Monthly Archives: October 2014

New Galleries of Geography and Mathematics Maps and Lessons in ArcGIS Online

I have created 5 new geography-based lessons and 5 new mathematics-based lessons and placed them in 2 galleries in ArcGIS Online.  All 10 lessons are geared toward Grade 6, but can be modified for primary or for upper secondary school.  All are based on ArcGIS Online and can be used without logging in; they are designed to introduce students to spatial thinking while focusing on core geography and mathematics standards and content.

The geography lessons include investigations of volcanoes, rivers, oceans, cities, and agriculture, while the mathematics lessons ask students to study demographics, temperature extremes, earthquakes, the shape of the Earth, and latitude-longitude. Each lesson is grounded in educational content standards, and takes advantage of the ArcGIS Online live web mapping environment to foster critical thinking, problem-based learning, and inquiry.

For example, the earthquake activity’s introductory questions include, “Can you apply the principles of probability to real-world events and data?  Can you compare and interpret information using maps, databases, and timelines so that you can better understand earthquakes over space and time?”  Mathematics standards embedded in this activity include:  (1)  Describe and order simple events using familiar language, and describe and compare the likelihood of future real-life events using 0, less than ½, ½, more than ½, 1. (2)  Understand, explain, and use the probability of earthquakes at the global, regional, and local scale.  (3) Describe and compare the likelihood of future real-life events (earthquakes) at the global, regional, and local scale.  (4)  Understand, explain, and use the place value of positive numbers of any size.  (5)  Round numbers to the nearest 10, 100, and 1000 and justify rounding in terms of closeness to the number.  (6)  Order and compare whole numbers of any size in ascending and descending order.  (7)  Select and apply an appropriate numeracy strategy to solve addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems and justify the choice of strategy.  (8)  Add and subtract decimal numbers with the same and different number of decimal places.  (9) Investigate the units for time and convert between them, and (10)  Draw and interpret timelines to record events.

The other activities are similarly grounded in solid content, and foster key skills and the spatial perspective.

I encourage you to try the lessons, but also to consider using galleries in ArcGIS Online to serve your own activities.  The gallery presents students with a convenient “one-stop shop” to access content.  Galleries point to a group containing the content that you wish to show, and are easy to set up, as this video explains.  And as you can see from the two galleries I set up here, they can point to more than just web maps. In the case of my galleries, I point to PDFs of the lessons, and in each PDF is a link to the web map that the students are to open to begin their investigations.  Try it!

Gallery of Mathematics Lessons in ArcGIS Online.  A new Geography gallery exists too.

Gallery of Mathematics Lessons in ArcGIS Online. A new Geography gallery exists as well.

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Fun with GIS 167: T3G 2015

Day by day, maps help us cope with an increasingly complex and interconnected world. They help businesses, government agencies, and non-profit orgs, vast and tiny alike, solve problems. Each new technology opens doors for those who can work with tools, analyze data, and present it intelligibly. Careers blossom for those who can both think and do with geographic info and tools.

Esri’s annual Teachers Teaching Teachers GIS Institute is for educators and education influencers who know enough about GIS to grab hold, engage, and carry the technology to other educators. Back for a 7th year, the 2015 T3G seeks 100 educators willing to focus for a week on changing lives by bringing GIS into education more powerfully.

Educators from grade school to grad school, formal to informal, and education influencers at all levels from local, state, and even national positions, learn to help others think and work more capably with online maps and apps, on computers, tablets, and smartphones. New friends and colleagues share and learn from each other in a tidal wave of maps, apps, ideas, and opportunities.

Join the GIS-PD team at T3G! Check out the movies, see the application, take the online course, and consider if you too are ready to help others learn with GIS. June 14-19, 2015, at Esri in Redlands, CA. See

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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10 Skills the Future Workforce will Need: Connections to GIS

I was intrigued by a recent article by a director at Teach for All, Nicholas Enna, who listed 10 skills the workforce of the future will need.  As I was reading the article, I could not help but see the connections between the 10 skills and the tenets that we in the GIS education community hold dear.

The first skill identified is that “They will need to know how to create new worlds.”  Modeling the real world’s complexities has been a mainstay of GIS, and more recently, GIS has been used to envision and plan the future, such as in the emerging field of geodesign.  The second skill identified is that “They will need to think holistically.”  By seeing the spatial and temporal connections to such things as watersheds, human settlement, natural hazards, soils, weather patterns, landforms, and land use, students using GIS are required to think holistically about communities, regions, and the planet.

