Monthly Archives: September 2013

Integrated Geospatial Education and Technology Training (iGETT) Applications Open

The National Council for Geographic Education is currently inviting applications to the Integrated Geospatial Education and Technology Training (iGETT) in Remote Sensing, an 18-month program for faculty who teach Geographic Information Systems (GIS) at two-year colleges, and at high schools and four-year institutions that are interested in collaborating with two-year programs.

Hands-on instruction at two summer institutes during June 2014 and during June 2015, and in monthly webinars will enable participants to teach workforce skills related to:
–Identifying, downloading, and analyzing federal remote sensing data, and
–Integrating remote sensing data with GIS.

All expenses will be covered, except the cost of travel to the summer institutes, and all participants will receive stipends and software for their labs and for personal use. For more detailed information and an application to join the project in February 2014, see and click on APPLICATION.   The due date is 20 December 2013.

The Integrated Geospatial Education and Technology Training-Remote Sensing was funded in 2012 with a grant from the National Science Foundation (DUE# 1205069) to the National Council for Geographic Education, in collaboration with the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, the U.S. Geological Survey Landsat Project, and the GeoTech Center. It builds on the success of the first iGETT project, conducted 2007–2012.

Integrated Geospatial Education and Technology Training (iGETT)

Integrated Geospatial Education and Technology Training (iGETT)

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Reflections: 20 Years in the Geo-Sphere

Twenty years ago, a new chapter in my life began: I joined Environmental Systems Research Institute, ESRI. I became the third member of a fledgling arm of the company focused on sharing the idea and excitement of using GIS in academic instruction and research, and in informal settings like libraries. The mission was simple: Advance the power of geographic tools, data, and thinking by conducting outreach and training, and building a variety of materials to support educators of various stripes.

Twenty years later: The Esri Education Program has grown to include 10 people in a variety of roles that have expanded to foster and support the spread of GIS in education for a growing array of learners and educational stakeholders. Over this time span, my role, too, has grown and morphed. Always a datahound, I continue to vie for the role of good geodata that feed into the questions and tasks people seek to decipher. However, recently I have become more deeply immersed with the people charged with administering and sustaining the educational institutions themselves, e.g.,


Looking back to late 1993, the World Wide Web was in its infancy. I connected to my colleagues over AOL dial-up at blazing speeds of 2400 baud rate—good for a 1 MB overnight upload. And we did great things with ArcView 1 and its early successors. Digging into my archives, here’s a screenshot from early 1995 displaying and describing the process of mapping USGS earthquake data using the agency’s then email data service. The text portrayal veils the real amount of time it took to produce the data and the ArcView project. Sharing the methodology, the data, and the project were equally laborious, but no less important, as this was and continues to be a key part of our work.

Spin forward a score of years and the tech infrastructure we all take for granted is richer practically by day and more ubiquitous. Finding information is becoming an easy online search and sharing discoveries with one person or the “world” is a few screen touches away. This also includes mapping and spatial analysis. Now ArcGIS Online offers anyone the capacity to create maps, infuse outside data, and mash-up other people’s content in ways that provide geosynergy and amplified access. For example, here’s a map screenshot born from a web map created by staff at Los Angeles Unified School District on school locations and attendance boundaries. To their map, I sought and added some ArcGIS Online hazards layers. I also brought in the USGS real-time 7-day earthquake feed. Saving the new map and updating the metadata, I shared it with “everyone,” Light years easier than ArcView 1 days.


Despite the new, ever-evolving whiz-bang technology and data and content we now enjoy, we still face the same challenges of fostering geographic thinking and problem solving. Yes, geography is everywhere but it continues to not be an inherent part in every person’s being, let alone pervasive in classrooms and centers of mission-critical decision making.

After 20 years of cheerleading, matchmaking, and evangelizing, it is clear that we (the education community and, in particular, geo-savvy educators) have more work to do, and the stakes are ever higher. It also is clear that regardless of the tech and geodata, we can’t forget that it’s the question or problem that drives the whole equation. I think in a rush to get people to embrace a system and methodology, we many times have missed that a person or organization simply wanted to tackle “a” task or question. Getting past that first “ah-ha” can be the turning point where geocuriosity takes over.

