Monthly Archives: February 2011

Fun with GIS #75: Diving In with GIS

Education analysts say US schools need more depth. Too much focus on recall, not enough real world application that students can dive into. That’s what many state governors heard this weekend, at a meeting in DC. But some teachers refuse the easy path to tedium. Some recognize that, when their students leave school, they need to be able to find information and make decisions, think analytically, solve problems. GIS is helping some schools and some teachers take their students on a deep dive into content, including messy, real-life problems.

The marine science class at Clark Magnet High School, in La Crescenta, CA, under teacher Dominique Evans-Bye, has been exploring contamination picked up by lobsters. They also write articles, such as one for the December 2010 Public Safety Diver magazine on the use of “Hazus-MH,” software developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to identify risks and mitigate loss. In this land of fires, floods, and earthquakes, hazards are a real-life concern. (See also local newspaper coverage.) And they’ve been monitoring fish populations inside and outside local reserves, analyzing the impact of protection (see Fun With GIS #9). Through it all, they’re making maps and doing analysis.

What does it take? Just recognition that real life is not a bubble test, and making maps of the messiness of real life provides critical context for STEM and the rest of school. And, yes, the willingness of a teacher to make class a place that engages kids in real life explorations. In the words of the Clark Magnet students, “In our GIS class, we work on projects that benefit the community and environment.” These students are getting solid content background in an integrated way, and getting a leg up on jobs after high school. They’re doing exactly what the education analysts encourage for all students.

- Charlie Fitzpatrick, Co-Manager, Esri Schools Program

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Map Your Photos With ArcGIS Explorer Online—Automating the Process

Hyperlinking photographs, text, and video to locations where field data is collected in a GIS environment is becoming easier than ever. In an earlier blog column, I discussed a method of emailing photographs to myself from my smartphone and then uploading them to an online archive such as PicasaWeb, Flickr, or WindowsLive. Then I hyperlinked these images using maps created with ArcGIS Explorer Online ( This method eliminated the step of cabling the photographs from a camera to the computer and then transferring them to a designated folder on the computer’s hard disk, saving valuable instructional time by automating the process for everyone in class.

However, this method requires me to physically go to my computer and transfer the photographs I had emailed to myself to the online archive. Can the process be fully automated so that you can email your photographs directly to a website while you are in the field, and then once in the lab, link to that website inside ArcGIS Explorer Online? Absolutely!

First, choose a photo and video archiving service that allows you to email photographs directly into a folder that allows public access. Second, access your service and make your email “dropbox” folder public. Third, find a direct link to your photo that you can use for your hyperlink. In the example below, I used the feature available in most smart phones—the geotagged latitude-longitude coordinates—assigned to the photograph I took at Mt Kilimanjaro.

I accessed ArcGIS Explorer Online (, used the search tool to find the latitude and longitude, and added a pushpin and note at that point. I added a hyperlink to the photograph I had taken there, stored in my PicasaWeb dropbox.

I then saved my ArcGIS Explorer Online map so that I could access it from any computer, anytime, and shared it so that you can access it too! This entire process took only a few minutes.

This process can be automated even further by using a tool that automatically reads the latitude-longitude coordinates embedded in the header of your photographs and maps them at their correct locations on the map. The landscape of using imagery and video within online and desktop GIS is changing by the month—even by the week. The best way to keep up to date with the latest tools and methods in geotagging is to visit my colleague Tom Baker’s geotagging blog (

Choose methods that are most appropriate for your instructional goals and the technologies at your disposal. How might you be able to effectively use geotagging and GIS hyperlinking in your own instruction?

- Joseph Kerski, ESRI Education Manager

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Fun with GIS #74: Videos on GIS in School Instruction

GIS belongs in school classrooms. To help educators, administrators, education policy influencers, and others see why, we have posted some short videos on YouTube. There’s a general 20-minute intro about GIS, what people do with it, and why it makes sense to use it in school, and then some short videos of ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Desktop. Go to to see and share. (On an iPad, open the YouTube app and search for “gisinschoolinstruction.”)

As we struggle to improve kids’ educational experience, support communities, and save the planet, folks need to see how GIS can help with all three missions.

- Charlie Fitzpatrick, Co-Manager, Esri Schools Program

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Map Your Photos with ArcGIS Explorer Online

The capability of hyperlinking mapped features to photographs, text, and video at locations where field data is collected has for at least a decade been one of the most appealing and useful features about GIS. In an educational context, this fosters community building, sense of place, field data integration, investigation of a problem, and much more. The traditional method I used for years to hyperlink was to transfer the images and videos from my camera via a cable, upload them to the web, and link to them. Recent technological advancements permit additional options that are simpler but are equally powerful.

