Teaching Geography in the 21st Century: A New Online Course

An exciting new 5-week online course will be offered beginning 3 September 2014 entitled Teaching Geography in the 21st Century.

Geography is usually considered as the world’s oldest discipline, 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?

The course is offered through eNet Learning, whose mission is to provide high-quality professional development, content, and resources that support educators and student learning.  I created this video to describe the course in a friendly, personal way.

This course is designed to build geographic concepts, perspectives, and skills for those teaching Geography and those teaching other disciplines who seek to use geographic principles.  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.

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.

Teaching Geography in the 21st Century:  A New Online Course

Teaching Geography in the 21st Century: A New Online Course.

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Meaningful Work to Make a Difference

If you are creative, passionate, driven to succeed, and ready to work for one of the world’s coolest software companies, Esri may have a place for you. The work that Esri employees do every day is changing our world and making a difference, and you can be part of that! Esri is a growing company, and as such, there are a number of entry-level and internship opportunities, as well as an Esri User Conference Student Assistantship program.

Whether you are looking to start your career or try something new, at Esri you will work in a unique environment where you’ll have opportunities to make lasting, significant contributions to shape our technology and support our customers. Our casual, collaborative, and team-oriented culture will allow you to spread your knowledge and talent to far-reaching ends of the business.

We are looking for recent graduates with degrees in computer science, GIS, geography, information technology, business, and other fields to fill positions throughout our company. We have ongoing needs for software developers, account executives, application developers, project managers, product engineers, analysts, and more.

But you’re still in school—that’s great! Esri also offers opportunities for students who are looking for some industry experience while continuing their education. During our 12-week internship program, students make significant contributions to the Esri community as well as to our products and customers. Our interns work alongside staff members of all levels, gaining true work experience on projects they assist with or even lead. Esri has a long history of giving students the opportunity to do real, meaningful work. Their contributions to the company continue to make an impact year after year.

Not looking for a full-time internship? The Esri User Conference Student Assistantship program may be just for you. Each year, students help staff members with a variety of operations including registration, monitoring technical sessions, working in the Esri Store, and other logistical efforts. The assistantship opportunity is a great way to network with GIS professionals and other students from around the world plus get the chance to attend the Esri User Conference with 16,000 other people!

Intrigued? Complete details on everything Esri offers students can be found on the Esri Careers website at esri.com/students. Also, follow us on Facebook and Twitter for an inside look!

By Katherine Desy, Esri Strategic Marketing Intern

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Investigations Using Landscape Layers in ArcGIS Online

Landscape map layers about our natural and human-made environments represent a rich body of content for teaching and learning.  These layers are part of the ever expanding and ready to use Living Atlas on ArcGIS Online.  These layers are from a variety of authoritative sources, and acquired, evaluated, processed, managed, and maintained by Esri.  Hundreds of layers are currently available, including evapotranspiration, critical habitat, hydrography, soil characteristics, land surface forms, geologic units, oil shale basins, agricultural potential, and infrastructure, with many more on the way.  These layers can serve as input to spatial analysis and for the creation of beautiful and informative interactive web maps.

To begin discovering and accessing the data, all you need is an organizational subscription to ArcGIS Online.  After logging in, access “Groups”, then search on esri_landscape, then uncheck “only search in your organization.”  You will see the groups belonging to Landscape; most of the data is housed in “Landscape Layers.”  In the example below, I am analyzing the impact of potential floods on crop type and hazardous waste facilities in northeastern Iowa.  I found 20 hazardous waste facilities in the 100 year flood areas according to FEMA’s FIRM database and in this study area, shown as colored circles in the map below.  There were 45 total hazardous waste facilities in the area shown on the map, so 44.4% of all of the hazardous waste facilities are within the 100 year flood areas.  This is the type of activity that invites students to solve real-world problems using critical thinking and inquiry while building literacy and skills in GIS and technology.

Analyzing flood potential on crops and hazardous waste facilities in Iowa using ArcGIS Online.

