Monthly Archives: September 2010

Fun With GIS #59: Hurricanes, the Web, and STEM Careers

For the “coterminous US,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says “Hurricane season in the Atlantic begins June 1st and ends November 30th. The Eastern Pacific hurricane season begins May 15th and also ends November 30th.” So, the bulk of hurricane season has passed. But storms continue to appear, and letters of the alphabet are waiting to be used.

Naturally, teachers and students can use GIS to explore these events. It’s possible even in a web browser. Here are three sites that demonstrate the spectrum from “basic capacity and focused view” to “significant exploratory and analytical power” in a browser. They rely on more or less similar data sets, including both static and dynamic content. If you step back to think about it, these maps demonstrate a vast range of STEM-related careers, around acquiring, managing, analyzing, modeling, and presenting data, of ever-expanding volumes.

Because each of these maps rely on Javascript, rather than Flash or Silverlight, each can also be accessed from an iPad or even an iPhone (though, of course, a larger display makes life easier).

Esri’s “Hurricane and Cyclone Map” is designed as a quick display, with just basic choices: a few layers, a few base maps, and pan and zoom (experience the map)

NOAA’s nowCoast presents volumes of data to integrate, analyze, and download (experience the map).

USGS’s National Map allows users to add web-based and even local data, analyze data sets, and create content (experience the map).

GIS technology allows us to display and analyze information, model data and processes, and make informed decisions. If we can get youth accustomed to these processes, exploring data and solving problems, starting with simple tools and working toward more powerful, we can ensure better futures for them, their communities, and the planet.

- Charlie Fitzpatrick, Co-Manager, Esri Schools Program

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Why GIS Professionals Should Care About Geography Education

While the development of GIS over the past 40 years has made it obvious that GIS is not confined to the realm of professional geographers, there is still a geographic connection underlying business, health, planning, wildlife biology, defense, energy, and every other application of GIS. There is, after all, that “G” part of GIS. Why should GIS professionals care about geography education?

In my opinion, most of the work that the GIS professional community is doing is, at its core, applied geography. Taken as a whole, the GIS products, data, services, and research results represent the largest body of applied geography in the world today. As I recently wrote, I believe a serious disconnect exists between the skills in demand by those hiring GIS professionals and what is currently being supplied by geography education in the United States.

We can continue to ignore this disconnection. What we will reap at best is to continue to scratch our heads when you read about a celebrity or political figure who thinks that the world just needs more maps, that Costa Rica is an island, or that most students have no idea where Afghanistan is. But at worst, we will reap spending millions of private investment and public tax dollars training newly hired GIS workers who do not have the basics of spatial thinking, fieldwork, data analysis, or GIS, because they were not exposed to these skills and experiences until they reached the community college or university level.

What can you do about it? Get involved with the geography education initiatives of the National Council for Geographic Education, AAG, and National Geographic. These include influencing educational policy such as the Teaching Geography Is Fundamental (TGIF) bill to collaborations with Career and Technology Education associations to professional development for educators such as Esri’s Teachers Teaching Teachers GIS institute and the Esri Education User Conference. Start a geotech club at your local school. Become a geomentor to a local teacher or 4-H club. Participate in the Esri Education Community. Talk with your local school board or state department of education about the importance of geography education.

Who can you talk with about the value of geography education?

- Joseph Kerski, Esri Education Manager

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Fun With GIS #58: The New Youth Community Atlas

In 1999, Esri launched the Community Atlas program, challenging schools and youth groups to use GIS to construct a profile of their community. For a decade, students young and old built projects. But it required skills beyond just GIS capacity, and many more projects were begun than completed.

In 2010, Esri launched on ArcGIS Online two powerful web-based apps for making and viewing maps. (See “Fun With GIS” blog entries #49-57.) These apps work on Windows and Macintosh, and allow anyone with an Internet connection and current browser to begin making maps and analyzing data in seconds. Best of all, users can construct and share content with others, perfect for the new Youth Community Atlas!

