Monthly Archives: July 2013

The 15 Minute Story Map

Can you build an Esri Story Map in 15 minutes?  Yes!  The map I created in that amount of time shows my walk from the San Diego Convention Center to the San Diego airport.  I was in that wonderful city for the Esri Education GIS Conference and the Esri International User Conference.  Walk?  Yes, the San Diego airport is one of the few airports that you can actually walk to, and doable in just under an hour (I must admit I got a bit sweaty while wearing my map tie and dragging my luggage).  I wanted to use that walking time to reflect upon all that I had learned at the conferences, enjoy the harbor views one last time before departing, and use it as a test case for creating a Story Map.

Walking to the San Diego Airport: Storymap

Walking to the San Diego Airport: Story Map.

First, I turned on my smartphone and fired up RunKeeper, a fitness app.  I took a few photos of the convention center and harbor along the way with that same phone.  I emailed those photos to my Google Plus/Picasaweb account’s public dropbox.  Once at the airport gate, I saved my route as a GPX file, uploaded it to ArcGIS Online, and published my map as a Story Map web application.  I pointed to the location of my photographs, added some captions, and I was done.

Since returning to the office, I have resisted the temptation to edit my map to make it look just a little bit nicer, because that would defeat my purpose.  My purpose was to illustrate that (1) Esri Story Maps can be created to tell just about any conceivable type of story, and that (2) they can be quickly generated, even at a crowded airport gate!  What story of your own can you make a map of using these techniques?

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Analyzing Supermarket Access with ArcGIS Online

I recently created a set of activities based on using web-based GIS tools to teach spatial thinking using drive-time buffers, a set of activities that use viewsheds as a teaching tool, another on the use of zonal statistics, another on analyzing the best route to a facility, and another on routing around barriers.  They are all free, easy to use, powerful, based on Esri technology, and they foster spatial thinking.

Analyzing supermarket access in ArcGIS Online

Analyzing supermarket access in ArcGIS Online.

Now let’s open this map that incorporates point, line, and polygon data and some of the spatial analysis techniques that you have been exploring using the above blog lessons and web maps.  This map shows access to supermarkets.  The supermarkets have been buffered for walking (1 mile) and driving (10 minutes).  People in poverty with low access and farmers markets are also shown.  Notice how the symbology changes as you zoom out of Detroit to the county level.  Find, zoom to, and study your own community and compare it to Detroit.  What is the purpose of this map that you have been examining?  Why is access to supermarkets a concern to society?  What are the patterns of access in your own community, or the neighborhoods across town?

Turn on the map layer indicating food expenditures at home versus away from home. Examine the details for this map layer so you will understand what it means.

How have the spatial analysis techniques you have been exploring using the maps above been used to create this map?  What about the map’s symbology do you find interesting, useful, or even confusing?  Why?  How could you use this map as a teaching and learning tool?

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Join us for the Education GIS Conference in Munich

This October we will have a OktoberGeofest in Munich when the GIS aficionados gather from October 23 to 25 for the Esri Europe, Middle East, and Africa User Conference  (EMEAUC). The Esri Education GIS Conference will be held on October 22 and 23, in the run-up to the EMEAUC. It is a forum for GIS users from schools, higher education and research institutions. The event will offer a wide range of activities for students, scientists, university instructors, teachers, and other interested audience.

Esri Education GIS Conference for Europe, Middle East, Africa

Lightning Talks, hands-on workshops, and an Unconference

The #EsriEducEMEA (use this hashtag for communicating the event in your networks) conference will kick off with a plenary session with speakers from the US and Germany. Afterwards there will be Lightning Talks on technology and applications as well as teaching and concepts. During the afternoon we will organize an interactive Unconference. Stop by regularly at our blog GIS IQ where people will announce topics for the Unconference. On Wednesday there will be two hands-on workshops – one for schools, one for universities. The language of the conference is English. The hands-on workshop for schoolteachers is in German.

Be there and participate

Share your knowledge with colleagues.  You can participate in the Education GIS Conference by presenting a Lightning Talk, presenting in the Industry Track, or organizing a session for the Unconference.

  • Lightning Talk: You have 10 minutes to explain how you use ArcGIS in teaching, research, and on campus.
  • Industry Track session: You have 25 minutes to discuss the goals of your work, report on results and experiences, and offer information that the audience may be able to use.
  • Unconference session: You talk about your favorite topic,  connect with others and generate new ideas. The sessions may be planned in advance or organized spontaneously during the conference.

We will accept submissions for Lightning Talks and the Industry Track until July 26. Ideas for the Unconference can be submitted at any time before or during the event.

