Monthly Archives: January 2010

New Mapping Forestry book

Mapping Forestry offers a look at current and cutting-edge approaches to forestry from aroung the world and describes how GIS software supports the business of forestry in today’s era of economic changes, increased global competition, and diminishing resources. In real scenarios from the United States, Canada, Bolivia, Brazil, Cambodia, Finland, and Romania, foresters share how they use GIS to manage commercial operations and maintain sustainable stewardship. Forest managers describe how computer-generated maps and GIS analysis help them make important decisions about the best places to build roads, whether logging in a particular area is commercially feasible, and which fire-damaged areas should be restored first. This book contains 19 chapters, each with a full-color map, featuring detailed descriptions of the types of GIS analysis that it represents. Mapping Forestry is the difinitive GIS guide for forestry professionals.

More information.

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Summer Opportunities for Students

Spend a little time with ESRI during the summer and you’ll gain hands-on experience that will give you a competitive edge and an impressive addition to your resume!

ESRI internship applications are being accepted until March 17, 2010 and ESRI Summer User Conference Assistantship applications are being accepted until April 2, 2010.

Information on both student opportunities available online.

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Putting Interpretation on the Map

The early 21st Century is an age of contrasts. Opportunities for recreation have never been more numerous. During my childhood in western Colorado, not one person went mountain biking or jet-skiing, and yet those activities are enjoyed by the thousands each month. However, an intimate connection to landscape and place is less likely to be a part of a part of our common human experience than ever before. We laughed in the movie Vacation after Chevy Chase reached the edge of the Grand Canyon, took a breath, and said, “OK, kids, back in the car!” Yet how often do we fail to allow ourselves to really experience a place? How often do we take a photograph and then quickly plot a course for the next waypoint in our GPS receivers? Do we even have the skills to experience place any longer? Why is it important to do so?

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A new book entitled Putting Interpretation on the Map by Heidi Bailey, published by the National Association of Interpretation (NAI), explores how we connect with places, particularly through maps and geographic tools. I wrote the Foreword to this book because after participating in several NAI conferences and projects, I was struck by the close alignment of the everyday tasks of park, museum, and historical site interpreters to the discipline of geography. Indeed, holistic thinking has always been a part of both interpretation and geography. As environmental scientist David Orr said, “We need people to think big picture, to pick apart the trivial from the important.” For decades, interpreters have been geographers in action, applying the geographic themes of movement, region, human-environment interaction, location, and place to real places, real events, and real people. Interpreters can and do make a difference. In the wake of widespread, documented declines in student fieldwork and general public connection to the landscape in this electronic age, interpretation not only enhances experiences but also can reconnect the general public to landscape, history, and place. And interpreters are turning to GIS technology as a key tool to help them in their important work.

Joseph Kerski, ESRI Education Manager

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GIS, Education, and "The Fence or the Ambulance"

I’m often asked “Of what value is GIS in education?” It’s a question that really “cuts to the chase.” Does using GIS matter? Could kids be as well educated without it as with it? Does GIS do anything for educators? Do we have any proof?

What we know anecdotally is that, given the opportunity and an effective introduction, kids engage with GIS. Wildly. Hook, line, sinker, and boat. Teachers and club leaders from elementary thru college report that, once kids get beyond the basics, if they have a chance to engage effectively, many kids spend a lot of time investigating and analyzing data. As kids are wont to do, they go exploring far and wide, integrating this and that, building and pulling apart, reassembling, trying this capacity and that. This keeps kids engaged in school, helps them build knowledge, and promotes integration of content across disciplines. There have been some research projects that, in a more or less regimented way, try to explore this, but it seems a bit contrived, like studying whether “paint by numbers” creates true artists. The short answer is that educators of all ages, in all kinds of facilities, report the same thing: With an “effective intro” and license to explore, kids engage GIS with gusto.

One of my favorite poems of all time is “The Fence or the Ambulance”. I have seen it attributed to two different authors – Malines and Hurty — but it’s a delightful poem, whoever wrote it. It elegantly portrays the debate between “prevention” and “cure.” It’s probably not hard to guess where I end up … on the cliff, looking over the edge, then looking around, and being baffled by evidence of insufficient foresight.

It is often heart-rending to take in the news and analyses of events and conditions, near and far. As a geographer, I keep looking at how things here relate to things over there, and how things in this place relate to other things in this place. As I explore data — globally, regionally, locally — integrating elements of demographics, economics, history, environment, politics — I weep for those who suffer, frequently through no fault of their own, and wonder “How hard was it to see this coming? How much must be spent now to recover from this trouble, so visible in advance? How long will people focus on minutiae and ignore key data and relationships?”

