Tag Archives: ArcGIS Online
GIS is often used to help us understand the world as it is, or was in the past, or model what it could be like in the future. But it can also be used to explore what could have been. Take the case of North Dakota and South Dakota. These two states were carved out of the Dakota Territory in 1889. President Harrison did not want to show favoritism when he signed the documents in terms of which state was admitted first, so they are listed alphabetically, with North Dakota listed as the 39th state and South Dakota listed as the 40th state. In many ways, the manner in which the two states were divided, by an east-west line near the 46th Parallel, made sense. Yet what if the territory had not been divided into North Dakota and South Dakota yet as East Dakota and West Dakota?
Several geographers over the years have speculated about the physical and cultural ‘divide’ that persists to this day. Many residents of the two states use the term “East River” to refer to lands east of the Missouri River, and “West River” to refer to lands west of the Missouri River. To me, this is the perfect lesson whose value is enhanced with the use of GIS, and specifically, the creation of data within ArcGIS desktop and the serving and sharing of that data on ArcGIS Online.
Using ArcGIS desktop, I created my two states using county lines that followed the Missouri River. What to do about the Bismarck? I left Mandan, on the west bank of the Missouri, in WD, in part because when one departs Bismarck on I-94, it really does feel like one is entering the “west”. Northwest of Bismarck, where the river turns west, I included the counties in northwestern North Dakota as part of West Dakota. The reason is that I considered that they have more physical and cultural characteristics in common with the west than the east. I highly enjoyed my next task: Selecting my two capital cities: Rapid City, “WD” and Sioux Falls, “ED”. I considered Fargo for the ED capital but settled on Sioux Falls for several reasons. Thus, Sioux Falls, ED is like Cheyenne, WY: Tucked into the corner of a vast territory. After my work in ArcGIS desktop, I shared my states on ArcGIS Online so others can use it as part of an educational lesson.
East Dakota has 79 counties. Its population rose from 637,720 in 1900 to 979,147 in 1950 to 1,119,642 by 2010. West Dakota has 40 counties. Only 65,604 lived there in 1900, in large part the miners who were still combing the Black Hills) but by 1950 it still only contained 289,571, and in 2010, 367,229 lived there. Thus, my East and West states are more lopsided in population than are the north and south states. Interestingly, over the past few years, my West Dakota is growing more rapidly than East Dakota with the expansion of the energy sector near Williston.
This activity, anchored squarely in the “what if”, helps students think spatially about physical geography, cultural geography, and history.
What sorts of “what if” scenarios can you create with a GIS?
ArcGIS Online makes it easy to create engaging content on relevant issues of our planet tied to real-time data. For example, as part of our focus on created STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) resources here at Esri, I recently created a volcanoes of the world map in ArcGIS Online with webcams.
Each webcam is tied to selected volcanoes as images tied to the popups that appear when the user clicks on each one of them. The webcams update every minute or every few minutes depending on how the webcam operator set them up. This map can serve as an engaging introduction to a unit on the differences in the types of volcanoes. And since the map is inside ArcGIS Online, additional content such as earthquakes and plate boundaries can be added with the click of the mouse. After doing so, students could investigate the relationships between all of these phenomena in a plate tectonics unit. What is the distribution of volcanoes around the world? Why do some types of plate boundaries have more volcanoes than others? Why do some volcanoes appear to be associated with earthquakes while others are not? Other questions can be investigated (why are some of the webcams dark?) and tools can be engaged (what is the closest volcano on this map to where you live?). Zoom in on specific volcanoes and change the basemap to a satellite image, exploring the land use and assessing risk to the population in the area.
Using these same simple techniques, you or your students could add additional volcanoes and webcams to my map and save it in your own account. Or you could create a different web map in ArcGIS Online examining other phenomena in real time: Traffic in a different parts of a city, trails in different ecoregions around the world, river heights and depths around the world, wildfire, weather, and much more.
How might you use these techniques and maps in your own teaching and learning?
