Monthly Archives: November 2008

Digging Deeper Into Historical Events, People, and Patterns With GIS

ESRI recently participated in the National Council for the Social Studies conference ( in Houston and were very pleased to see at least 10 workshops on digital mapping, GIS, and GPS there. As this conference represents geography, history, civics, and economics education, and thus receives many more proposals than it can fit into its program, it was very encouraging to see this many accepted. It shows the rising interest and application that educators have in using GIS as a tool for research and teaching history.

We taught a workshop on “Digging Deeper Into Historical Events, People, and Patterns with GIS”, and we have placed the workshop contents online or on

so that everyone can access it. The workshop emphasized the use of GIS for teaching history, and covered the definition of GIS, why and how can it be used to teach history, Best Practices, and next steps.

In the “best practices” section, we modeled the use of GIS in the classroom with two main approaches to GIS—on the Internet, and on the desktop computer. In the Internet section, we featured the examination of urban sprawl and the rise and decline of cities using Social Explorer. We then explored the Mayan World with San Antonio College’s GIS for the Humanities site and resources, and followed that with examining neighborhood and community change with Historic Aerials.Com. We finished the section with investigating Native American population distribution and change using the US National Atlas via We then modeled how to use desktop GIS (AEJEE and ArcGIS) to examine the voyages of Magellan and other explorers, delved into the details of the Lewis and Clark expedition, researched the change in numbers and distribution of the 10 most populous cities in the world over the past 2000 years, and ended with a decade-by-decade analysis of population change in the USA.

GIS can be a valuable tool for your history teaching, and we look forward to hearing how you are applying GIS in this way.

- Joseph Kerski, ESRI Education Manager

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GIScience research at 2009 ESRI User Conference/Education User Conference

Educators and graduate students involved in cutting-edge research in GIScience are invited to present a peer-reviewed paper in a special GIScience Research Track within the 2009 ESRI Educational User and International User Conferences. These papers will be published in a special issue of the journal Transactions in GIS.

For more information and instructions on submitting a proposal, see . The deadline for proposals is December 15, 2008.

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Fun With GIS, Using AEJEE: #9, Mix and Match with Online Data

The third entry in the “Fun With GIS Using AEJEE” series involved integrating GIS and GPS. ArcExplorer Java Edition for Education (AEJEE) (, ESRI’s free, downloadable, dual platform (Win/Mac), lightweight GIS tool, does this nicely, but it can also bring in data coming from ArcIMS servers over the Internet. It’s especially cool when you can do both things at once.

For GIS Day this year, I accompanied the EAST class of the Clark Magnet School (from La Crescenta, CA) out onto the Pacific Ocean. We went to Anacapa Island, the smallest and easternmost of the Channel Islands. I had my GPS along, and kept track of the harbor, where we saw seals on a buoy near shore, where a huge pod of dolphins intercepted us out in the open, and our stops at the island. You can see below the track and waypoints. (I was so excited about the dolphins, I forgot to get a dolphin waypoint until the last dolphin was heading away.) The track and waypoints have been laid atop the “Census_TIGER2000″ layer from the Geography Network, which is the default address when you ask AEJEE to grab some data off the Internet, as shown in Lesson 5 of AEJEE’s built-in tutorial.

The school is doing some very cool monitoring of vertebrates and invertebrates using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) equipped with a video camera, and humans go diving thru the area to provide some “ground truthing.” The school posts the data on an international database (, and is using GIS to analyze the populations in areas that are legally protected versus areas that are unprotected.

What a great way to do school!! Critical thinking, technology, science, math, geography, communication skills, thinking globally and acting locally … VERY IMPRESSIVE, and a delightful way to spend GIS Day!