The world is stunningly complex. The magic of maps is that they allow people to see this staggering complexity in chunks, little bit at a time, and thus see patterns, explore relationships, ask questions, and integrate additional information. The power of analysis with GIS is that, by focusing on a single phenomenon at a time, but also by using the tools to cast a wider net, users understand more deeply just how complex the world is. This knowledge fosters informed decisions, from personal to global scale, which help us all to set fences where they belong, station ambulances where they belong, and discuss intelligently why scarce resource should be allocated so.

- Charlie Fitzpatrick, ESRI Schools Program Co-Manager

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The Japan Times: Geographic software environment role lauded

From The Japan Times:

“The geographic information system is playing an important role in helping global efforts to preserve the environment as well as responding to major disasters, and the program is evolving to be more sophisticated with real-time data sent from billions of sensors and mobile phone users, a provider says.”

“Michael Gould, director of higher education and [in] industry solutions at the Environmental Systems Research Institute, a leading provider of the GIS software, said in a recent interview that the system is aiding relief efforts in quake-hit Haiti by providing the latest maps of the affected areas.”

Read more at The Japan Times

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ESRI 2010 Mashup Challenge

Mashup challenge—Map Your App

Create an innovative mashup using ArcGIS Online and Web Mapping APIs for the chance to win one of four cash prizes. Awards will be based on originality, creativity, and analytic process.

Cash Prizes
1st Place: $10,000
2nd Place: $5,000
3rd Place: $2,500
4th Place: $2,500

Getting StartedBuild a mashup using ArcGIS Online and ESRI Web Mapping APIs
Shoot a video of your application and post it on YouTube
Submit your mashup. Deadline: March 5, 2010

More information.

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Curiosity and Geocuriosity: Vital for Our Future

Last week I had the opportunity to participate in BETT—touted to be the largest educational technology conference on the planet. With colleagues from the ESRI UK GIS in Schools Programme, we hosted a booth and engaged with a richly vibrant international crowd interested in learning about the use of GIS in the classroom.

Going all the way to London, I couldn’t pass up a couple of days of post-conference exploration. On the list for this trip: The Natural History Museum’s Darwin Centre and a tour of the Cocoon—a 7-story, futuristic, seed-shaped building housing a gently winding exhibit, 400 years of plant and insect collections (20 million specimens), and research labs where museum science staff further scientific knowledge and action through ongoing field and onsite investigations. Even without going inside, it was compelling to “get” what it is.

Upon entering, you are immediately invited to read the first of a number of large posters and along the way interact with other display components. Here’s the initial sign and its message—Wanted: Curious People. Not just scientists but visitors too.

This image and its text struck me. Discovery is about being curious. Asking “why” is about being curious. Life in its full sense is about being curious. The people at this museum and the things they tackle require inquisitiveness and creativity—nuances of the same gift.

What is it that sparks and feeds a person’s curiosity? What is it that permits (fascinates) a person to see the world through a lens of wonder? To be comfortable to say “I don’t know” and be hungry to discover more? Whether manifested in studying spiders or investigating a global geographic phenomenon, this quality is vital and needs to be nurtured in students/people of all ages.

The importance of this characteristic is identified as an essential skill in Tony Wagner’s book—The Global Achievement Gap: Why Even Our Best Schools Don’t Teach the New Survival Skills Our Children Need—And What We Can Do About It. Likewise great minds such as Albert Einstein have pointed to the importance of curiosity; others have been driven by it such as Alexander von Humboldt. But is curiosity the realm of only some people? I don’t think so. To me, everyone has the capacity. It is switched on at birth and it is a part of critical thinking and problem solving. I believe it can be helped and hindered by the people and events with which we interact as we move through time. Now is not a time for hindrance. We need to feed these personal engines of inquiry and make them insatiable.

The geographic world which includes everything under investigation in the Cocoon and much, much more is perfect for fostering curiosity in ourselves and those around us—geocuriosity. Likewise GIS through its integrative and interdisciplinary nature offers a structure through which to propel and support geocuriosity. GIS is about exploration, investigation, analysis, what-ifs…it’s about being inquisitive. Sustaining curiosity is vital to our future—imagining it, creating it, living it.

…and yes, I am Curious George—always was, always will be.

- George Dailey, ESRI Education Program Manager

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Sketch-a-Map in the Classroom Part 1: Finding Mark Twain in English Class

With a myriad of tools at a teacher’s disposal, knowing which ones offer the most bang for the buck is essential. I recently read some online discussions and articles on the benefits and challenges of interactive white boards that got my attention, wouldn’t it be nice to have that a similar tool without the extra equipment and training necessary! Sketch-A-Map is a free web-based mapping tool that allows you to interact with maps and data. You only need your internet browser to access and use this tool. We all need maps in our classroom discussions…they bring the real world, quite literally, into the classroom and offer great connections for kids to see purpose in their learning. As an English Language Arts teacher, I’m always in the market for tools that make “dead authors and dusty books” more relevant to a Facebooking, Tweeting, technology-laded generation of students.

