Teaching Geocoding

This week, my partner Carleigh Snead and I have started the first AidData Summer Fellows training session at Kathmandu University School of Arts. For our first week, we decided to train the faculty in a crash course of AidData style geocoding techniques and a basic introduction to ArcGIS Desktop. The week before, I spent an entire day installing ArcGIS Desktop to a small computer lab at the University. The process took hours, but eventually I was able to download enough copies to start faculty training.

The week started out with two days of basic geocoding. We explained what geocoding was (assigning a geospatial coordinate to your data) and took them through the workflow of AidData’s toolkit. The concept was difficult to explain, seeing as our training projects and toolkit are unique to AidData’s research. After a few classes, we realized that we needed a more general example of how to geocode data. On day three, we fired up ArcGIS Desktop and gave the faculty an introduction to the program. When I first started using Desktop last semester, I found it to be really confusing. It took me a long time to find all of the shortcuts to the tools, fix broken folder connections with the catalog, and learn how to use all of the basic viewing functions. I was happy to see that after only an hour, the faculty of Kathmandu were downloading map layers and using the attributes table to filter data sets.

Even though the training was going smoothly, there was still a lot of confusion over what geocoded data was, and how you create geocoded data for a program like ArcGIS Desktop. AidData’s process of geocoding is more complex and tailored to our own data sets about foreign aid, but this misled the faculty into thinking all geocoding methods were just as complex. I realized I needed to make a more general example of the geocoding process.

In a blank excel sheet, I wrote in the first row categories of simple information. I listed name, favorite color, hometown, latitude and longitude. I had the faculty fill in the fields and find their hometown coordinates using a database called geonames.org. After only a few minutes, we had a simple table of information and their hometown coordinates. After saving the file as a CSV, I pulled it into ArcMap. With a few simple operations, the faculty’s hometowns displayed across the country of Nepal. I used the identify tool to show that each dot not only corresponded with the latitude and longitude of their hometown, but also was still linked with the nominal information such as name, hometown and favorite color. Even though AidData uses precision codes, activity codes and many other categories to build a more complex data system, it is really up to the researcher to pick what attributes will be linked to geospatial features.

A simple demonstration on how to geocode information.

A simple demonstration on how to geocode information.

The coordinates are still linked with the nominal information in the original table.

The coordinates are still linked with the nominal information in the original table.

The first week of training will end on Monday for the faculty of Kathmandu University. With the faculty’s feedback, Carleigh and I will continue to build our curriculum for the students. I feel like I have already learned more about geocoding and GIS just through the teaching process.

~Sara Rock

Comments

  1. Would you have tailored your program differently now that you have finished it? How well do you think the information stayed?