- Charlie Fitzpatrick, ESRI Education Manager

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GIS in Education in Taiwan

I recently was invited to speak at the International Conference in Geographic Education in Taipei: The National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU) effectively infuses geotechnologies throughout its entire teacher training program. I was very impressed by the faculty and students’ enthusiasm and dedication to the spatial perspective and to GIS. I know of several Colleges of Education around the world where GIS is an important component. Let’s have a discussion on what it would take for more preservice education programs to use GIS. NTNU provides a good model—are there other models that work?

I was told that about 25% of high schools and 85% of the universities in Taiwan are using ESRI GIS software. Therefore, GIS is quite prominent throughout the curriculum. The issues facing the country—from debris flows to effective urban planning, to typhoons, coastal and soil erosion, and more, are all issues where GIS can be used to help with decision-making. One of the nicest things about the K-12 package is that it is bundled with vector and raster data for Taiwan.

We visited a large junior high school of 2,000 students in Taipei. While there is certainly no lack of technology in the K-12 schools there, I was equally impressed by the amount of reading, music, painting, and sculpture that I saw the students involved with. I suspect that well-rounded curricula and a supportive educational environment help students work with GIS effectively just as it helps them to engage in other deep inquiry tools. GIS is explicitly written in the educational content standards at the high school level in Taiwan.

For interesting insights about the history of educational reform in Taiwan, see the Taiwan Minister of Education’s paper on:

I took the opportunity to visit the countryside, practicing what we preach about getting out in the field, recording my track with GPS and loading it into ArcGIS Explorer. I am not exaggerating the vertical setting at all, and so it illustrates the fantastic relief of the country:

- Joseph Kerski, ESRI Education Manager

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Where from does your Thanksgiving Dinner come?

Which state produces the most cranberries? Do potatoes and sweet potatoes come from the same places? Find the answer to these questions and more with a series of maps created by Linda Zellmer, Librarian at Western Illinois University. Based on the Census of Agriculture conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the maps cover 13 popular items and are available for both 1997 and 2002 (the 2007 Census data are not yet available). In addition, the data is available in spreadsheet format for those wanting to analyze the information in greater depth.

- Angela Lee, ESRI Education Manager

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Field Trip Planning with ArcGIS Explorer

There’s a new exhibit at the science museum and you and a colleague are planning a trip for your students from two different high schools. You just need to get the proper paperwork in and others in the district transportation office will handle the details of getting from Point A to Point B….

…but you’re wondering approximately how long it will take to scoop everybody up and get to the museum wishing to maximize time in the exhibit. Likewise, as you and your students discuss topics like “carbon footprint” you want to make sure that the bus takes the most fuel efficient route.

So, you fire up ArcGIS Explorer and use its multistop routing capacity to solve your problems. First, you need to locate the schools and the museum, but you also know that the bus doesn’t magically appear at the school’s front door: It starts from the bus barn. Looks like you need to solve for 4 stops.

Since you only have four locations to deal with, you choose to use the “Find Address” task for each. While address names as Results are okay, you rename them to reflect what they are. The onboard symbol sets also provide handy icons which indicate what the locations represent. Here’s a summary of your work so far.

A visual inspection of the map gives you a sense that the best route is probably from the bus barn to the northern school then the southern one and on to the museum but is that correct and what is the “best” route regardless?

Since the route begins from the bus barn, a right click on its symbol allows you “Send To” > “Multi Stop Route.” This opens the “Find Route” task and becomes the first stop in your list. Continuing the process with the other three locations completes the stop list. Choosing to not “Optimize Intermediate Stops” permits experimenting on which school should be the first pickup. Routing options of “Fastest” and “Shortest” provide other finetuning.

Your final solution shows that your visual assessment was correct (northern school first) however the shortest distance took more time and probably used more fuel because of surface streets and traffic lights. You share a printout of your map and the driver’s directions with the transportation coordinator…and recommend that the bus driver turn off the bus while you’re at the museum. Don’t want to waste the fuel you just helped save.

- George Dailey, ESRI Education Manager

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Geography Awareness Week is here!

