Do Some Hands-On Mapping and Analysis at the National Conference on Geography Education!

Esri is pleased to offer three days of hands-on workshops as part of a Mapping Lab at the upcoming 100th National Conference on Geography Education.  Staff from the Esri education group as well as some of our dear friends in geography education will be on hand to teach a series of first-come, first-served free 75-minute workshops!   These workshops will demonstrate the ease and power of spatial analysis that is possible on the web within ArcGIS Online.  The workshops will be held in the Justice Room of the JW Marriott Hotel in Washington DC on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, 6, 7, and 8 August 2015; for more details see the online program.

Never used ArcGIS Online?  We’d love to see you.  Experienced with ArcGIS Online? We promise something for you, too!

Why are we doing this?  Because we firmly believe in the connections between web mapping and rigorous geography education, and its connections to inquiry, fieldwork, community, 21st Century skills, STEM.  Furthermore, we believe that a hands-on approach is the best way to engage in these tools and methods.  The contents of the workshops will include mapping your own data, creating multimedia story maps, GeoInquiries, examining AP Human Geography themes such as land use and population change using live web mapping tools, investigating physical geography such as natural hazards and ocean processes, using ArcGIS Online for citizen science field activities, and much more.  We will have computers there but you are welcome to bring your own device.  We will also be hosting an exhibit at the conference that will be perfect for longer discussions about the mapping tools and activities.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Roll up your sleeves for hands-on work with web mapping tools, data, and spatial analysis at the National Conference on Geography Education!

Roll up your sleeves for hands-on work with web mapping tools, data, and spatial analysis at the National Conference on Geography Education!

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Advancing the map in US 8th grade Earth Science

Geographic concepts and mapping are perhaps one of the best-kept secrets in many school subjects – subjects that may not, to the casual observer, appear to have much geography.  Earth science is one subject full of maps and geography.  As a “natural science”, Earth science is typically offered to US students in most states about 8th grade.  What a great opportunity to learn Earth science concepts using modern mapping technologies through ArcGIS Online!

Enter the new, Earth Science GeoInquiries!

Earth Science GeoInquiries are new instructional resources designed for the US 8th grade Earth Science class.  Each geoinquiry activity takes about 15 minutes, is tied to the Next Generation Science Standards, and is bound to map concepts found in the leading textbooks used in school today.  Geoinquiries teach subject area content – and use ArcGIS Online to improve that instruction, making student engagement and inquiry deeper and richer than with the text alone.

For teachers, geoinquiries use standard models of inquiry teaching, provide learning objectives, and are fast to integrate.  A geoinquiry is designed to allow a teacher to display the map through a computer and projector – allowing the students to follow along from their regular classroom.  No visits to the lab, no logins, and no software installations.  Best of all, they are completely free!

Explore a few of the 15 new Earth Science GeoInquiries:

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Esri Young Scholars Award Program and Story Map

Since 2012, the Esri Young Scholar program has offered an annual competition and award given to exemplary university students majoring in geospatial science disciplines  from around the world.   Winning students have the opportunity to fly to San Diego and receive an all-access pass to the Esri User Conference, meet with Esri founder and president Jack Dangermond, present their work to a global audience of geospatial professionals, network with other Young Scholars from around the globe, and connect with many of the world’s leading geo-enabled organizations for future employment.  The competition is coordinated by Esri’s international distributors and Esri’s international and education teams, with winning entries selected by a university panel formed by Esri’s distributor in the recipient’s respective country.

To congratulate the 2015 scholars and to showcase their work, Renee Young and I here at Esri created a story map highlighting the work of these excellent individuals.  Space does not permit describing each project here, but the story map details each one with a link to each of the students’ posters.  For example, Paula Jimena Sarmiento Ospina and Manuel Guillermo Vega Garcia from the Universidad Distrital Francisco José de Caldas in Colombia created a GIS to establish safe routes and surveillance points for students at Villa Rica School.  Adrián Castelló Martínez from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Switzerland used real-time analysis with GPS sensor data to study the nonstop bike race Tortour.  Anne van der Veen at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands used Python to visualize open data. In preparing the story map, and after meeting some of these students this week at the Esri User Conference, I am greatly encouraged:  With students such as these grounded in spatial thinking and GIS, who soon will be out in the workplace, our future is bright!

