Monthly Archives: October 2013

Using ArcGIS Online and Edmodo for Teachers

Frequently, I am asked how to use ArcGIS Online in conjunction with a learning management systems (LMS) at a school or university.  To keep things as straightforward as possible, there are a few simple ways to get your maps into our example LMS, Edmodo.


Create a map in ArcGIS Online and grab the embeddable code:

Go to

  1. Login to your account
  2. Create or locate a map of interest.
  3. If you have created the map, “Save” it to your account
  4. Press “Share”
  5. Check the box to share with “Everyone (Public)”.
  6. Press button, “Embed in Website”
  7. Choose the options you prefer.
  8. Copy the embed code. This will be pasted into EdModo.

Embedding an ArcGIS Online interactive map in Edmodo: Two approaches

1. Assignment: Embed the map in an assignment

  • From the classroom (group) homepage, press “Assignment”.  Fill out details including due date.
  • Press the “Link” link and paste the embed code.
  • Provide a map title or instructive statement for the students.
  • Press “Attach”.
  • The map is displayed inside the assignment call-out, directly on the student’s page.

2. Library: Embed the map in a library object

  • “Add To Library” -> “Link” -> Paste embedded code from ArcGIS Online.
  • Map “widget” icons are created in the library.  
  • Interactive maps appear in a popup window.  The maps can be zoomed, features identified, and legends attached.

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Fun with GIS 151: State License Org

ArcGIS Online offers opportunities for learners, educators, and influencers to explore, analyze, and collaborate with maps. Organization accounts offer even more capacity than is available with public accounts. Sometimes, though, it can be hard to see everything. A new organization is in place to support state licenses in K12 education and educators using maps. There are quick links to many important resources for educators. See for yourself at

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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Spatial Mathematics: Theory and Practice Through Mapping

Dr Sandra Lach Arlinghaus and I have co-written a book entitled Spatial Mathematics—Theory and Practice Through Mapping, published by CRC Press/Taylor & Francis.  Spatial mathematics draws on the theoretical underpinnings of both mathematics and geography.  Spatial mathematics draws from geometry, topology, graph theory, trigonometry, modern algebra, symbolic logic, set theory, and more.  To build bridges between mathematics and geography, each of the book’s 10 chapters begins with theoretical discussions that form the bridge foundation, and activities that form the span between the two disciplines.  It can be used as a text in geography, GIS, or mathematics courses at the university or community college level, and by researchers interested in these intersections, and by GIS practitioners who seek deeper insight into the mathematics behind their spatial analysis.

Spatial Mathematics book

Spatial Mathematics book.

Our table of contents includes 10 chapters:

1.  Geometry of the Sphere
2.  Location, Trigonometry, and Measurement of the Sphere
3.  Transformations: Analysis and Raster/Vector Formats
4.  Replication of Results: Color and Number
5.  Scale
6.  Partitioning of Data: Classification and Analysis
7.  Visualizing Hierarchies
8.  Distribution of Data: Selected Concepts
9.  Map Projections
10.  Integrating Past, Present, and Future Approaches
The book also includes a Glossary, References, Further Reading, and Related Materials.

Waldo Tobler of the University of California Santa Barbara, wrote, “Two ancient texts had a profound and lasting impact on the literate world—Euclid’s Elements, and the rediscovery in the 1400s of Ptolemy’s Geography from AD 150. […]  Now, in this book, additional insight for the mathematical solution of geographical tasks is provided. The pedagogical orientation is especially worthy of comment.”  Michael Batty, of the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis at University College London, wrote “Teaching mathematics can be tough but here is a book that is a gentle introduction to the mathematics of the spatial world through the medium of mapping.  The use of QR codes to access additional map-based material is clever and innovative, and provides a nice link to the very technologies that this mathematics supports.”

Michael Goodchild, of the University of California, Santa Barbara, wrote that “Mathematics underpins geography in many ways, especially in this new era of computerized mapping and geographic information systems. Geography can also be an exciting and relevant way of teaching many of the basic concepts of mathematics, from geometry and topology to statistics. So this book on spatial mathematics as applied to mapping is both timely and welcome. The wealth of practical examples and the enthusiasm of its authors will fill an important niche in a mapping literature that often underplays the importance and relevance of mathematics.”    Marc Schlossberg of the University of Oregon, wrote, “This book is both all about the map and all about the math behind the map, using what has become ubiquitous on our smart phones and in our vehicles as a vehicle itself to teach complex concepts accessible, meaningful, and useful for students.”

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Fun with GIS 150: Scaffolding

“GIS looks so exciting. And I know the perfect project. I just need to know what button to push.” This is a comment that I and others who work with educators hear frequently.

After watching people present their work, many of us want to be at that same high level, immediately. Me too. I’ve long wanted to be able to play the cello, speak Spanish, and shoot awesome photos. It takes time getting comfortable with the fundamentals of each to do them well. Time, and practice. Big goals are doable, but things worth doing require work, and it helps to have realistic goals at the start … neither too high nor too low.

The magic of ArcGIS Online is that it’s easy to use; one can build skills quickly. A few small documents can help learners (from, say, grade 3 on up) and educators climb steadily up the ladder of fundamentals. These docs have simple steps which help people learn with GIS, then teach with it, and then do more challenging projects.

  • AGO 5×5: Get a taste of the basics in ArcGIS Online, with no previous experience or login required.
  • Mapping With AGO: Learn from short videos, then online classes, then using a trial Org.
  • AGO Use Strategies: “50,000-foot view” of options for engaging students in a class/club setting.

For an educator who wants to start learning GIS, and has access to reasonable internet speed, my recommendations are, in order:

  1. Learn the essentials of ArcGIS Online (from AGO5x5, then Mapping steps 1-3). Use pre-constructed maps first, then make simple maps, then expand.
  2. Establish and use your own AGO public account (e.g. “Charlie’sPlayground”). Get comfortable opening, creating, saving, and sharing maps and apps, on computers, tablets, and smartphones. Focus on maps that are more and more analytical. Show a colleague or two what you’re doing, and help them create their own accounts. Have your students begin using AGO without signing in.
  3. Create and share a different public account, for a group of students (e.g. “LincolnSchool” or “LincolnGrade7″), where everyone logs in with the same credentials and creates their own folder in which to store their content. (That is, this should not be the same account as in #2 but a different public account. See AGOUse.) Get them used to seeing, using, building, saving, and sharing analytical maps.
  4. While students are learning to use ArcGIS Online and a public account effectively, explore what you can do with an Organization account. There are more tools, more capacity, more power, and each means more decisions to make. It will take a little time to get comfortable with how to use these capacities in one’s setting, but the investment is really worthwhile.

Building proper scaffolding takes a little time and attention, but allows educators and especially students to accomplish a lot with ArcGIS Online.

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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Mapping the Environment: 10 Resources

My colleague Tom Baker and I recently met with environmental educators at the North American Association for Environmental Education annual conference.  Our messages there through our Esri exhibit included:

1.  Map your nature center, school campus, or university’s facilities with ArcGIS.  It can make your center or campus run more efficiently, provide a safer environment, and save energy.

2.  Map and analyze your field data with ArcGIS Online.  It is easy to do, and your students can map anything from invasive species to litter to tree species to water quality, and more.  Use smartphones, GPS, probes, or other methods to gather data and locations of that data for easy input to ArcGIS Online.

3.  Analyze local to global environmental phenomena around the world with these same tools.  For example, you can compare population density to ecoregions to determine which ecoregions are most at risk from human impact.

4.  Dig deeper into further analysis with ArcGIS Online for Organizations and ArcGIS Desktop.  For example, you can determine answers to questions such as “how many water wells are within 500 meters of the riparian zone?”

5.  Tap into your K-12 statewide license or your university license for Esri technology.  Your state’s schools, your school district, or your university may already have a license, just waiting for you to use it!

6.   Connect with other educators using geotechnologies, receive training, discover lessons and data, and more, via the Esri GIS in Education Community.

Mapping the Environment

Mapping the Environment is easy with today’s GIS technology from Esri.

7.  Use Story Maps to communicate your environmental story.  We showed this new Story Map for points of interest in the city of Baltimore for the conference attendees field excursions, for example,, but others exist here on environmetal themes.

8.  Show students how valuable they become as environmental scientists with GIS skills on their toolbelts by investigating some projects that use GIS and by watching some videos.

9.  Access STEM Connections to GIS on the Esri Education Community site, including case studies, activities, maps, links to standards, and more.

10.  For additional connections between environmental education and GIS, access a Spatial Environmental Education article in Earthzine that I authored, that focuses on Teaching and learning about the environment from a spatial framework.

What can you do to teach and learn about the environment with the above resources?

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Esri Education GIS Conference – Proposals Due Nov 1

Seem crazy to think about next summer when classes have barely started, but believe it or not it’s time to think about presenting at the 2014 Esri Education GIS Conference. The conference, with the theme “Education’s Grand Challenges-GIS Opportunities,” will explore the big issues currently confronting K-12 schools, higher education, and informal education and the relevance of GIS to those challenges.

Details and submission form:

Deadline for submissions: November 1, 2013

Suggested Topics

Education’s Grand Challenges

  • Impacts of the Common Core and other standards
  • The uncertain future of higher education
  • Assessment, badging, and alternative credentialing schemes
  • Online learning and the object formerly known as “textbook”
  • Equitable access and affordability

GIS Opportunities

  • Relevance of GIS to new education standards
  • GIS massive open online courses (MOOC) and online programs
  • What works in teacher professional development
  • Successes and challenges in adopting ArcGIS Online
  • Assessing core competencies in GIS
  • Increasing operational efficiency with GIS

The Esri Education GIS Conference will be July 12-15, 2014 in San Diego, CA.  For more information, see

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Race for the Cure: Telling the Story through Maps

This Fall, I and tens of thousands of others walked in Race for the Cure in Denver, Colorado.  The Denver event is one of the largest of the Komen Foundation’s events to raise awareness, education, and fundraising for breast cancer research—perhaps THE biggest.   Our Esri Denver region team, named “Mapping the Cure”, raised $1600.  It was a great but bittersweet day as I and my family members were walking in memory of a dear friend who has passed away, leaving a husband and two wonderful  teenaged daughters.  We walked with one of the daughters.   I made a Story Map of the experience here.

Race for the Cure Story Map

Race for the Cure Story Map

I used the same procedures I wrote about in my recent “The 15 minute story map” essay.  That is, I uploaded my geotagged photos from my phone (an iPhone in this case) to a folder in an online site (Picasaweb in this case), and made that folder publicly accessible.  I uploaded a GPX file from my phone (this time from the RunKeeper app) into ArcGIS Online.  In ArcGIS Online, I saved my map with my route correctly mapped and then published it to the Story Map Tour web application.  As I did so, I simply pointed to the folder that contained my geotagged images.  After one more simple but important step–adding some documentation in the metadata fields helpfully provided–the whole thing was done.

Had I wanted to engage some analysis, I might have added a layer classifying the land visible in the photos (parkland, residential, commercial, industrial).  I could have recorded the temperature at specified intervals as the sun rose to warm our walk, or the decibels from the cheering crowds, and mapped how these or other variables changed along our route.

It is another illustration of an event, issue, or phenomenon that you and your students could easily create a story map from.  And in this case, one that brings many memories.

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Fun with GIS 149: Teachers Teaching Teachers GIS (T3G)

Faith in education is never better exemplified than by a passionate educator. Watching a learner (better still, a whole pack) grasp the impact of new information or succeed with a key skill is thrilling. It is an addiction for which, happily, there is no cure. Witnessing learners build flight muscles and then soar up and away, one’s own hope for the future soars equally. It is perhaps most thrilling when the educators are the learners.

Four-panel photo of T3G

For five summers, Esri has hosted such passionate souls for a one week institute, called Teachers Teaching Teachers GIS” or “T3G.” Educators and education influencers come from grade school to grad school, from informal ed as well as formal (science, technology, math, social studies, language arts), plus content providers, mentors, and policy leaders. In a week, they expand their ability to help other educators grasp geographic thinking and problem solving using GIS. For June 15-20 of 2014, Esri seeks another 100 educators and education influencers anxious to help their peers see and experience this.

