Author Archives: Joseph Kerski

Joseph Kerski
Joseph Kerski is a geographer who believes that spatial analysis through digital mapping can transform education and society through better decision-making using the geographic perspective. He serves on the Esri education team and is active in GIS communication and outreach, creates GIS-based curriculum, conducts research in the effectiveness of GIS in education, teaches online and face-to-face courses on spatial thinking and analysis, and fosters partnerships to support GIS in formal and informal education at all levels, internationally. He is the co-author of Spatial Mathematics, The Essentials of the Environment, The GIS Guide to Public Domain Data, and other books. Follow him on Twitter @josephkerski

Recent Posts

Celebrate the Use of GIS in Society on GIS Day!

Our world faces complex challenges that are global in nature but also are increasingly affecting our everyday lives.  These challenges occur at multiple scales, locations, time periods, and cross national boundaries.  To grapple with these challenges requires robust tools and data sets, and people who can effectively use them.  Every day, people are using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to make decisions that help people live healthier, safer lives on a more sustainable planet.   How can someone learn about these tools and data sets, and the people who use them?  One way is through GIS Day.

GIS Day (www.gisday.com) provides an international forum for users of GIS technology to demonstrate real-world applications that are making these positive differences in our society.  This year, GIS Day falls on Wednesday, 16 November 2016.  GIS Day is a fun and engaging way to celebrate the benefits that GIS provides, to learn more about GIS, to showcase the uses of GIS, and to connect with those in your community who are using GIS.

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Alaska Revealed

Exciting news from the Arctic! Version 2 of the Arctic DEM has been released. Topographic elevation of the Arctic can now be viewed and analyzed like never before. This release extends the detailed 2 meter Alaska elevation data with additional 2m data for Novaya Zemlya and Franz Josef Land, as well as preliminary 8 meter data for the entire Arctic.  Additional detailed 2 meter elevation data will be released in quarterly installments over 2017 until the arctic data is complete.  This is the result of a partnership between Esri, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, the National Science Foundation, and the Polar Geospatial Center at the University of Minnesota.

In September 2016, the White House hosted an Arctic Ministerial meeting, with over 20 countries represented, where this data was showcased and new commitments on data provisions were sought.  The goal of the meeting and the function of the new data is to help people better understand, adapt to, and address the changing conditions in the Arctic.

The four key themes include:

  • Understanding Arctic-Science Challenges and their Regional and Global Implications.
  • Strengthening and Integrating Arctic Observations and Data Sharing.
  • Applying Expanded Scientific Understanding of the Arctic to Build Regional Resilience and Shape Global Responses.
  • Using Arctic Science as a Vehicle for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Education and Citizen Empowerment.

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Why GIS in Education Matters

Teaching spatial thinking empowers the populace with the skills to understand and act upon the big issues facing planet Earth.

People have always been fascinated with investigating their home—the Earth. To help understand our planet, ancient scholars in Rome, Greece, and China founded the study of geography more than 2,500 years ago.

Today, spatial thinking is more relevant than ever before, as issues such as climate change, economic globalization, urban sprawl, biodiversity loss, sustainable agriculture, water quality and quantity, crime, cultural diversity, energy, tourism, political instability, and natural hazards grow in importance on a global scale but also increasingly affect our everyday lives.

To grapple with these issues requires a populace that has a firm foundation in spatial thinking—a populace that can see the “big picture,” but that also understands how different patterns and trends are related, from a global scale all the way down to their local community.

Spatial thinking is concerned with all of the relevant issues of our time, because all of these issues have a geographic component. Continue reading

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16 Things We Can Do to Increase Geoliteracy

Many of the big issues the world is facing today are fundamentally tied to space and place—they are geographic issues. To grapple with these issues requires a population that can assess and use geographic information to make wise decisions—in short, a geoliterate population. Creating a geoliterate population requires cultivation in three essential areas: core content, geographic tools, and the geographic perspective.

Core content. While core content is important, it is often maligned, perhaps because it is often equated with memorization of facts for examinations. Geography’s core content is richer than mere facts—and much of it is systems thinking: ecosystems, and systems of climate, culture, watersheds, oceans, land use, governments, and many more. Core content focuses include learning about natural phenomena such as how ocean currents affect climate, and cultural phenomena, such as sense of place.

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Mastering Spatial Thinking through Web Mapping

Teaching spatial thinking concepts and their practical application through hands-on exploration prepares today’s students for tomorrow’s jobs. 

Spatial thinking is identifying, analyzing, and understanding the location, scale, patterns, and trends of the geographic and temporal relationships among data, phenomena, and issues.  Spatial thinking helps us better understand our world and solve the tough problems we face today.

Geo-technologies—which include geographic information systems (GIS), remote sensing, global positioning systems (GPS), and web mapping—are the way we apply spatial thinking concepts to our everyday lives.  In 2004, the US Department of Labor identified three rapidly growing fields for the 21st Century: Nanotechnology, biotechnology, and geo-technology. Teaching the concepts of spatial thinking and the use of geo-technologies to today’s students is important because it’s where the jobs are—and will continue to be in the future. Continue reading

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Geography on the World Stage

The convergence of five global trends—geo-awareness, geo-enablement, geotechnologies, citizen science, and storytelling—has the potential to offer geography a world audience.

Five converging global trends may present geography with world attention that may be unprecedented in the history of the discipline. These include geo-awareness, geo-enablement, geotechnologies, citizen science, and storytelling. Each of these recent trends is transforming the audience for geography and how geography is taught, perceived, and used.

Issues central to geography are now part of the global consciousness. Everyday objects are rapidly becoming locatable, and thus able to be monitored and mapped. Many tools and data sets that were formerly used and examined only by geographers and other earth and environmental scientists are now in the hands of the general public. Citizens outside academia are becoming involved in contributing data to the scientific community. Multimedia and cloud-based GIS have greatly multiplied the attraction that maps have had for centuries to tell stories. Continue reading

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Three Ways Open Data is Already Benefiting GIS Users

Adoption of ArcGIS Open Data has big implications well beyond the Esri user community.        

According to Esri’s 2014 Open Data  year in review,  more than 750 organizations around the world have joined ArcGIS Open Data,  publishing 391 public sites, resulting in 15,848 open data sets shared.  These organizations include more than 100 cities, 43 countries, and 35 US states.  At the beginning of 2015, the organizations represented included 390 from North America, 157 from Europe, 121 from Africa, 39 from Asia, and 22 from Oceania.  More than 42,000 shapefiles, KML files, and CSV files were downloaded from these sites since July 2014.  Recently, we wrote about one of these sites, the Maryland Open Data Portal.  Another is the set of layers from the city of Launceton, in Tasmania, Australia. Continue reading

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Teaching Geography in the Twenty-First Century

New Tools Are Available to Teach Geography in More Engaging, Dynamic, and Effective Ways

Geography is considered one of the world’s oldest disciplines. It was first defined and formally established by Eratosthenes in 250 BC and has a rich tradition of scholarship extending from 2,000 years ago to the present. As a scientific discipline, geography has always embraced new technologies, research practices, instructional methods, skills, and content.

Teaching geography in the 21st Century includes working with mobile and online mapping tools, in addition to traditional focuses such as physical and cultural geography, fieldwork, and understanding landscapes.

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Making It Stick: Three Truths about Teaching with GIS

In their insightful book about the science of successful learning, Make It StickPeter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, and Mark A. McDaniel spell out some truths about learning.  In addition, they dispel some preconceived notions that many of us may have about learning that simply aren’t valid.  I believe that three of these truths are instructive as to how we as the GIS community should approach teaching and learning with GIS: learning is deeper and more durable when it’s effortful, learning requires a foundation of prior knowledge, and putting knowledge into a larger context helps learning.


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Geoenabling Citizen Science

Every issue from pollution to habitat to biodiversity and beyond has a geographic component, and thus can be studied in the field.  Because the world is rapidly changing, and because large organizations have cut back on many of their field staffs, much of the critically needed field data can and should come from citizen scientists.

What is “citizen science”?

“Citizen science is scientific research conducted, in whole or in part, by amateur or nonprofessional scientists, often by crowdsourcing and crowdfunding.”

Wikipedia

Consider the major environmental issues of our 21st Century world:  Coastal erosion, air, soil, and water pollution, urbanization, desertification, habitat loss, invasive species, and Continue reading

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