Read more about the conference, register now and submit your presentation proposal. We look forward to seeing you in Munich and to your contribution!

Grischa Gundelsweiler – Manager Education & Research, Esri Germany

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Break On Through to the Other Side: Routing Around Barriers

I recently created a set of activities based on using web-based GIS tools to teach spatial thinking using drive-time buffers, a set of activities that use viewsheds as a teaching tool, another on the use of zonal statistics, and another on analyzing the best route to a facility.  Each of these shares common elements:  They are all based on Esri GIS technology.  They are all free, easy to use, powerful, and they foster spatial thinking.  Let’s use another GIS tool to investigate routing around barriers.  Barriers may be physical, such as ridges or rivers, or they may be a human construct or consequence, such as one-way streets, road repair, or an accident.

Routing around barriers

Routing around barriers

Examine the routing around barriers mapping application.  Let’s say you are running a bicycle courier service in downtown San Diego.  Your pick up point is at 1st Avenue and Market Street.  Your destination is at 10th Avenue and Market Street.  Add these 2 stops and have the map calculate your route, shown in blue.  But now say there is construction at 7th Avenue and Market.  Use Add Barriers and add a barrier at 7th Avenue and Market (3 blocks due west of 10th and Market).

What changed on your map after you added a barrier, and why?  Experiment with additional barriers in different locations around downtown San Diego.  Zoom out and repeat the operation with a slightly different scenario at this new scale:  Now you’re in a truck filled with trees that you must deliver around metropolitan San Diego.  How can you most efficiently deliver your trees to 4 urban gardens around the city?  Add barriers and observe how they change your route’s pattern.  How much additional time do you estimate would be required to make your deliveries with these new barriers?

How might you be able to use this tool in your instruction to foster spatial thinking?

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Celebrating Student Success – 2013 Esri GIS EducationConference

The five student videos featured in today’s “Celebrating Student Success” portion of the plenary can now be found online at the Esri Education YouTube channel.

Congratulations to each of these students.  Learn more about the Esri GIS Education Conference!

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SpatiaLABS Now Available Free to Esri Educational Site Licensees

Esri Press and Esri’s Education Solutions team announce today that SpatiaLABS, the popular computer-based lab activities, are now available free of charge. Customers with an Esri Educational Site License will automatically receive SpatiaLABS later this summer.

Designed for a broad range of disciplines, SpatiaLABS complements and enhances an instructor’s course with self-directed investigations that help students increase their spatial reasoning and analytical skills.

Created by educators and peer reviewed, SpatiaLABS provides students in the physical, social, and applied sciences with 64 lessons, on topics including environmental studies, business, urban studies, and spatial statistics. Students develop GIS and cartography skills during these investigations, however the primary objective of SpatiaLABS is to teach students how to approach and solve geospatial problems.

Although each activity has been written with skill prerequisites in mind—from no GIS ability to advanced GIS project experience—SpatiaLABS are customizable, allowing educators to adapt them to student capabilities or use local data, when appropriate.

“One of the most tedious aspects of a GIS educator’s job is updating lab exercises to keep up with software product updates,” says David DiBiase, Esri director of education. “With SpatiaLABS, educators can leave that chore to Esri.”

Delivered on DVD, the lessons are installed onto the school’s server to allow access by all campus faculty. To learn more, visit or call 1-800-447-9778. Outside the United States, visit to contact your local Esri distributor.

- Jim Baumann, Esri Writer

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Analyzing the Best Route and the Closest Facility

I recently created a set of activities based on using web-based GIS tools to teaching spatial thinking using drive-time buffers, another set of activities that use viewsheds, and another on the use of zonal statistics.    Typical modern GIS tasks also include determining the best route and the closest facilities to specific locations.  This is important for a wide range of applications, from emergency services bringing people in an ambulance to the nearest hospital to the nearest competitor to your planned new bicycle rental facility.

Finding the Route and the Closest Facility

Finding the Route and the Closest Facility to a chosen point.

Open this web map and click somewhere on the map in northeastern San Francisco that represents a location where let’s say you are currently located.  What is the closest facility to your chosen point?  Change the choice under the map to find the routes for the 1 closest facility to a point to 2 closest facilities. Two routes are shown in this image; I selected one of them, highlighted in cyan, and the directions are given for this route.

This tool is easy to run with the above link and yet can lead to so many wonderful discussions about the Can you think of real-world situations where a route to two or more closest facilities would be needed from a given point, besides the emergency and bicycle examples I gave above?  Name them and discuss why this type of analysis is so critical to our 21st Century world.

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