The fourth skill, that “they will turn information into matter and matter into base information on the fly,” is also relevant to teaching and learning with GIS.  Students turn data from text, tables, images, videos, and spatial data layers into information to make a decision, whether it is for the optimal site for a new wind farm or library, or areas of unstable slopes near a ski area.  They become critical thinkers about the data and information that they create.

Skill number 8, that “They will all be data analysts,” is at the heart of working with GIS.  As my colleague Charlie Fitzpatrick wrote, GIS is a “thinker’s tool.”  It requires analyzing data from a variety of sources, time periods, scales, and themes to make sense of a problem and begin to address its pertinent issues.   Data is messy and unpredictable, but the students who are not afraid to dig into and analyze data will be well positioned for the workplace.

The number 9 skill identified by the author is that, “The ability to tell a good story will be valued over spreadsheets, graphs, and data points.”  For thousands of years, maps have been used to tell stories because of their compact nature but rich content.  Digital maps offer all of the advantages of paper maps and much more.  Students can create presentations in ArcGIS Online, story maps, embed multimedia into their maps, and embed the maps into web pages.

Finally, the author’s number 10 skill identified that “Our future workforce must be ready to become “shallow experts” very quickly on many different types of software, platforms, and services” in some ways connects very well to GIS.  While I do believe that an immersion in GIS cannot be shallow if one wants to use it effectively, I have observed countless times that GIS is a holistic set of skills.  Using GIS requires that students have skills in a wide variety of computer and non-computer skills, as identified by the Geospatial Technology Competency Model and others.

How could you use this list of 10 skills to make the case for the use of GIS in education?

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Fun with GIS 166: Pay it Forward

Who was the mentor who most affected your life? What did she say? What did he do? A good mentor builds a relationship, draws out existing capacity, and opens up new possibilities. A mentor finds out what you seek, and helps you consider important options. Everyone needs a mentor … even educators.

When Esri launched our effort through ConnectED, we also sought to rekindle the GeoMentor program. Hundreds of schools now have an ArcGIS Online Organization, but it’s new enough that few know how best to take advantage. See the story map of GIS in US K12 Education.

But only a very few educators have taken the bold step of saying “Yes, please, I could use a hand!” It doesn’t take long to seek a hand – visit a website, enter a login, zoom to your workplace, and enter some info so someone can find you. Then, you can go exploring as well.

Compare those few educators with the GeoMentor map. Almost ten times as many mentors as educators have said “Count me in!” Some parts of the country are rich in volunteers. Excellent odds for educators, and promise for the students!

Esri has provided a number of resources for educators with which to start using GIS even on their own, but having a mentor can turbo-charge this. See the GeoMentor page for ideas on how to engage in a relationship, as educator or as mentor … or both.

Put your dot on the map and seek out a partner. Esri has opened up tools for mapping and analyzing data anytime, anywhere, on any connected device. The youth of the country are familiar with tech and hungry to engage in activities that matter. But they need teachers and schools to permit and encourage it.

Educators, it’s time for you to halloo. GeoMentors, it’s time for you to pay forward the remarkable gift someone helped you discover. Our kids need us to come through for them.

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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Education discount on ArcGIS Web Development e-book

We are pleased to announce that Esri has brokered a special 50% discount off the new ArcGIS Web Development book, written by Esri business partner Rene Rubalcava.

The book covers practical details on using the popular Javascript and REST APIs. These are precisely the details many students are searching for, and are the skills many employers are seeking.

To get the discount, one needs to Add to Cart the e-book, and then enter the promo code “esriup” and click Apply. The price will drop from $31.99 to $16.

We hope you enjoy and take advantage of this timely book.

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Compare 3 Time Periods with Topographic Maps in ArcGIS Online

I recently wrote about the availability of an absolutely fabulous resource, that more than 175,000 USGS topographic maps spanning the past century now exist in ArcGIS Online.  This week, to commemorate Earth Science Week, using the techniques I described in the essay “Web Maps, Web Apps, Story Maps,” I created a web app showing three maps.  The app starts at Burwell, Nebraska, one of my favorite places–the Nebraska Sand Hills, and shows a 1952 USGS 1:24,000-scale topographic map, a newer edition USGS topographic map from 1978, and the current Esri topographic map of the same area. The map is shown here; to see it, you need to log in to your ArcGIS Online organizational account, as the historical USGS topographic maps are part of the Esri Premium Content. Land cover changes observed on the map include the railroad becoming abandoned, a few blocks and houses constructed, and a curve added to the state highway northeast of town, but on the whole, these changes were small.  During that time, the town lost population, falling from 1,413 in 1950 to 1,210 in 2010.

