Monthly Archives: October 2007

Around the World with an Aussie GIS Educator

Australian Malcolm McInerney has something in common with Phileas Fogg of London: Both are globe girdlers. Jules Verne’s hero went Around the World in Eighty Days on a wager. Malcolm, who hails from Adelaide, is doing it in less than half that time on a quest to better understand the passions, possibilities, and pitfalls in spreading the use of GIS in education, particularly in schools. Malcolm is a high school geography teacher with a current posting at the South Australian Department of Education, and is one of the primary voices and change agents in GIS education in Australia. Underwriting his international investigations is a fellowship from the Australian Winston Churchill Memorial Trust.

Malcolm is sharing his saga and his discoveries (including various geographic observations) via his SpatialWorlds blog. Thus far, he is halfway through his ed-venture and half a world away from home with current location in Toronto.

As he and I spent time together in Dallas and at the National Council for Geographic Education conference in Oklahoma City, it was clear that his blog needs a map. So, I offer this personal blog entry as a pathway as to how you can join Malcolm on his journey using ArcGIS Explorer (AGX).

Malcolm’s basic itinerary is

Adelaide, South Australia Washington, DC (USA)
Hong Kong, China New York City, New York (USA)
Dallas, Texas (USA) Toronto, Canada
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (USA) London, UK
Arlington County, Virginia (USA) Canterbury, UK
Harrisonburg, Virginia (USA) Cornwall, somewhere near Truro, UK
Charlottesville, Virginia (USA) Back home to Adelaide

Using the AGX Find Place task I compiled a global pushpin map of Malcolm’s basic destinations. (NOTE: Entering locations in the order shown above actually positions them in the reverse order of the visit in the Results window. Once located, I simply “grabbed” each entry in the list and moved it to the appropriate spot…or I could have located them in reverse order [from finish to start] which would put them in the preferred sequence.)

Next, I wanted to link Malcolm’s blog entries and items of interest with the geography he was/is exploring. I experimented with this in two ways: Adding a link to a location in the Results window such as the entries under the Oklahoma City result-two of Malcolm’s blog postings and a place he explored there, the Oklahoma City National Memorial. (NOTE: From the SpatialWorlds blog page, I clicked the named entry I wanted and copied the entry-specific URL. Back in AGX, I right-clicked the OKC location entry, selected “Add a link,” and pasted the blog URL. I also renamed the entries to my liking. Clicking on a new OKC Results window addition opened that link in my Web browser.)

A second way of linking Malcolm’s geocontent to my map is by using the “Create Notes” task. Interested in having his text and photographic entries appear inside the map, I grabbed another of his blog entry URLs-Washington, DC, pasted it in the “Note Text” window, gave the note a title, and used the “point” tool to position a pushpin (which I resymbolized [right click the pushpin > Properties > Appearance, Symbol]) in the vicinity of the Washington Monument. Clicking the new map feature launched the blog page inside a “balloon” pop-up window.

So, where could we go next with this…well that depends on Malcolm and our own creativity: What he shares with all of us via his blog and what we see inside that content? Besides the descriptive stories he is providing, he also is supplying us with information about places (general and specific), such as his geographic questions about Hong Kong, which we could explore in greater detail with AGX, ArcWeb Explorer, ArcExplorer Java Edition for Education, and other geographic tools and data, and use as a jumping off point for our own investigations. 

What could each of us investigate: Anything and everything? For instance, where have you and your students traveled, what is like there? Or, what about Mr. Verne’s protagonist, Phileas Fogg? While his mythical adventure took place over 130 years ago, he encountered real places…and his basic itinerary is waiting for you.

- George Dailey, ESRI Education Manager

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4-H at the ESRI Latin America User Conference

A collaborative group of five youth and two adults will travel to the Dominican Republic to present their GIS projects in the plenary session for ESRI’s Latin America and Caribbean User’s Conference.

The group includes three youth from Washington County, Oregon – Clara, Lizbeth, and Luis and two youth from North Carolina – Christian and Gabriel

Washington County youth will be presenting the 4-H Intel Tech Wizards’ Hillsboro Street Tree Project. Their presentation includes: A PowerPoint presentation where the youth present their project, and show the maps, a review of the equipment that is used, and a demo of their ArcGIS 9.2 project. In this demo, they talk about the quality of the data, how they manage it and collaborate with a professional GIS User.

