GEOSKILLS: An Introduction to Spatial DataAlan Jones
School of Human and Environmental Studies, The University of New England
GEOSKILLS: An Introduction to Spatial Skills is suitable for use by those who need to be aware of: how maps are produced; the assumptions and errors that arise in creating models of the real world; how digital spatial data relate to the conventional printed map and how they differ; how Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and remote sensing may be used in inventorying and monitoring environmental data; and any application that involves knowing where things are. In other words, anyone who uses spatial data in analogue or digital format will benefit from using GEOSKILLS.
Figure 1. GEOSKILLS opening screen
As GEOSKILLS provides a framework of the theory that underlies GIS and remote sensing, it is an invaluable tool for students. Although topics such as map projections have fallen out of favour, an understanding of them is essential in the era of digital maps. The change in the model being used to represent the Earth and the consequent changes in coordinate systems that are being implemented in Australia will result in differences in coordinates of over 200 metres. GEOSKILLS explains why the change is being implemented and illustrates in simple language, through diagrams and animations, the theory behind the change. Data Collection provides a brief overview of surveying, photogrammetry and global positioning systems.
Figure 2. GEOSKILLS main menu
In Cartography - Planimetry and The Third Dimension methods of creating maps are discussed in a way that will encourage students to look critically at maps before using them. Problems introduced through scale and its impact on the validity of techniques such as stream ordering, the construction on river profiles and cross sections for assessing intervisibility are covered.
Digital Maps explains the differences between the raster and vector models and the relationship between the spatial and attribute data. Some examples of how spatial data may be used in a GIS are illustrated.
Remote Sensing includes a basic introduction to the topic with sections on aerial photography and satellite remote sensing. The final section is a brief introduction to digital image processing.
Figure 3. Sample screen
Each section concludes with a screen summarising the key points that should have been learned. In addition to the usual forward and back arrows, a series of buttons indicate the progress through each section and these may be used to navigate to any topic within that section. Answers are provided for each exercise with students having a maximum of three attempts to provide the correct answer before being provided with the answer. Key terms are hot linked to a dictionary explaining their meaning.
The CD-ROM includes animations, interactive exercises and a workbook in Adobe Acrobat format.
GEOSKILLS: An Introduction to Spatial Data is suitable for use on Windows or Macintosh platforms and requires a minimum screen configuration of 640 x 480 pixels with 16 bit colour. Systems with 256 colours may suffer some loss of quality and occasional colour distortion. At least 16 Mb of useable memory must be available - a minimum of 32 Mb of memory is advised. GEOSKILLS may be run directly from a CD-ROM reader and does not need to be loaded onto the hard disk.
Copies of GEOSKILLS may be obtained from: New Horizons, PO Box 658, Armidale, NSW 2350 (http://www.nh.com.au/). A sample of some of the GEOSKILLS modules may be found at http://www.une.edu.au/ajones/ajones.htm.
UniServe Science News Volume 16 July 2000
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