Monthly Archives: August 2010

Who Are You? A Community Directory for GIS Educators

Find colleagues, network with other GIS educators, and share your successes with others! If you haven’t yet created a Profile at the Esri Education Community, browse the Profile Directory (without logging in). Search the Profile Directory to discover educators who use Twitter or people who teach with GIS in elementary school. Use the Profile Directory to see who is nearby, with our interactive map.

To create or update your profile, use your Esri Global Id to login (or create an account). A login is available across the Esri EdCommunity in the upper-right corner.

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Fun With GIS #57: US Demographics with ArcGIS Explorer Online

Want to build an interesting demographic profile of any place in the USA? Piece of cake! A previous column walked users thru the new ArcGIS Online mapping environment via a simple web browser, and my last column showed how users of the ArcGIS for iOS app can do it on an iPhone or iPad. There’s an even niftier tool in ArcGIS Online — ArcGIS Explorer Online. This needs a browser with the free Microsoft Silverlight plugin installed. Most updated Windows-based PCs have it built in, and Macs running MacOS10.4.11 or later can run it too. (Check your browser or download and install Silverlight at

Let’s use the same package of maps: 10 layers of US demographics. Once again, start at If you have an ArcGIS Online account and want to sign in, great; if not, no problem, because I shared the map to be visible to anyone. As before, in the upper right search window, search for “usa demographics school”.

This will generate a single response. Rather than just click on the image, choose the little triangle beside “Open” to see the choices available. Notice “Explorer Online”.

Choose “Explorer Online” and notice how the tools vary relative to those in the simpler viewer used in my original column. If you don’t see contents displaying at the left side of the screen, click the “Map Contents” button, or just hit the arrow at the left.

While the viewer is an excellent “one-foot high jump” intro to GIS, ArcGIS Explorer Online is a great “two-foot high jump” into GIS … more capacity, with elements that may not be obvious right away. There’s a wonderful set of tutorials online, accessible thru the help file. Look for the little blue question mark at top right, and explore the full set of help items, particularly the videos.

ArcGIS Explorer Online allows you to work more with layers, add and customize notes as geographic data, incorporate text and images, and build presentations. Since the end result of any geographic analysis ought to be an action, these presentations can be powerful assessment tasks, demonstrating why even such a “two-foot high jump” into GIS can be a great STEM activity.

- Charlie Fitzpatrick, Co-Manager, Esri Schools Program

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GIS Is a Key Part of Inspiring Lives at HopeWorks

As the new academic year begins for many, I found myself thinking about my favorite moments from the last school year. Serving on the Esri education team provides many wonderful moments interacting with educators and students, but my favorite day may have been when I was privileged to teach at Hopeworks ‘N Camden ( I love their mission statement: “Hopeworks empowers youth to identify and develop their D.R.E.A.M.S. (Dynamic, Realizable Efforts to Attain and Maintain Success) and own their future.”

I had known about the program for years stemming from Director Fr. Jeff Putthoff’s presentations at GeoTech in Dallas and at the Esri Education User Conference in San Diego. When I found out that the National Science Teachers Association Convention would be held across the river in Philadelphia this year, I jumped at the chance to visit. I thank Fr. Jeff, Shawn Mack, Tarren Anderson, and the rest of the dedicated staff for being so willing to let me work with the youth there. We collected data about street signs, trees, and buildings, marked their locations with GPS, mapped them using ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Explorer, analyzed patterns, and linked video and photographs to each point.

GIS and GPS technologies are a key part of Hopeworks’ mission to train youth in computer applications ranging from website design, computer networking and repair, video, and GIS. GIS is hands-on, engaging, and offers excellent career opportunities. The image below is from the innovative map that Hopeworks youth created for the city of Camden. Camden previously did not have its own city map. Hopeworks youth created it using ArcGIS and innovative symbology, including point symbols as soup cans—a nod to a famous Camden company, Campbell’s, and sold map ads to local businesses.

Hopeworks “enhances the lives of inner-city Camden youth by expanding the learning opportunities available to them, pointing the way to a future full of hope and working together to create that future.” I was incredibly inspired by the youth I worked with there who have overcome many challenges, and am confident that they will go on to realize their dreams.

- Joseph Kerski, ESRI Education Manager

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Fun With GIS #56: Getting Started with on an iPhone

My last column walked users thru the new mapping environment on a simple web browser. Users of the ArcGIS for iOS application on Apple’s app store can use this on an iPhone or iPad. There’s one key trick with this little app. To discover it, let’s use the same package of map layers from my last column: 10 layers of US demographics.

Open your ArcGIS for iOS app. If you’re signed in to your account, great; if not, no problem, because I have shared the map to be visible to anyone, and it can only be found with a search.

My directions asked users of the browser-based to do a generic search for “usa demographics schools”. But where do you do a generic search in the iPhone app? It’s that little magnifying glass in the upper right that opens the world of to you. Tap the magnifying glass, then type in “usa demographics schools”. You’ll get one result:

Tap the map, and you’ll open up a miniature version of the same map series as in my last column. Now you can explore on your iPhone, using the little circled “i” in the lower right corner to switch layers, as described last time.

The iPhone may not be the perfect hardware device for teaching in a classroom setting, but it’s handy having something powerful to look at wherever you go. With some careful planning, you can engage students with specific data and help them think analytically about a vast array of topics, at scales global to micro. This can even help the many iOS-using fans of STEM education to understand that STEM content typically has a geographic context within which it can be understood.

- Charlie Fitzpatrick, Co-Manager, Esri Schools Program

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Call for Papers: Space-Time Integration in GIS and GIScience

Every year, the Association of American Geographers (AAG) identifies a particularly timely or relevant set of themes to feature during its Annual Meetings. Last year an over-riding theme was climate change, for example, and previous years have included featured sessions on topics such as human rights, landscape and literature, sustainable development in Africa, geography of water, and many other topics.