Land Cover change in Burwell, Nebraska: Left:  1952.  Center:  1978.  Right:  2014.

Land Cover change in Burwell, Nebraska: Left: 1952. Center: 1978. Right: 2014.

Now, zoom out, pan to Texas, and zoom in to Plano, Texas, until you see the 1:24,000-scale maps in the left and center panel.  The magnitude of land cover change in Plano versus that in Burwell is immediately evident.  Plano was affected by the rapidly urbanizing Dallas metroplex to the south:  The north-south highway became a freeway, an east-west freeway was added, the railroad became part of the Dallas Area Rapid Transit, and streets filled in the entire map frame.  Using either the USGS Map Store index or just clicking in the map on the left side, it can be determined that the left map dates from 1960, the center map with purple tint dates from 1973, and the right is a current (2014) topographic map.  Plano’s population grew from 3,695 in 1960 to 269,776 in 2010, becoming the 9th most populous city in all of Texas.

Land cover change in Plano, Texas:  Left:  1960.  Center:  1973.  Right:  2014.

Land cover change in Plano, Texas: Left: 1960. Center: 1973. Right: 2014.

Use this map to examine other places, including your own community.  What changes do you and your students observe, and what local, regional, national, and international forces were responsible for these changes?  What will your community look like in the future, and why?

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Creating a Bright Future for All Kids through Digital Learning

Just 25 years ago, life was very different for US residents. Few people used e-mail, “the web” was about spiders, and “portable phones” generated more derision than envy. Schools had some Apple IIs, Macs, PCs, or labs, but no school had hundreds of kids with constant access. How things have changed. Now digital learning helps kids whenever, wherever—at least, some kids. In 2013, President Barack Obama launched ConnectED, challenging businesses to help get all US schools into digital learning with more devices, more connectivity, more digital content, and more training for teachers.

In late May 2014, the White House announced Esri’s contribution to ConnectED: ArcGIS Online organizational subscriptions for any K–12 school in the United States. With major support from Amazon Web Services, kids in any US school can make maps and analyze data using powerful, professional web-based GIS, connected anytime and anywhere—on a computer, tablet, or smartphone.

Since the announcement, three main messages have reached me. First, “You actually expect this to have any impact?” Second, “Sign me up!” Third, “Really? A billion?”

Absolutely, we expect an impact. From Esri president Jack Dangermond on down, my colleagues at Esri are excited about how kids have already used ArcGIS Online, as seen at recent Esri conferences and schools across the country. When educators and education influencers see how powerful it is for kids doing projects, it has an impact.

Hence the “Sign me up!” message. Schools have already requested, received, and started working with ArcGIS Online. More important, GIS users and education leaders in every state have said, “I’m telling my friends and my local schools!” The GIS Certification Institute, in particular, is encouraging geographic information system professionals (GISP) to be GeoMentors for local schools. Educators can build capacity with ArcGIS Online easily, and students even more so. It is important not to set sights too high too quickly nor stay too low for too long (see model), but good teachers know this.

So we hope every school uses ArcGIS Online. But . . . a billion? Really? When asked, I have replied, “You tell me, what’s the dollar value of enticing kids to stay in school? Helping them build skills they will carry for a lifetime? Helping them see and think geographically and influence their friends and family to do the same? Helping them make sound decisions on the basis of a holistic view of a unique and complex situation? Supporting the work of millions of kids as they move into countless careers? And then, what’s the value of a community that does not get built in a disaster-prone area? Or a police force allocating critical resources where they are needed most? Or epidemiologists who can recognize transmission patterns sooner and ward off a pandemic? Or businesses that understand optimizing routes? Or a billion other situations large and small, across the land, and over the years?”

A word about projects. Education Week publishes an annual high school graduation analysis, looking at rates across the USA. Graduation rates are improving, but a huge issue remains. The magazine’s theme this year is “Motivation Matters.” Teachers everywhere report that using GIS motivates kids to engage more deeply in school, especially in projects. Projects are like educational Velcro. Wrestling with complex topics, using varied data in custom situations that are often deeply personal, students work on innumerable little puzzles—countless little hooks. GIS is science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) and more—communication, collaboration, creativity, and countless topics. When kids use GIS to explore problems, they often show up in the room before school, reappear during lunch, and sometimes must be shooed out the door after the last bell. I’ve seen it in every kind of school with kids of all backgrounds, including technophobes, kids with various learning challenges, social butterflies, invisibles, and even those expected to have been mired in “senior slump.”