Wouldn’t it be amazing if thousands of people could learn about the power of mapping, start making their own web maps, and begin thinking spatially in new ways? MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses) make it possible for universities to open higher education to many more students than was previously possible. Beginning 17 July 2013, Dr. Anthony C. Robinson, Geography Professor at The Pennsylvania State University, will offer a MOOC entitled “Maps and the Geospatial Revolution.” This MOOC uses the Coursera platform, which Penn State will be using for 4 other courses as well. Since Coursera launched in April 2012, 1.45 million students are enrolling in courses each month on their platform. Other platforms such as Udacity and EdX also attract large numbers. Not only are these statistics revolutionary, but the idea of mapping as a platform for the efficient functioning of society is also revolutionary. Why?
According to Robinson, this past decade has seen an explosion of new mechanisms for understanding and using location information in widely-accessible technologies. This Geospatial Revolution has resulted in the development of consumer GPS tools, interactive web maps, and location-aware mobile devices. These radical advances are making it possible for people from all walks of life to use, collect, and understand spatial information like never before.
This course is designed to help you rethink what maps are and what they can do, create your first map to tell a story, evaluate and critique the design of maps, explore what is revolutionary about Geography. This course runs for 5 weeks and will have you making maps, analyzing issues and patterns from natural hazards to ecoregions to population change, using exciting new tools such as ArcGIS Online.
Interested? Examine the excellent video series from Penn State on the geospatial revolution. Follow @MapRevolution on Twitter for updates. And most importantly, join the course!
Earth Day invokes reflection. Earth Day #1 was 1970. Cars, computers, climate, education, population … much is different, some better, some more troubling. We dance along some very slippery slopes. We need more respect for our little spaceship and its layer upon layer of complex, interconnected, and powerful but by no means indestructible systems. Only education can save our planet, and education requires engagement. We can all live more sustainably. But educators bear extra responsibility, to involve youth in more activities embracing our world. Not through fragmenting knowledge but through integration … activities that engage youth with the richness of the planet, the wealth of subjects and senses, and the passion of a holistic experience.
It is easy to do, even with only a little bit of field data. Think about an activity you do, or what your students would like to do. Gather some data, take some photos, record the experience, construct a table, drop it on a map, and bring forth a simple story.
A simple video shows the process, from designing a table to moving data onto a map to saving and sharing the story. You will see how utterly simple it can be, and how engaging. (See the video via YouTube or DropBox.)
Try it. Better yet, share the video with kids and let them do it. Let them do projects that entice them to think holistically. We need young people to care enough about Earth to explore, learn, and make critical decisions, thinking holistically, not just about one single measure. Start small and build.
Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager
Small but powerful, iPads have taken hold in many classrooms. With good connectivity, these tablets offer rich exploration, data gathering, analysis, and presentation, via ArcGIS Online. Lacking the horsepower, browser plugins, and multi-function mouse of a full computer, there are limits, but savvy users can still accomplish quite a lot.
The ArcGIS for iOS app opens existing projects containing modest data sets. With sustained wifi or cell connection, field data entry is a snap, including adding on-site photo/video and using GPS-based location. Swapping basemaps and turning layers on and off just requires accessing side panels. Shifting between multiple accounts is easy, as the app can store full connection info.
But I just use the iPad’s regular web browser, because it permits full access to authoring (including saving and sharing), layer controls like transparency, and the rich and growing body of ArcGIS Online data and analysis power, just like my computer. It takes only a few seconds to get used to tapping to focus the tablet’s attention and then tapping again to engage a control.
Even maps with data loads that overtax the ArcGIS for iOS app (such as “GLOBEdemo” above) often work inside the iPad’s web browser. This means that, if you can do it on a computer in a regular browser, including playing a presentation (such as “TX Demographics” below), you can usually do it on an iPad.
Many schools today are looking for reasons to use the banks of iPads they have acquired, particularly in activities that engage students in analysis and presentation. ArcGIS Online provides unlimited opportunity for educators who are willing to unleash students in exploring, creating, and analyzing data.
Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager
Everyone wants kids to be problem solvers. Developing this skill takes practice, just as do public speaking, dance, chess, programming, dish washing, or video games. Students crave puzzles to solve … interesting, meaningful puzzles. Not fake ones (“a train leaves Chicago at 8AM and averages 40 mph …”) but real-life puzzles. Geographic information systems like ArcGIS Online provide infinite opportunity.