Analyzing flood potential on crops and hazardous waste facilities in Iowa using ArcGIS Online.

For more detailed instructions on accessing the landscape layers, see this blog post from one of my colleagues here at Esri.  Give it a try!

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Fun with GIS 161: Snap2Map

Snap2Map is a slick new app for iOS and Android that will help spread the power available through geotechnology. With it, building a Story Map app is as easy as taking photos on a smartphone or tablet.

Snap2Map relies on a user having an ArcGIS Online Organization login with publishing privileges. After logging in, the user creates a presentation, chooses a basemap, takes photos or chooses existing photos through the device, and annotates them (title and/or description). Snap2Map will use a photo’s location info or allow the user to move it across the street or around the world. Photo sequence also can be adjusted just by dragging with a finger. When complete, Snap2Map sends the points, text, map, and photos into a new feature service in the organization (this is why publishing is a requirement), creates the map, creates the Story Map, and generates a ready-to-go outbound message with the address of the published and shared Story Map. At this point, the user can log into the account via a web browser and make additional modifications to the map, such as adding a GPX track or other context layer.

The beauty of Snap2Map is its simplicity, and the mantra of a bright educator who said “We need to reach in and grab people through their door, and bring them out through ours.” People love taking geolocated photos. It’s an easy extension to bring them to the next level, a story strung together in a geography. After that, the sky is the limit. Fieldwork and even mundane local trips will never be the same again.

With Esri’s ConnectED offer making ArcGIS Online Organization accounts available for free to any US K12 school, for instruction, many educators and kids will have a powerful way to begin working with geotechnology, thanks to Snap2Map.

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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Creating and Delivering Presentations in ArcGIS Online

ArcGIS Online has always provided an excellent means for students to communicate the results of their investigations, and for instructors to teach with.  But those capabilities just improved with the recent addition of a “presentation” mode.   Those who used the presentation capability within ArcGIS Explorer Online will find it wonderfully familiar. Those new to the presentation capability will find it easy to use.  An ArcGIS Online presentation is a set of “slides” that can show different map themes, basemaps, scales, pop-up windows, and specific locations, and can include titles.  However, these are far from static “slides”, because at any point during the presentation, the presenter can interact with the map, allowing for a richer and fuller presentation with the audience as questions are fielded and discussion ensues.  The presentation is shared as part of the map, which keeps things nice and tidy; in other words, there is no separate “item” that appears in your ArcGIS Online content for your presentations.  You and your users then have the capabilities, provided you have shared your map, to open your presentation.

I created a 2-minute video that provides guidance of these new capabilities using a plate tectonics example, and a 10-minute video that creates and delivers a presentation on watersheds, rivers, and real-time weather and streamflow.  Give the presentation capabilities a try!

Creating and Giving Presentations in ArcGIS Online

Creating and Giving Presentations in ArcGIS Online.

For information about other new capabilities in ArcGIS Online released in July 2014, click here.

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Esri Mapping Lab at 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 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 45 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 Louis XVI Room of the Peabody Hotel in Memphis on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, 31 July, 1 August, and 2 August 2014.

Never used ArcGIS Online?  We’d love to see you.  Experienced with ArcGIS Online?  We have 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, and more, 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 investigations in community demographics, global earthquakes, climate, common core and Geography for Life standards, AP Human Geography, change over space and time, storymaps,  business analytics, watersheds and rivers, fieldwork, and more.  We will also be hosting an exhibit at the conference that will be perfect for longer discussions about the mapping tools.

Mapping Lab at NCGE conference

Stop by the Esri Mapping Lab at the NCGE conference!

We look forward to seeing you there!  And if you cannot attend the conference, keep an eye on the Esri Education Community, where all of the workshop activities will be posted.