Using the Sketch-A-Map tool allows us the ability to quickly demonstrate something on the map and save it (as a *.png) and easily shared later. As a result I have a tangible reference for class discussion, not just a list of notes. I can include it as a handout for anyone who missed class that day, email it to a parent that wants to know “what’s going on” or offer it as a review tool on the class blog or wiki for students that need visual clues to remember content. Students can even use the tool at home since it’s freely accessible online. Being able to draw on the basemap, include text, offers a great interactive experience for your students as they make connections to the curriculum.

By district requirement, my students are studying Mark Twain and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. He grew up in Hannibal, MO. The teenagers in my classroom say, “So what!” Using the locate tool, with a topographic base map, I find Hannibal, MO. Again, they say, “So what!” Now, I say, “Can anyone find some proof that he might have lived here?” We English teachers are always talking about proving your arguments, so this makes sense. Right there in the middle of the map view, Mark Twain School and Huckleberry Park! A slight zoom out reveals Mark Twain Memorial Bridge. Now my students are engaged and intrigued! What else can we find? Can we find proof of his importance or presence anywhere else?

Explore your curriculum for opportunities to show students “why they need to know this.”

- Barbaree A. Duke, Language Arts Educator

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Fun with GIS #35: States of Mind

During the 1990′s, when ESRI’s program for schools was young, progress came teacher by teacher. All kinds of hurdles stood in the way of implementation, but some teachers and project organizers who wanted students to analyze data took GIS and ran with it. Those pioneers helped others see what was possible. In the late ’90s, we started getting some districts across the US, and usage started spreading within the administrative arenas as well — demographic planning, bus routing, school safety, facilities management.

In 2000, Montana started a small rush by establishing a statewide license, to help their teachers engage GIS. In short order, Utah, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Idaho joined in. But the arrival of “No Child Left Behind” and high-stakes testing focused many educators toward a more narrow view, and the state license club remained at just a handful for several years. But in 2006, Virginia saw the long-term market for jobs that engage GIS, decided to develop expertise locally, and began its state license.

All of a sudden, in the last 12 months, three more states have established licenses. Conscious of the power that GIS brings to students, and connecting “student interest and success” with jobs and economic development, Hawaii became the first state in the nation to license all students (elementary thru college) with all of ESRI’s tools, and to permit administrative use in schools as well. In fall, Arkansas joined the state license club, with a strong GIS background already in schools because of the EAST program. The newest entry onto the state license map is West Virginia, just announced this month.

Across the country, I frequently hear from GIS professionals “We aren’t raising enough GIS-savvy people to fill the jobs we have. Everyone is stealing employees from everyone else, even bringing them in from out of state.” These comments are often followed by “We don’t really care much about grades or test scores. We need workers who know how to think about problems they’ve never encountered, find information and decide how to use it, analyze data, make decisions, collaborate with others, and communicate.” I’ve watched high school kids being courted by colleges and employers because of their skills with GIS.

I’m increasingly hopeful that more youth will have access to GIS tools and methods, and that they will get to spend time with educators who value integrated learning, critical thinking, problem solving, and analysis. I believe that practicing this holistic exploration of information is the key to tackling the problems we face, locally and globally. It’s so exciting to work with educators who want youth to take a lead in this.

- Charlie Fitzpatrick, Co-Manager, ESRI Schools Program

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Planning a Scenic Byway With GIS

All of us have probably enjoyed traveling on a scenic byway at one time in our lives. Think for a moment about your favorite road. What made that road especially scenic? My favorite might be the road that hugs the south side of Haleakala Volcano, high above the Pacific Ocean, on the island of Maui, where I explored after co-teaching GIS there a few months ago.

Have you ever thought about the criteria that are used in determining the criteria to designate a state or national scenic byway? Because these criteria are inherently geographic in nature, planning a scenic byway is routinely done with the help of GIS. Because these plans represent an interesting mix of objective and subjective considerations, using scenic byways in an instructional activity can be enhanced by the use of GIS in the classroom.

A new lesson in the ArcLessons library
invites you to use spatial analysis within a GIS environment to plan a new scenic byway in Colorado. First, you are placed in the role of the State Scenic Byways Program Coordinator, which was an actual job advertized in late 2009. As Coordinator, you will consider all of the criteria used by the National Scenic Byways Nominations Guide. “Scenic” is only one of six criteria used by the Guide. Other criteria include natural, historic, cultural, archaeological, and recreational qualities of a certain stretch of road. You will be given the choice of four different roadways, and use a wide variety of data such as traffic patterns, terrain, rivers, and population centers along with a weighting system to choose the one roadway that best meets all of the criteria.

You will consider how much federal land each road passes through, and consider terrain as part of your 3D analysis, using ArcGIS desktop and ArcGIS Explorer as tools to help you make your decision. How did the weights of each criterion affect your final results? Rerun the calculations using weights that you think might be more appropriate, and present your results to your colleagues.

- Joseph Kerski, ESRI Education Manager

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