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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Geography Summer Camp: Online 5-Week Geography Course

Geography summer camp!  I will be offering an exciting 5-week online course beginning 24 June 2015 entitled Teaching Geography in the 21st Century.

Geography Summer Camp:  Online Course

Geography Summer Camp: Online Course.

Geography is considered one of the world world’s oldest disciplines, pioneered by Eratosthenes in 250 BC, and has a rich tradition of scholarship and innovation. Yet geography has always embraced new technologies, research practices, instructional methods, skills, and content. How can geography be taught in the 21st Century, embracing its rich heritage and yet looking forward to emerging and exciting tools and perspectives? What content should be included? What skills should be developed Furthermore, why should geography be taught in the 21st Century? Why is it relevant to the understanding of and decision-making in 21st Century society, the environment, and current events?

I will teach this course through eNet Learning, whose mission is to provide high-quality professional development, content, and resources that support educators and student learning.  Watch this friendly video to discover more about the course.

This course is designed to build geographic concepts, perspectives, and skills for those teaching geography and those teaching other disciplines who seek to use the geographic framework.  The goal is to enable and equip educators to teach the subject of geography in engaging and informed ways; to help educators and their students to understand why and how geography is relevant to 21st Century life. Population, land use, urban, economic, health, hazards, and other themes will be addressed. A focus will be on scale, systems thinking, critical thinking, time and space, and place, through an inquiry-driven, hands-on, problem-based format. The course includes pedagogical strategies and technological tools to teach conceptual foundations, skills, and geographic perspectives. Hands-on activities will offer deep immersion in several tools, including ArcGIS Online, which provides an easy-to-use, powerful platform for analysis and investigation.  We will also use the Urban Observatory, the Change Matters viewer, and a few other tools.  If you are already thinking spatially and wondering about the photographs at right, I took the top image in Savannah, Georgia, and the bottom on the shoreline at the UCSB campus in Santa Barbara, California.

Participants will be equipped to: 1) Identify, describe, and discuss urban, economic, land use, natural hazards, health, and population issues foundational to geography at different geographical and temporal scales. 2) Apply geographic principles to effectively teach geography with the geographic perspective, and 3) Understand how to incorporate geospatial technologies, including dynamic web maps, charts, and data, to teach geography. If you missed the first opportunity to take this course (September), now is your chance!  You can register here.  If you have colleagues that you are trying to “nudge” into spatial thinking and the use of geotechnologies, please tell them about this opportunity.

See you online in our “Geography Summer Camp”!

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The Top and Bottom of the World

I recently described comparing prices in two different cities using a map in the Esri “Cool Maps” gallery.   Another map in this collection, currently #7 in the gallery entitled “The Top and Bottom of the World“, invites a data-driven investigation through a dashboard that maps the top three and bottom three values of several World Bank indicators, by country.  Variables include GDP growth, inflation, merchandise exports, power consumption, power production, CO2 emissions,  agricultural land, health expenditure, life expectancy, and children with HIV.  This map is fully interactive thanks to the capabilities of the ArcGIS platform.

One benefit of using this data and map is that they effectively deal with the challenge that educators and students sometimes have:  ”Too much data.”   By simply showing the highest and lowest three countries for each variable, the map can serve as a straightforward, useful tool in geography, environmental studies, civics, sociology, economics, and business courses.   The map is simple enough to be used in upper primary schools and yet can also foster discussions at the university level.

Exploring this map and data in your classroom can foster spatial thinking:  Why do the variables for these cities exhibit the geographic pattern that they do?   What pattern might exist in the future, given global changes that are occurring?  The investigation can also foster critical thinking about the data sources that are used, and about the historical and current reasons that help explain the patterns and numbers.  The map can serve as a focal point for student presentations on the “so what”?  ”So what” if the inflation rate, or the CO2 emissions, or the health expenditures have the value and pattern that they do?  What are the implications?  The investigation could also spark a discussion about the “haves” versus the “have nots”, the consequences of disparities around the globe, and personal reactions and actions that students may or may not feel compelled to take in response.

How might you be able to use this map and data?

Exploring the Top 3 and Bottom 3 countries among several different variables.

Exploring the Top 3 and Bottom 3 countries among several different variables.

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Fun with GIS 176: A ConnectED Year

On May 27 of 2014, President Obama welcomed Esri to the ConnectED Initiative, an effort to help all US K12 students be effective digital learners. The President asked private industry to help with devices, connectivity, learning resources, and support for educators. Esri President Jack Dangermond offered to every US K12 school (public, private, or homeschool) an ArcGIS Online Organization and various educational supports. Amazon Web Services, provider of essential infrastructure in ArcGIS Online, generously stepped up to help.

ArcGIS Online Organizations let users make maps and analyze data. These specially configured school accounts offer what business, government, and agencies around the world increasingly find valuable: a custom portal, vast galaxies of data, and a fleet of applications simple enough for grade school students yet robust enough for mission critical or scientific work. Tying it all together is the chance to build, host, and share content in a safe and secure environment.