The central task remains unchanged: construct a profile of the community, through 10-20 maps and 1000-2500 original words, sharing the group’s vision of the community or a local situation. But now, the group does this using ArcGIS Explorer Online, constructing a presentation with live maps, which viewers can see and interact with. You can explore this now, if your computer has the Microsoft Silverlight plugin installed.

1. Go to, click “Groups”, and type in the search box (upper right) “youth community atlas” or just click here.

2. Click the title “Esri Youth Community Atlas” to explore the group. Two sample projects are in place.

3. Under “SampleYouthCommunityAtlasProj”, click “Open”.

4. ArcGIS Explorer Online launches and a project appears. In the top left, click “START PRESENTATION”. (Silverlight may ask you if you want to use the full screen.).

5. Go thru the project, using the spacebar and mouse.

6. Check out the second project. Do Steps 1-5 above again but, this time, choose “WashDC10_CommunityAtlas”

The Youth Community Atlas is a great way to get classes and youth groups exploring their community in maps and seeing the power of geographic analysis. It’s also a terrific approach for STEM education (see “Fun With GIS #48“). For more information, check out the full Youth Community Atlas website.

- Charlie Fitzpatrick, Co-Manager, Esri Schools Program

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Educaton Track at the 2010 Esri Latin America User Conference

The 17th annual Esri Latin America User Conference (LAUC) is being hosted by SIGSA, the Esri distributor in Mexico, and will take place September 22–24, 2010, in Mexico City at the Sheraton Maria Isabel Hotel & Towers. The conference venue is located on the Paseo de la Reforma and overlooks the famous Angel of Independence monument. One thousand professionals are expected to attend this year’s LAUC, which is the premier event for users throughout Latin America.

“The LAUC prides itself on being usercentric and focused on new GIS trends such as ecosystem GIS mapping,” says Carlos Salman, CEO of SIGSA. “It’s the best regional GIS event to be part of in Latin America. So, if you’re interested in GIS technologies, case studies, and a way to develop your GIS knowledge, skills, and network, this is the right place to be.”

The gathering is also a way to hear about real-world GIS applications and projects during informative and inspiring paper presentations. User abstracts are being accepted for possible presentation at the conference. The deadline for submissions is August 30, 2010.

This year, the LAUC will host the Conference for Education on September 21 as an opportunity for academics and researchers to share their GIS ideas. To learn more about the conferences, visit The Education agenda is also available for download below (PDF).

Discover other Regional User Conferences.

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How Can GIS Help With AP Human Geography? Part 2 of 2

In my last column, I discussed the contents and increasing popularity of the College Board’s Advanced Placement Program (AP) Human Geography course.

One of the five major goals in the AP Human Geography (APHG) course is to enable students to “use and think about maps and spatial data.” I like the fact that both the terms “use” and “to think” are included. Using maps and spatial data implies a rich engagement with maps as analytical tools, not just as reference documents as wall maps or atlases to look up locational facts. To really use maps in a critical thinking, problem-solving framework means to classify data in different ways, to use spatial statistics to examine the relationship of, say, literacy rate to life expectancy, or traffic to city size, to ask questions of the data, and be able to incorporate additional map layers to grapple with complex problems. This can be effectively done within a GIS environment. Using ArcGIS from Esri allows students to do all of these things and more, in both 2D and 3D, with the same toolkit that professionals use, analyzing the essential APHG topics such as population, migration, language, agriculture, and land use.

In so doing, students will be addressing two other APHG goals that have to do with understanding and interpreting associations among place-based phenomena, and the changing interconnections among places. And, because GIS and spatial analysis depends on scale, students will meet the APHG goal to “recognize and interpret at different scales the relationships among patterns and processes.”

I believe that for a geography instructor not to be using GIS as one of his or her major instructional tools is analogous to a chemistry instructor not to be using the Periodic Table of the Elements. GIS is one of the fundamental tools of geographers, and students who are exposed to this tool will be better problem solvers and critical thinkers not just in Geography, but in other subjects, both while in school and after they graduate.

What will you do to promote the use of GIS in AP Human Geography and throughout education?

- Joseph Kerski, Esri Education Manager

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Esri’s presentation at FOSS4G (Barcelona, 08 Sept 2010) [#foss4g]

Perhaps you’ve heard the buzz: Esri presented a keynote talk at FOSS4G? Yes, and if you read a bit of context it should not be so surprising, at all.

Many of us at Esri have participated in one way or another in FOSS projects. Most recently Esri has supported the continued development of the GDAL library which is a key component inside most GIS software products out there, and also we have open-sourced a few key extensions to the ArcGIS platform: the ArcGIS Server Geoportal Extension and the Open Street Map editor for ArcGIS desktop. In my case, previous to coming to Redlands my university research group (information systems students) worked with commercial software and also developed software as part of one of a major FOSS project. FOSS projects tend to foster a ‘warm and fuzzy’ sense of community collaboration, and at Esri much of our effort to support the education community is based on this same spirit. Anyway, my previous experience and personal relations with members of the Barcelona organizing committee resulted in an invitation for me to deliver one of the keynote talks last week.

It came as no surprise to most people in the audience last Wednesday, that we neither announced a full transition to the open source business model nor tried to convince FOSS developers that they were on the wrong path.

The title of the presentation was “Shades of grey: opportunities for collaboration” and the main (intended) message was that the world is not, in fact, black and white: exclusively FOSS or commercial. Most IT experts agree that the norm these days is a mix of both. This was expressed by Paul Ramsey in his 2009 FOSS4G keynote talk in Sydney (see slide 3 of my presentation), citing a quote by The Economist magazine.

My 2010 presentation slides are publicly available at

Allow me to step through the slides and provide some minimal context so you can get an idea of the spirit of our message.

  • Slide 2: Imagine how much we could accomplish is we worked together rather than building artificial walls between us, separating supposed black/white worlds.
  • Slide 3: Ramsey’s use of the quote from The Economist (image from someone’s cellphone)
  • Slide 4: A clearer version of the 2009 quote. We note that this quote goes both ways: yes, FOSS is gaining respectability but this is not to say that it is becoming the exclusive choice; a blend is normally the preferred solution.
  • Slide 5: Harvard Business School researchers have suggested that open/closed, all or nothing, is not a realistic dichotomy; rather there are grades of openness of both the core and the extensions of an organization’s software offering.
  • Slide 6: This is the matrix they use to situate software in 1 of 4 quadrants. We argue that the ArcGIS platform resides in the lower left box, and is slowly rising a bit to occupy parts of the upper left.
  • Slide 7: One example of ArcGIS open extensions is the collection of Resource Centers being created, including openly published code and sample. Shown here is one example of a software extension that combines python code linked to the R geostatistics package.
  • Slide 8: Searching on “arcgis” in CodePlex, one can find 14 projects offering source code, including the Open Street Map editor for ArcGIS desktop. 14 is a modest number, but we hope that these baby steps are recognized and not ignored or derided.
  • Slide 9: A close-up view of the OSM editor project page.
  • Slide 10: Esri supports the OSM project by including it as a default basemap in its desktop and webGIS products, as is shown here using the free (of cost; freeware) ArcGIS Explorer Online product. We encourage the entire community to use and to contribute to OSM. Of note here, is that the OSM tiles are served from University College London: FOSS developers as well as one of the few Esri Development Centers (EDC)…another example of a cutting edge research group that works with both development models, as needed.
  • Slide 11: Another move Esri has made in the direction of collaboration with FOSS, was to join the 52 North initiative, headquartered in Munster Germany, to help to move research topics to usable software solutions with open source and commercial (i.e. dual) licenses. 52 North is currently developing extensions to the ArcGIS Server product and also has exposed AGS geoprocessing functionality via OGC Web Processing Service (WPS) interfaces. We encourage you to visit their website and to participate.
  • Slide 12: This slide has attracted criticism from FOSS hardcore advocates. Our intention was NOT to try to re brand Esri as an open or open source company by “exploiting the term open for our own purposes”. We intended to show several of the ways in which the ArcGIS platform is opening up to allow contributions, extensions, and collaboration by users and developers. Again, the essence of open is NOT all or nothing, rather there are grades of openness. If critics prefer “more open than before” then we’d be happy to say that.
    The following slides go into further detail on the partner programs and the new REST specification.
  • Slide 13: The Esri Developer Network (EDN) program is foreign to many FOSS developers, so we announced a special offer only for attendees of the Barcelona event: a free 1-year EDN subscription for those who expressed interest. (We were pleased to chat later with 40+ institutions that took us up on the offer, and expressed interest in the mixed development environment.) We hope to have news to offer, soon, regarding a mechanism to continue collaborating with independent developers in such as way that ‘lowers the bar’ of entrance into the Esri business partner network. We are extending a hand here…
  • Slide 14: We announced the new Esri Non-Profit program, which actually was pre-announced the day before by J. Dangermond at the Gov 2.0 conference. This program brings software prices down to levels similar to schools pricing (i.e. full ArcInfo desktop + extensions for $100) to allow more non-profit organizations to build Esri platform-based solutions that help more people. This is an important announcement because many FOSS4G developers work with or for non-profits. Thus this opens the door, to those who wish, to develop value-added FOSS extensions/solutions on top of the widely used ArcGIS platform.
  • Slide 15: We announced the publication (on Sept 7) of the Geoservices REST Specification document, similar to the way in which Shapefile details were shared back in 1997. I invite you to have a look at the document and decide for yourself if it is a valuable way to allow non-Esri servers to be accessed by Esri web apps (i.e. Flex, SL, JS clients) and also for non-Esri clients to access content published by ArcGIS Server instances. 52 North has already implemented the spec on both client and server sides and was able to show demos at their booth during the Barcelona event. The doc is found at:
  • Slide 16: We announced that the ArcGIS Server Geoportal Extension (previously GPT) was undergoing a process to make it available freely and with source code, in addition to under a commercial license if wished. GPT users since 2003 have had access to the sourcecode, but now the code is to be published for everyone to use, extend, etc. Keep an eye out for developing news on this important contribution to Spatial data Infrastructure and related projects and initiatives.
  • Slide 17: Global cargo transport was absolutely revolutionized via the standardization of containers, which could interchangeably ride on a variety of platforms i.e. truck, train, ship. ArcGIS is a well-known and widely adopted software platform, upon which FOSS developers should consider developing apps. Not exclusively, but in addition to other platforms. Think iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile….multiple options mean being able to reach more people and make more of a difference.
  • Slide 18: Continuing on the same platform theme.
  • Slide 19: Ending as we started, extending a hand toward collaboration.

Epilogue: some have chosen to bite the hand, but others have contacted us and have entered into conversation about how we can work together in a win-win-win (users also) situation.

Our FOSS4G presentation was a modest attempt to recognize the good work of many in the FOSS4G community, present a few concrete initiatives (not just rhetoric) aimed to show how we are moving slowing toward an area of more fruitful collaboration, and to heighten the dialogue. We plan to work together in this rich, grey area and we invite others to get involved and to supply creative ideas, criticism, and proposals.

If you have questions or comments on this exciting topic, please contact me.

- Michael Gould, Director of Education, Industry Solutions, Esri (

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Esri Sponsors GIS Lab for Teachers at NCGE, Savannah, GA (#ncge)

Esri staff, T3G trainers, and select Esri Press authors will be leading a variety of GIS workshops over a three day period at the upcoming meeting of the National Council for Geographic Education (NCGE).  Workshops focus on the technical, pedagogical, and content knowledge of attendees wishing to further their use of GIS in the college and K-12 settings.

For those conference attendees, workshop registration is required prior to attending the sessions. [More about NCGE.]

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ArcGIS 10 Deployment: How-to Videos

A series of “how-to” videos is available to help you with the deployment of ArcGIS 10, including

ArcGIS 10 Deployment Quick Tour

    Customer Care Site: Software Management

    Customer Care EDN

    ArcGIS 10 Download Management

    Installing ArcGIS Desktop

    ArcGIS 10 Authorization

    ArcGIS 10 Deployment Best Practices

The videos are between 10-30 minutes long, and are available through the Esri Training web site.

