Monthly Archives: November 2015

Credits Explained

Most people are aware of all the cool things you can do with ArcGIS Online. They know they can access thousands of layers through the Living Atlas and Open Data portals.  They know they can distribute maps and engaging web applications like Story Maps within their institution or with the public.  They know ArcGIS Online can power data collection apps like Collector or power spatial analysis in a web browser.  Although the capabilities of ArcGIS Online are understood, some people still hesitate to make the leap to the cloud because of a single word: credits.

What is a credit? How many credits does a Story Map use?  How do I keep my users from spending all my credits?

These are all common questions I will address here.

Credits are the currency in ArcGIS Online. The storage and processing you do in ArcGIS Online takes place on servers. This storage and processing is not free, hence the need for a mechanism to account for this activity (credits).

Many of the things you do in ArcGIS Online consume few or no credits. When you create a Story Map for example, you are only charged for storage. Access to Esri’s configurable application templates are completely free. Unless you are working with very large amounts of data, the amount of credits consumed by storage is quite small – less than 15 credits per year for 1 GB for file storage.

Services, like tile caching, geocoding, and analysis consume more credits but even these are quite reasonable when working with small data sets. If you are doing heavy processing with more data, do so on your desktop with ArcGIS Pro or ArcMap then publish your results in ArcGIS Online. Local processing is free and you will again only be consuming credits for storage in the cloud. Promoting this workflow in your organization can drastically reduce credit consumption by your organization.

In addition to promoting credit reducing workflows, administrators have three main ways to control credit consumption in ArcGIS Online:

1.  Create custom roles - With custom roles you are able to control user access to credit consuming activities in ArcGIS Online. For example, generating tile services at multiple scales over a large geographic area involves a lot of processing and generates a large amount of data to be stored in ArcGIS Online. Needless to say this will consume a large amount of credits up front, and storage of several GBs will chip away at your credits over time. You may want to consider assigning users a custom role which disables tile generating capabilities.

2.  Generate organization statistics – Use the View Status dashboard to monitor the activity in your organization. You can filter credit consumption activity over time and export statistics so that you can work with it as a spreadsheet. This is useful for identifying any spikes in activity so that you can take action, either by reaching out to students or even disabling accounts.

3.  Assign credit quotas - This is a new administrative tool that is extremely helpful in keeping your organization’s credit usage in check. You can assign credit limits that apply specifically to tile generation, geoenrichment, geocoding, and analysis services. Credit quotas do not apply to item storage, and limits can be adjusted at any time. Credit quotas can be assigned by groups, roles, or to individual users. When a user reaches their credit limit, they will still be able to access their content, they just won’t be able to use the aforementioned services until an administrator assigns them a new quota of credits.

As an ArcGIS Online administrator, we want you to focus on bringing the power of cloud GIS to your organization, not fretting over credits. We hope these tools and best practices will help you understand and manage credit use so that you can concentrate on what counts – empowering your users to solve spatial problems with amazing maps and applications!

For a breakdown on credit costs per service click here. Watch for future blog posts which will dig deeper into each of these methods.

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What did you do for GIS Day?

What did you do for GIS Day this year?  Since 1999, GIS Day has been set aside to promote, celebrate, and demonstrate the real-world applications that are making a difference in society using Geographic Information Systems technology.

GIS Day always occurs during the Wednesday of Geography Awareness Week, and thus provides a good excuse for incorporating geographic perspectives, geography content, and spatial thinking into the activities.

I had a great GIS Day and Geography Awareness Week.  As the week began, I finished presenting and exhibiting at the National Council for the Social Studies conference in New Orleans, where I met some wonderful economics, geography, history, and civics instructors.  I then flew to Philadelphia and visited one of my favorite programs that use GIS to make a positive difference in the lives of young people, Hopeworks ‘N Camden.   Hopeworks ‘N Camden is a nonprofit that has been working for over 15 years with Camden youth. Utilizing an advanced training curriculum in web design and development, GIS, and Salesforce, Hopeworks works with youth aged 14­-23 to get back in school and discover a safe pathway to their future.  One of their projects with GIS involves mapping all of the city’s water infrastructure–valves, fire hydrants, and mains–for the American Water Works Company.

