers and students in mind and serves as a model for possible classroom projects and collaborations. Jenifer noted the need to foster the increasing aptitude with and interest among teachers in using stories in both the physical and digital classrooms.

Defining Moments Canada is looking to create more engaging content through ArcGIS StoryMaps by adding graphic illustrations—almost like a graphic novel! There’s more creative and engaging content to look forward to and I can’t wait to see more stories in the future. So, for your back-to-school shopping checklist, definitely add ArcGIS StoryMaps to your list and create your first collection. And if you’re already familiar with ArcGIS StoryMaps, attend our seminar “The New Storytelling Landscape: Connecting the Dots”, taking place September 21, 2021, to learn about the art of storytelling and how to integrate ArcGIS into your teaching for increased impact, insight, discovery and exploration. 

This post was translated to French and can be viewed here.

About the Author

Mingsze Ho is a GIS Analyst for Esri Canada. Fascinated with displaying data in a spatial way, she focuses on generating story maps and other applications using Esri technology. She discovered her passion for maps when she started colouring and drawing maps in elementary school, and she was determined to become a cartographer. Mingsze loves how a map can illustrate the ways that certain features or phenomena affect human lives. While obtaining a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies, she realized the world had moved on to digital maps. She was heartbroken initially, until she discovered the power of GIS and how it can be used to leverage both art and data to create beautiful, interactive maps. In her free time, Mingsze continues to draw maps. She just really likes maps.

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