If you would like to see more truly inspiring and exemplary work, see this video and the story map we made of the 2014 Young Scholars.  Also, think about using story maps to highlight the work done by your own students, or fellow faculty you are working with, or projects that you are working on!

2015 Esri Young Scholars Story Map

2015 Esri Young Scholars Story Map

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The Top 10 Most Job-Accessible Cities in the USA

This live web map showing the Top 10 Most Job-Accessible Cities in the USA is an excellent resource for teaching and learning about urban forms, public transportation, and economics.  The maps show the number of jobs accessible within 30 minutes by walking and/or public transportation.  As I live in Denver, I was pleased to see that city in the list, aided no doubt by our expanding light rail network, which I made a story map about last year.  A quick glance shows the extent of the areas shown in pink and red on each map–those areas with the most number of accessible jobs.  It is my hope, though, that educators and students will dig deeper, noting that the pattern and extent of these pink and red zones depend not only on the public transportation network, but also on the population in each city, on its economy, and on its topography.

A link is included on the story map to a transit access map in ArcGIS Online so you can investigate cities that are not a part of the Top 10:  For your chosen cities, how much of the urban area is within .25, .50, and .60 miles from a transit stop?   As students are investigating these questions, they are thinking spatially and making connections with their own city.  What parts of your city are well covered by public transportation? What parts are underserved? What parts are growing rapidly, and therefore, if you were the GIS analyst of the city’s transportation division, where would you recommend the public transportation should be expanded?

This map is part of one of my favorite collections of maps and tools, the Urban Observatory, which allows for the comparison of numerous variables for dozens of cities around the world.

How might you be able to use the Top 10 job-accessible story map and transit access map  in your own courses?

The Top 10  Most Job Accessible Cities in the USA

The Top 10 Most Job Accessible Cities in the USA.

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Introduction to Landsat Thematic Bands Web Mapping Application

Teaching remote sensing?  This web mapping application can be a very useful teaching tool.  The web mapping application covers the whole planet, with mapping services that are updated daily with new Landsat 8 scenes.

Access many band combinations and indices by hovering over the tools to the left of the map image and selecting among the following:

  • Agriculture: Highlights agriculture in bright green. Bands 6,5,2
  • Natural Color: Sharpened with 25m panchromatic band. Bands 4,3,2+8
  • Color Infrared: Healthy vegetation is bright red. Bands 5,4,3
  • SWIR (Short Wave Infrared): Highlights rock formations. Bands 7,6,4
  • Geology: Highlights geologic features. Bands 7,4,2
  • Bathymetric: Highlights underwater features. Bands 4,3,1
  • Panchromatic: Panchromatic image at 15m. Band 8
  • Vegetation Index: Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI). (Band5-Band4)/(Band5+Band4)
  • Moisture Index: Normalized Difference Moisture Index (NDMI). (Band5-Band6)/(Band5+Band6)

The Time tool for different indices at larger scales based on a user-selected location enables examination of changes over years or over seasons.  It also provides temporal profiles for NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index), NDMI (Normalized Difference Moisture Index) and an Urban Index.  The Identify tool enables access to information on the date, cloud cover, and a spectral profile about each scene.  The Bookmark tool allows access to pre-selected interesting locations.

The application is written using Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS accessing image services using the ArcGIS API for JavaScript, with access to the following Image Services:

  • Landsat Multispectral on AWS – 8-band multispectral 30m resolution image services and functions that provide different band combinations and indices.
  • Landsat Pan-sharpened on AWS – Panchromatic-sharpened imagery; 4-band (Reg, Green, Blue and NIR); 30m resolution.
  • Landsat Panchromatic on AWS – Panchromatic imagery; 15m resolution.