Next, I visited Temple University’s Department of Geography and Urban Studies, which recently began a new undergraduate GIS certificate program.   Next, I was invited to Penn State University to support their GIS Day activities, teaching a workshop, operating an information table, giving a presentation, and meeting with their innovative faculty across the campus who are using GIS in their courses and programs.  I also highly enjoyed speaking to two classes–an undergraduate course in professional development for geography students, and a first year seminar for earth and environmental students. Next, I visited Cornell University in New York, teaching a hands-on workshop for students and faculty, followed the next day by a workshop for the New York 4H community, In all of these visits I was highly encouraged by the energy and expertise of the students, staff, and faculty, and did my utmost to give plenty of encouragement and support in return.

Share the stories of what you did on the GIS Day web site, by replying to this essay below, or in GeoNet.

GIS Day events:  Working with faculty, staff, and students.

GIS Day events: Working with faculty, staff, and students.

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Fun with GIS 186: GAW in Mourning

Geography Awareness Week 2015 begins with the world reeling in pain. We who celebrate the interconnections of life were horrified by the terrorism in France on Friday. We weep for the victims, and mourn as one with the families, friends, communities, and nation. How is it that some learn to hate and destroy, while others learn to support and heal?

Thinking geographically means searching for patterns and relationships, looking at a complex situation from many angles, holistically, to see the many related elements and perspectives. We can construct models and flows, stringing together blobs of text and graphic to describe mechanically how something comes about. But there remain elements we cannot fathom, influences that do not “follow the rules.”

Last week, I wrote about “integrating STEM.” I do not believe STEM is single discipline, nor even four content areas, but a multi-threaded approach to learning how things work. It depends on analysis, logic, systems, and fractal content knowledge to support a framework. But, for living in our world, it requires context, particularly the messy elements of humankind. STEM alone cannot properly experience, fathom, explain, cope with, recover from, predict, and prevent episodes like Friday. It is like only having fabric threads running in one direction. Without the context of human experience — language, arts, government, religion, history, economics — it is only the warp, the lengthwise fibers of the loom. Equally, the crosswise weft by itself makes an unproductive loom. Only the combination works.

Geography mixes and mingles, mapping the patterns and relationships of all that is and has been. Sometimes, the patterns dazzle us; other times, they are hideous, Medusa-like, or worse. But they are real. We need to seek a full range of information, including all the perspectives, to grasp the reality.

The magic of geography is its holistic view. The power of GIS is its capacity both to isolate and integrate, and thus illuminate. The challenge for humanity is to build, and share, ever greater understanding. Our hearts are heavy, but we must go forward. Only education can save the world.

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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New Geocaching, GPS, and Related Geo-Activities

I recently created a presentation on geocaching, GPS, and related geo-activities.  The live webinar from NCGE is here; use the password geocaching to access, and the presentation including all links to the activities and maps is here.  Other geocaching, GPS, and related resources are located in the Esri K12 GIS Organization (despite the name, note that most activities are suitable for higher education as well), under 03:  Blogs, Lessons, & Other Docs, under 05:  GPS Resources.

The objectives of the presentation are to define geocaching and other GPS-related activities, explain reasons for teaching with these, and discuss specific example activities that I and other educators have tested successfully in classrooms from primary to university and adult learning.  Example activities include earthcaching, waymarking, Mapillary, mathematics-driven activities including the calculation of the Earth’s circumference, mass, and volume, GPS drawing, tracking movements over a week’s time, my “Get outside with GPS” set of activities, geocaching events and themes, setting up geocaching courses in ArcGIS Online, and using spatial accuracy and precision as teachable moments.

I also describe other outdoor-related geography apps, such as the creation of storymaps on a phone with Snap2Map, exploring and comparing places on Earth with Field Notes, and citizen science using Collector for ArcGIS.  I also discuss the use of GPS receivers versus GPS apps on smartphones, essential GPS functions for educators, and smartphone GPS apps.  I finish the presentation with activities, books, and other ways to learn more about the subjects presented.

