Monthly Archives: December 2010

Teaching the GeoNews Using GIS Technologies and the Spatial Perspective

I recently wrote about using GIS technologies to analyze one recent event—the toxic liquid spill in Hungary. I used ArcGIS Online ( to find a map that I could use to analyze the spatial and temporal aspects of the spill, in this case, with ArcGIS Explorer ( Have you considered using something like this as part of a GeoNews segment, where you start all or some of your classes by analyzing one current event from a spatial perspective? Have you considered using GIS as a tool to enable you to do this?

Lest you think that such an activity requires a great deal of set-up time, let me assure you that today’s combination of Web GIS and multimedia make this very easy to do. My example from Hungary is only one of hundreds of events that are routinely tied to Web GIS resources annually. And if you cannot find a Web GIS already made, it takes only minutes to create one of your own. Furthermore, the presentation capabilities that are embedded in ArcGIS Explorer and ArcGIS Explorer Online allow you to create interactive slides that help you tell the story. My colleagues and I modelled the GeoNews concept at this year’s T3G institute for educators in Redlands. Each day of the institute, two of us taught a 15-minute segment about events that were unfolding around the world at the time. You can watch examples of this in action via the movie on the T3G site.

After you have modelled GeoNews, assign your students the task of creating and teaching their own short segments. Emphasize critical thinking about these issues and the examination of these issues using the spatial perspective. Students may begin to realize that everything has a spatial component and that, yes, geography matters now more than ever in our interconnected world.

Some educators I know already make heavy use of current events in their everyday teaching. How can you make use of the GeoNews concept to put a spatial context to these current events?

-Joseph Kerski, Esri Education Manager

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Using ArcGIS Online to Analyze the Toxic Spill in Hungary

A reservoir at an alumina factory in Hungary burst in early October 2010, causing a toxic torrent of water to flow through three villages and creeks. People and fish died; livelihoods were destroyed. Yet from a spatial perspective, we all know that the problem did not end with those three villages and creeks. The water had to flow somewhere. But where?

A quick search on ArcGIS Online ( uncovered an ArcGIS Explorer layer. I opened this layer and found a series of news articles, photographs, and videos linked to the locations where they were recorded on the ground. Analyzing the spill in a GIS environment allowed me to make sense of the scale, landforms, population, and watersheds affected by the disaster. Suddenly, I had a spatial context and perspective that reading disconnected news stories did not provide. ArcGIS Explorer allows you to navigate the landscape in a 3-D environment, changing the base map in order to examine nearby towns, lakes, and ultimately, how the spill reached the Danube, one of the most important rivers in Europe. Like paper maps have allowed us to do for centuries, a GIS helped me to understand, and to tell a story to others. And like most geographic phenomena, I can examine this in other disciplines—for example, in biology to understand the importance of pH, in economics to analyze the importance of alumina, and in mathematics to calculate the distance and time of sediment transport.

As explained in GIM International, hyperspectral and Lidar imagery was collected and used in a GIS and remote sensing environment to model scenarios and to detect future damage to dams. This article points to the critical role that geotechnologies have in every disaster that occurs nowadays to help policymakers and residents in the decisions they have to make.

Another thing to turn into a teachable moment is an observation that struck me in searching for news about the disaster. Almost every news story was published in the first week of the disaster, with almost nothing since then. Recognizing that news is a business and that to sell it, it has to be current, I was sad to consider that this event held the world’s attention for only a brief time, yet the local residents are still dealing with the effects on a daily basis and may continue to do so for years. What are the temporal and geographic aspects to human-environment interactions?

How can you make use of ArcGIS Explorer to analyze current events?

-Joseph Kerski, Esri Education Manager

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Connect and Meetup – At Dev Meet Ups! (#devmeetup)

At Dev Meet Ups, you can

* Demonstrate your application or framework.
* Present an interesting concept or idea.
* Share your experiences.
* Connect with other developers.

All developers are invited to discuss geospatial technology and their development languages at this free event from 5:00 p.m.–8:30 p.m.