November 16-22, 2008


Since 1888, the National Geographic society has worked to build and
spread geographic knowledge. Geography Awareness Week began in 1987 as
a celebration of the importance of geography in our lives. Every year,
National Geographic creates a set of activities for teachers to use
with their students and their families to celebrate geography. These
activities can be found on the Geography Action website. In 2006, National Geographic began a five-year campaign, entitled My Wonderful World, to help people experience the power of geography.


Learn more about Geography Awareness Week.

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Fun With GIS, Using AEJEE: #8, Election Data

)The second entry in the “Fun With GIS Using AEJEE” series was about the 2008 Presidential election. ArcExplorer Java Edition for Education (AEJEE) (, ESRI’s free, downloadable, dual platform (Win/Mac), lightweight GIS tool, isn’t meant to be a full-powered professional GIS, but a skilled user can do some powerful things. This week, we’ll expand the Election lesson.

By following the simple trick described in a previous AEJEE blog entry, I used Excel to add two columns into the middle of the Election shapefile’s attribute table, and populated them with results from the election. After carefully re-saving the file, it was a simple matter to add a new layer for 2008 results into the map and classify states in the same fashion as was done in previous elections. The results show the degree to which the 2008 election was remarkable!

As always, you need to be extremely careful when changing an attribute table. If you want to skip the data addition step and just add a new project into your “election2008″ folder and replace the “stelect.dbf” file into the “data” folder, download and unzip the included .zip file (““) and make the changes.

- Charlie Fitzpatrick, ESRI Education Manager

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Earth Changes with Historical and Current Imagery, Part 2

In an earlier blog entry, we discussed how to access TerraLook ( for imagery from about 1975, 1990, 2000, and up to the present to examine changes on the Earth’s surface over time. Now let’s discuss using the data in detail.

Images from Terralook can be easily brought into ArcGIS, remote sensing software such as ENVI, or into the provided TerraLook software. Satellite “footprints” exist as vector file guides. A Terralook comparison is an excellent starting point for a discussion about scale and spatial resolution. The Landsat MultiSpectral Scanner (MSS) images from the 1970s on the site are composed of pixels that are 57 square meters in size, while Landsat Thematic Mapper and Enhanced Thematic Mapper images on the site have pixels that are 28.5 square meters. The ASTER pixels are 15 square meters. The ASTER images (60 x 60 km) cover about one-ninth the area of Landsat images (185 x 170 km). Therefore, features will look different not only because of the different times, but also because of the resolution of the images.

Use Terralook for evidence of large-scale changes such as Mount St Helens eruption, Lake Chad drying, Yellowstone wildfires, rivers flooding, and glaciers retreating. Look too for less dramatic changes such as the vegetation response to South Asia’s monsoons or the differences in the seasonal cycle between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Look for human-caused changes such as dams, airports, and the expansion of agriculture.

To investigate urban sprawl, I loaded four Terralook images for Phoenix, Arizona, into ArcMap (below). In 1975, the Salt River Nation boundary was clearly evident on the satellite image. By 2000, negotiations between the Salt River Nation and the State of Arizona resulted in a freeway and adjacent development and by 2004 were already reducing the extent of the irrigated fields. Freeway development is controversial everywhere (investigate the South Mountain Freeway debate in Phoenix), and can be explored starting with these images.

I encourage you to use Terralook in your own research and instruction.

Joseph Kerski, Education Manager.

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ESRI Education User Conference – Proposal Deadline Nov 14

The deadline for submitting a presentation to the ESRI Education User Conference is Friday, Novermber 14.

For more informaiton see:

Knowledge-Sharing is What the EdUC is All About

Whatever your industry, position, or level of experience with ESRI GIS technology, be part of the EdUC knowledge-sharing and submit an abstract for possible presentation at the 2009 event. Moderated user presentation sessions add so much to the experience of conference attendees. And as a presenter, the imparting of insights, tips, and lessons learned, as well as the networking these sessions lead to, is unbeatable. We can’t wait to hear your GIS story.

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