Over a thousand schools have begun using accounts, across the grades and subject areas. Kids are tracking butterflies and whales, mapping great literature and local history, calculating watersheds and earthquake hotspots, monitoring civic activities and signs of climate change, and sharing the results of their work. They are exploring the multiple factors that influence complex issues, making decisions, and solving problems … just like adults do.

In the digital world, this is what students most need — experience coping with ill-structured problems, managing unending inputs, integrating wide-ranging background to find relationships, asking questions that bring out patterns, and synthesizing and communicating meaning. Educators long to breathe life into material in the form of projects, which are like “educational Velcro” — they hold students’ focus, bringing together the scattered collections of numbers and concepts and places. Education is not delivery but engagement, and projects let students invest, follow their ideas, innovate, create, and share.

Web-based mapping means “any device, anytime, anywhere connected.” Students can go from a tablet at home to a friend’s smartphone to Mac, Windows, and Chromebook through the school day, opening and manipulating the same map each time. Students who can thus adapt and use opportunities are building their pathway for college, career, and community life.

But in this ever-accelerating world, educators need mentors to show what’s possible, get the ball rolling, and provide guidance over time about how to take advantage of these valuable accounts (beyond $10,000 per account per year). Powerful resources including easy-to-use intros are waiting to help launch students on new trajectories. We just need the current GIS user community to follow a simple school rule: “Each one teach one.” Before another year goes by, we need those who know to make a personal commitment: share with an educator whose school is without these great resources. Help a teacher and a bunch of kids get connected, at

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager.

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A Sale of Two Cities

“The grass is always greener on the other side.  But how much more ‘green’ does it take to live in San Francisco versus West Palm Beach?  Use this map to compare the cost of living in your dream city.”

So reads the description to one of the maps currently in the Esri “coolmaps” gallery, specifically, this map.  As shown in the example below, I used the map to compare San Francisco California to Las Vegas Nevada.  San Francisco is more expensive in housing, utilities, groceries, and health, while Las Vegas was more expensive only in transportation.  The mean cost of living among the 5 measures was 67% higher for San Francisco.  This makes sense, given the high cost of housing alone that San Francisco has long experienced.  San Francisco’s rapid transit and bus system, combined perhaps with more people living in closer proximity to their workplaces, made the transportation costs lower than in Las Vegas.

The stated goal of the coolmaps gallery is to stimulate ideas, these maps are perfect for teaching and learning.  Furthermore, the maps nudge people to think spatially and feature a wide variety of different topics at a variety of scales.  Frankly, they are cool, and because of that, are great conversation starters in class.  While it is stated that the data should be used for demonstration purposes only, students using them are using real-world data and grappling with real-world issues.  Students could hypothesize about which of two cities would be more expensive, based on research they have done, personal experiences, or based on the size and location of the cities.  Then, they could use the “Sale of Two Cities” map to prove or disprove their hypothesis.  How does your city compare?

The coolmaps gallery is updated as new cool maps are featured, so check back often!

Comparing the cost of living between 2 cities using Esri live web mapping tool.

Comparing the cost of living between 2 cities using Esri live web mapping tool.

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Lakota Wicowoyake Canku owapi: Lakota Language Story Map

My colleague James Rattling Leaf and I created a story map on the Lakota language.   Our reasons for doing so are several.  We have long been interested in and collaborated on projects involving education, maps, and GIS, and wanted to illustrate how the story maps platform can be used to learn and teach about Native Languages, beginning with Lakota. When you access the story map, and step through its contents, you will be able to hear audio of a dozen words that are in both Lakota and English, a photograph of each spoken feature, and what that feature looks like on a satellite image map.  By coupling visual cues with audio, we hope to inspire others living on the Lakota lands, those working with projects such as Recovering Voices, at the WoLakota Project, at the Language Conservancy, and others, to take these ideas and do even more with the story maps platform.  For example, you could embed these story maps in web pages; you could add video to the maps (as we illustrated with the word “lake”), you could create different types of story maps, and much more.  For learning about language, place, biology, history, geography, and many other themes, integrating audio and video with maps is becoming a powerful and yet easy-to-understand medium.

Second, we are interested in the issue for reasons deeper than our affinity for languages, geography, and GIS.  As noted on, “Native languages in the United States are in the throes of a prolonged and deadly crisis. For the past 400 years, Native Peoples and their languages have been steadily and undeniably disappearing. Though the historical fate of Native Peoples has been reluctantly acknowledged, less is publicly known about the associated fate of their languages.”  And furthermore, “Lakota is dangerously close to extinction. Recent linguistic surveys and anecdotal evidence reveal that Lakota speakers of all abilities, on and around the reservations of North Dakota and South Dakota, amounted to fewer than 6,000 persons, representing just 14% of the total Lakota population. Today, the average Lakota speaker is near 65 years old.”