These services can also be accessed through the public Landsat on AWS group on ArcGIS Online.  You truly have “the world at your fingertips” because you can add these services as layers to your own maps or maps from others, or you can use the above web mapping application as a standalone map.  But there is a third option:  The web mapping application is also embedded on the Unlock Earth’s Secrets page, which also is useful for instruction, with featured places around the planet scrolling through time.

Think of the above as solid introductory segments to get your students interested in the topic of remote sensing.  These maps and applications require very little geospatial technology skills, allowing you to focus on concepts and principles while exploring some truly engaging content and places.

To dig deeper, delve into the many powerful remote sensing functions available in ArcGIS Desktop.  One source for engaging, hands-on activities, is Kathryn Keranen and Bob Kolvoord’s book Making Spatial Decisions Using GIS and Remote Sensing:  A Workbook.

Give these resources a try!

Landsat 8 Web Mapping Application

Landsat 8 Web Mapping Application.

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Three Reasons to Incorporate ArcGIS Pro into your GIS Curriculum

Last semester I assisted a colleague in teaching a GIS-based course at the local university. We had our students collect data in the field using Collector for ArcGIS, perform analysis and author maps in ArcMap, then publish their maps in the form of Story Maps in ArcGIS Online. I had been working a lot with ArcGIS Pro at the time and kept thinking to myself how much easier it would be for the students if we had been working with the new desktop application. Here are a few reasons why:

1. It’s easier to navigate

At first sight, ArcGIS Pro’s new ribbon interface will be familiar to users who have no experience with GIS software. And, first impressions aside, the new layout is easier to use because it is responsive, making different tools accessible depending on what items the user is working with. This results in better access to all the great functionality we as GIS professionals are accustomed to with less searching and fewer clicks. The interface overhaul should not be underestimated. Students will develop GIS skills faster and be able to complete workflows in less time.

2. It’s easier to share and access data

Technology is moving to the cloud and GIS is no exception. ArcGIS Pro is tightly integrated with ArcGIS Online, allowing students to easily publish web layers and maps from their desktops then share them with group members or teachers. Through this connection, students can also work with hosted data they collect in the field and large stores of authoritative data curated by Esri directly on their desktops. They can take advantage of the advanced analytical capabilities in ArcGIS Pro then publish their results to ArcGIS Online where they can leverage web application templates to create slick information products like Story Maps. Using ArcGIS Pro, students are able to work on group projects more easily, have access to more data, and can create more modern and engaging GIS information products to share with their class, school, or the public.

3. It’s easier to manage geodatabases

ArcGIS Pro’s improvements in geodatabase management are some of the most useful in the classroom. Managing your databases in ArcGIS Pro has a spreadsheet-like feel that is both familiar and faster by reducing clicks and abandoning the need to enter and exit editing mode to make changes. Rather than working with a series of modular windows, modifications to databases are made in field, domain, and subtype views which are easy to switch back and forth between. Changes are validated on-the-fly, values can be copied and pasted or dragged and dropped, and editing can be done at any time. Students can spend more time visualizing and analyzing their data rather than struggling with formatting it.

My reasons above don’t include the ability to work with 2D and 3D maps and scenes simultaneously, 64 bit multi-threaded processing, or any of the other “cooler” new features that come with ArcGIS Pro. All of these are fantastic developments and are taking desktop GIS into new and exciting places. My reasons for switching to ArcGIS Pro are directly related to an improved user experience which will have a huge impact on GIS learners, especially those new to the field. So, although advancements in visualization and analysis are exciting, being able to intuitively navigate the GIS interface and more simply manage local and cloud-based data will have the most immediate impact to new users in the classroom.  After all, we must create simple buffers and edit attribute tables before we can create 3D visualizations of emerging hot spot analyses.