T3G in auditorium

T3G uses presentations, demos, scripted experiences, open-ended explorations, quick projects, fieldwork, and constant reflection and exchange, plus the powerful educational environment of ArcGIS Online. Participants immerse, building skills and sharing strategies that help others step into interactive maps, conduct geographic analysis, and embrace problems. T3G grads apply these techniques in daily tasks and in events for other educators, and share lessons with a powerful personal learning network. They open up learners of all ages to the data, knowledge, perspectives, and skills built by investigating deeply the patterns and relationships of the world, from global to local.

Whole T3G 2013 group

Attendees need not be GIS wizards. They must have experience teaching with technology and helping colleagues learn new ideas. They must understand problem-based learning and embrace learning by doing. And they must be open to a geographic view of the world and commit to sharing what they learn. If you know an educator or influencer with these qualities — one who is anxious to change the world through education — encourage them to explore T3G and consider applying.

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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Embedding videos in Story Maps Using CSV files

In the newest release of ArcGIS Online, the Story Map Tour Template allows you to incorporate videos in new and existing map tours.  This week I gave it a try and was very pleased with the results and also the ease of use.  I started with an Excel spreadsheet and included a short description, a latitude, a longitude, the URL for each video, and a thumbnail URL showing a snapshot of each video.  I saved the spreadsheet as a Comma Separated Value (CSV) file, which I then added to an ArcGIS Online map.  Then I published this map to the story maps “map tour” web application.  I added some metadata, and I was done.  Like other Story Maps, the story map is tied to the ArcGIS Online map.  The good news about that is that if you update your ArcGIS Online map, your story map refreshes automatically (it may take several minutes or even up to an hour for it to do so).  Thus, there is no need to “republish” your story map every time you make a change.

I made sure to use some YouTube videos but also some videos on other sites.  All of them worked, though the YouTube videos loaded faster and displayed with the title above them, which was a nice touch.   An important instructional note is that decent bandwidth is needed to load all of the videos and images.  Don’t fret if all of your thumbnail images don’t show or your videos don’t play right away.  Just be patient and they will appear if you have enough bandwidth.

A colleague of mine on the Esri Story Maps team shared this important tip with me:  In the Excel spreadsheet, you need to insert the string #isVideo at the end of any URL that points to a video.  The URL to the video needs to be just to the video itself, not to, for example, a Youtube page that contains the video plus other elements such as the frame around the video.   Thus, if you want to use this video, for example:, you can’t just use that URL in your story map. To find out what URL you need to use, click Share on that page and then click Embed, as shown below:

Next, copy the “embed” URL out of the code given:

Thus, the URL becomes, once the #isvideo is added,

My results are shown below and also online in this web map.

Story map with embedded videos

Story map with embedded videos.

Try it for yourself!  There are many powerful things you can do in educational settings with videos in your story maps–to make your stories about geography, earth science, history, language arts, engineering, political science, and many other disciplines come alive.

You can also use the interactive Story Maps builder to guide you through adding videos hosted on YouTube, Vimeo, and other sources.  That method is next on my list to try!

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Earth Science Week 2013 and Esri

October 13-19, 2013 – Mapping Our World

Since its inception in 1998, the American Geological Institute (AGI) has organized Earth Science Week, an international event to help the public gain a better understanding of and appreciation for the Earth Sciences and to encourage stewardship of the Earth.  During 2013, Esri is a sponsor of Earth Science Week and has contributed STEM-focused GIS resources, including a poster and curriculum resources that can be found at

“Esri has been a proud sponsor of Earth Science Week for a decade.  The program is a stellar example of how relevant, real-world Earth Systems science resources and activities can be brought to every Earth Science classroom in the country,” says Dr. Tom Baker, Esri Education Manager. “We are particularly delighted that the 2013 theme, Mapping Our World reflects our shared passion for mapping, spatial thinking, and understanding our world.”

Other resources to support classroom Earth Science Week activities from Esri include:

  1. Mapping Our World - An award-winning, comprehensive set of physical and human geography web-based GIS activities. The free activities use ArcGIS Online to teach concepts in geology, climate, and population.
  2. ArcLessons - A collection of instructional resources, serving a variety of subject areas and software types. Search ArcLessons to find materials that meet your needs
  3. Earth Science Resources is a group at ArcGIS Online.
  4. Earth Science gallery  at ArcGIS Online offers maps and apps.

For those Earth Science classrooms interested in STEM integrated resources, see

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