Monthly Archives: September 2012

Call for Presentations: Special GIScience Research Session

Call for Presentations:

Special GIScience Research Session
Esri International Users Conference
8-12 July, 2013
San Diego, California

Esri invites you to present a peer-reviewed paper in a special joint GIScience Research Session of the 2013 Esri International User and Educational User Conferences. Papers in this special tract must focus on cutting-edge research in GIScience. Full papers will be included in a special issue of Transactions in GIS to be distributed at the 2013 International User and Education User Conferences. Abstracts (500 words) must be submitted to Dr. John Wilson, University of Southern California, by 9th November, 2012.

The Transactions in GIS editorial team will review abstracts based on their GIScience content and select 9-12 abstracts to become full papers. Notice of acceptance will occur by 16th November, 2012. Full papers (maximum 6,000 words plus figures, tables, and references in appropriate format for publication) must be submitted to Dr. Wilson so that we can start the peer review process no later than 21st December, 2012. Reviewed papers will be returned to authors by 15th February, 2013 and final manuscripts (if appropriate) must be returned by 1st March, 2013 to be included in the special issue of Transactions in GIS.

For questions or guidelines on this special GIScience Research Track, contact Michael Gould at

Abstracts should be submitted via e-mail with a subject line “Esri GIScience Abstract, Authors Last Name” no later than 9th November, 2012 to John Wilson at

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Esri-Sponsored Hands-on Sessions and additional workshops at the Upcoming National Conference on Geographic Education

In my last essay, I described how Esri has supported the National Conference on Geographic Education for 20 years, through real-world investigation of geographic issues and phenomena through GIS technologies. This year, Esri and its friends and partners will conduct two days of hands-on workshops in investigating natural hazards, population change, watersheds, weather, land use, and much more, using the set of data and tools on ArcGIS Online.

We believe that the use of GIS in instruction represents the essence of what applying geography to solve problems, foster critical, holistic, and geographic thinking, and to increase skills that are highly in demand in the workforce. The analysis of local to global issues through the spatial framework engages students with the content, skills, and perspectives of geography.

Conference schedules change so check the latest on, but the list below provides a sense of the many activities that will occur. Most of these sessions will take place in Chautauqua Salon A. We will also host an exhibit and will be available throughout the conference there.

Friday 5 October 2012

GeoTech Lightning – 8:00 – 8:45 am
Quick looks at the range of map skills, concepts, and activities tackled.

One Browser, A Bazillion Maps – 9:00 – 9:45 am
Online mapping is easy and very powerful for teachers and students of all ages.

Population Geography Online – 10:00 – 10:45 am
Where do people live and what are things like there?

Election Geography Online – 11:00 – 11:45 am
Who will carry which states and districts? Explore and analyze online!

Mapping Our World Online – 1:00 – 1:45 pm
Learn to do GIS online using world geography.

Exploring Landscape Change Over Time – 2:00 – 2:45 pm
Landscape changes in ways blatant and subtle.

Assessing with Online Map Presentations – 3:00 – 3:45 pm
Building personal presentations helps students of all ages mix solid content and creativity.

ArcGIS Online for Organizations: Working with a New Model – 4:00 – 4:45 pm
ArcGIS Online for Organizations expands capabilities for schools, districts, clubs, and colleges.

Saturday 6 October 2012

GeoTech Lightning, Part 2 – 8:00 – 8:45 am
Quick looks at the range of map skills, concepts, and activities tackled.

Mapping Disasters – 9:00 – 9:45 am
Easy to map and powerful opportunities to integrate subjects and skills.

Weather, Water, Web, Oh, My! – 10:00 – 10:45 am
Map weather, waters, wildlands wildfires, and other key elements of our lives, online.

Field GPS with a Smartphone – 11:00 – 11:45 am
Bring your smartphone and learn to explore, map, analyze, and present your world!

GeoTagging & GeoCaching with Smartphones – 1:00 – 1:45 pm
Geocaching (GPS-based treasure hunting) and geotagging (making and using location savvy pics) are
great ways to help kids (of all ages!) build knowledge and skills.

APHG Topics via Online GIS – 2:00 – 2:45 pm
Advanced Placement Human Geography topics are great for exploration and analysis via online

Understanding a Changing Planet with AGO – 3:00 – 3:45 pm
The National Research Council’s volume presents major geographic questions that all citizens must
grapple with.

Mapping US History – 4:00 – 4:45 pm
See and analyze the past in various ways through tools of today.

Selected other sessions by Esri and friends include:

Practicing Geography Workshop – Friday, 3:00 – 4:45 pm
Joy K. Adams and Niem Tu Huynh, Association of American Geographers, Joseph J. Kerski, Esri

International Perspectives on Teaching and Learning with GIS in Secondary Schools – Joseph Kerski –Friday, 11:00am

Developing GIS Curriculum Materials using ArcGIS Online – Saturday, 10:00 – 10:45 am – Eui-kyung Shin, Northern Illinois University, Thomas R. Baker, Esri

Head to the High Ground, the Missouri is Flooding: A Remote Sensing Exercise
Saturday, 11:00 – 11:45 am – Paul Baumann, SUNY, Oneonta and Roger Palmer, GISetc

Developing Collaborative Field Studies for Student Mobile Devices
Saturday, October 6, 4:00 pm – 4:45 pm – Thomas R. Baker, Esri

We look forward to seeing you at the upcoming NCGE conference in San Marcos, Texas, and thereafter in the GIS education community! How might you be able to use ArcGIS Online in your own courses?

- Joseph Kerski, Esri Education Manager

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Fun with GIS 129: Quiet Revolution

A quiet revolution is building in US K12 education. States are recognizing the power of GIS and the opportunity it presents, for both instruction and administration.

A huge boost in helping educators introduce GIS is its utility in unlimited careers. Seeing how many directions a young person can go with geotech skills has inspired educators to consider GIS, and parents to promote it. In the Map Gallery at the 2012 Esri International Conference, I met a happy young man who began using GIS in high school, got hired into a full-time GIS-based job right out of high school, and had been sent by his employer to this conference to learn even more.

At the conference, I also met a high school principal and teacher whose students had conducted analyses that helped local police solve some crimes, and talked with a teacher whose students’ work was on display in a local museum exhibit. It is exceedingly hard to prove changes to standardized test scores – in any direction – specifically from using GIS, but students who regularly use GIS necessarily build content background plus skills in data analysis, critical thinking, and communication. This “problem-based learning with GIS” was also the highlight of three separate youth presentations (first, second, third) in the 2012 conference’s opening plenary, when students from the Virginia Geospatial Semester showed what they could do after a single year.

To this day, I’ve not had a single employer tell me “I need students with better test scores.” Instead, I hear constantly “I need people who can explore independently, learn when they need to, analyze and integrate data to make informed decisions, solve problems, communicate, and work well in a team.” Kids using geotech, whether in class or after-school programs, demonstrate this well, and more educators are paying heed.

Meanwhile, schools and districts are seeing how useful GIS can be for administrative purposes. Each dollar saved in operating more efficiently can help an institution be a more effective place of learning. Some schools and districts even recognize that they can meet multiple goals at once by having students learn geotechnology in class by tackling a task that helps the institution, such as mapping internal wifi signal strength or outside lighting, modeling alternative scenarios for school parking or reducing environmental impact, even just mapping trash. (For a broader look, see this Spatial Roundtable discussion.)

Finally, more states are establishing statewide licenses, to facilitate access to software, provide professional development, and influence what they want kids and educators to know and be able to do. This is a recognition that changes are important now and for the long term, and that education must be a part of the community instead of apart from it.

GIS professionals can help this revolution, by introducing local educators and leaders to GIS, and lending a hand to programs getting underway. GIS Day and the GeoMentor program are great places to begin. It takes time and consistent effort to bring about revolution, but it is underway, and growing, even if quietly.

- Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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Esri Supports the Upcoming National Conference on Geographic Education

Esri has been supporting the National Conference on Geographic Education since the early 1990s, through hands-on workshops in real-world investigation of geographic issues and phenomena through GIS technologies. This year, Esri will conduct two days of hands-on workshops in investigating natural hazards, population change, watersheds, weather and climate, land use, and much more, using the set of data and tools on ArcGIS Online. We also will be giving additional workshops and papers at the conference, which I will describe in upcoming blog essays. More broadly, we have long supported the organization that is behind this conference, the National Council for Geographic Education ( My colleagues and I have served on NCGE’s administrative boards and curriculum and professional development projects over the years, and I served as NCGE President in 2011.

We have learned a great deal from the geography education community through NCGE. If you are not a member of this organization, I strongly encourage you to do so. It is a friendly, dedicated, and talented community that has deep roots (97 years and counting!) and looks forward to a bright future.

Why are we doing conducting these workshops? Like many of you, we believe that the use of GIS in instruction represents the essence of what applying geography to solve problems, foster critical, holistic, and geographic thinking, and to increase skills that are highly in demand in the workforce. The analysis of local to global issues through the spatial framework engages students with the content, skills, and perspectives of geography.

Why are we using ArcGIS Online as our primary platform for these workshops? ArcGIS Online, over the past two years, has rapidly evolved into a powerful set of technologies, with rich data sets, tools, and a user community. It allows educators and their students to quickly create, customize, and share maps on the web, with their own content or content created by others. As a preview, have a look at my series of 7 videos entitled “Teaching Geography with ArcGIS Online,” beginning here.

We hope to see you at the upcoming NCGE conference in San Marcos, Texas, and beyond, in cyberspace in the ArcGIS Online community! How might you be able to use ArcGIS Online in your own courses?

- Joseph Kerski, Esri Education Manager

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Why We Celebrate

By Keith T. Weber
Idaho State University GIS Training and Research Center

GIS’ers tend to be open people who like to share. We share data, knowledge, and our enthusiasm. When GIS Day was created about a decade ago, I was immediately intrigued.

I thought, here is an event where we can share our successes and knowledge of GIS with everyone. With this simple incentive, the GIS Training and Research Center (TReC) embarked on a journey—GIS Day has become not just something we do each year but rather who we are as an organization.

GIS Day always reconnects us and brings new faces to our GIS community. It helps demonstrate that GIS is far more about people than it is about mouse clicks.

About Keith T. Weber

Keith T. Weber, GISP, is GIS director at Idaho State University. He has worked in the GIS field since the late 1980s and has hosted a GIS Day event each year since it began. To learn more about GIS TReC, visit

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Featured Event: GIS Day in Poole, UK

In Poole—a coastal town, port, and tourist destination in the county of Dorset in southern England—GIS Day will have one underlying message: the importance of place.

“We try to put this concept across to everyone we talk to,” says event host Steve Campbell, GIS manager for the Borough of Poole, the local government authority. “We try to get people we work with to understand and appreciate how valuable place is in the decisions that they make. By looking at the area surrounding where they are working, they will be able to make a better, more informed decision.”

Each year for GIS Day, Campbell and his three volunteers set up display boards that cover the basics of GIS, work projects that have employed GIS, projects that are in the planning stages, and developments/improvements delivered by the GIS team.

“The agenda varies based on the projects we are running at the time,” he says. “Mostly we use it as an opportunity to grab people for five minutes to understand more about their own [work] processes.”

Campbell and the GIS team also look for ways to use GIS to help colleagues make their workflows more efficient and effective as well as make their data more transparent and open by linking it with data from other parts of the authority.

“This year, we will also be looking at redeveloping the public mapping that we provide on our council Internet pages, so we’ll be sourcing views from council staff as to what they would like to see,” he says.

There is a quiz or competition each year as well. “We’ve previously run a quiz asking people to identify parts of the borough from small snippets of mapping or aerial photography, and earlier this year, we ran an Easter egg hunt by hiding eggs on an interactive map,” he says.

