Monthly Archives: March 2014

An Easy Pathway to Create Storymaps

Creating storymaps has never been easier.  One of my favorite methods is one I use in creating “map tour” storymaps, involving smartphones and geotagged photographs.  For example, I recently created a story map during my visit to Whitworth University.  The procedures I used adhered to those I describe in my essay entitled “The 15 Minute Story Map.”  As the name implies, I created a storymap in 15 minutes with my smartphone and the Esri story maps platform.  I created it to encourage faculty I met with there, and ultimately, their students, to create storymaps on even more compelling topics than the simple campus tour that I created.  They could do the same for a field trip to a meadow of trees killed by invasive species, or a neighborhood undergoing rapid social and demographic changes, or a river where they are measuring water quality, or other topics local to global.

My workflow to create these types of maps is as follows:

1.  Record Day 1 track on phone. I used a fitness app (Runkeeper) but you could use MotionX GPS or many other apps.  The app you choose needs to be able to export your track as a GPX file.
2.  Take photographs with smartphone with location services turned on.
3.  Email photographs to Picasaweb/Google Plus into a folder named “Whitworth University”.   This is a folder I set up in advance.  The time saving innovation here is that the photographs sent with “Whitworth University” in the subject line automatically are placed into a folder with the same name on Google Plus.  This makes it easy to point to that folder when creating a storymap and access all of the photographs at once.
4.  Send campus video to YouTube.
5.  Create storymap using Map Tour template.  Save and share your map.  At this point, you’re really done, but the additional steps below are enhancements I made to the original storymap.
6.  Add Day 1 track to the ArcGIS Online map as a GPX file from my smartphone.  This ArcGIS Online map is the map that is driving your storymap web application.  It is visible in the “My Content” area of ArcGIS Online.
7.  Trace Day 2 track onto the ArcGIS Online map.  I did this to demonstrate a different way of adding your route; here, simply by tracing on the map, rather than uploading it from a smartphone.
8.  Add Day 2 photographs to the existing Storymap.  I did this to demonstrate that you can add content to an existing storymap just as easily as creating one from scratch.
9.  Edit the photo captions.  This literally is the most time consuming step but is an important part of the story.
10.  Save your map changes and make sure you are still sharing your map.

Some additional details that might be helpful include:  After recording the Day 1 track, I uploaded it to my ArcGIS Online web map as a GPX file simply with the “add layer from file”, where my file on my computer was my GPX file that I had saved onto my local computer.  Note that when I was inside the HUB building, the app lost GPS signal, resulting in a few spikes that are evident on the map.  I left them in the map, rather than editing them out, as a springboard to a discussion about spatial accuracy and triangulation from GPS, cell towers, and Wi-Fi hotspots.  My Day 2 track was traced onto ArcGIS Online map and saved as Map Notes.

A few of my photos, especially those taken inside buildings, were auto-placed a few hundred meters off of their true location.  Therefore, I manually relocated these, which is another feature of the storymap template.  The rest were already within 1 to 2 meters of their true location, so I left them as they were.  But the accuracy of geolocation is another great learning moment when your students are creating their storymaps.  You will note that one of the locations is not a photograph at all, but a video, which is easy to insert into your storymap.

For more details on how I created this, see the playlist of videos I created here.

Storymap of Whitworth University campus

Storymap of Whitworth University campus.

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Esri at the University of South Carolina’s Business School

Dr. Michael Galbreth, Associate Professor of Management Science at the University of South Carolina’s Moore School of Business, stresses the importance of location analytics and GIS in his MBA elective on advanced business analytics. But instead of simply lecturing about it, Dr. Galbreth decided to integrate GIS into the structure of his MBA course using Esri’s Business Analyst Online (BAO) package. “Competency with a tool like Esri is critical in order to effectively visualize business data that includes a spatial dimension,” he says. “I feel strongly that the analytical toolset of an MBA student is not complete without a solid understanding of location analytics. And I also feel that, to add the most value for the students, this topic should be covered using the state of the art in location analytics software, which of course is Esri.”

Now in his 7th year of teaching location analytics using hands-on Esri projects, Galbreth has helped hundreds of MBA students realize the power of GIS.  “By the end of the course, students realize that there is really no substitute for seeing your data on a map – whether it represents your prospects, customers, or competitors. They also appreciate how quickly a tool like Esri BAO enables them to obtain a basic understanding of a particular location, for example a potential expansion opportunity, through simple but powerful tools such as thematic mapping and drive-time analysis.”

Importantly, Galbreth’s students do not hone their GIS skills on hypothetical or textbook problems.  Instead, Galbreth has partnered with real estate developer Edens Inc. to connect the students to real world business problems. As a part of his class, the students use ESRI BAO to develop analytical reports on specific Edens locations, and they present these reports to Edens executives for feedback at the end of each semester. Upon completing the Moore School MBA program, these students are not just generally familiar with GIS, but in fact they have in-depth hands-on experience with the leading GIS package.  “It’s been great working with Esri to implement the location analytics component of my course,” says Galbreth, “and the hands-on experience with the industry partner (Edens) is what really makes this so valuable. I think students appreciate what GIS can do for them as business leaders, and the BAO package makes location analytical accessible to a wide range of users.”

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Challenges and Support for Meaningful Technology Integration in Education

A staggering amount of literature exists about the use of technology in the classroom.  But what sort of technology?  This may sound obvious,  but I am interested in fostering the use of meaningful technologies in education.  Just because a technology exists does not in my mind mean that we need to dedicate valuable class time on it – it has to meet educational goals, foster inquiry, allow students to be creative and to solve problems, provide important career and life skills, for example.  I believe that using geospatial technologies with spatial thinking, including GIS, is not just interesting, but is a critically tool and perspective for 21st Century education and society.

A recent survey by found that 50% of K-12 teachers get inadequate support for using technology in the classroom.   Matt Tullman, co-founder and president of digedu. said, “It is critical that we move quickly to address barriers to meaningful use of technology in schools so that students are equipped with the digital fluency necessary to succeed in our global economy.”  I agree.  My colleagues and I on the Esri education team are dedicated to doing all we can in partnership with the global geospatial education community to reduce barriers to the use of technology in the classroom.   In the survey, 46% reported that they lack the training needed to use technology effectively with students.  By authoring tutorials, videos, short essays in this blog and elsewhere, providing face-to-face professional development at conferences such as AAG and NSTA and in institutes such as T3G, lessons, supporting educational research, and via other means, we hope to help reduce that gap.  The evolution of GIS onto the cloud through ArcGIS Online seems to break down many technological barriers, such as software installation and computer lab maintenance.  Other challenges remain, but I have been very encouraged recent progress of the use of GIS tools in education.  For example, the St Vrain Valley School District in Colorado is starting a semester-long GIS course in their STEM program, incorporating ArcGIS into their AP Human Geography course at the high school, and using ArcGIS in their history, geography, and language arts curriculum at the middle school level.

The survey also found that 93% percent reported that technology has a positive effect on student engagement.  We have witnessed the deep engagement that students have when using geospatial technologies in the classroom and in the field, such as using 2D and 3D maps and visualizations, collecting and analyzing their own data, and communicating their results in multimedia-rich ways to their instructors, peers, and community groups. Educators, administrators, and students are embracing geospatial technologies as never before.  Why? Educational, societal, and technological forces are all playing a role, such STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) education, career and technology education, critical thinking, the geo-location of everyday devices, an increased awareness of the value of spatial thinking, improved bandwidth, problem-based learning, and others.

GIS is being incorporated into the St Vrain Valley School District STEM program.

GIS is being incorporated into the St Vrain Valley School District STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) program.

What can we collectively do as a community to continue to break down barriers to the use of these powerful and easy-to-use tools to enhance and enrich education?

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Educational Researchers and Spatial Analysis: New Faculty Positions Announced at Claremont Graduate University

Claremont Graduate University (CGU) has announced three new tenure track faculty positions in the School of Education Studies that seek to expand the university’s commitment to spatial understanding across educational studies.  The positions include: Higher Education (open rank), Teaching, Learning, & Culture (Assistant or Associate), and Urban Leadership (Clinical Professor).  The positions include an emphasis on the understanding and use of spatial thinking and tools to better understand educational data and trends.

The position descriptions describe this commitment saying, “We are especially interested in the scholars whose work incorporates consideration of the geographic variation in resourcing, opportunity, and success.”   Applications will be reviewed beginning on April 10 and the positions will remain open until filled. For more information, visit CGU’s SES Faculty Openings page.

This emphasis on the awareness of location analytics, while showing powerful  insight today will become far more commonplace in the future, as university’s realize the value of the geographic perspective.

This post is a part of the 2014 blog series on Educational Research and Geospatial Technologies.

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IGES Enviro-Research Contest

Want a boost toward college and career? The Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) has announced the 2014 Thacher Environmental Research Contest for grades 9-12. This annual contest asks students to demo their science and technology skills by submitting research projects focused on the use of remote sensing and analysis tools. Students are to identify a U.S. protected area of interest, and design a research project that identifies why the area is unique, why it contributes significantly to our society, how this area has changed over time, and how geospatial technology can be used to monitor these environmental treasures. The competition features cash awards, and the winning entry will be published in Apogeo Spatial. Entries must be postmarked or emailed by May 5, 2014. For full contest rules and to enter, see

Charlie Fitzpatrick
Esri Education Manager

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The Size of the Geospatial Industry

One question that we frequently receive here on the Esri education team is, “What is the size of the geospatial industry?”  Whether the question is asked in reference to a paper someone is researching, or because someone wants to obtain a sense of the “stability”of the industry when deciding whether to pursue GIScience for their career, or for some other reason, the question is a valid one, but it is difficult to definitively answer.

Up through the mid 1990s, while employed at the USGS, I used to consult an annual paper book on the size of GIS to answer this question.  Back then, it was a modest sized community of government, academia, nonprofit, and industry who were involved with producing, serving, and using geospatial data, software, and services.  But since then we have seen an explosion of geospatial technologies and data surround us in many forms and on many devices, and an expansion of users far beyond the traditional sciences and planning “core” into business, health, and just about every industry that exists.  This makes answering the question increasingly difficult.  It might be akin to “what is the size of the chemical, transportation, or <you fill in the blank” industries?”  All are enormous and have fuzzy boundaries.

Nevertheless, a few documents are helpful in at least getting an estimate of the size of the geospatial industry.   Geospatial World reported in their December 2013 issue on page 18 and following that the global geospatial industry brings in $270 billion in annual revenue, and companies in the sector pay more than $90 billion in wages each year.  This stemmed from a report published by Oxera in January 2013.  Equally interesting are the figures of how much travel time is saved annually due to geospatial technology (1.1 billion) and petrol saved (3.5 billion liters).  According to the Oxera report, this means that geospatial is 5 to 10 times larger than the video game industry, and at least one third the size of the global airline industry.  Geospatial is so large because “digital imagery and location-based services are essential components in resource management, supply chain logistics, infrastructure design, telecommunications, and national defense.  Also consider the manufacturing industry involved with creating consumer products, as well as the satellite and space industry needed to make it all work.”  Additionally, Geospatial World author Sanjay wrote this article about the business value and the major technology and solution companies. Finally, Daratech has researched and published comprehensive surveys of the size of the geospatial industry.

The Exhibit Hall at the Esri International User Conference.

One way of getting a sense of the size and diversity of the geospatial industry is to visit the Exhibit Hall at the Esri International User Conference. I am amazed at what I see there each year.  Another way is to visit

No matter what the size of the geospatial industry, one thing is clear:  Geospatial technology is here to stay.  As our world faces more complex and interconnected issues in this century that increasingly impact our everyday lives, the “where” questions will be increasingly asked.  And the technology to answer those questions will be GIS.

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Esri Maps for Office in Education: New Instructional Videos

Got spreadsheets?  Want to map them?  You can easily do so with Esri Maps for Office.  I have created a series of 3 new videos describing what Esri Maps for Office is, why it is useful in education, and how it can be used.  There is about 20 minutes of content in these videos but it is presented in easy-to-understand demonstrations of the tools using real-world contexts and problems.  Because so much work that students and instructors do is in spreadsheet format, such as with Microsoft Excel, being able to easily map that data can be instructive in mathematics, geography, biology, engineering, business, and in many other disciplines, as well as serve as an excellent research tool for you or your students.

The first video describes what Esri Maps for Office is, what you need to run it, and the wonderful and powerful capabilities that it includes.  As long as your data includes a locational component, such as names of cities or countries, zip codes, street addresses, or latitude-longitude values, you will be able to map it and analyze resulting patterns.  Best of all, your resulting maps can be shared with others.

In the second video, I demonstrate how Esri Maps for Office’s core capabilities can be used.  Specifically, I create a map from data that is in an Excel spreadsheet format (on election results by state), classify the data, and publish the map in ArcGIS Online.  I also show the data enrichment tools, which allows you to tap into an additional wealth of census, environmental, and other variables from the Esri ArcGIS Online cloud.

In the third video, I show how your newly published maps from Esri Maps for Office can be embedded into PowerPoint slides as dynamic maps.  I also demonstrate how to map latitude-longitude points  Finally, I show how geographic areas other than standard ones such as countries, states, counties, and so on, can be mapped, such as town boundaries in New England or regional administrative districts in France, for example.

Mapping spreadsheet data using Esri Maps for Office

Mapping spreadsheet data using Esri Maps for Office.

How might you be able to make use of these videos and Esri Maps for Office in your instruction?

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Educational Researchers (Who Think Spatially) Are My Heroes

Using GIS to analyze educational research or educational policy data while not new, isn’t neccessarily the most common application of GIS in higher education. A few years ago, Dr. William Tate was president of AERA and among his many presidential activities, led AERA members to consider the power of spatial analysis (example paper) more broadly when studying educational or social science research data. As a case in point, consider the story of his work related to place and student performance.  In fact, Dr. Tate’s work with Washington University colleague Dr. Mark Hogrebe, stands out in my mind as an exemplary use of GIS to analyze educational data. Dr. Hogrebe’s work has also produced countless papers, including  work on science attainment as well as the St. Louis Regional Database Project (mapper).

Researchers that understand the spatial perspective have a keen advantage over their colleagues, but more importantly are better able to make sense of the phenomena they are studying. Whether you need to simply map out your research data or use spatial statistics inside of ArcGIS for Desktop or ArcGIS Online, the added understanding of geographical analysis of educational data will certainly complement and extend a traditional statistical or qualitative analysis.

In the 2008 book, Spatial Theories of Education Policy and Geography Matters, where Dr.’s Gulson and Symes and a cadre of educational researchers lay out some common cases for using GIS and spatial analysis to better understand trends across global education. The stories explore:

  1. Knowing One’s Place: Educational Theory, Policy, and the Spatial Turn
  2. The Spatial Politics of Educational Privatization: Re-reading the US Homeschooling Movement
  3. Mobilizing Space Discourses: Politics and Educational Policy Change
  4. Space, Equity and Rural Education: A ‘Trialectical’ Account
  5. GIS and School Choice: The Use of Spatial Research Tools in Studying Educational Policy
  6. Disability, Education and Space: Some Critical Reflections Felicity Armstrong
  7. Working the In/visible Geographies of School Exclusion
  8.  Warehousing Young People in Urban Canadian Schools: Gender, Peer Rivalry and Spatial Containment
  9. Education and the Spatialization of Urban Inequality: A Case Study of Chicago’s Renaissance 2010
  10. On the Right Track: Railways and Schools in Late Nineteenth Century of Sydney
  11. Student Mobility and the Spatial Production of Cosmopolitan Identities
  12. Public-Private Partnerships, Digital Firms and the Production of a Neoliberal Education Space at the European Scale
  13. Deparochializing the Study of Education: Globalization and the Research Imagination
  14. Trade Unions, Strategic Pedagogy and New Spaces of Engagement: Counter knowledge, Economy Insights from Columbia

The role of space and place across education should be evident, but these stories begin the exploration of educational research questions and their analysis.

Over the coming year, look for regular blog posts that reflect on GIS in educational research, from case studies and features to GIS tools, tutorials, and techniques particularly relevant to the educational researcher and social scientist.  Even if you (only) map your data to provide a more compelling context for you study, I believe you’ll see that more often than expected, where does matter to better understanding!

This post is a part of the 2014 blog series on Educational Research and Geospatial Technologies.

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