The North Carolina youth will be presenting their project involving gang member populations in their community.

The faculty members will be discussing value added returns to professional GIS users, in collaborating with 4-H GIS groups.

Visit the group’s blog at:

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"Play Ball!" in AEJEE

One of the most delightful aspects of geography is seeing it in all views of the world, large and small. Geography is everywhere because geography *IS* everywhere. And with easy, free, dual platform tools like ArcExplorer Java Edition for Education (AEJEE), you can see it and explore it easily. Major League Baseball is winding down for 2007 but, even if your favorite team didn’t make it into the World Series, you can still explore some delightful lessons, with corollaries in your own home town.

There is a new resource available for free download from the ArcLessons website. “Play Ball! Spatial Analysis of Baseball using GIS” asks users to explore the homes of the 2007 World Series participants — Coors Field for the Colorado Rockies and Fenway Park for the Boston Red Sox. The download includes images and shapefiles, and users get to consider all manner of questions.

The file contains both .mxd project files for use with ArcView 9 and .axl projects files for use with AEJEE 2.3. Since this is a situation of analysis rather than data creation, anyone can explore it easily in AEJEE. Compare the distances between bases, or “home run friendliness”. Look at the orientation and explore sun angles of different positions at different times of day. Check out the surrounding land use and think about options for expanded parking, retail, or the like. It’s a fabulous opportunity for any fan!

- Charlie Fitzpatrick, ESRI Education Manager

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Mapping Data As It Happens: Using GeoRSS Feeds in ArcWeb Explorer

Many of you know that ArcWeb Explorer (AWX), available on the Internet by accessing, is a powerful Geographic Information System (GIS) squeezed into your web browser.  It can create street maps, demographic data maps, and satellite image maps.  You can find locations by URL, street address, latitude/longitude, find your computer, and map your own data via Excel spreadsheets. 

But did you also know that you can map phenomena stored as GeoRSS feeds?  GeoRSS is a standard for encoding location as part of a Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feed.  RSS is an XML format used to describe feeds (“channels”) of content, and GeoRSS feeds are designed to be consumed by geographic software such as map generators, including ArcWeb Explorer.  Use it to map geographic content that is already online so that you can analyze it spatially within AWX.  GeoRSS feeds are rapidly expanding on the Internet.  Start with a simple yet powerful example.

Let’s say you wanted to map the latest earthquakes around the world inside ArcWeb Explorer.  Access the site:

Under “RSS Feeds”, select one of the red “CAP” buttons.  When this page loads, copy the URL in the browser window.  In ArcWeb Explorer, use the Find tool, paste the URL in the Find window, and select “Go”:

The earthquakes will map in their correct locations, as shown below:

The text on each point can be selected.  If one selects the text, a “read more” option allows each earthquake to be more fully investigated:

We encourage you to experiment with other GeoRSS feeds to map other spatial phenomena-weather, geographic names, accidents, and more.

- Joseph Kerski & Tom Baker, ESRI Education Managers

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The USGS Seamless Data Distribution System

Looking for good basemap data for your local area?  The Seamless Data Distribution System ( provides elevation, aerial photos, land cover, roads, and water features for the conterminous United States, available for download at no or low cost.

For most of the United States, 10 meter resolution DEMs and 1 meter resolution aerial photos are available.  For select urban areas, 1 foot resolution or better aerial photos are available. 

In Canada, the GeoGratis Web site ( provides no cost access to similar base layers.

If you know of similar data distribution sites for other countries, please add a comment with details.

- Angela Lee, ESRI Education Manager

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Tackling California Fires with Geospatial Technology

The raging fires in California are on everyone’s minds, most especially those directly affected. Many agencies are working nonstop to battle the blazes on the ground and in the air, and via an array of geospatial technologies including GIS. Redlands, home to ESRI, is only a few miles from the site of one the fires. Here and elsewhere in California, and in other places of calamity, GIS is helping tackle these problems.

