Monthly Archives: September 2007

2008 EdUC Call for Papers

August 2-5, 2008
San Diego Marriott Hotel & Marina

Call for Presentations

Please submit by November 2, 2007.

Join us for the 2008 ESRI Education User Conference (EdUC)
to share knowledge about geographic learning and geospatial methods in
education settings. The conference welcomes beginner and advanced GIS
users from elementary, secondary, and higher education; libraries and
museums; research; and community organizations involved in geographic

EdUC is an active forum, providing time to converse with
colleagues; experience hands-on workshops; and learn about GIS in the
classroom, GIS in the community, and serving GIS knowledge in society.
Administrators will benefit from discussion of GIS for school district
planning, university site licenses, developing degree programs and
certificates, and career and technical education.

Presentation Topics
GIS users may submit topics for
20- to 25-minute presentations for moderated paper sessions and panel
discussions in the following tracks:

  • GIS for administration, planning, and policy
  • Using GIS in libraries and museums
  • Community projects and partnerships
  • Educational research and teacher education
  • Teaching with GIS in schools
  • Teaching GIS in higher education
  • Supporting a GIS program

New in 2008 will be the Illustrated Paper Session -
five-minute presentations in poster or PowerPoint format (five slides
or fewer), followed by small group discussions with the authors.

Submit an Abstract Now
To submit an abstract, simply
create or log in to your EdUC account and write a brief description of
your topic and the key points that the presentation will cover. Your
abstract will be read and evaluated by the ESRI education team, and you
will be notified if your presentation is accepted.

We kindly request that you submit your topic by November 2, 2007.

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Measuring the Circumference of the Earth Using GPS

Eratosthenes was a Greek
mathematician, geographer, and astronomer who lived from 276 to 194 BC.  He was
the first known person to accurately measure the circumference of the Earth,
doing so by measuring sun angles in water wells at two different points along
the same line of longitude in north Africa.   With a GPS receiver, you and your students can incorporate some of
Eratosthenes’ methods to accurately measure the circumference of the Earth to
within 1% of the accepted value.  Using this lesson, students start by learning
about Eratosthenes, who calculated the circumference 2,500 years ago.  Next,
they go into the field–which could be right on the school grounds or university
campus–to calculate the circumference in a variety of different ways.  They
also calculate the Earth’s mass and volume.  This lesson incorporates scale,
measurement, field work, coordinate systems, and brings together mathematics,
geography, and physics, is powerful, and yet simple to conduct.  How close are
your measurements to the accepted values of the Earth’s circumference, mass, and

- Joseph Kerski, ESRI Education Manager

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Live Training Seminars

Live Training Seminars are a great way to introduce
students to training on specialized topics or new features of software.  Each Live Training Seminar lasts
approximately 60 minutes and is broadcast from ESRI in Redlands – usually during three time slots so
that you can pick the most convenient time for your time zone.  You or your students can sign up as an
individual (
or you can, if you have the ability to share the web site and listen to the
Seminar in a lab, sign up for your class. 
A schedule of Live Seminars can be found at
and you can ask to be reminded of the date and time automatically.  If you miss a Live Training Seminar on a
topic that is of interest to you our your students, you can usually access it as
a Recorded Seminar (  Most of these Recorded Seminars are free or,
if there has been material added to the Seminar such as an exercise module, it
can be taken for a nominal fee.  If your
institution is part of a Site License, you can contact your Site License
Administrator who can provide you with registration codes for your self or your
students for ESRI authored Virtual Campus Courses.  A list of courses available to Site License
schools is located at:

- Ann Johnson, ESRI Education Manager

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Creating Animations in ArcMap

ArcGIS 9.2 introduces
the ability to create animations in ArcMap. The new Animation toolbar in ArcMap
makes it possible to animate time-series data without requiring the ArcGIS
Tracking Analyst extension. Other potential uses of the animation tools are to
reveal more information by fading layers with the transparency tool, or to alter
the view by zooming in and out or panning the display.

Animations can be run in
the ArcMap window or they can be exported to standalone video files (avi or
Quicktime) and played separately.  Any
data with a date or value field in the attribute table can be animated through time,
including feature classes, raster catalogs, netCDF data and charts.

As more historical data
become available in GIS format, the possibilities for examining population
dynamics and other landscape processes increase dramatically through map
animations.  For example, the National
Historic GIS ( and the Atlas of Historical County Boundaries  ( provide access to
historical Census data and boundary files for the United States.

Click for Population Animation
Click to view population animation.

addition, many research libraries are scanning their historical topographic map
and aerial photo collections.  The
Western Association of Map Libraries has created a clearinghouse for map
scanning projects (  Currently, 56 projects are registered with
the clearinghouse, covering topographic maps for several states, several world
maps, and various other maps, many of which are available for download.

- Angela Lee, ESRI Education Manager

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Mapping Nationwide High School Graduation Data

A new online mapping engine puts graduation data in front of educators,
administrators, policy makers, and parents across the country.
Editorial Projects in Education (EPE) Research Center has issued a
groundbreaking report called Diplomas Count and worked with ESRI to produce the EdWeek Maps Web site. The site allows users to see
graduation data at the district level and compare school districts and
states across the nation at no cost.

For more information, visit:

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New ArcGIS Explorer Tasks: Wikipedia Search and Find GNIS

The geographic functions that ArcGIS Explorer performs are known as “tasks.”

ArcGIS Explorer comes with a suite of tasks, such as Measure, Find Place, and Get Driving Directions, preloaded in the default map. Other tasks, such as Identify, can be engaged via the Manage Tasks item in the Tools menu. Still others are being designed by users and ESRI staff for particular actions, and some of them are being shared for general use. The place to discover tasks and other shared content is at the ArcGIS Explorer Community Showcase.

Two new public tasks bring added spatial data and geographic capacity to ArcGIS Explorer: Wikipedia Search and Find GNIS. The former makes use of Web services sponsored by to search for Wikipedia entries that have a spatial context. “Find by Location” allows you to tag a location on the map and then designate a search radius for content. The second search choice performs a query by place name. Both bring back Wikipedia content that can be explored as linked map points.

Find GNIS also performs searches. Here the content is the Geographic Names Information System created by the US Geological Survey. The database contains location and some attribute data for nearly 2 million human and natural geographic features in the United States and its territories. This task directs you to select a geographic area (state/territory and then county/equivalent, if desired) followed by feature type.  (NOTE: While it seems sensible that you could select a feature type without any geographic parameters, you can’t. The GNIS query form is not set up that way at USGS and possibly for very obvious reasons: Queries on common features like “lake” or “cemetery” could net tens of thousands of records and probably not be a very savory online experience.)

The way to engage both of these tasks is to have ArcGIS Explorer up and running, click the ArcGIS Explorer Community Showcase task links and simply “Open” the associated NMFs. The new tasks will appear in the Task Center in the ArcGIS Explorer table of contents. You are ready to perform some geographic data searches.

Below is a screenshot showing the use of both tasks. Initially, a GNIS query to find “craters” in Texas was performed. One was identified, the Odessa Meteor Crater, along with a bit of additional information about it. Next, the Wikipedia Search task was activated to discover spatial content proximate to the crater. Using the “Find by Location” tab, the GNIS location for the Odessa Meteor Crater on the map was clicked to tag the center of the search area and a radius was set. The search brought back 10 entries, one of which is information about the city that gives its name to the feature, Odessa about 16 miles from the crater. Although difficult to see in the results portion of the table of contents, another link has been added to the crater location, the Earth Impact Database at the University of New Brunswick providing more information about the crater. Saving the map also saved the added tasks as part of the new NMF. This can be used as a new default map as these are very handy tasks to have active. Likewise using the Manage Tasks item in the Tools menu, you can remove/add these tasks as desired.

- George Dailey, ESRI Education Manager

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Using Excel to Add Attributes to a Shapefile

ArcLesson: Using
Excel to Add Attributes to a Shapefile

Users of full-scale GIS tools are accustomed to being able
to edit the attribute table of a shapefile. This allows creation of new fields
for new data, calculations, and so forth. AEJEE users are pretty much stuck
with the data as they are presented. Except … if a user has access to the
shapefile’s component parts, and understands how to do it, an AEJEE user (on
either Windows or Macintosh) can
make some changes to an attribute table.

ArcLesson item
shows the process. The downloadable zipfile contains two items:

a document explaining the process and a movie showing it in
action. The movie shows the use of Excel to create a new field in the
“states.dbf” file and populating it with a calculation based on two
other fields. There are some important items to consider in the process, so a
little practice is a good thing here, but AEJEE users without access to more
robust GIS capacity can still make some key changes to data, and set up
powerful new exploration capabilities.