A special Symposium focused on the research status, recent advances and research needs of space-time integration, modeling and analysis in geography and GIScience will be organized within the AAG Annual Meeting in Seattle, April 12-16, 2011. This special set of invited papers will feature many leading GIScience researchers from Asia and Europe as well as from other regions of the world, and will form a high-profile international symposium within the AAG Annual Meeting.

Space-time analysis is a rapidly growing research frontier in geography, GIS, and GIScience. Advances in integrated GPS/GIS technologies, the availability of large datasets (over time and space), and increased capacity to manage, integrate, model and visualize complex data in (near) real time, offer the GIS and geography communities extraordinary opportunities to begin to integrate sophisticated space-time analysis and models in the study of complex environmental and social systems, from climate change to infectious disease transmission.

Read the full Call for Papers at AAG

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The Amazing Around the World Flight of the Pacific Clipper During World War II

The spatial perspective through GIS has been shown in research and in classroom application as enhancing student understanding of hundreds of processes, patterns, and phenomena from local to global. A new lesson in the ArcLessons library provides another means of incorporating spatial thinking and analysis in teaching and learning—in this case, applied to a historical event.

The problem that students face when opening the lesson is as follows: Getting set to land in New Zealand in December 1941, the crew of a Pan American Airways seaplane learned about the attacks at Pearl Harbor and had to make a fateful decision: Since it was now impossible to fly back across the Pacific Ocean given the unfolding war, could they return to the United States by flying west instead of east? No commercial airliner had ever flown around the world before. Could they make it? Your task is to use spatial analysis and GIS to analyze every detail of this epic event.

Skills developed include analyzing a nonfictional historical story using the spatial perspective, analyzing patterns and spatial relationships within 2-D (ArcMap) and 3-D (ArcGIS Explorer) GIS, creating an ArcGIS Explorer presentation, performing spatial and attribute queries, creating a map layout, and presenting findings to an audience.

Students investigate the story in popup boxes along the route and perform spatial and attribute queries. For a short account of the journey, read John Marshall’s story on, and for the full story, read Ed Dover’s book The Long Way Home available from:

Lessons such as this show the value of GIS and the spatial perspective in enhancing understanding of literature and history. These lessons are well connected to educational content standards in social studies and English language arts that explain what students should know and be able to do. Using GIS in this way makes it clear that GIS is a critical thinking tool. The understanding of any story—fiction or nonfiction—can be enhanced by maps and spatial analysis. What story do you want to investigate?

-Joseph Kerski, ESRI Education Manager

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Post, Vote, and Discuss at ArcGIS Ideas

Have a great idea about an ESRI product or service?  Visit the ArcGIS Ideas website to post, vote, or discuss ideas about GIS and even GIS in education.

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Abu Dhabi Education Council Honored at Esri's EdUC

The annual Esri Education User Conference (EdUC) provides the opportunity to not only exchange information and ideas among educators but also honor individuals and organizations for their exceptional work in implementing geographic information system (GIS) solutions. At this year’s conference, Dr. Michael Gould, Esri director of education for industry solutions, presented the Making a Difference in Education Award to His Excellency Dr. Mugheer Khamis Al-Khaili, director general, Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC).

Learn more.

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New Books for GIS Education and Beyond

A plethora of new books published in the past few months might be very useful for you to augment your own GIS skills, to teach others GIS, or to use GIS as a tool and framework in other courses. These books are authored by a fine array of international scholars from industry, government, academia, and within Esri. A few titles that I think are most appropriate for education are below.

For the complete list of Esri Press titles, see:

For the complete 2010 Esri Press catalog, see:

Getting to Know ArcGIS Desktop (for ArcGIS 10). This long-time popular title has been reformatted and made even more useful to gain skills and concept knowledge:

The GIS 20: Essential Skills. This represents a new innovative way to teach the “core” of GIS:

Lining Up Data in ArcGIS. How often have we been puzzled about map projections? This book leads you through concepts and practical knowledge about how to work with them:

Ocean Globe. Each chapter represents a different facet of maritime research that relies on ocean floor mapping for its success:

Land Administration for Sustainable Development

Mapping Forestry. How does GIS software support the business of forestry in today’s era of economic changes, increased global competition, and diminishing resources?

Modeling Our World, The Esri Guide to Geodatabase Concepts:

Introduction to Geometrical and Physical Geodesy: Foundations of Geomatics:

Archaeology and Landscape in the Mongolian Altai: Examine how GIS is used in ecotourism, preservation, geography, and in studying ancient human cultures:

GIS for building and managing Infrastructure, including utilities, public works, and renewable energy:

Esri Map Book Volume 25 – the “yearbook” of GIS! Useful to explain careers in GIS, as an idea generator for projects, as models for good cartographic design, and more:

The Look of Maps: An Examination of Cartographic Design. This reprint of Robinson’s book based on his influential doctoral research:

I encourage you to make use of these new books on your own or with your students.

-Joseph Kerski, ESRI Education Manager

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ArcGIS Desktop 10 (ArcInfo) Student 1-Year License

The new ArcGIS Desktop 10 (ArcInfo) Student 1-year license is now available for purchase from ESRI Telebusiness ( or 800-447-9778. Students will need to verify their enrollment in a degree or certificate program with a current class schedule to purchase this license.

This license includes over 20 tutorials, including tutorials for ArcGIS Extensions, which are included with the license. It also includes ESRI Data & Maps, comprising over 160 data layers including new worldwide data from DeLorme.

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