The ESRI US Wildland Fire Support 2007 and the ArcGIS Explorer Resource Center’s Blog pages are providing an ongoing view of some of these actions as well as a glimpse into the kinds of data and methodologies those working to halt the fires and save lives and property are using. The ArcGIS Explorer Blog entries and Fire Support page include some links to data sources/services used to create views of current activity and fire behaviors such as the MODIS Active Fire Mapping Program and the GeoMAC Wildfire Support site. Quite literally, earlier today it was possible to link to some of these publicly available services inside ArcGIS Explorer, but for very obvious mission critical reasons, some Internet-based services are being restricted to free/speed up servers for those who need them. Nonetheless, these and other sites, such as the California Office of Emergency Services, are working to make sure that the public is provided with timely geographic information.

To find out how GIS and other geospatial technologies are used to tackle fire and other public safety issues, look at the GIS for Public Safety site.

- George Dailey, ESRI Education Manager

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World Reference Data for AEJEE

One of the advantages of ArcExplorer Java Edition for
Education (AEJEE) is that this lightweight intro GIS can be used effectively
for introducing basic geographic content. There is a new resource available on
the AEJEE web page (linked from the ArcLessons site) that can help
teachers working on continents and oceans. AEJEE 2.3.1 does not include a
continents/oceans layer, but we have posted one called “World
Reference,” along with a project file, and instructions for where to put
the items so they work properly in AEJEE 2.3.1 for Windows and Macintosh.

As you can see in the graphic, the project shows names of
major features as a layer that can be turned on and off. Because the shapefiles
are decimal degree, the map can be displayed in infinitely many different
projections and still work.

- Charlie Fitzpatrick, ESRI Education Manager

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ArcGIS Explorer Blog Growing

The utility of ArcGIS Explorer (AGX) in education and general user settings is expanding as new tasks and tutorials are created and shared. A great place to discover these opportunities to grow your AGX abilities is via the blog located in the ArcGIS Explorer Resource Center.

Recent additions to the AGX Blog cover topics ranging from the new Find Nearby Task to ways of speeding up your exploration to how to add notes and import text files to your map. A couple of personal favorites include: adding YouTube videos to your map and draping Lewis and Clark expedition over a 3D globe using ArcLessons shapefiles.

Be sure to also explore the EdCommunity AGX blog entries we have added.

Consider sharing some of your AGX adventures and tutorials by submitting an entry to the ESRI EdCommunity Blog and the ArcGIS Explorer Blog.

- George Dailey, ESRI Education Manager

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Setting Export Window Size in AEJEE

Many schools and groups are creating projects for the ESRI Community Atlas. It’s a
great way to earn software while learning the basics of GIS! Entries need to
provide 10-20 maps, but the maps can be no larger than 600 pixels on a side;
anything larger can’t be uploaded. Using AEJEE,
it’s easy to make sure that your map doesn’t exceed the magic 600.

Set your map to show what you need, Then choose
“File/Export to Image.” (Fig.1)

Then, in the Export window, make sure the largest dimension
is under 600 pixels. If it’s more than 600, click in the box with the largest
number and type a number below 600, then click in the other box to make it
auto-adjust. Then click “Update”. (Fig.2) The same process works in
Layout mode as well.

For the Community Atlas, and for most projects, it’s crucial
to make sure your maps are designed in a clean fashion. It’s generally best
just to set the page size properly before doing an export. But sometimes, you
just need a little tweak. AEJEE makes it really easy.

- Charlie Fitzpatrick, ESRI Education Manager

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Museums putting GIS on display

Museums have used GIS “behind the scenes” to support research for years,
but GIS is now starting to appear in the public eye as well. The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis teamed up with the National
Geographic Society to create “
Maps: Tools for Adventure
”, a touring exhibit about maps and mapping
Portions of the exhibit
can be explored online, including several
interactive Web games and lesson plans.

In addition, The Field Museum in Chicago will open the exhibit “Maps: Finding Our Place in the World” on November 2, 2007, and host a special GIS Day
Event on November 14, 2007. This
exhibit explores the uses of maps from the 16th century to the
present and follows the evolution of mapping techniques.  “Maps: Finding Our Place in the World” is part of the , a citywide celebration of maps and mapping
involving 30 cultural and scientific institutions in Chicago starting in
November 2007.

- Angela Lee, ESRI Education Manager

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