Recent upgrades to ArcGIS Online added key analytical tools (see Fun with GIS 136 and Fun with GIS 140), some to all users, some just to Organization accounts. But analyses depend on data. The latest update has provided Organizations with easy access (see image at right) to powerful new data for analysis: not just more recent content, but rich attributes. And now the individual sub-layers of information can displayed as tables, sorted, queried, and even have their classification and symbolization schemes changed. This opens vast opportunity for analysis, in search of ever deeper grasp of patterns and relationships.
By giving students puzzles pertaining to their community, or comparing their broad region with a distant place, students can see more clearly the powerful forces influencing lives across the land. With improved access to authoritative data sets, students working in Organizations can focus on substantive questions about meaning, in search of solutions.
The puzzles of the world abound, and we need desperately for young people to develop both the skills to solve them and the disposition to seek them out. A mental diet rich in real-world puzzles like those visible on ArcGIS Online will help young people build a much more secure future for themselves … and for all of us as well.
Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager
Analysis solves problems. It’s that simple. Almost any puzzling situation about the world, from “How could we improve safety at school?” or “Where are the people who want my product?” to “How could we reduce human impact on climate?” is a geographic question that can be addressed through analyzing geographic data. This is why GIS is such a powerful technology for helping young people build long-term thinking skills, relevant background knowledge, a vision of their own impact on community and planet, and interest in and capacity for college and career.
In a previous blog about analysis, I highlighted the filter and query capacities in ArcGIS Online. These elements are available to any user working with feature data published recently through ArcGIS Online. For instance, in a map about education data containing two layers of state data (per pupil expenditures, graduation and dropouts), in addition to opening popups, anyone can open the tables, choose fields, and do queries of each layer.
But there are now new analytical capacities available to users of ArcGIS Online Organizations, and more on the way. Suppose you have a layer of point data, such as the layer in this map showing the locations of professional football stadiums. (Perhaps there is a wild hypothesis to explore, about spending on things other than education, which might affect graduation rates.) By pulling up the properties menu for a feature layer in the map, users who are logged into an ArcGIS Online Organization will see a new set of analysis options, with even more tools on the way. The Esri Federal Conference movies (especially the afternoon video, 53:00-55:00) show the power of these tools.
Geographic analysis is a power tool for analyzing data in order to understand conditions and solve problems. Students can begin such analyses even at a young age, finding the percentage of ant colonies more than 25 meters from vegetation, or the hot spots for trash along a road, or a possible pattern followed for historic burials in a local cemetery. Analyzing data for which they have a hand in the collection and processing, they will develop deeper connections to their existing understanding of the world, and build skills for solving any problem.
This is what colleges and employers seek – people who can explore unfamiliar or puzzling situations, analyze data, integrate information, communicate interpretations, and collaborate with others. Analytical skills are built for life.
Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager
Using topographic maps to study landforms has been a key part of Geography and Earth Science instruction for over a century. It has never been easier to do, thanks to the seamless USGS topographic maps for the USA and the base topographic map for the world available in ArcGIS Online. I have created a set of 12 questions and a map containing 20 landforms as a starting point for these investigations.
Remember the old days when the landform you were seeking to analyze seemed to inevitably fall across corners of 4 topographic paper map sheets? The USGS maps, originally published at 1:24,000, 1:100,000, and 1:250,000 scales, display seamlessly in ArcGIS Online – no more corners! The map above opens to the Ennis, Montana area, on the classic alluvial fan that has long been a staple with these sorts of investigations.
Questions include the following, which can be used as is or as a springboard for your own questions.
Use the bookmarks to zoom to the 1:24,000-scale map. Measure the distance between each contour line. Determine the contour interval by reading the numbers on the contours. Calculate the slope in percentage and in degrees. Calculate the slope of the fan again using the 1:100,000 scale map. Is this measurement different than the measurement you calculated using the 1:24,000 scale map? Explain a few reasons for possible differences. Calculate the slope in another location on the fan. Is the slope similar to your other reading? Why are slopes so constant on an alluvial fan?