New View

As I begin my 21st year in helping co-create Esri’s education efforts, it also is evident that across many years our focus has been on reaching students via the gatekeepers, the educators. In the new world of MOOCs, badges, and informal learning, where are the gates? We need to stay in step…and seek to be a step ahead. In part, we must embrace a larger view of education and GIS’s place in it. “Educational institutions” exist to cultivate learners and advance learning, including that rising from scholarly research. The spaces and places (brick and mortar and virtual) in which education “happens” are an integral part of this larger view—they too need to be nurtured and sustained. In other words, as we move forward, it is essential that we see the obvious and act upon these educational components as interdependent systems with GIS rooted in all.

There are exciting times ahead. I look forward to what fruits our collective work will bear. Thank you for being part of my geojourney so far.

- Geo Dailey, Esri Education Program

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Fun with GIS 148: Seeing History

It’s a terrible thing for a former social studies teacher to admit, but I was a lousy student of history. It just never made sense to me in school — a blizzard of names and facts. It was not until after I had become a geographer that history began to make sense in my head, by way of maps.

One of my favorite ArcGIS Online maps is this map of USA Territorial Acquisitions. Like so many texts, it presents a particular view of history but, being an online map, it allows alternative perspectives by adding in other data. In this case, several maps from the remarkable collection of David Rumsey have been added. Below, I’ve gone further, adding in a layer of Native American culture regions.

And like most ArcGIS Online content, the map can be used on Macs or Windows machines, Chromebooks (above), iPads (below), and even smartphones (top).  I think the most important part of history that I missed growing up was the geographic element — that it happens in places, and the locations, layers, conditions, patterns, distances, obstacles, and so forth have an impact on what happens.

The history teachers from my youth later became my friends and mentors as I went back to teach at my old school. But I saw things in new ways then, and continue to expand my vision still. I think this is what we owe today’s young people — views into the past from many angles and perspectives, considering all the layers in the complex fabric that is our collective history (and not simply ignoring that which is embarrassing or egregious), so we may understand how we came to be as we are today, and mark a clearer view into the future.

With thanks to my teachers: Ms.M, Mr.S, Mr.M, Ms.V Prof.L.

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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Esri Supports Student Work in Remote Sensing: NASA DEVELOP

Esri supported student work in remote sensing by donating ArcGIS software to each member of the winning team of the NASA DEVELOP poster contest.  NASA DEVELOP is a national program that fosters an interdisciplinary research environment where applied science research projects are conducted under the guidance of NASA and partner science advisors.  The program is unique in that young professionals lead research projects that focus on using NASA Earth observations to address community concerns and public policy issues.  DEVELOP nurtures future science leaders, and therefore it was a pleasure to support NASA’s efforts in this way and to give students software that will enable them to continue working with GIS and remote sensing data.  The students also received ENVI software from Exelis Visual Information Solutions.  We all supported the project last year as well.

A view of Princess Charlotte Bay, Australia, as seen by Landsat 8’s Operational Land Imager (OLI). Shown in silhouette of Landsat 8. Image Art Credit: Chris McKeel, DEVELOP

A view of Princess Charlotte Bay, Australia, as seen by Landsat 8’s Operational Land Imager (OLI). Shown in silhouette of Landsat 8. Image Art Credit: Chris McKeel, DEVELOP.

This year’s contest included 30 projects conducted by 141 participants from around the globe.  The wining team of six interns at the DEVELOP’s Ames Research Center worked on a project entitled, “Fire and Ice Wars: Battles in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.”  As part of the project, the team used NASA Earth-observing satellites to monitor snow water equivalent anomalies, snow pack, and forest disturbance in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  Runner-up honors went to “Analyzing Raster to Make Virginia Vineyards Vaster,” a collaborative effort between students at DEVELOP’s Langley Research Center and the Patrick Henry Building, on mapping crop suitability in Virginia, with a focus on viticulture.  Other participants located faults, assessed gas flaring and climate change, analyzed the woolly adelgid in hemlock trees, studied lung health in Birmingham, and many other topics.

These topics made me once again realize the diversity of issues, scales, and themes that one can analyze with GIS and remote sensing technology and the spatial perspective.  What topic are you analyzing right now?