According to Campbell, GIS Day organizers also try to demonstrate how sharing data can benefit the entire authority by making data open and allowing processes to be completed more quickly and effectively, saving the council time and money.

This will be Poole’s fourth celebration of GIS Day. “Last year was very successful,” he says,” as we were promoting our new internal, web-based mapping application to the authority, and we even had visits from our chief executive and the leader of the council.”

Organizers expect about 100 attendees this year, primarily adults over 18 years of age and exclusively from within the authority. Their knowledge of GIS ranges from complete beginners who have never heard of GIS or Campbell’s team to those who use the software on a daily basis.

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Featured Event: GIS Day at Ventura College

When Esri celebrated its first GIS Day in 1999, Ventura College—located in Southern California—followed suit with its inaugural, daylong GIS Day conference on campus.

This year will mark Ventura College’s thirteenth GIS Day conference. Cosponsoring the event is the Channel Islands Regional GIS Collaborative (CIRGIS), the GIS group for Santa Barbara/Ventura.

The college’s message has been “Look at and learn from and share the wonderful GIS work that is going on in our region,” says event host Steve Palladino, professor of geography, GIS, and environmental science. The event typically has included a welcome and orientation, plenary session, keynote address, vendor showcase, breakout sessions, and displays.

GIS Day 2011 featured an Esri presentation, “Sharing Your Maps Using ArcGIS Online; awards; and a discussion of CIRGIS interactive maps and other projects, Palladino says.

Ventura College hosts typically hold the event in several classrooms and open spaces, including a large lecture hall for the plenary session and keynote speech, lab rooms for the vendor showcase, and smaller lecture rooms for 25-minute breakout sessions.

The organizers run two or three tracks of presentations, with presenters often being members of the local GIS community, Palladino says. Lunch is provided both outside on the campus’s small plaza and inside the vendor rooms.

“Last year’s event went very well,” he says, due in no small measure to years of experience. “We have much of the organizing details ‘in the can,’ which helps the event run smoothly.”

Over the years, attendance has ranged from about 120 to 180, with about 125 attendees in 2011. The largest portion of attendees included local GIS professionals. Also officially registered last year to look, learn, and share were other professionals from GIS and related fields, adults in the community who were interested in the subject, and 20–25 Ventura College students.

“Many more come in during the day, some for the extra credit for their geography classes that have been canceled to make room for our event,” Palladino says. “This is an important networking event for the GIS community in our region.”

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What's New with GIS Day

On Wednesday November 14, 2012, thousands of users around the world are expected to participate in hundreds of GIS Day events—the annual salute to geospatial technology and its power to transform and improve lives. If you’re interested in hosting an event, get started by visiting the new and improved GIS Day website. It is packed with features that will get people inspired about GIS Day 2012 and make finding, developing, and hosting events easier and more fun than ever. Here are some of the enhancements:

An interactive map shows GIS Day events around the globe. Users can register their event to promote it on the map. Those who are interested in attending or volunteering at an event can easily find a nearby GIS Day event.

An updatedresources page provides hosts with the items they need to promote events, including the GIS Day logo, customizable marketing files, and a PowerPoint template, as well as interactive map games, videos, and e-books.

A new, streamlined registration form offers event hosts a quick and simple registration experience, plus all registered events will receive complimentary GIS Day giveaways, resources support, and a place on the Events Map.

A Flickr photo stream depicts successful past events with pictures submitted by hosts around the world.

Bookmark Information will be added year-round.

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Fun with GIS 128: Crowdsource Your Fieldwork

One “magical” power of the new ArcGIS Online Organizations is the ability to publish editable feature services. This opens a world of collaboration in the construction of data.

A “feature service” is a data layer that can be used in many maps. This is in contrast to just pushing a zipped shapefile into a map, which is indeed cool but creates just a set of “notes,” usable only in that specific map or its “offspring.” A feature service is an independent layer, with its own metadata; it can be documented, commented on, searched for, and added independently to other maps and apps. Feature services can be classified and symbolized, queried, analyzed via geoprocessing tools, and downloaded by the owner for further work in ArcMap.