Kids today being taught like students were 25 years ago are dying of boredom, and worse. Let’s unleash the energy and creativity of youth on the big challenges of our communities, country, and planet. All kids today deserve this, not just “the haves.” Let’s help all schools, teachers, and kids become connected learners, with ArcGIS Online!

- Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri K–12 Manager

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Fun with GIS 165: Earth Science and Humans

Earth Science Week for 2014 arrived with the release of two fascinating story maps: The Age of Megacities and The Age of Humans. Earth science is fascinating in its own right for many students and adults, but others need to see its relationship to humans in order to pay attention. These two story maps use the powerful new “map journal” template to tell the stories, and this new template shows nicely on computers, tablets, and even smartphones.

Major cities have have expanded dramatically over time. Around the world, already 28 urban centers exceed 10 million people, with more expected in years ahead. A number of these face earth science-related challenges: earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, drought, hurricanes, sea level rise, and shifting conditions from a changing climate.

So many people in a concentrated space also makes one ponder the notion of humans as shapers of the planet. Adding another billion people, and another, and another … consuming resources and generating waste. Food, forests, biodiversity, climate, clean air and water, and our many support systems all sustain and depend on us. All are subject to the forces that shape our planet. But earth science shows that not all forces are titanic events of colossal power; some are slow but steady influences that accumulate and generate huge impact. Humans have become fundamental shapers of the atmosphere, biosphere, and hydrosphere, and tap increasingly into the lithosphere.

We are subjects of our host planet, and cannot avoid its conditions, but we also influence things far more than we might care to admit. Our survival depends on a holistic understanding of the dramatic forces that affect us, and the massive but uncontrolled power humans also wield.

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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Earth Science Week 2014

Celebrate Earth Science Week with the American Geosciences Institute, Esri, and other ESW partners all week at

Focus days this year include Earth Science Week logo

  • Earthcache day
  • No Child Left Inside Day
  • National Fossil Day
  • Geoscience for Everyone Day
  • Geologic Map Day

Explore the database of classroom Earth science activities or request the Earth Science Week toolkit for teachers.

Don’t forget to explore the November feature, using ArcGIS Online to explore hurricanes around Latin America!  Learn more about GIS and Earth Science at

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Teaching Geography in the 21st Century: An Online Course: Offering 2

An exciting new 5-week online course will be offered beginning 15 October 2014 entitled Teaching Geography in the 21st Century. Teaching Geography in the 21st Century: An Online Course.

Geography is usually considered as the world’s oldest discipline, pioneered by Eratosthenes in 250 BC, and has a rich tradition of scholarship and innovation. Yet geography has always embraced new technologies, research practices, instructional methods, skills, and content. How can geography be taught in the 21st Century, embracing its rich heritage and yet looking forward to emerging and exciting tools and perspectives? What content should be included? What skills should be developed? Furthermore, why should geography be taught in the 21st Century? Why is it relevant to the understanding of and decision-making in 21st Century society, the environment, and current events?

I will teach this course through eNet Learning, whose mission is to provide high-quality professional development, content, and resources that support educators and student learning. I created this video to describe the course in a friendly, personal way.

This course is designed to build geographic concepts, perspectives, and skills for those teaching geography and those teaching other disciplines who seek to use the geographic framework.  The goal is to enable and equip educators to teach the subject of geography in engaging and informed ways; to help educators and their students to understand why and how geography is relevant to 21st Century life. Population, land use, urban, economic, health, hazards, and other themes will be addressed. A focus will be on scale, systems thinking, critical thinking, time and space, and place, through an inquiry-driven, hands-on, problem-based format. The course includes pedagogical strategies and technological tools to teach conceptual foundations, skills, and geographic perspectives. Hands-on activities will offer deep immersion in several tools, including ArcGIS Online, which provides an easy-to-use, powerful platform for analysis and investigation.  If you are already thinking spatially and wondering about the photographs, I took the top image in the vertical panel at the right in Savannah, Georgia, and the bottom on the shoreline at the UCSB campus in Santa Barbara, California.

Participants will be equipped to: 1) Identify, describe, and discuss urban, economic, land use, natural hazards, health, and population issues foundational to geography at different geographical and temporal scales. 2) Apply geographic principles to effectively teach geography with the geographic perspective, and 3) Understand how to incorporate geospatial technologies, including dynamic web maps, charts, and data, to teach geography. If you missed the first opportunity to take this course (September), now is your chance!  You can register here.  If you have colleagues in education that you are trying to “nudge” into spatial thinking and the use of geotechnologies, please let them know about the opportunity.

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