Project Description

"This blog is updated by the JISC funded G3 Project (#jisc3g) team. We are building an framework for teaching and communicating relevant geographic concepts and data to learners from outside the world of geography and GIS. We think this blog will be of particular interest to those working or teaching in HE and FE and those interested in teaching and learning and e-learning."

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Thursday, 25 August 2011

An IIGLU is born, or a project development and brand update

This is the first one of the overdue development activity updates from the JISCG3 project. I have been busy over this summer with the development of the web interface, which we now christened IIGLU. The idea of IIGLU comes from “Interactive Integrated Geospatial Learning and Understanding” (to be honest, the second I only comes so we could grab the most popular domains!). This name is a take on the word Igloo, which is made of large building blocks representing the different steps of geographical understanding in our tutorial. Conveniently, an igloo is also sort of shaped like a globe/earth, returning the focus to gegography!

With the name set then, we are now ready to release a first demo of the tool, which I quickly put together this afternoon and recorded in this screencast:

As you can see from the video, we now have a functionally complete web-environment, where registered users can create new interactive tutorials, and classify them in different overarching scenarios. Each tutorial consists of a series of 'states', using different mediums such as rich text, videos, and most importantly an interactive web-mapping environment. The idea with the states is that we can provide in each tutorial a set of anchor points to which a learner can return if they get lost, all the while preserving a rich interactive user experience, especially when it comes to the web-mapping. Further development of functionality will focus on the inclusion of more spatial functionalities, as well as thematic formatting, to make this a much more rich environment encompassing a wide range of geographic concepts.

There are still plenty of rough edges to trim, and we need to put a nice face on the functional interface. We have just completed the design of a website logo, and will attack the styling of the User Interface this week. So hopefully, in a couple weeks time, I will be able to give a much more polished presentation of the system!

Technical Development details (warning, geoweb-geekiness ahead!!):
The technical design of the tool consists of two major components:
  • Server-side framework (we used GeoDjango, a spatially aware web development framework as the basis). The server manages the user and tutorial creation, editing and management, and serves all the tutorial data and connected spatial datasets for use by the client in a standards compliant manner (GeoJSON), with all the data residing on a PostgreSQL + PostGIS database.
  • Client framework (developed in JavaScript/JQuery) enables a rich user interaction experience, with a dynamic and fast guidance of the user through the tutorials, and efficient tracking of the user state and progress through the tutorial.
You might notice that we use OpenLayers as our mapping library, which slightly contravenes the previous conclusions we arrived at in this project regarding appropriate web-map API's. These conclusions reached previously about ease of development and deduplication of effort, achieved by reusing legacy codebase from different projects, were rendered irrelevant after switching to a structured web development framework, ie (Geo)-Django, and enabled us to use OpenLayers instead to take advantage of greater capabilities and openess of this library.


  1. I remember you and Kate talking about how a project is different once it has a logo so you can emotionally recognise it. Has anyone started sketching igloos merged with globes yet? Maybe a job to do while waiting for code to compile.

  2. Another great question. We actually organized at the end of August and ran a competition to design the logo based on our conceptual idea of "IIGLU". We are saving the logo for the launch!