Teaching through Hurricane Sandy

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NOAA image as of 11:00AM EDT 10/29/12

The East Coast is shutting down in preparation for Hurricane Sandy, and American University is no exception. But you don’t have to cancel your statistics, econometrics, or research methods course just because you can’t come to a lab – Use the online Virtual Computing Lab instead!

As this previous post explains, the VCL is a service that allows AU faculty, staff, and students to use their AU credentials to access a virtual desktop that’s loaded with SPSS and Stata.

Important links:

Access the VCL here: https://vcl.american.edu/Welcome.html

Troubleshooting and FAQs: http://www.american.edu/vcl/troubleshooting.cfm

Handouts on using SPSS and Stata via VCL: 1. SPSS handout: http://www.american.edu/vcl/upload/SPSS_on_VCL.pdf ; 2. Stata handout:   http://www.american.edu/vcl/upload/Stata_on_VCL.pdf

For any VCL related questions, please email us at  vcl@american.edu or skype us using screen name: ctrl_research.

Good luck riding out the storm!



Since we here at the CTRL notebook are always interested in unique methods of data visualization, we’ll be following this amazing map of current wind patterns in the US as the storm progresses.


Make a Map in a Snap

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Sometimes a presentation or paper is just…missing something. Many times, a map, specially tailored to your research, is just what you need. Nearly every aspect of social science research has a geospatial component. From economics to sociology, social sciences study human events that take place in a geographic context. Adding a map to your research presentation can be an effective way to communicate your findings.

Just think of how many pages it would take to describe the contents of just one map. Look at this student work, for example, showing disputing maritime boundaries:

(Map credit: Kisei Tanaka, full project online here.

There’s no way that all of that information could have been presented effectively without a map. And it’s pretty,too.

Lucky for you, making a simple map is now almost as easy as getting directions online. (And way easier than getting directions with Apple iOS6). The most commonly used free-and-simple program is Google Earth. (We talked about some other free programs here.) If you’ve used Google Maps to get directions, then you’re on your way to being a Google Earth user.

Once you’ve downloaded Google Earth, you can select from a wide variety of layers to get the right background map for your project. Think of layers as transparencies – you need a clear base, and then you can add on the levels of information you need. For example, a project looking at transportation networks would need a layer of roads, but a project researching river pollution wouldn’t. It’s up to you.

After you’ve picked your layers and zoomed in to the location you want, you might want to add points or lines. Google Earth calls these “Placemarks” and “Paths”, but they amount to the same thing. Creating a placemark is as simple as selecting the pushpin icon and clicking where you’d like the point located. You can change the icon and the label to give the information you need.

(The Google Earth toolbar – for placemarks use the pushpin, and paths use the third button, the squiggly line with three nodes)

In the map above, the user created a red path showing Bangladesh’s maritime claim, and a yellow path showing India’s claim. To create your own path, you just select the path icon, click along the map to create a straight line with nodes, or click and drag for a free-form path. (For more accuracy, you can also import Lat/Long…but that’s a story for another post.)

After you’ve got your path or placemarks set up, you come to the fun part. Google Earth is 3-D, so you don’t have to be stuck with the boring overhead view if you don’t want to. For example, in this shot from a Google tutorial, the user has decided that an angle from the coast looking toward the bay is the best presentation of information. Again, it’s up to you.

Hopefully by now you’ve realized just how easy it can be to take your research presentation to the next level. Google Earth has some great tutorials online, and it has a thriving online community of users as well. Make your next presentation pop by adding an easy map.

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