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:  

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:

Also note that the upcoming Esri Education GIS Conference can be followed on Twitter: or Facebook: 

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Self-Organized Sessions at Education GIS Conference

If you attended last year’s Esri Education GIS Conference, you recall that we introduced “unconference” sessions.  So many attendees approved that we’re including a track of self-organized sessions again this year. Our goal is to let participants have a say in the conference program.

The self-organized sessions will take place Tuesday afternoon, July 15, in the Marriott Hotel, Marina Salon F.  Drop by between 11:30 am – 1:00 pm to propose a discussion topic of your choice.  At 1:00 pm we’ll select topics and assign meeting spaces for the sessions.

The first self-organized sessions will run 1:30 to 2:45 pm. All discussions will take place in one big room, with each discussion having its own roundtable.  At 2:45 pm we’ll invite each discussion leader to report out to the entire group.

The second round of sessions will run 3:15 to 4:30 pm, followed again by reports. Reports could take the form of a lightning talk or a post here on the conference Facebook page

What discussion topic might you propose?

  • One of the themes of the Plenary Sessions (K-12 Education Policy, the Future of Higher Education, or Sustaining Learning Spaces);
  • Esri’s new ConnectED initiative;
  • Our new “ArcGIS Online for Higher Education Coaching Points” wiki;
  • Or any other GIS Education topic you have in mind!

Please plan to join us Tuesday afternoon!

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The Top Five Skills You Need for a Successful Career in GIS

What are the five most important skills that a successful professional in GIS should have? I have recorded a three-part video series (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3) wherein I address this important issue.

I begin the video series by presenting two ways of thinking about GIS in your career:  (1) As a toolset that you use in your career as a biologist, public safety officer, marketing analyst, or in another career where GIS is listed only as a required or advised set of skills;  and (2) As a GIS manager, technician, analyst, or another career where GIS or a variant is a part of the title and primary job duties.

I see GIS as a three-legged stool, one that incorporates content knowledge, skills, and the geographic perspective.  In other words, the skills alone will not guarantee success, but are a fundamental part of it.  Equally important is the content knowledge–whether in GIScience, meteorology, energy, water resources, planning, or another field.  Finally, don’t be discouraged by my mention of the geographic perspective if you feel inadequate here.  It is one of the most interesting parts of the stool, and one that might take years to develop.  Indeed, as most things in GIS, it is a lifelong endeavor, which leads me to my #1 top skill:  I can’t give it away:  Watch the video to find out!

The Top 5 Skills you need for a successful career in GIS

The Top 5 Skills you need for a successful career in GIS.

I realize that many “Top” lists are subjective, mine included.  Yet I purposely used this format for this list precisely so that the can be debated, argued, and modified.  I invite you to do so by posting your reflections and comments.

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Analyzing population data through web map buffers

Would you like to teach about population and GIS simultaneously with an easy-to-use live web mapping tool?  This can be easily done using the Esri developer site that returns block points and summary of population within a buffer in a location chosen by you, the user of the map.  After selecting a point, the map displays centroids in each of the census blocks within a one mile buffer around that point.

How can this map tool be used in education?  First, you can use it to teach the concept of spatial proximity.  Second, you can also use it to teach census geography, including census blocks, the difference between households and housing units, and the difference between blocks versus census tracts.  Third, you can use it to teach about population density and how settlement patterns vary between urban and rural areas, and the effect of physical geography such as rivers and relief.  The map begins in Lawrence, Kansas, but you can query other areas in the USA, as long as you keep the map at a large scale.

Population Buffer Map Tool

Population Buffer Map Tool.

Give it a try!

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Investigating Demographics through Population Pyramids in Live Web Maps

For decades, examining population pyramids has been an essential part of geography.  And for good reason:  In a small amount of space, they illustrate the distribution of age groups in a country, region, census enumeration district, or other geographic area. Through studying them, one quickly gets some sense of the demographic characteristics of an area.  Population pyramids are a part of the “geoenrichment” capabilities in ArcGIS Online, so named because with a touch or two of the mouse, you have instant access to additional your demographic and lifestyle data that describe income, consumer behavior, market potential, and more.  One easy way to get a sense for the possibilities available with ArcGIS Online for demographic study through population pyramids is through this demonstration web mapping resource.

Accessing the demonstration resource places you in Los Angeles County, but you can zoom and pan to other areas in the USA.  In each case, the pyramid for the one mile buffer around your chosen point is shown, with comparison to the population pyramid for the entire county containing that point.  The map must be at a medium to large scale.  The pyramid for certain areas departs significantly from the characteristics for the county as a whole, as in the case below for an area in Orange County, California. What clues on the map indicate why the pyramid is so lopsided?

Population Pyramid for an area near two universities in Irvine, California

Population Pyramid for an area near two universities in Irvine, California.

Investigate areas containing college campuses, military bases, prisons, summer homes, retirement communities, and other features.  As students begin to think spatially using these tools, ask them to pose hypotheses about the age structure of the population, and then test those hypotheses.  Discuss the effect that scale has on age data.  Discuss the impact that variables such as immigration, migration, economic conditions, local land use, and perception of place have on age structure.  Discuss the past and future age structure of chosen areas.  The possibilities are endless with this single web mapping tool.  When you use geoenrichment in your own account, note that it does consume credits, but not in this demonstration tool.  When you’re ready for more, investigate the other geoenrichment capabilities in ArcGIS Online.

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