Let’s say you want to eliminate the step of manually transferring the photographs and video from your camera to your computer. Why? Manual transfer takes time and requires cables, and both may be in short supply during a class you are teaching. While in the field, you can email photographs from your smart phone to yourself. Once in the lab, access your email account and transfer your photographs to a website. Hundreds of sites offer the capability of hosting photographs, such as PicasaWeb, Flickr, and WindowsLive. Once online, make sure that your photographs are “public” so your students can view them. Students can hyperlink to your photographs—or better yet, their own photographs, by using a variety of GIS tools, including ArcGIS Explorer Online or ArcGIS desktop.

In a recent class I co-taught, I used ArcGIS Explorer Online ( After accessing the site, I used the “search” tool to locate the latitude and longitude coordinate pair that I had marked with my GPS receiver at the top of the Bookcliffs. At this location, I added a point and changed its symbology to a mountain. I then used “edit contents” to add a name, description, link to my photograph, and a related website. For the related website, I found a perfectly-suited sequence stratigraphy of the Bookcliffs. Pay close attention to how your chosen website displays photographs. I could not directly link to the location of the photograph in my PicasaWeb album, but rather, to the full jpg link, which I found by right-clicking and accessing the photograph’s properties. In my case, this was here.

In ArcGIS Explorer Online, when I click on the point on my map, the photograph, description, and hyperlink appear. I saved the resulting map on ArcGIS Online and made it public here.

Could you more fully automate the process so that you can email your photographs directly to a website and link to that website? Absolutely! I will cover this in a separate blog column.

How might you be able to use these methods in your own instruction?

- Joseph Kerski, ESRI Education Manager

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Fun with GIS #73: iPad-iving into Ecoregions [#iPad #scichat]

A key concept for students of nature is a bioregion, or ecological region. Youth hoping for any job in the outdoors relating to nature (wildlife biologist, forester, park ranger, oceanographer, etc) must dive into the concept. The Wikipedia description — “an ecologically and geographically defined area smaller than an ecozone and larger than an ecosystem” — can be a challenge to grasp for youth with limited experience in biodiversity, landscapes, and principles of geography. But students can build knowledge digitally, thanks to data from the USDA Forest Service posted on ArcGIS Online. (Shown here is an iPad, but any device with a web browser would work.)

In the search bar of ArcGIS Online, type “USA Ecological Subregions” (or just click here). Several interesting looking results appear, but look for one which includes the descriptor “MAP SERVICE,” and click “Details” (or just click here). After reading the description, click the thumbnail to open the map in, and click the Legend button.

One of the most powerful concepts of geography is “scale,” and by zooming in, you can see the “ecological divisions” resolving into more finely grained “provinces,” “sections,” and “subsections.” Using the Identify tool, you can click on a feature and find out about the feature under investigation. (Move the mouse up and down in the popup window to highlight the identified region.)

But how do you keep track of where you are? Clicking the “Show Contents” button, you could toggle the checkmark off and on, but adjusting the layer transparency lets you wander the map more freely.

Each of these geographies has characteristic flora and fauna, influenced by an array of factors. Students of nature working in a given geography need to see the different resolutions of regions, investigate what distinguishes one area from another, and use this knowledge to help ensure appropriate activities in appropriate places while conserving and supporting critical biodiversity. Such wisdom can begin to grow even at a young age with understanding of these geographic patterns. As conditions change globally and regionally, this will remain a critical channel of STEM education for years to come.

- Charlie Fitzpatrick, Co-Manager, Esri Schools Program

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Where Can Love Be Found? Mapping Valentine’s Day with GIS

An easy yet powerful activity is to map place names using a GIS. Make it even better by mapping names associated with holidays. For Valentine’s Day, I mapped place names containing the words “love”, “heart”, and “rose.” I ran three queries against the Geographic Names Information System, exporting each file as a comma separated value (CSV) file. I brought each file into Excel, deleted a few fields I did not need, re-saved, and brought the file into ArcGIS Explorer using Add Content.

Rose was the most popular (the 591 red circles), then love (the 136 yellow notes), and heart (the 38 blue circles). Candy and chocolate resulted in only 6 and 3 places, respectively.

My Picture

There seems to be a clustering of “Rose” place names in Minnesota, the southern Mississippi Valley, and along the Delaware River.

Can love scale any height? You top 7,303 feet at Loveland Heights, Colorado, not far from the city of Loveland, where more than 200,000 Valentines are mailed to all 50 states and more than 110 countries, just to receive the Loveland postmark. Sadly, you hit bottom in aptly named Love’s Folly, Maryland, at 7 feet.