“Editable feature services” are feature services in which users can make modifications, such as adding new records or changing the values in a record’s attributes. For instance, I have posted a simple editable feature service allowing readers of this blog to add a record showing their location, age, gender, and favorite morning beverage. I could create a service for my classes (plus those of other educators) to use on a field trip, allowing collection of precisely defined data, for a project in science or social studies. At Esri’s T3G (“Teachers Teaching Teachers GIS”) Institute in 2012, participants did exactly this, collecting tree data and attaching photos to certain records. {See GRCF map}

The magic comes from generating this editable feature service in ArcMap, publishing it through ArcGIS Online into a map, and then letting students use GPS-enabled smartphones or tablets to record the data. They can quickly fill out a form, attach a photo, hit submit, refresh their map, and see their data plus items generated by classmates, on the fly while out in the field. This rapid feedback boosts interest in the activity at hand — they are looking at THEIR data gathered just a moment ago! It even facilitates data entry by eliminating replication, thereby reducing error.

What does it take to do this? ArcMap 10, an ArcGIS Online Organization account, a basic understanding of databases, and a question to explore. Is there an example to look at? See “NOTES” in ArcGIS Online, and notice that it includes a downloadable map package. The metadata talks of ArcGIS Server, but you can also use an ArcGIS Online Organization subscription.

Excellent! So, how can I do this? If NOTES does everything you want, you can download the linked map package and publish it into your own ArcGIS Online Organization. But chances are you want to create your own special project. To do this, you need to plan carefully your data collection process. A new ArcLesson walks you through creating and using an editable feature service. (Alternative download site for 11mb PDF here.) It’s easy to do. So now the question is “What kind of data collection project should you do?” Water quality? Local historic sites? Tree inventory? Community assets? It’s worth spending some time dreaming and scheming, perhaps over your favorite breakfast beverage.

- Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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Isn’t That Spatial? Online Spatial Thinking Course for Educators

Know a colleague that is interested in using spatial thinking and geotechnologies in instruction? An upcoming 5 week course may be just the thing that could bring the “a-ha!” moment in terms of understanding how and why to do so. The course, entitled “Isn’t that Spatial? Analyzing Our World Using Digital Maps and Spatial Thinking (TSA101)” is offered through eNet Colorado, a provider and clearinghouse of professional development resources for educators.

The goal of Teaching Using Spatial Analysis 101 is to provide confidence, skills, and the spatial perspective necessary to foster spatial analysis in geography, earth and biological sciences, history, mathematics, computer science, and in other disciplines.

It will accomplish this through a series of hands-on activities where participants investigate a series of fascinating issues relevant to the 21st Century, including population, natural hazards, energy, water, current events, sustainable agriculture, and more. These activities will be supplemented by short readings and reflections that will build a community of educators focused on the value of investigating the world through a spatial perspective. Students who are ultimately impacted by what the educators will learn through this course will benefit through key career and critical thinking skills in data management, inquiry, multimedia, and geospatial technologies. I am teaching this class and will be assisted by eNet Colorado staff. The class ($75) begins on 19 September 2012 and is 5 weeks long, running asynchronously, with an estimated time of 3 hours required per week. Graduate credit through Adams State University is available as well. See my video for more information about the course.

Each week includes the following tasks: 1. Read the introduction. 2. Read the background readings and respond in the forum. The background readings include items written by the National Research Council’s “Learning to Think Spatially” committee, Phil Gersmehl, myself, and others. Reading others’ reflections and responding is one way to build community, which is key to success in spatial analysis and GIS in education. 3. Complete the hands on activities using ArcGIS Online and other tools and respond to the questions I pose. 4. Complete a five-question quiz. In addition, during Week 5 there is an additional assignment: Complete a plan describing how you would implement these skills, activities, and/or geotechnologies in the classroom.

The themes for each week are: Introduction to spatial thinking, population dynamics, natural hazards, change, and analyzing field data.

Do you know some colleagues who might benefit from such a course? How would you structure such a course if you were teaching it?

- Joseph Kerski, Esri Education Manager

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