An Esri Global Account is required.

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How Can GIS Help With AP Human Geography? Part 1 of 2

For five decades, the College Board’s Advanced Placement Program (AP) has provided students with the opportunity to take college-level coursework and earn college credit while still in high school. AP courses exist in 30 different subjects, each ending with a rigorous exam. The tireless efforts of many geography educators culminated in the first AP Human Geography (APHG) course, offered in 2001 with 3,272 students taking the exam. In 2010, over 61,000 students took the APHG exam. During the summer of 2010, 39 APHG teacher institutes were held in 24 states. These are encouraging signs that the subject is gaining ground in the secondary school curriculum.

AP Human Geography participation by year. Samantha Ross, National Geographic.

The five major topics covered in APHG courses are based on the National Geography Standards developed in 1994. Upon the successful completion of the course, the student should be able to: (1) Use and think about maps and spatial data. (2) Understand and interpret the implications of associations among phenomena in places. (3) Recognize and interpret at different scales the relationships among patterns and processes. (4) Define regions and evaluate the regionalization process. (5) Characterize and analyze changing interconnections among places. I have personally observed teachers instructing APHG, and have always been impressed with the depth of the topics covered. It truly is the type of college-level course that I believe we need to be teaching more of in secondary education. I only wish we had an AP Physical Geography course as well! Would anyone like to spearhead that effort?

Unfortunately, the mean score for the APHG exam this year was 2.56, the lowest mean score for any AP test (passing is 3). Part of the reason is that most students taking the course are in Grade 9, with perhaps only one semester or one year of geography behind them, several years earlier. The use of GIS can help raise these scores and more importantly, help students understand the spatial patterns that are such an integral part of the course. How? We will explore that in my next blog column.

-Joseph Kerski, Esri Education Manager

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Call for Student Maps: NCGE 2010 Map Gallery (#ncge)

The Map Gallery at the 2010 National Conference on Geographic Education will be an exhibition of maps and posters that highlight the many ways GIS is being used and integrated in educational settings at all levels – K-12, undergraduate, and graduate study. Our goal is to showcase the power and value of GIS in the exploration and analysis of data in all disciplines. While the Gallery is an exhibition rather than a contest, exemplary submissions will be recognized by a panel of experts and gallery visitors will be able to vote for a “Peoples’ Choice” award.

We welcome maps of all sizes!! But the maximum dimension on any side (L or W) is 48″. Any of the following standard sizes will qualify for entrance into the Map Gallery:
24″ x 36″
32″ x 36″
34″ x 44″
36″ x 48″

1. If you are planning to attend the NCGE conference ( in Savannah, PLEASE consider bringing one or more maps with you for our Gallery? Since the Opening Reception and Map Gallery will be on Thursday evening, Lyn Malone or Anita Palmer would need to have possession of them by early Thursday afternoon.

2. If you cannot get them to us by early Thursday afternoon OR if you are not attending NCGE, but have maps to contribute, we would still like very much to display them. There are two alternatives:

A. Mail your maps/posters unfolded and in a tube to Lyn Malone at her office for arrival no later than Saturday, Sept.25. She will transport all maps that are mailed to her to Savanna. Address is Marilyn Malone, 53 Riverside Dr., Barrington, RI, 02806.


B. Mail them directly to the conference hotel:

Savannah Marriott Riverfront, MARILYN MALONE, Hotel Guest
100 General McIntosh Boulevard, Savannah, Georgia 31401

Please have them arrive at the hotel no later than Tuesday, September 28.

We know what fantastic things you are doing in your respective settings – help us spread the word.

3. Finally, please email Marilyn Malone ( or Anita Palmer ( the student names of the maps/posters that you are sending beforehand or bringing to the event. Please include in your email if you are mailing the posters to Marilyn Malone, the Savannah Marriott Riverfront Hotel, or if you are bringing them with you. If you have not registered for the NCGE Conference and would like to attend, it is not too late. Visit for more information on what promises to be a stimulating, educational and fun event.

Gallery Exhibition. Outstanding submissions will be recognized with a few selected prizes.

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