Recording attributes of trees and field notes while marking waypoint with GPS receiver.

Recording attributes of trees and field notes while marking waypoint with GPS receiver.

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Fun with GIS 185: Integrating STEM

“In which class does GIS belong?” I’m often asked. “Wherever you encourage critical thinking,” I reply. With furrowed brow, they continue, “We don’t teach geography, so maybe US history, or environmental science? Certainly not English or math or language. But, high school career tech, or middle school gifted, or what?” I smile and say “All of those, for sure, but more. Wherever you want students to dive in, explore, analyze data, integrate, present, and collaborate. Certainly from 4th grade on up, for every student, in all subjects, but even younger students can benefit. Web-based GIS means it is accessible on any connected device, anytime, anywhere.”

School should be a process in which all students learn why and how to learn; scaffold thinking skills; find, analyze, and interpret data; practice making decisions; engage deeply; integrate, communicate, and collaborate; create and share; listen, observe, and reflect. The content can vary widely, and GIS can be a great tool for all of these, whether examining community demographics, national history, soil productivity, urban planning, factors affecting variation in climate models, or the density of ant colonies across the school playground.

The recent meeting of the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) featured a presentation by the Math, Science, and Technology Magnet Academy of Roosevelt High School, from the Boyle Heights neighborhood of East Los Angeles. Four seniors and two alums, plus the 11th grade English and Social Studies teachers and principal, shared their story. Each year, the juniors have a major project that is service learning, community based, personally chosen, team designed, data driven, justice-oriented, intensely researched and analyzed, and mapped, written, and taught. In this STEM school, two “non-STEM” teachers coach the class on how to use ArcGIS Online to enrich their experience, expand their skills, integrate their knowledge, gather field data to expand their findings, and power their presentation. The standing ovation by state and national leaders at SETDA is what students in all grades, all subjects, all schools should be earning.


(Above: Adult and student presenters. SETDA presentation visible there, or see this presentation by MSTMA/RHS at Esri’s 2013 User Conference, before 10,000 GIS professionals.)

Any US K12 school can have the same GIS used by MSTMA, for free, via Esri’s ConnectED offer. Teachers who want an easy starting point will find instructional materials with which to explore the basics, in classic content or one’s own vision. Schools seeking to replicate the MSTMA model need to be willing to cross lines, break down barriers, and let go the reins of adult control and empower students.

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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5 Exciting ways to access USGS Historical Topographic Maps in ArcGIS Online

Many exciting ways now exist to access the USGS historical topographic maps in ArcGIS Online.   I recently created a Microsoft Sway presentation that summarizes the key ways to access these maps here.  After giving this presentation to a very receptive group (the Rocky Mountain Map Society), I decided to share it with the entire GIS education community.

There are many uses for historical USGS topographic maps in education and research, including building map interpretation skills (contour lines, slope and aspect, symbology, scale, density, patterns, distance, direction), teaching web GIS skills (maps, layers, time aware sliders, popups, filtering, data types, multimedia, saving and sharing maps, maps vs apps, metadata), teaching cultural geography (settlement patterns, population change, reservoir construction, land use), physical geography (coastal erosion, historical water levels, watersheds, volcanic eruptions, geomorphology), and incorporating biology, mathematics, history, language arts (*STEAM) into education, and research (assessing land cover change, human- environment interaction, and more).

To summarize, the methods available to use USGS topographic maps in ArcGIS Online are:
1)  Use the latest version of USGS topographic maps as a basemap.
2)  Use the Historical Topographical Map Explorer web mapping application.
3)  Use the historical topographic maps as layers.
4)   Go deeper with the maps as layers:  Narrow your search on specific dates or other map attributes, enable time animations, change the popups and the draw order.
5)  Use my application comparing maps of different dates in a side-by-side application, or create your own.

View the presentation and let me know what you think.  I found that the interactive nature of ArcGIS Online fit very nicely with the free Sway presentation tools!  You might consider Sway for a future presentation that you or your students need to conduct.

How are you using USGS topographic maps in ArcGIS Online in your instruction?

Using USGS topographic maps in ArcGIS Online

Using USGS topographic maps in ArcGIS Online.

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