You could also analyze businesses and industry responsible for producing things associated with Valentine’s Day. For example, 1,170 locations produced chocolate and cocoa products in 2006, employing 39,457 people, led by California with 128. To access the data, go to, then “Business and Industry,” “County Business Patterns”, then select a state, and look up “Details” for “Industry Code 31, Manufacturing.” Locate code 31133, “Confectionery Manufacturing From Purchased Chocolate.” After noting the number of employees and establishments involved in the manufacturing of confectionery from chocolate, use “Compare” to compare other states. Chocolate comes from cacao trees found in Central and South America and is imported to the USA by confectionery manufacturers. You can probably guess the city where the largest producer of chocolate products is! Next, do the same thing with florists.

I invite you to explore the endless possibilities of analyzing names and industries through the use of a GIS.

May you find yourself in Lovewell Kansas this Valentine’s Day rather than Loveless Park Alabama!

Joseph Kerski, ESRI Education Manager

Originally posted February 12, 2010

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4 Easy Ways For New GIS Teachers To Get A Little Help

As a teacher new to using GIS in the classroom, you may find that often times you’re the only one in the building. Maybe you’re using GIS with GPS for field data collection or having students create presentations with ArcGIS Explorer Online. Perhaps you’re mapping demographic or employment data with your civics class. Whether you realize it or not, you’re definitely not alone! Help is only a few mouse clicks away.

The Esri Education Community was first launched in 2007 to support educators of all kinds who want to use GIS in the classroom. The community is now home to ArcLessons, the GIS University Programs database, case studies, an event calendar and plenty more. Check this site first and often for the latest content from the Esri Education Team and other GIS in education gurus.

The most recent and perhaps the best way to get some targeted help is by posting to the new  Education forums. While the forums require a free Esri Global Id to post, it only takes a few seconds to get started. Recent forum topics have focused on GIS & Geocaching, GIS for Mac, GIS in state standards, and many others. Bookmark the forums for fast access and post your most pressing questions here!

With well over 500 posts, the Education Community blog is your one-stop for the latest in curriculum, data, software, and best practice. The blog is updated several times a week and includes a handy search and RSS support.

Finally, for those in Higher Education, the must-do is: join the Higher Education email listserv (Highered-L). This list typically has two to five posts a week, is monitored by the Esri Higher Education Team and has members from around the world. Especially, if email is the best way for you to keep up, joining this list should be top priority! (Note: if you work in teacher education or educational research, also consider joining this non-Esri group.)

Next time, we’ll take a quick stroll through social media.

- Tom Baker, Esri Education Manager

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Fun with GIS #72: CTE Month

February is “Career & Technical Education Month,” and GIS presents vast opportunity for CTE instructors, counselors, and administrators. There are today so many careers within which GIS plays a role that it’s impossible to cover them all in one breath, image, or essay. A great way to see the options is to visit two zones on the Esri web: the Map Museum and the Industry pages.

First, head to You’ll see a series of books. Each one is a treasure trove all by itself, composed of maps and stories by users within the industry

By clicking on any of the volumes, you’ll see categories of GIS users showing their work at the Esri International User Conference.

Click a category, follow any example, and you can read a story and inspect the map from that GIS user. Below, for instance, is part of an analysis of traffic accidents during a three month span in a city.

If these user presentations aren’t enough, or for educators or students with specific interests, go next to to see the sweep of options, with additional documents and case studies visible in each.

The array of careers, their impact on society, and the opportunities for youth with particular interests are immense. For youth in CTE programs — or any STEM education program — GIS presents a vast universe of opportunities.

- Charlie Fitzpatrick, Co-Manager, Esri Schools Program

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Call For Proposals: Geomorphometry 2011

Geomorphometry 2011


Geomorphometry 2011: Five days of Digital Terrain Analysis (Conference + Workshops)

September 7-11, 2011 (Wednesday to Sunday)

ESRI Campus Redlands, California, USA

For more information, visit:



* Workshop proposals due: 1 Februrary 2011
* Extended abstracts due: 1 March 2011
* Notification of acceptance: 1 April 2011
* Final camera-ready digital manuscripts due: 1 May 2011
* Author registration deadline: 15 May 2011
* Early registration deadline: 15 May 2011

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Mapping Sports Allegiances with GIS [ #SuperBowl Packers Steelers ]

Esri is hosting a Super Bowl fan map, on Created with ArcGIS Server and Flex, your vote will be instantly recorded in the database and displayed on the map. You can then use the map, the pie chart, and the data to find out if you are in Packers or Steelers “territory.” Have your students examine the resulting patterns and consider the value that maps bring to analysis. What is their hypothesis of the pattern in the country as a whole, and in specific regions? Some patterns, as shown below in a zoomed-in portion of the map, are expected, but others are a bit puzzling. At the moment, Cleveland looks like it is Packers territory, despite its closer proximity to Pittsburgh.

Vote for your favorite team! Just don’t let my self-photograph below influence your voting in any way whatsoever!

- Joseph Kerski, ESRI Education Manager

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