For more on ArcGIS Pro:

Visit us at the Esri Education GIS Conference-

(Schedule of ArcGIS Pro-related workshops)

Incorporating ArcGIS Pro into Your Curriculum, Saturday, 18 Jul 2015, 1:30pm – 2:45pm

Get Started with ArcGIS Pro, Saturday, 18 Jul 2015, 1:30pm – 2:45pm OR Sunday, 19 Jul 2015, 8:30am – 10:00am

Visualizing Data with ArcGIS Pro, Saturday, 18 Jul 2015, 1:30pm – 2:45pm OR Sunday, 19 Jul 2015, 1:30pm – 2:45pm

GeoProcessing with ArcGIS Pro, Saturday, 18 Jul 2015, 3:15pm – 4:30pm OR Sunday, 19 Jul 2015, 3:15pm – 4:30pm

View these training resources-



Join our community-

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Make Plans to Attend the 2015 Esri Education GIS Conference

Passionate about GIS in education?  It’s not too late to make plans to attend the 2015 Esri Education GIS Conference, 18-21 July, in San Diego, California.  Whether you are an educator, administrator, researcher, whether you are experienced with GIS or are just beginning to discover all it has to offer, there is something at this event for you.  This year, the theme is “learning and leading through service”–featuring efforts to design and produce meaningful place-based projects that benefits communities while developing 21st Century skills.

At this event, you can exchange experiences, ideas, and tips that worked for you and your colleagues.  You can get some face to face time with GIS education experts from around the world.  You can take training to hone your skills.  You can update your curriculum, teaching materials, and resources.  You can better understand how to spread GIS across your campus, across your school district, and across your region or country.

The event features plenary sessions, lightning talks, an exhibit hall, and, unique to this conference, a series of hands-on workshops on a variety of topics, including spatial analysis techniques, collecting and mapping field data, and creating story maps.  This video, the agenda, and the agenda at a glance provide more detail.  We look forward to seeing you at this premier thought-leadership event for those involved in GIS education!

Learning and having fun at the Esri GIS Education Conference!

Learning and having fun at the Esri GIS Education Conference!

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Analyzing Youth and Senior Population Distribution Around the Globe

A set of maps in the Urban Observatory collection makes the study of the patterns of the age structure of the population quick and powerful.  Two maps, Youth Population around the Globe, and Senior Population around the Globe are particularly useful in courses and units focusing on demographics, space, and place.  On the youth (grouped typically as 14 and under for most countries with a few exceptions) map, areas with more than 33% youth are highlighted with a dark red shading while a dot representation reveals the number of seniors and their distribution in bright red.  Areas with more than 10% seniors (age 60 and over for most countries, with a few exceptions) are highlighted with a dark red shading while a dot representation reveals the number of seniors and their distribution in bright red.

This dataset is comprised of multiple sources. All of the demographic data are from the Esri Business Partner Michael Bauer Research with the exception of nine countries.  The maps are presented as map services, which means you can add them as layers to your existing maps of other themes, such as birth rates, growth rates, and life expectancies by country.  This, along with the dynamic environment that ArcGIS Online is, allows for great flexibility in your investigations.

There are many ways to teach with these maps and I look forward to hearing how you are incorporating this into your courses, or plan to do so.  But in the meantime, one way you can teach with these maps is to compare selected youth and seniors in selected cities, at the same scale. In some rural areas, a higher incidence of youth gives a clue to the presence of college towns and military bases.  In others, such as the southeast coast of Florida, the presence of retirement communities makes the senior map quite bright indeed.

In cities, patterns of international migration and country growth rate become evident.  For example, examining the map below showing the distribution of youth in Lagos, Nigeria can be contrasted with the same map at the same scale at the location of Tokyo, Japan, underneath it.  The higher growth rate in Lagos and throughout Nigeria is reflected in the higher incidence of youth there than in Tokyo and elsewhere in Japan.  The pattern and number of the senior population is much higher in Tokyo than in Lagos.  Within some cities, the pattern of seniors reflects retirement high-rises and neighborhoods, such as in southeast Denver, Colorado, USA.

Map of Youths in Lagos, Nigeria

Map of Youths in Lagos, Nigeria

Below is the map of youth in Tokyo, Japan:

Map of Youths in Tokyo, Japan

Map of Youths in Tokyo, Japan

Below is the map showing seniors in Lagos, Nigeria:

Map of Seniors in Lagos, Nigeria

Below is the map showing seniors in Tokyo, Japan:

Map of Seniors in Tokyo, Japan

Map of Seniors in Tokyo, Japan.