Calculate the area of the alluvial fan using the square mile grid shown on the topographic map as a guide, and the scale bar in the lower left of your ArcGIS Online map window. Then compare this measurement against what you get by using the measure tool above the map. Be sure to indicate the units you are using. Name 3 differences in the type and number of features shown on USGS maps at the 3 different scales. Why do these differences exist?
Examine the following features, each of which is accessible through the Bookmarks above the map. For each landform, indicate: What is the name of the landform? What is the location of the landform? How did the landform form? What did the landform and area look like 100 years ago? 1000 years ago? Why? What will the landfrom and area look like 100 years from now? 1000 years from now? Why? Would you classify the landform as rapidly changing or slowly changing? Why? How has the landform influenced human activity and settlement in this area? How have humans modified the landform, if at all, in this area? What is the climate and vegetation like in this area? Can you find the same landforms in other areas? If so, where are they?
The 20 landforms included in the map and lesson are a tombolo, a col, a salt dome, lava beds, marine terraces, the Llano Estacado, sand hills, drumlins, moraines, a caldera, an estuary, karst, a water gap, a tarn, an arete, a structural dome, a slow moving landslide, trellis drainage, an oxbow lake, and an inselberg. The lesson also includes comparison of landscapes shaped by the public land survey system, long lots, and metes and bounds.
You can use ArcGIS Online to draw your own points, lines, and areas on the topographic map using “Add” and “Create Editable Layer.” Link your features to text, photos, and videos. Save your map (requires either a personal or an organizational ArcGIS Online account). You can also add USGS topographic maps to any ArcGIS Online map through the “Add” function by searching for “USA Topo.” You can also use the Add tool to add climate, weather, ecoregions, and other layers to help you understand the interaction between climate and landforms.
Working outside the USA? Then make sure your base map is set to “Topographic” and you can explore landforms using a topographic map base all around the world!
“I can’t do GIS.” It still stuns me when I hear that, especially from an intelligent adult. OK, geographic information systems are robust, can engage many sets of data, and are key for tackling complex problems like climate analysis, urban planning, routing school buses, or optimizing service locations. But, seriously … “can’t do”?
In recent weeks, I’ve visited various sites, including:
- an impoverished urban school with poor connectivity and blocks preventing signing in to ArcGIS Online, but, with encouragement from teachers, the kids were able to make maps and explore local data on a set of iPads brought in;
- an impoverished rural school with poor connectivity, and only one big monitor for projection and demo, as long as I could do it from an iPad;
- a conference center with modest internet, where 50kids from grades 3-12 doubled up on computers and eventually closed half of those to get enough bandwidth to practice, and some had only a once-cached image to provide geographic context onto which they dragged a table of lat/long data, which –bang! – hopped in place and permitted exploration and analysis.
In two decades at this job, I’ve watched teachers and kids with a dearth of resources produce results far beyond those from some schools with all the resources, talent, and opportunity desired. GIS takes two key capacities: (a) the ability to think geographically, grasp differences between here and there, and understand patterns and relationships; and (b) the willingness to use various tools to explore, analyze, and present data.
As a test, I decided to make a simple map in ArcGIS Online, using just my iPhone. If you have the ArcGIS app on a smartphone, the system defaults into that app, which facilitates viewing. But I used the browser to access the regular starting page.
Then it was just a matter of sliding the screen here and there to access the items I needed to make, save, and share a basic map. Not the easiest way to make this map, and not the ideal way to learn the technology, but quite doable, and really the only way to author and share from a phone.
Recently, the US Dept of Education published a research paper on grit, tenacity, and perseverance. Outstanding! Education is vastly more than the accumulation of standard facts for regurgitation. I have watched and listened to enough teachers and students who succeed with GIS to know that anyone can, but some folks struggle with the opportunity (need) to make choices, and the need to learn by doing. Getting students to move beyond “paint by numbers” requires attempting, stumbling, trying again, and repeating. I’m not sure this is in any formal education standard, but every teacher and parent knows it’s true. And, boy, are employers ever looking for this.
- Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager