Monthly Archives: March 2016

Fun with GIS 194: Coding. Maps. Future.

Computer Science for All is Pres. Obama’s effort to get all US K12 students to learn computer science. My previous blog showed how easily kids (or teachers) can make a map-based web app from a template, in minutes, even with a free public account on ArcGIS Online. But users in an Organization account (which any US K12 school can get for instruction for free) have more tools (with cool powers!) for developing content.

AppStudio lets developers build once and deploy on multiple platforms. The “Basic” level is available to any Org member just by logging in, and allows working with existing templates. Users of Survey123 may see familiar processes because Survey123 was built using AppStudio. It’s a powerful tool!

I find the Web AppBuilder even easier. It’s accessed from the “Share/ Create a Web App” panel inside the ArcGIS Online MapViewer, but is tucked behind and easily overlooked.

With a bank of templates and widgets, one can construct a finished app in minutes, and update the app just by updating the source map. I built a simple app so users can scribble and sketch on a map; it was just for fun, 20 minutes from concept to completion, and usable on any web-enabled device. For a more serious app, widgets let users in a private group explore and extract custom data from a private nationwide data set which I update weekly.

Why build apps? To grow skills, solve puzzles, save time, integrate capacity, or address very specific needs. “Service” means “doing something for others;” “service learning” requires understanding the needs of someone else. Being an entrepreneur demands grasping what a customer thinks, wants, or needs. Building one’s future no longer means mastering a process and repeating it forever in the same way. Coding helps developers build skills in problem-solving, communication, and thinking outside the box; it helps them try, fail, try again, fail better, try again, and overcome. Doing it all with maps helps coders build crucial background knowledge during construction and testing, which supports understanding the world today, and making better decisions for tomorrow.

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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Integrating Arts into STEM: Cowboy Boots of Wimberley, Texas

Recently I created a “Famous Boots of Wimberley, Texas” story map for four reasons:  First, I wanted to show educators and the general public how to integrate art, history, science, technology, geography, and GIS.  My colleagues and I receive frequent inquiries from people asking how to integrate art into STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) educational programs, and Wimberley’s giant boots are a good illustration of this integration.  Second, I wanted to test the new capabilities of the side accordion story map configurable app.  This app is an easy and compelling way to tell a story.

Third, I wanted to demonstrate that every community has a story, and story maps are a visually compelling, easy-to-create way of telling that story.  When I visited the town for the first time after a series of presentations I gave at the geography department of nearby Texas State University, I learned about the boot project from my town walkabout.  It was so interesting to me that I began collecting information, photographs, and video, and a short time later, I had created the story map that integrates all of these types of multimedia.  The boot project brought together local artists, the Chamber of Commerce, local businesses, and the entire community, and serves as a source of city pride as well as a tourist attraction.  Fourth, it is my hope that my brief story map (see my video) can in some small way inspire people in another location to think creatively about a place-based arts project that can help build pride in their own community.

If I can do this for a community that I had just learned about, how much more can you and your students tell a story for which you conduct more in-depth research and may even have local knowledge about!

Cowboy Boots of Wimberley Texas story map

Cowboy Boots of Wimberley Texas story map.

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Valuable educational tips from mentor David Neils

My colleague David Neils is one of my favorite mentors.  David runs the International Telementor Program and is very active in connecting students and faculty at all levels with industry professionals for the goal of fostering workforce skills development.  He is also one of the greatest wildlife photographers and advocates for outdoor education that I’ve ever known.

He recently summarized some of the gems he is regularly sharing in his presentations and workshops, and graciously agreed to allow me to post this for the greater community:

1. Follow up quickly and professionally on all communication with industry professionals. Dead air is common today from students. Avoid it like the plague.

2. Look for ways to make a difference RIGHT NOW for these professionals and others who you connect with. Learn more about the industry WHILE MAKING A DIFFERENCE.

3. Be sure you set the bar at or above industry expectations for all of your student work and work outside of school. Don’t let your instructors set the bar of quality any more. They won’t set it high enough for you to be competitive. Grade inflation is rampant. Don’t be a casualty. Have all of your work reviewed by industry. You’ll find you are capable of producing stellar work and it will open up doors.

4. Make sure your education plan ALWAYS supersedes the institutional requirements of any institution you’re at. Your institution is simply a catalyst for you to blow the doors off with your interests, natural abilities, and energy. To be successful you must view your school as just one small part of your education experience, goals, and objectives.

5. Pay it forward. Help fellow students learn the ropes. Reach back into a local high school or middle school and share with students the powerful journey you’re on. Few things in life will produce more

6. Develop win-win relationships with successful alumni from the program you’re currently in. Dig in and learn all you can about these alumni before you connect. Determine why they’ve been successful. Figure out what keeps them up at night professionally, and figure out a way to help solve their challenges. Nothing opens up doors faster, nothing. Only one out of a million college students thinks this way. You’ll definitely stand out.

7. When you connect with a successful professional, use this approach:

1. Be humble, transparent, appreciative and professional in all of your communication.

2. Let the professional know you still have a lot to learn but while you’re learning you want to help.

3. Identify an area of mutual interest (you’ve done your homework) that you’d like to tackle and note the time frame, etc.

