Getting Started

The API Key

To access MapStream for Schools you need to have a valid API Key that is issued by email to your school’s Primary Contact when they subscribe to MapStream for Schools. The API Key is a long unique string of numbers and letters, which when appended to a certain URL, sends a request to a server for the MapStream for Schools data. Remember to keep a note of your school’s API Key because it will need to be issued to all staff and students who require access to MapStream for Schools.

Basic MapStream for Schools URL to request maps

The url for the MapStream for Schools WMS is: [your_aipkey]

This URL forms the basic WMS GetMap request url (sent from your application, service or web page) to the MapStream for Schools service. This request url queries the MapStream for Schools WMS, which then returns the specific map layer, or layers, requested.

Google Earth Help

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Follow these instructions to add MapStream for Schools as a new layer in Google Earth:

1. Once you have Google Earth running go to the Add menu and select Image Overlay

2. The New Image Overlay dialog box should now be open, click on the Refresh button.

Google Earth map overlay image

3. Click the WMS Parameters button.

WMS Parametres button image

4. You should now see the Web Mapping Service parameters window. Click on the Add button.

Google Images add image

5. In the dialog box that opens, enter the URL: [your_aipkey]
Remember to remove the square brackets when adding your own API key after the token= part.

Google Earth enter url image

6. Google Earth will now fetch the WMS layers associated with the URL you entered, i.e. all those available through MapStream for Schools, and they will be listed in the Transparent Layers box on the left-hand side of the WMS Parameters window.

Select the EDINA_Schools_OS_GE layer on the left and click Add, this will add the layer to the Selected Layers list on the right-hand side.

Google Earth Add layers image

7. Click OK (you will be returned to the New Image Overlay window)

8. Now in the New Image Overlay window, make the following changes:

  1. Enter a name for your overlay in the NAME field (e.g. “MapStream for Schools”)
  2. In the Link field, locate the text “FORMAT=image/gif” and change “gif” to “png” (the default image format is gif, but this provides a very poor image. Changing this to png greatly improves image quality)
  3. Also in the Link field, find the text that says "WIDTH=512&HEIGHT=512" (click in the box and scroll backwards with your cursor key) Change both lots of 512 to 2048 This will improve the resolution of the map image returned.
  4. In the View-Based Refresh section, change When: from “Never” to “After Camera Stops” and from “4 secs” to “0 secs” (you can try other settings here if you wish).
  5. In the View Bound Scale section, change 0.75 to 1 (this will ensure the MapStream for Schools image fills the Google Earth screen)
  6. Click OK and the New Image Overlay window will close, returning you to the main Google Earth view.
Googole Earth overlay options

9. Zoom to the UK and you should now see the first MapStream for Schools layer. You'll also see MapStream for Schools (or whatever you called the layer) listed in the Places list in the left-hand panel.

Google Earth MapStream image 1

10. As you zoom in you will see other MapStream for Schools map layers, depending on your viewing scale.

11. Ensure that the Oceans layer is unchecked. There is an outstanding bug in Google Earth that effects how WMS layers behave and this is caused by the Oceans layer being visible.

Google Earth MapStream image 2

12. You will need to carry out these steps on every computer to setup access to MapStream, but you only need to do it once. The next time you run Google Earth, MapStream will be listed in your My Places menu. If you remove MapStream from the places menu, follow all the steps above, except in step 4 you can select MapStream for Schools from the list of WMS Servers already set up in the WMS Parameters dialog box. Click on the drop down list and select MapStream for Schools, then click OK. Follow step 8 above to change the appropriate settings.

Google Earth and Google Earth Pro provide excellent GIS systems for use in schools. Many teachers and pupils are already familiar with using Google Earth to view aerial photography of areas around the world and so it makes the perfect program to get started with for using GIS.

Using Google Earth and Google Earth Pro, you can create stunning 3D views with Ordnance Survey mapping draped over the landscape, add annotations, import and visualise other datasets such as census data and create high quality printable maps for coursework.

To find out more about these techniques, watch our Google Earth webinar video which demonstrates creating 3D views, adding annotations, creating elevation profiles, importing and visualising shapefile rivers and census data and creating printable maps.

QGIS help

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Quantum GIS (QGIS) is a great piece of free, open source desktop GIS software. For more information see the what is GIS help page. These instructions are for QGIS Version 1.8 (the latest at time of writing) please note that some steps may by slightly different in earlier or later versions of QGIS.

1. Click on the Add WMS icon on the toolbar WMS icon imageadd wms (or go to Layer menu > Add WMS) This will open the Add Layer(s) to Server dialog box

2. Click the New button.

Add WMS image

3. In the Create a New WMS Connection pop-up box under the Connection Details section, enter a name for the connection (e.g. MapStream for Schools)

4. Enter the URL [your_aipkey] – Remember to remove the square brackets when adding your own API key after the token= part.

5. Click OK

Creat another WMS conntection image

6. Back in the Add Layer(s) from Server dialog box, click Connect.

7. Click on the top level layer ‘EDINA_Schools_OS

8. Ensure PNG is selected under Image Encoding (you can try the other options, but PNG gives the best image)

9. Enter a Layer Name to give it something a bit nicer than the default, e.g. MapStream for Schools

10. The default coordinate system of the data is WGS84, it is recommended this is changed to British National Grid. Click Change.

Add layers from a server image

11. QGIS should detect that MapStream for Schools supports WGS84 and OSGB 1936/British National Grid coordinate reference systems. Click to select British National Grid

12.Click OK. (NB: the Coordinate Reference System Selector is slightly different in earlier versions of QGIS, if you have an earlier version, you may need to search for British National Grid then select it.)

Coordinate Reference System selector image

13. Back in the Add Layer(s) from a server dialog box, click Add. MapStream for Schools will be loaded into the main map window of QGIS.

14. Click Close to close the Add Layer(s) dialog box.

15. You will now see the first layer of MapStream for Schools in main window of QGIS, it should be a map of GB. MapStream for Schools will also be listed on the left in the Layers panel.

Layers panel image

16. You can zoom in/out and pan around the map using the navigation tools (either from the View menu or the toolbar) As you zoom in you will see other MapStream for Schools map layers, depending on your viewing scale.

zoom image

QGIS is a powerful desktop GIS that is available for free. Whilst it may appear overwhelming at first, QGIS is a great GIS program for schools enabling students to import and visualise a variety of datasets and to create their own data.

For further help and to see what else you can do with QGIS, watch our webinar video which demonstrates using MapStream in QGIS, importing a census dataset to create a choropleth map and how to create your own land use dataset.