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Fun with GIS 147: Reliable GeoMentoring

My favorite frequently asked question is “How can I help a local educator use GIS?” Nothing in this world is absolutely guaranteed, but once someone understands how to be a GeoMentor, there is a reliable way to help an educator start with GIS: use ArcGIS Online.

Nothing succeeds like success. “Quick, easy, fun, and productive” hooks educators on the power of dynamic maps and analysis. ArcGIS Online is the ideal starting point. A previous blog linked to a doc with easy intro tasks: “AGO5x5” can help educators (and then their students) testdrive ArcGIS Online easily, without need for login, installation, or saving.

The magic and power of GIS are in customization and analysis, and nothing energizes a learner (of any age) like a serious personal project. Most educators will have a special project in mind, whether it’s learning about the families of the school or club, digging into local history, integrating arts and sciences, cataloguing a journey, or tracking critters.

It’s tempting to dive immediately into the ultimate project but, even here, frustration can come from aiming too high too quickly. A document called “Mapping with AGO” helps educators and youth construct a solid foundation using quick movies and longer classes; educators especially will benefit from the “Teaching With GIS” class on Esri’s Virtual Campus. Anyone can save work from session to session easily in a public account. Once inspired to learn and familiar with the Help system, novices quickly grasp the fundamentals needed to tackle larger projects.

Get started before GIS Day. Help your local educators support their kids in building college and career readiness, on computers, tablets, and phones, whether in STEM fields or beyond. Use these documents to get them started with ArcGIS Online. Help to design and implement an extended project. And enjoy the energy!

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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Spatial Environmental Education – Teaching EE Online and in the Field with Web Maps

Join Geographer and Educator Dr Joseph Kerski as we explore why and how to teach Environmental Education with today’s web mapping technologies!

You may register here for a free and engaging webinar on this topic.  The webinar will take place from 3:00 to 4:00 pm Mountain Time (5:00 to 6:00pm Eastern Time) on Tuesday 1 October 2013.

These technologies, such as ArcGIS Online ( allow your students to:

  • collect data in citizen science mode via probes, smartphones, and GPS receivers in the field,
  • allow you and your students to map and analyze the patterns from your field-collected data,
  • and analyze land use change, coastal erosion, and other environmental issues from local community greenways to world ecoregions, and everything in between.

Map your spreadsheets in an instant, and integrate video, text, and photograph to communicate the results of your investigations.  The maps you create using this platform are on the web, so no software is required beyond a web browser, and the maps can be easily changed and shared.

Spatial Environmental Education

Spatial Environmental Education includes gathering field data, mapping field data, analyzing spatial patterns of the field phenomena, examining local-to-global environmental issues, and communicating the results to others using a web-based mapping platform such as ArcGIS Online.

The skills gained from these map-driven investigations include critical thinking, working with real data, inquiry, and career and technology education, and are aligned with environmental education content standards.

I look forward to having you join us in this webinar.  If you are interested in exploring this topic further, see my article on this subject in Earthzine.  

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EducationWorld: GIS Mapping and STEM Education

Have you ever wondered why pirate movies are usually set in the Caribbean Ocean? What made the Caribbean region so special? Have there been other areas in the world where sailors sought an easier life at the expense of kings or businessmen in far-away lands?

Pirates were the geographers of opportunity on the high seas and routinely thought geographically in order to improve their economic situations. In the late 1600s and early 1700s, where were goods being transported and transferred in bulk?

Read the article at EducationWorld.

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Fun with GIS 146: The Edge of Familiar

School begins with springlike looks, bold hopes, and clean slates. What would it take to have that same sense of anticipation each day? How can we open a bottle of “first day allure” more than once, and dare we hope for frequency?

What motivates us varies, but is often something just at the edge of familiar, a glow just above the horizon, a sense of beyond; a question, a puzzle, a thing out of place. With a quick glance at the known, we can better gauge and grasp the novel, pushing in quest for more. We do it from earliest ages.