Developers can submit a topic for a 10-minute lightning talk when they register.

Visit the Dev Meet Ups site for more information.

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Esri Technical Certification: Exam Registration to Start in January

from the Esri “Training Matters” blog:

After years of discussion within Esri and throughout the GIS community, we’re excited to announce that the Esri Technical Certification Program is a reality. Mark your calendars: Registration for certification exams will open to the public on January 17, 2011.

The Esri Technical Certification Program is designed around the three user domains below; each domain includes multiple tracks and certification levels.

* Desktop
* Developer
* Enterprise

Learn more at the Esri Training Matters blog

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Analyzing Coordinates Before Mapping Them

Today’s GPS and GIS technologies allow us to quickly collect data in the field, and then quickly map the data in a GIS environment to analyze spatial patterns that the field data reveals. However, just as the ease of digital photography has allowed us to get into and out of the field rapidly, it is often advantageous for us as educators and students to slow down! Numerous teachable moments arise even before data is mapped. Consider the following points that I collected during a recent GIS-GPS workshop for educators in Colorado Springs:

point, lat, long
1, 38.98701, -104.76221
2, 38.98700, -104.76198
3, 38.98701, -104.76176
4, 38.98703, -104.76154
5, 38.98702, -104.76127
6, 38.98702, -104.76103
7, 38.98701, -104.76068
8, 38.98719, -104.76059
9, 38.98739, -104.76059
10, 38.98761, -104.76064
11, 38.98764, -104.76084
12, 38.98763, -104.76103
13, 38.98765, -104.76124
14, 38.98768, -104.76149

Observing how the latitude remained relatively constant while the longitude decreased for the first 7 points, how the latitude increased but the longitude remained relatively constant from points 7 through 10, and how the latitude remained constant and the longitude increased for points 10 through 14. From these points, can students visualize that I must have first walked due east, then due north, and then due west? If not, help them visualize this by starting with paper, pencil, and the Cartesian Coordinate System, and then entering and mapping selected points using the Esri EdCommunity latitude-longitude finder, ArcGIS Explorer Online, or ArcGIS Explorer Desktop. In addition, can they visualize based on the coordinates that the area traversed is not that large?

Once the students can start to visualize their world as x and y coordinates, then map the data, as I did in ArcGIS Explorer. Did the coordinates map where they had predicted they would be?

I am continually amazed at how accurate even recreational-grade GPS positions can be. Using the measure tool in ArcGIS Explorer, I discovered that the trees I was mapping were between 1 and 5 meters off from their location as indicated by the Bing satellite image.

Try this technique with your students and let the GIS education community know what you discover!

- Joseph Kerski, Esri Education Manager

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NYC Public Schools to Expand Use of ArcGIS Software

The recent signing of a comprehensive geographic information system (GIS) site license agreement with Esri allows the New York City Department of Education (DOE) to expand its use of ArcGIS software to a number of mission-critical applications.

“With 135,000 employees and more than 1,600 facilities, a system that collects and analyzes data efficiently is invaluable to our mission. GIS will go a long way toward helping our schools manage an enormous amount of data, and we’re thrilled about the initiative,” said Ted Brodheim, chief information officer at the New York City Department of Education.

Geographic science and spatial analysis will add value to the mission-critical business systems maintained by the DOE, allowing its administrators to understand their business challenges better, make effective decisions, operate efficiently, and communicate their decisions clearly.

More information.

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2011 Redlands GIS Week

The 2011 Redlands GIS Week pages are live.

Topic for February is ” VGI: Real-time and emergency applications”

We hope to invite about 50 specialists in the field as speakers, both from the crowdsourcing community and the emergency response community. And then a bunch of academics and Esri people, for a total of 150 attendees.

Deadline for receiving abstracts: 31 December.

