Our journey took us through various iterations of using ArcGIS Explorer online as a possible tool. Much of our effort was spent learning about and manipulating data sets, as we believe it is important not simply to be able to find data sets, but to be able to use them in various ways. Thus, we explored some ways of adding information to certain kinds of readily-available GIS files (in particular, shapefiles). Ultimately, we were interested in finding ways to display multiple data sets in less than confusing ways. We ended up with a project that we are both quite happy with, since it involves not only mathematical data analysis, but database manipulation and verification.
The project starts by asking whether the incidence of asthma in California might be related to air quality. Most probably suspect that there is a relationship. After setting the scene and talking about what sorts of things might be necessary to actually address the question, we will provide certain data sets and discuss the use of various tools in order to make sure everyone is on the same page. At this point, they will have to create, modify, and curate data sets, and they will learn that sometimes tools can be looked at “under the hood” to improve their functionality. In this case, we will show them not only how to use ArcGIS Explorer online, but how to manipulate shapefiles so that they can be used to display data, as well as boundaries, in ArcGIS Explorer.
Once some specific visual displays are created, hypotheses can be generated. Going back to the data allows one to further explore the hypotheses, and in this specific case, find out that the data-although seemingly showing very strong relationships, is actually not appropriate in answering the question posed. At this point, the exercise becomes more open-ended, and there are many ways in which further work can be structured.