Web-based GIS like ArcGIS Online lets users see the known, then zoom to the unknown and back, again and again, building banks of familiarity. Some explorers will be insatiable, like adventurers of yore, scarcely needing a break. Others may need a question to help them focus, a simple puzzle that can grab and hold like Velcro. The three basic questions of geography can help: “What’s where? Why is it there? So what?” Frequent investigation of conditions and patterns spawns deeper scrutiny, encourages analysis, and builds background, while strengthening critical skills and fostering integration.

students using ArcGIS Online

It’s easy to get started with ArcGIS Online. All it takes is a web browser, internet access, and the ability to ask “Where is…? What is it like, and why…? How are this and that connected…?” Youngest students can explore their neighborhood, see their home as if a bird overhead, and follow the paths to this place and that, drawing connections between time and place. Older learners can abstract the world out into collections of like things — classes of features, zones of similarity, channels and flows that connect here and there — some glaringly visible, others more subtle, and still more a matter of faith or interpretation of data. Educators seeking a launching script can try ArcGIS Online 5×5 – five activities that need no background with ArcGIS Online, do not depend on a login, and require no more than five minutes each.

educators using ArcGIS Online at Esri T3G Institute

A single map is a world of information. An atlas is a galaxy of enchantment. ArcGIS Online is a portal to adventure, analysis, problem solving, integrated learning, and vision for the future. Take your students to the edge of the familiar … show them by doing it yourself.

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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People Living in Water? Reflections on Data Quality

In my last post, I introduced a dot map of population change and discussed ways it could foster critical and spatial thinking in education.  Now let’s go beyond understanding which regions are increasing or decreasing in population to deeper issues of data representation.

How can this same web map be used to illustrate fundamental concepts of interpreting dot density maps, such as displaying aggregate values vs. individuals, and the placement of the individual dots in a statistical polygon?  Upon loading the dot density population growth and decline map in a web browser, the map resets to Denver.  Zoom in to the text on the map identifying the city of Lakewood, just west of Denver. Zoom in until you find some lakes just south of Lakewood; for example, Marston Lake, shown in the following figure. If you zoom in to a certain scale, you will see dots in the lake. Why are dots shown in this lake and other lakes, and in rivers?  Do these dots represent people living on houseboats, do they represent people who are perpetually on water skis, or could it be something else?

Do these dots represent people living in the lake?

Do these dots represent people living in the lake?

The dots are there not because people are living in or on the lake, but because the dots are randomly assigned to the statistical area that was used.  In this case, the statistical areas are census tracts or block groups, depending on the scale that is being examined.  The same phenomena can be seen with dot density maps at the county, state, or country level.  And the data examined does not have to be population.  For example, dots on dot density maps showing soybean bushels harvested by county could also be shown in the water, as could the number of cows or pigs, or even soil chemistry from sample boreholes.  In each case, the dots do not represent the actual location where people live, or animals graze, or soil was tested.

Helping students understand concepts such as these may seem insignificant but is an important part of map interpretation, understanding issues and phenomena, and thinking critically and spatially.  What other examples could you use from web based maps such as these?

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The Next Generation Science Standards and GIS in Education

In April 2013, the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) were released.  They are a set of “voluntary, rigorous, and internationally benchmarked standards for K-12 science education” that are ready to be adopted on a state-by-state basis for implementation.  They were built on the National Academies’ National Research Council vision for science education that was established in their 2011 publication Framework for K-12 Science Education with the hopes of increasing US student global competitiveness through teaching deeper content knowledge and application of science to better prepare students for college and careers.  The three-point approach to the standards from the Framework for K-12 Science Education (2011) comprise: 1) science and engineering practices, 2) disciplinary core ideas, and 3) cross-cutting practices.  They span grades K-12 and cover physical science, life science, earth and space science, and engineering, technology and application of science.

As states begin to adopt the new standards, GIS education will have a significant role in the implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards.  GIS offers solutions to many of the goals of the NGSS, especially by way of “science and engineering practices”.  It can bridge the gap from content knowledge to applied science by not only teaching students a skillset but also providing them with a tool for problem solving across the STEM-focused disciplines.  Students can use authentic data to answer real-world problems with GIS, which better prepares them for problem solving, critical thinking, and decision-making in their future.  GIS is now an in-demand career skillset globally and will help to increase US student global competitiveness.

Learn more about the NGSS.

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