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-

Posted in Education, Educational Research and Geospatial, Higher Education | 2 Comments

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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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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