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2011 Summer Internships for Undergraduate Students

10 week research experience; $5,000 stipend plus travel expenses

Areas of research: Engineering, computer science, mathematics, physics, chemistry, biological/life sciences, agricultural sciences, environmental science, emergency and incident management, psychology, social sciences

Projects offered at:

- National research laboratories: Argonne, Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, Pacific Northwest, Sandia, Savannah River

- DHS laboratories: Transportation Security Laboratory

- Other research facilities, including Battelle, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Naval Research Laboratory

· Locations include CA, CO, IL, MD, NM, NJ, SC, TN, WA

· U.S. citizenship required


Application deadline: January 5, 2011

Administered by Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education

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Student Assistant Program for Esri Federal User Conf

Esri is introducing a Student Assistantship Program for the Federal User Conference in January 2011, similar to the Student Assistantship Program for the UC. It provides an opportunity for selected students to attend the conference at no cost in exchange for working part-time, and provides a great opportunity for students to meet and network with GIS professionals and Esri staff.

The Esri Federal User Conference (FedUC) is a gathering of GIS professionals from federal agencies and allied organizations (NGOs, government contractors, state/local government agencies, etc.) It includes Technical Sessions and User Presentations, Special Interest Group and Agency Meetings, a Hands-on Learning Lab, a Plenary Session, Exhibits, and several Social Events with networking opportunities.

Please forward this to your students who may be interested in attending, especially those interested in careers in the U.S. Federal Government.

Contact Joe Johnson – with questions.


Student Volunteers Needed for the Esri Federal User Conference

Find out how you can attend free of charge!

January 19–21, 2011 | Walter E. Washington Convention Center | Washington, D.C.

Esri is seeking student volunteers to support its annual

Federal User Conference (FedUC). You can attend this event

for free in exchange for volunteering your time for half a day

or more.

Take advantage of this opportunity to learn how geospatial

technology supports mission-critical activities at agencies

across the nation. FedUC is the largest gathering of federal

geospatial leaders, decision makers, and geographic

information system (GIS) professionals. Esri solutions support

many disciplines including land and natural resources, health

and human services, science and exploration, homeland

security, and global affairs.

Volunteer duties may include

• Greeting and offering assistance to attendees

• Taking on-site registrations

• Handing out and collecting surveys

• Monitoring sessions and counting attendance

Learn more about the Esri Federal User Conference at and see attached Acrobat PDF document below.

To sign up, contact Joe Johnson at

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Ten Tested, Tried, and Terrific Web GIS Resources

Like many of you, we on the Esri education team frequently give presentations and workshops for educators who seek to use GIS to investigate relevant and current issues with their students. Web GIS is an increasingly important part of these workshops because of its ease of use, richness of content, and ability to foster geographic inquiry. Using Web GIS tools also easily leads into deeper questions that can be most effectively answered with a combination of Web GIS and desktop GIS, such as ArcGIS Online combined with ArcGIS desktop software.

We are frequently are asked what our favorite Web GIS resources are. My “favorites” are those that best meet the needs of the particular audience I am working with, so they change with each workshop, and change as Web GIS rapidly evolves. However, below is an attempt to list Web GIS resources that I have tested and tried in a variety of workshops and settings. Can I hold the list to a “top ten”?

First, for the past year, I and colleagues around the world have made and shared maps using ArcGIS Online ( and encourage you to do the same. A favorite of mine since the late 1990s has been the National Atlas ( Over 100 layers are available, with diverse, well-documented content that can be used in a desktop GIS environment for further analysis. I also find the demographic, hazard, and health maps (pictured below) on Esri’s Mapping For Everyone ( extremely useful.

I also make extensive use of over 600 variables as cartograms and Excel tables on, as well as the NCES School District demographics maps, on The FAO’s Geonetwork ( is rich, and the graphs and maps on StateMaster ( and NationMaster ( and those on GapMinder ( are excellent. I also make heavy use of the National Historical GIS ( and its associated, and language maps on I also frequently use the WHO global atlas ( for health data, the CIESIN viewer (, for examining socioeconomics, and the NASA NEO Earth Observations ( for examining energy, lands, oceans, biomes, and the atmosphere.

Oops! I knew I probably could not hold it to ten. What are your favorite resources for investigating issues using Web GIS? Please share!

- Joseph Kerski, Esri Education Manager

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