Kelso Higher Computer Science pupils testing the usability of Digimap for Schools

Yesterday afternoon we had a visit to our EDINA offices on Causewayside from 15 Kelso High School pupils, currently studying for their Higher Computer Science. The pupils were joined by Miss Cruickshank and Mr Warner who had organised the visit. The aim of the visit was to give the pupils a flavour of developing information systems for real in the work place. We used Digimap for Schools as an exemplar to illustrate service design and development. I was joined by EDINA colleagues Jackie Clark, web and graphic designer and Dimitrios Sferopolous, software engineer. Following our presentation, we engaged the pupils in some task-based usability testing of Digimap for Schools. Being complete novices to the service it was a superb opportunity to observe how a group of pupils respond to tasks such as: find your school; measure the playing fields; find which houses fall within 100m of the tennis courts; identify features present in the contemporary mapping of Kelso which existed in the 1890s mapping also. Being a very bright bunch, they were pushing the service to it’s limits very quickly, even asking – can the buffer tool select the features it intersects with – demonstrating an instinctive understanding for spatial analysis – impressive! In a group setting the students then informed us of what tasks they had found intuitive and easy to carry out and then those tasks they found to be counterintuitive – it was invaluable feedback…..

Functions/features that were liked and were intuitive:

  • Fading easily between contemporary and historic mapping
  • Free hand polygon tool x 2
  • Saving and opening maps
  • Text labels not scaling even when you zoomed in/out – you could see Kelso label when extent was all of GB
  • Uploading images
  • Being able to change font size and colour
  • Search bar
  • Turning annotations on and off
  • Tools straight forward and easy
  • Annotations remaining across contemporary and historic maps
  • Easy to understand icons
  • Zooming in & out
  • Buffer tool
  • Measurement tools

Things that weren’t liked / weren’t intuitive:

  • Losing your measurement when closing the measurement tool
  • Knowing how to/if one can make changes to saved maps
  • Sub menus hard to find x 2
  • Area/distance label v measurement tool
  • Text labels not scaling properly
  • Only one toolbar open at once
  • Digitising
  • No undo esp if an annotation is accidentally deleted
  • Rotate label not available
  • Drop down/annotation menu taking up too much map
  • Annotating when map area is off screen
  • Scale limitation for historical mapping
  • Mouse scroll and zooming not working in sync
  • Historical maps not drawing despite slider being dragged

Following the hands on session, Dimitrios led the pupils through a small coding exercise he had prepared enabling the pupils to pull the MapStream for Schools WMS service we offer to schools into OpenLayers, an opensource javascript library for map rendering and see the code working as the mapping data zoom in and out and add a pin to the map. I think the students found this particularly engaging and it is my hope to work with Mr Warner to create learning materials around this EDINA schools service demonstrating the relevance of spatial data to pupils studying Higher and Advanced Higher Computer Science.

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About Anne

Anne is service manager for Digimap for Schools, Digimap for Colleges and GoGeo. Having a degree in Geography and an MSc in GIS means naturally she adores looking at maps. But Anne firmly believes Digimap for Schools can be of use across many parts of the curriculum and finds the addition of historical maps particularly exciting! Anne is looking forward to ensuring Digimap for Colleges is a great success in the FE sector also. Having worked in the wider GI industry before joining EDINA she understands the valuable role geoportals like GoGeo can play in the discovery and reuse of geospatial data.

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