Furthermore, geography, place, location, and culture are reflected in the Lakota and other Native languages, making story maps an excellent tool for teaching and learning.  For example, according to, “Nature is used as the primary source for the metaphor models,” and “Lakota is also very good at emphasizing the finer attributes of travel. A person can be considered to be coming or going to or from specific places in many levels detail. Lakota greetings themselves reflect this tendency, where in English “welcome” is literally Lakota – “Good that you came,” And “goodbye,” is “Travel well.” The language also closely linked the land to the people through geographical names and stories.  [] A word like woímnayankel, expresses notions of awe, humility, and interconnectedness. A Lakota speaker might use this when describing the experience of the northern lights (aurora borealis). The word expresses the humility that a person feels when confronted by the awesomeness of nature while also feeling intimately connected with it.”

How might you use story maps, and the ideas presented through this Lakota language story map, in your own work?

Lakota Wicowoyake Canku owapi:  Lakota Language Story Map

Lakota Wicowoyake Canku owapi: Lakota Language Story Map

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Fun with GIS 175: Styling Data

“Style my data?” That’s the verb; it connotes more than just basic classification and symbolization. The March release of ArcGIS Online gave great new options for styling data: heat maps, continuous colors, manual classification, transparency tweaks, and more.

Some of us struggled with the new choices. A popular tactic had been to ramp symbols of a feature set (e.g. stores by dollars, or counties by median age) and use a particularly striking symbol for the most extreme, making it even more prominent. Some had trouble finding that among all the new options. It’s still there and more powerful than ever, but a quick guide might help. And it’s usable even without logging in.

See this “Recent Earthquakes” map. It has a single layer drawn twice, symbolized once by depth, once by magnitude. This is a good practice map with enough features, and you can just refresh the map to do it all again. Turn off the “depth” layer and choose to change style for the magnitude layer, choosing “counts and amounts (size)”, and click options.

The default is a nicely ramped approach, with a modest histogram to guide your choices. It can look like this is your only option. But notice that you can scroll down to more options. (Larger screen size helps you see these more quickly; tablets, notebooks, and projectors can make this harder to notice.)

By scrolling down, I can now choose “Classify”, and control the characteristics of a finite symbol set. Set the number of classes and scheme. (I love manual breaks.)

NOW, you can click individual symbols and employ unlimited options, on whichever symbols are desired. The key was scrolling down to be able to classify first.

With all symbols tweakable, you can create just the look you want. After mastering the magnitude layer, try it on depth. Look carefully at what you can do with the “Symbols”, “Classes”, and “Legend” buttons in the upper right — they are clickable and yield more power.

Evolving software requires exploration with each new iteration. Read the “What’s new?” columns, and practice with a map you know well. Enjoy the expanding powers of ArcGIS Online!

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Schools Program Manager

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The Choro-Quiz

Which answer below identifies the correct theme of this map?

Choro-quiz question 1:  Farms, small towns, or soybeans?

Choro-quiz question 1: Farms, small towns, or soybeans?

The answer:  Soybean acreage.  Too easy?  Well, then, see if you can identify the correct theme of his map:

Choropleth Map Quiz #2:  Mobile homes, divorced people, or never married people?

Choropleth Map Quiz #2: Mobile homes, divorced people, or never married people?

The answer?  Percent of housing units that are mobile homes.

For many of us, the word “quizzes” or “tests”, conjures up memories of stress or drudgery. For the educators reading these words, who deal with quizzes and tests on a daily basis, you know very well that creating quizzes that allow you to truly assess your students’ progress, that engage your students, and that provide a way for them to reflect upon their learning and at the same time, move forward with content and skills is no easy task.

But how would you feel if some of the quizzes were of the type that you just took above?   The above choropleth map quiz, or “choro-quiz”, which I provide in its entirety here,  invites students to think spatially about patterns, relationships, and trends.  Ask them to defend their answer with data.  Investigate each incorrect answer as well the correct answers and the reasons for the patterns that are shown. In the first example above, you could investigate satellite imagery or land use, determining why “land in farms” and “small rural communities” extends to a greater area than does the “soybean belt” above.  In the second example above, students may have read about the higher divorce rate in Nevada, making that answer seem plausible, except when you investigate the area south of Hoover Dam and realize that you are looking at the mobile population along the Colorado River.

This type of quiz is easy to create in ArcGIS Desktop, which I used above, or ArcGIS Online. You could use static screen shots or in the case of ArcGIS Online, create a presentation, embed the quiz in a web page, or create a storymap for your quiz. Depending on the background or educational level of the students, you can change the scale from countries to states or provinces, and smaller units down to the neighborhood level, if you have the data.  You can also make the correct answer fairly obvious, or create one or more choices that seem plausible.  You can use different techniques as well, such as my Weird Earth or Name That Place ideas here and here.

Stuck?  Would you like to see an answer key?  I provide an answer key here.

How might you be able to use this technique in your own instruction?

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