[In attempting this, users should keep in mind that the DBF
file format has some field name constraints: (a) field names in a DBF file can
be no longer than 10 characters; (b) the only characters permitted in field
names in a DBF file are letters, numbers, underscore, and hyphen; and (c) a
field name in a DBF file cannot begin with a number.]

- Charlie Fitzpatrick, ESRI Education Manager

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GIS and GPS: A More Perfect Union

A growing number of educators
are using GIS to teach with–everything from volcanoes to watersheds to
population to trade balances.  Concurrently, a growing number of educators are
also using GPS to teach with, gathering and using field data–anything from pH
and dissolved oxygen in streams and lakes to the dates for historical buildings
to tree height and species, and marking the latitude-longitude locations of each
data point.

Have you ever thought about
using GIS in combination with GPS?  The use of GPS in
combination with GIS represents a powerful toolkit that incorporates field work,
geography, mathematics, Earth Science, technology, history, environmental
studies, and other disciplines.  Using this comprehensive guide in ArcLessons
will help you make the most out of both technologies to begin mapping and
analyzing your field data.  The guide explains how to use powerful web-based GIS
(such as ArcWeb Explorer and ArcGIS Explorer) as well as desktop GIS — ArcGIS
and ArcExplorer — to make the most out of GIS and GPS.  Download the guidelines
from and
start your journey!

- Joseph Kerski, ESRI Education Manager

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Viewing Metadata from ArcMap

It’s now
possible to view metadata for any layer directly from ArcMap, ArcGlobe or
ArcScene.  Simply right-click a layer in
the Table of Contents and choose “Data > View Metadata.”  This opens a new floating Metadata window, giving
you access to the metadata without having to open ArcCatalog.  You can even open Metadata windows for
multiple layers at one time to easily compare information.

- Angela Lee, ESRI Education Manager 

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NASA Earth Observations (NEO) and ArcGIS Explorer

The NASA Earth Observations (NEO) Web site is an excellent place to uncover an ongoing rich set of global earth science data focused on climate and environmental changes. The site includes time series satellite images on several dozen topics such as sea surface temperature, vegetation index, and total rainfall. Besides the ability to explore these images via the site’s viewer, users also can bring the data into ArcGIS. These planetary images are particularly compelling when coupled with ArcGIS Explorer.

Basically, there are three ways to bring NEO image files into ArcGIS Explorer: locally as a GeoTIFF, or dynamically as a WMS (Web Map Service) or Google Earth KMZ.

GeoTIFF download. On the main NEO page just to the right of the image viewer is an area labeled as “Download Options.” In addition to image size and color choices is a drop-down list for image file type. Select your preferred image, e.g., sea surface temperature, tag GeoTIFF (a type of georeferenced image file), and click “Get Image.” Save the file to your local drive (Tip: As you do this, rename it to something you’ll recognize). Fire up ArcGIS Explorer. In the “Open Content” dialog box (Ctrl+O), select “Raster,” navigate to where you have stored the GeoTIFF, and drape it as a layer on the 3D globe. You are now ready to explore this locally stored image.

Dynamic WMS. NASA also hosts its data as a Web Map Service or WMS. ArcGIS Explorer readily makes use of these services. Adding the NEO WMS server starts the same way you add other content-via the “Open Content” dialog window, and then connecting to the NEO WMS server ( as a “Map and Globe Service”. If you are not familiar with this procedure, open ArcGIS Explorer Help and do a search on “WMS.”  From these results, explore especially the topics: “Opening Content” and “Selecting WMS Layers.” Once the service is connected, select a single layer to start such as total rainfall.  You are now navigating a dynamic layer. (Tip: Initial explorations of these WMS layers in ArcGIS Explorer will build up disk cache. This makes subsequent visits to the same geography and zoom levels much faster.)

Google Earth KMZ. A third way to bring NEO data into ArcGIS Explorer is via the site’s KMZ files. As you investigate different NEO layers, you will note the phrase-Open in Google Earth-associated with each in the NEO Search Results listings. A right-click and “Save Target As…” allows you to download the KMZ file associated with most layers, such as vegetation index. In the ArcGIS Explorer “Open Content” window, select KML and navigate to the file you retrieved and begin exploring. Here’s  an example: A comparison of vegetation index for July 2007 (as a WMS layer) and the same index for January 2007 (added as a KMZ layer). The “line” crossing North America is a result of using ArcGIS Explorer’s “Swipe” function to visually compare the two sets of data clearly showing winter and summer differences in this part of the northern hemisphere.

- George Dailey, ESRI K-12 Education Program Manager

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