Monthly Archives: June 2010

Getting the Most Out of the 2010 ESRI User Conference (#esriEdUC)

ESRI has several upcoming Live Training Seminars.

GIS training by a technical expert streamed directly to your desktop. The seminars are live, interactive, free and there is no registration—attendance is on a first-come, first-served basis.

June 24th – Editing GIS features in ArcGIS 10
July 1st – Getting the Most Out of the 2010 ESRI User Conference
August 12th – Exploiting Imagery in an Enterprise GIS


Information about the ESRI Education User Conference: Web, Twitter, Facebook

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Got Questions about ArcGIS 10?

Wondering what ArcGIS 10 can specifically do for you? At the ArcGIS 10 Pavilion at the ESRI User Conference, you can discover how you can use ArcGIS 10 to make your GIS work more efficient and productive. You can talk to ESRI staff one-on-one to find out how your particular projects can be simplified with new ArcGIS 10 capabilities, or you can choose to come to one of our demo theater presentations. These presentations will cover topics such as cloud GIS, productivity, sharing, and 3D, as well as more in-depth discussions of some of the plenary topics, and an overview of what the ArcGIS system as a whole does at version 10.

The ArcGIS 10 Pavilion is open Tuesday – Thursday during the ESRI UC and is located in the ESRI Showcase (Hall C, SDCC).

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Exploring Growth of the World’s Major Cities, 1950-2050 Using GIS

The folks at have placed a layer package of the large urban areas of the world on ArcGIS Online. Not only is the data set comprehensive, containing urban areas with more than 750,000 people, but it also includes historical data back to 1950 with projections to 2050. The population data came from the UN Population Division’s World Urbanization Prospects’ 2007 Revision Population Database. This population data was matched to the ESRI Data & Maps 2008 cities dataset, and coordinates for matching cities were retrieved using Hawths’ Tools. Nordpil placed a Creative Commons license on the database, made it available for download in several formats, and created an animation, a KML, and a map. More information about the data is available on Nordpil’s web site.

This data set illustrates a topic that we on the ESRI education team have been excitedly writing about recently in this blog: ArcGIS Online. One of the best things about the layer packages on ArcGIS Online, including this one on world cities, is that they are wonderfully simple to start using. Simply clicking on the layer package on opens it in ArcMap.

Using attribute queries or through symbolizing the data, you can determine the spatial pattern of the fastest growing and the slowest growing cities, how growth rates of cities will impact specific countries’ infrastructure and economies, which cities will add the most people to the world’s population based on their growth rates, and much more. Using buffer and intersection tools, you can determine the percentage of cities that lie in and thus impact specific ecoregions, cities that are nearest certain types of hazards such as potential sea level rise or volcanoes, and dig even deeper by using spatial statistics. In the above example, I normalized the 1950 population with 2050 population. The dark blue cities are growing the fastest, while the red cities are growing the slowest. What patterns do you notice, and what implications does this have? These investigations can foster the most crucial questions of all: Why? And: So what? In other words, why does it matter?

I invite you to use this resource to teach and learn about the world’s urban areas.

-Joseph Kerski, ESRI Education Manager

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Investigating 10 Landscapes Using ArcGIS Explorer Online: Part 2

Last week I wrote about a new lesson that uses the new toolkit named ArcGIS Explorer Online. With it you can view, create, and share online content from The lesson illustrates how you can investigate landscapes, measure slopes and distances with topographic maps, and use the spatial perspective to understand physical and cultural processes and their results. But let’s say you wanted to use ArcGIS Explorer Online to explore these landscapes yourself. You can easily do that because I shared the map of the 10 landscapes on ArcGIS Online.

The above image from the map I shared shows the folders I created, one for each of the 10 landscapes. In the 8th investigation, students investigate human impact on the barrier islands of Ocean City, Maryland. They measure the offset that has occurred over the past 150 years of Assateague Island to the south of the inlet, calculate the rate of annual movement, and consider the benefits and harm done by the construction of jetties.