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Call for Chapters: STEM and GIS in Higher Education

This ebook will provide compelling stories of innovative ways faculty are incorporating GIS to advance STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) related activities in higher education. As a successor to the existing publication Advancing STEM Education with GIS, the eBook will explore how faculty, staff and students are successfully using GIS to analyze and better understand data in their specific STEM fields.  The target audience for this book is university STEM faculty who may know little about GIS or spatial analysis.  The objectives are to provide thought provoking stories, describe innovative approaches to the collection, analysis and display of spatial data, and identify the unique benefits of applying GIS methods.  Ideally, the book will become a major resource in the development of spatially oriented teaching or research models within STEM disciplines.

The eBook will demonstrate the value of using a spatial perspective to organize and analyze data from many disciplines. An emphasis will be placed on STEM-GIS methods and tools that investigate real world problems.  Examples may include:

  • a biology faculty member, who uses GIS to document speciation of particular salamander around a valley, or
  • a civil engineering professor who uses ArcGIS to extend her CAD models of bridges with students, or
  •  the statistics professor who integrates R-based programming with ArcGIS to extend geospatial correlations within a mathematical model of migratory paths.

Chapter proposals due to editor Dr. David Cowen: September 1, 2014


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Investigating land use change over time with the USGS Historical Topographic Map Explorer

Investigating land use change over time has always been a mainstay of geography and environmental education and research.  Recently, several new ways of accessing more than 175,000 historical USGS topographic maps through ArcGIS Online make land use change even more accessible to students, educators, and researchers.  In this essay, I will focus on the USGS Historical Topographic Map Explorer, and in future essays, discuss some of the other ways that you can easily access these maps in ArcGIS Online.  As a former USGS geographer, I consider the arrival of these maps in ArcGIS Online as one of the most exciting announcements of the past decade.

The USGS Historical Topographic Map Explorer is a customized application that runs in a web browser that shows the dates and scales of the available USGS topographic maps for any area of the USA below a chosen area of interest.  Simply by selecting individual maps using this application, changes in coastlines, river flow resulting from the construction of reservoirs, urbanization, and much more can be examined.  In the example below, I explore one of the most rapidly urbanizing areas of the country, Plano, Texas, comparing the current topographic base map to the 1960 USGS topographic map.  As is evident, many additional maps of the area at different scales and dates are available.

USGS Historical Topographic Map Explorer

USGS Historical Topographic Map Explorer.

Give it a try!  How can you use this in your instruction and teaching?

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7 Ways to Map Your Field Data

Mapping field data can serve as project-based learning environments that promote environmental, social, and technological fluency, as I wrote about in Earthzine, and as others such as Richard Louv have written about much more eloquently than I.  What are seven easy ways in which you can map field-collected data?  I have recorded a three-part video series (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3) wherein I describe all seven ways.

These ways include (1) via files and spreadsheets that are stored locally on your computer, (2) via files and spreadsheets that are stored online, (3) via shared web forms, (4) via smartphone apps, including the Collector for ArcGIS app, (5) via editing of ArcGIS Online map notes, (6) via uploading of your geospatial data to ArcGIS Online, and (7) via editable feature services. which enables true citizen science mapping in the sense that you can “crowdsource your fieldwork” as my colleague Charlie Fitzpatrick has written about.

As I hope these videos demonstrate, it is very easy not only to bring in your field-collected data into ArcGIS Online, but to map and analyze it there.  But I can’t give all of the details away:  Watch the videos to find out!

7 Ways to Map Your Field Data, including Crowdsourcing Your Fieldwork

Seven Ways to Map Your Field Data, including Crowdsourcing Your Fieldwork.

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Staying connected and the Esri EdUC

A reminder that Esri education hosts a GIS Higher Education Facebook Group for students and faculty at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EsriGISHigherEducation/  

We’re nearly at 3,000 members!  Discussions range from software use and coding to event details and best practices in using GIS in instruction.

For other GIS education social media options, explore: http://edcommunity.esri.com/connect-with-others/social-media

Also note that the upcoming Esri Education GIS Conference can be followed on Twitter: https://twitter.com/search?q=esrieduc&src=typd or Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/giseducationcommunity 

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