Teach the Earth > Structural Geology > Teaching Activities > Introduction to Digital Mapping with a PocketPC

Introduction to Digital Mapping with a PocketPC

Charles Onasch
Bowling Green State University
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This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Reviewed Teaching Collection

This activity has received positive reviews in a peer review process involving five review categories. The five categories included in the process are

  • Scientific Accuracy
  • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
  • Pedagogic Effectiveness
  • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
  • Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page

For more information about the peer review process itself, please see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This page first made public: Apr 10, 2006


This project is an introduction to digital field mapping with a PocketPC computer and GPS receiver.

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This project is aimed at upper-level undergraduate and graduate students who are going to take a field course or have already taken one

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

General understanding of GIS

How the activity is situated in the course

This project illustrates how one might integrate digital mapping into a field course or into one's own research.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

This project llustrates how field data (contacts, structural data, and observations) can be collected digitally and used to build a GIS for a mapping area.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Students will be able to visualize a mapping project in terms of a series of data layers.

Other skills goals for this activity

Other skills include use of a PocketPC computer with Windows Mobile 2003 operating system.

Description of the activity/assignment

To illustrate the basics of digital mapping on a PocketPC, I have included one of the projects used in our field course. It covers an area southeast of Buena Vista, Colorado that consists of Precambrian plutonic and metamorphic rocks, Tertiary volcanic rocks, and Quaternary sediments. The project comes in the second week of the course and is the first digital mapping experience for the students. Prior to this, they have been learning to map using traditional methods.
The Sugarloaf project consists of base maps and data layers. The inclusion of both aerial photo (USGS DOQQ) and topographic base maps (USGS DRG), allows students to choose which ever map works best for them. The data layers include everything that a field geologist would normally record in his/her field notebook and map: general notes, contacts, and structural data (including oriented symbols on the map). The specific layers in this project are: bedding, contacts, faults, foliations, formations, geology, joints, lineations, and stations. In some layers (e.g., bedding, foliation, lineation, and joint), taping a point on the map opens a dialog box into which you enter data such as strike/dip or plunge/trend. In other layers (e.g., stations), taping a point opens a form for notes. In the contact layer, you draw lines. Editing can be done in the field on your PocketPC or back in camp by downloading the project to a computer. If a project is edited on a computer, the edited version must then be uploaded to the PocketPC for use the next day in the field. Final production of the map is done using ArcView or ArcMap.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Students are evaluated on the basis of the quality of their geologic map compared to earlier maps done using traditional field mapping techniques.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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