By opening this online map, you can examine the same 10 landscapes that I examined, using the bookmarks to navigate quickly to those landscapes, and using map elements that I included, such as hyperlinks, transects, and symbols. Even more importantly, you can add your own map elements to meet your instructional needs. Furthermore, you can examine additional landscapes and change the base map to shaded relief, satellite image, street, and much more. And most importantly, you could share your results online so that students or other educators can access what you create. You can share your maps with everyone, with a specific group of your education colleagues, with one class, or just with one student. Students can create and share their own landscape investigations. Students can use the “presentation” mode in ArcGIS Explorer Online to present their results to the class. This is more powerful than PowerPoint because at any time, students can take control of the presentation in response to a question, zoom and pan, use any of the tools, and then resume the regular presentation.

Sharing these maps represents a great leap forward in the way that Web GIS and even desktop GIS can be used in teaching and learning. Never before has it been so easy to do so, and I encourage you to give it a try!

- Joseph Kerski, ESRI Education Manager

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Fun with GIS #51: T3G Explores

ESRI’s Second Annual “Teachers Teaching Teachers GIS” (or T3G) Institute began Sunday evening. In addition to potentially the most experienced training staff ever assembled for a “GIS for education” event, we have educators from across North America who are already doing GIS, already experienced teaching with technology, and already providing professional development for educators. After this week of intense integration, they will head home and help others learn why and how to use GIS in education.

Part of our activities will engage the new, through ArcGIS Desktop, ArcGIS Explorer, ArcGIS Explorer Online, and the Web Viewer. It’s a world of opportunity! We’ll start the day Monday with an exposure to some news stories through ArcGIS Explorer Online. You can too, just by going to, doing a search for “geonews”, and opening in ArcGIS Explorer Online the item titled “GeoNews AGXOL_1 T3G”. (The item has been “shared with everyone”, so anyone can open it and play it without needing to sign in.) In just a few minutes, one of the staff and I built a presentation similar to what teachers — AND STUDENTS!! — could put together, with glimpses of four recent news stories. With just a bit of geographic context, we can talk in class about these news items and help students see information differently, helping them understand the significance of events near and far.

Educators in all subjects and grades levels can do this. Nothing to download, once the Silverlight plugin is installed. Create a map or series of maps, create a presentation, save it, post it, share it. It’s that simple, and exceedingly powerful. Getting kids to do this will help them invest in their own learning. Getting them to teach, support, and critique each other will allow the teacher to focus instruction on fewer students at a time.

GeoNews via … try it!

- Charlie Fitzpatrick, Co-Manager, ESRI Schools Program

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Fun with GIS #50: Sharing Fun with

ArcGIS Explorer Online is available for testing, on both Windows and Macintosh, as I described last week. But also allows users to make, save, and access maps in an even simpler way, through its built-in viewer. For my 50th column in this series, I want to emphasize the “fun” part.

From the front door of, I chose “Make a Map”. I switched to a different basemap, then chose to “Add” and, keeping the search location at “ArcGIS Online,” simply typed in “weather.” From a bunch of options, I chose “RIDGE Precipitation Radar.” Cool!

I wanted to try sending a link to this, so I hit the “Link” button above the map. A screen popped up indicating I needed to save the map before I could email it. Makes sense. So I clicked “Save”, then I was popped over to the “Member Sign In”. Ah, that makes sense, too … it’s going to save my maps under my “ESRI Global ID” (a free ID that works for all kinds of resources on the ESRI site). I signed in, saved the file, made sure to choose to share it with everyone, and then returned to link to it.

It presented a screen with a long URL. I simply copied that, pasted it into an email, and sent it to myself. Over on the Mac side, I opened my email and clicked the link.

It will be key for educators to remember that saved files must be specifically set as “share with everyone” in order to allow users to view without requiring a login.