I encourage you to begin investigating these powerful web maps today.

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Project Based Learning, critical thinking, and the power of maps at ISTE 2015

Visit Esri at booth #1438 at ISTE 2015 and learn how to request your school’s free subscription to ArcGIS Online and pick up your instructional materials. Need more reasons to visit us?

  1. Enhance your project based learning activities with real data analysis!  Learn from middle and high school instructors how they use ArcGIS Online to extend their project based learning instruction.
  2. Explore how ArcGIS can support Makers’ Movement projects in the classroom, like 3D printing and Arduino data collection.  From “printed” cityscapes to visualized sensor data, learn the possibilities!
  3. Advance any area of your instruction:
    • explore patterns in earthquake data with your students
    • discover agricultural and social factors that contributed to the Dust Bowl
    • examine the route of Homer’s The Odyssey on a modern map with ancient features
    • illustrate mathematical patterns and statistics with map-based visualizations

Esri staff and partners will be in Philadelphia, PA at ISTE 2015, June 29 –July 1 as we mark our first year in the White House ConnectED Initiative.  As a contributor, Esri has pledged to give to any K-12 school in the U.S. a free subscription to ArcGIS Online, web-based mapping tools for classroom use (

To support teaching standard content with ArcGIS Online, Esri is also providing free instructional materials for geography, earth systems science, and U.S. history. The materials include the award-winning Mapping Our World and Thinking Spatially Using GIS.

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Kuhn’s 10 Core Concepts of Spatial Information

Dr Werner Kuhn from the University of Muenster and the University of California Santa Barbara proposed 10 core concepts of spatial information in the hopes of moving the Geographic Information Science community forward in terms of transdisciplinary research.  The core concepts may enable the community to come to a consensus on what spatial information is and how it can be used, but also help those in other disciplines find connection points to the GIScience community.  The concepts include location, neighborhood, field, object, network, event, granularity, accuracy, meaning, and value. 

I like the way Kuhn thinks of location, not as a property, but as a relation: “Nothing has an intrinsic location, even if it always remains where it is.”  ”How one locates things depends on the context in which the location information is produced and used.”  This can be effectively taught in our discussions with students about relative versus absolute location; even our “absolute” locations are from human-derived constructs such as latitude/longitude or street addresses.  Neighborhoods get at the heart of regions and the relationship of places in time and space.  Fields describe phenomena that have a scalar or vector attribute everywhere in a space of interest, answering the question “What is here?” Objects describe individuals that have an identity as well as spatial, temporal, and thematic properties, answering questions such as “What are the parts of this feature?”  Networks are related to connectivity, shortest path distances, measures of centrality.  Events answer questions about change.  Granularity is all about the size of the units on which we are reporting information.  Accuracy is about correctness; meaning is about making sense of things, and value “answers questions about the roles played by spatial information in society.”

I believe that these concepts as a common language can build needed bridges with our colleagues in other disciplines.  I agree with Kuhn that we need to map these concepts across disciplines. Despite the advances made in research and curriculum development, I still worry that we at times are “preaching to the choir” and that our research and other efforts in promoting spatial thinking and learning would be greatly enriched by increased dialogue with other communities.  I also believe that the concepts also provide a good framework to help guide educators on teaching key spatial constructs.  Beyond education, a better awareness of spatial information can help decision makers to better understand environmental and social problems that are increasingly complex, intertwined, and that increasingly affect our everyday lives.  And that awareness can be fostered in part through building research bridges.

How do Kuhn’s concepts compare to the list of spatial concepts on TeachSpatial, or Dr Phil Gersmehl’s list of spatial concepts, or with my own definition of spatial thinking?  Have you been involved with Geographic Information Systems and Technology research, such as iGuessSPLINT, or other efforts?  I invite you to share below the efforts you are working on.

Spatial Thinking: Kuhn's 10 Core Concepts

Spatial Thinking: Kuhn’s 10 Core Concepts.  Photograph by Joseph Kerski.

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