My final experiment involved accessing it from my iPhone. Since this is a Javascript-based viewer, it should work just fine, yes? I went into my email, clicked the link, and opened it up. Pretty cool!

There are going to be lots of ways for educators to use these capacities! Start planning now for the new year!

- Charlie Fitzpatrick, Co-Manager, ESRI Schools Program

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Investigating 10 Landscapes Using ArcGIS Explorer Online

Last week, ArcGIS Explorer Online was launched. It is an online platform that allows for viewing, creating, and sharing online content from One of many things you can do with ArcGIS Explorer Online is investigate landscapes. I used this tool to illustrate this in a lesson entitled “Investigating 10 Landscapes” which is now a part of the ArcLessons library. This lesson invites you to work with topographic maps, think about landscapes, and use the spatial perspective to understand physical and cultural processes and the results of those processes.

Because ArcGIS Explorer Online runs entirely online, all you need is a Web browser with a Silverlight plug-in to use it. The lesson contains five questions for each of 10 landscapes for a total of 50 questions, and can be used with university undergraduates or secondary school students. To most effectively use this lesson, students need to be familiar with topographic maps and some basics of physical and cultural geography.

The landscapes include those I hope provide an interesting variety for exploration: Utah sand dunes in Utah, Indiana karst, Minnesota eskers, Florida swamps, Alaska glaciers, Louisiana rivers, Nebraska railroad-influenced towns, Maryland modified coastlines, Idaho volcanoes, and Hawaii protected areas. Example questions include measuring distances, heights, and gradients, considering how rivers meander and create oxbow lakes, why certain sand dunes and lava fields are devoid of vegetation, how an esker ended up in Minnesota, comparing a student sketch of a landscape with a photograph taken at that same location, how railroads influenced street pattern, and measure how rapidly human modification of barrier islands is causing one to migrate toward shore. I confess that I used a few of my personal favorite landscapes in this lesson, and provided some of my own photographs!

The lesson could easily be extended by ArcGIS Explorer Online to explore these and additional landscapes. With ArcGIS Explorer Online, you can change the base layers to shaded relief, satellite image, or other base maps, add your own symbols, text, and hyperlinks, save your maps, share the maps with others, and more.

I invite you to use this new, easy-to-use, rich resource to teach and learn about our Earth.

- Joseph Kerski, ESRI Education Manager.

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Fun with GIS #49: ArcGIS Explorer Online

My last several columns have focused on serious matters which include elements of fun. Today, I get to focus on fun, which has a serious component. ArcGIS Explorer Online is available for testing!

The first thing you’ll notice is that it works on both Macintosh (MacOS 10.4.11 and later) and Windows (WinXPSP3 and later), using just a browser. The computer needs to have the free Microsoft Silverlight Runtime plug-in installed, just as if you wanted to run Adobe Flash elements on a web page; this requires administrative privileges to install, but it’s fast and easy. If the right plug-in is absent, the browser should tell you so.

Once the plug-in is installed and you’ve started ArcGIS Explorer Online (“AGXO”), you have a world of opportunities open to you! Similar to using traditional ArcGIS Explorer desktop version (“AGX”), you can swap base maps, add points, create bookmarks, and build presentations. And all this can be shared on

AGXO-Mac showing base map options, with point added for ESRI.

This is still “in beta”, so be judicious in exploring, saving, and sharing. But the promise is very exciting! Think about preparing, conducting, and sharing classroom activities using just a web browser, and the volumes of properly formatted GIS data already in place, and the galaxies of content coming!

AGXO-Mac showing world population atop terrain base map and set to 50% transparent

AGXO-Win showing points of interest placed into organizing folders

For educators who want to get kids started exploring and analyzing data over the coming years, as a way to ramp into full-scale GIS activities, take some time this summer to get to know ArcGIS Explorer Online. I also hear from the developers that the final version will have a critical addition not yet made available … stay tuned!

- Charlie Fitzpatrick, Co-Manager, ESRI Schools Program

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