4. Be clear regarding what you’re asking of the professional and the time frame involved.

5. Note how you’re going to wrap things up and share the results.

6. Thank the professional in a heartfelt, professional way. (Handwritten thank you cards have the greatest impact).

Note from Joseph Kerski:  What are you reactions to the above?  I look forward to hearing your comments below.
Ways to contact David:

Want to be a mentor in the fields of STEM, geography, and GIS?  Or find a mentor for your school or program? One way to do so is via the GeoMentor program.

David Neils setting up one of his wildlife webcams in Colorado.

David Neils setting up one of his wildlife webcams in Colorado.

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GeoInquiries on Twitter!

Want to stay up-to-date with the latest releases and updates from the GeoInquiries team?  Follow the GeoInquiries Twitter hashtag (#geoinquiries) to discover when K-12 instructional content is updated for geography, history, and earth science.

Discover more about Esri Education on Twitter.

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Getting to Know ArcGIS Pro: Book Review

Thanks to my colleagues at Esri Press, I had the opportunity to review the upcoming book Getting To Know ArcGIS Pro.  The book, published in March 2016, was written by Michael Law and Amy Collins, and an accompanying site includes trial software and all the data you need for the exercises.  I believe it is a valuable resource for beginning and advanced GIS professionals, instructors, students, and anyone who wants to learn about this important and forward-thinking component of the ArcGIS platform.

There is a reason for the success that the “Getting To Know” series from Esri Press has had all these years, including the Getting to Know ArcGIS series and the GIS Tutorial series:  Working through the exercises in these books, I believe, is the fastest way to be successful with Esri ArcGIS Pro technology. Last year, my colleague Dr Pinde Fu wrote Getting to Know WebGISwhich has already become a trusted resource for teaching and learning about web and mobile maps and apps.  In this tradition, Getting to Know ArcGIS Pro helps new and existing GIS users solve problems in a variety of fields and scales, but it also helps them understand why to use specific tools, and to be able to select the most appropriate tools and parameters for specific tasks.  These tools are not taught in a vacuum or in rote fashion from one function to another, but are taught as a connected and logical series of workflows that emulate what is done in today’s workplaces.

Moreover, this book helps people understand GIS as a platform and a system of engagement, as it is increasingly called nowadays.  In my travels to higher education institutions over the past two years, faculty and students have been asking me about resources that will help them to use ArcGIS Pro.  They know that Pro represents the “next generation” in desktop-and-web integrated GIS technology. This book, along with Tripp Corbin’s Learning ArcGIS Pro book that I reviewed recently, and web and instructor-led webinars and courses from Esri are excellent resources to get started.

The book is organized into 10 chapters, building from basic terminology and functionality to calculating statistics, extracting data, creating and modifying features, geocoding, analyzing spatial and temporal patterns, and creating 3D scenes.  I was pleased to see that the book contains major sections devoted to crowdsourcing, or citizen science, including field data collection, as well as presenting a project with appropriate symbology and sharing that project online. An index by task, sidebars, and helpful font and color choices are thoughtful touches for the busy person working through this book.

As an educator, I found the exercises to be interesting and engaging, ranging from analyzing recent earthquakes around the world, conflicts in Sudan, health data in Illinois, social services in Los Angeles, crime in a metropolitan area, to site suitability for a vineyard in California, and much more.

I am interested in hearing your thoughts below to how you are using this book and ArcGIS Pro in your workplace.

Getting to Know ArcGIS Pro book from Esri Press

Getting to Know ArcGIS Pro book from Esri Press.

Example exercise in the Getting to Know ArcGIS Pro book:  Suitability analysis.

Example exercise in the Getting to Know ArcGIS Pro book: Suitability analysis on a vineyard.

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Creating and Analyzing Regional Cartograms

In my last post, I discussed how to easily create compelling Cartograms in ArcGIS.  I would now like to point out one of the best things about the tool:  You are not confined to creating cartograms of variables by countries of the world.  Think outside the box!  You can create cartograms for any set of polygons that you choose!  A set of provinces or states, neighborhoods in your community, or even watersheds are all good candidates.

Let’s take population from 1900 to 2000 for a state, such as the great state of Kansas.  You and your students can certainly create standard choropleth maps showing the population each census year and even a animation to help visualize the changes.  But creating cartograms of the population in each county provides additional insight.  See the output from selected years, below.  The cartograms show the settlement of the high plains (western Kansas) from 1900 to 1930, followed by population loss that continues in some counties all the way to 2010.  Coupled with that is the rise of the urban centers of Wichita (south central Kansas) and Topeka, Lawrence, and Kansas City (northeast Kansas).  The combination of these trends, brought about by social, physical, and economic forces, squeeze some of the northern and western counties so much that they are almost invisible by 2010.  I’ve been to many of these counties, though, and rest assured that there are some vibrant communities and good people there!

Think about doing this for your own area–population change in your own state over time, water quality or river flow differences by watershed, or crime rates or median age by neighborhood in your own community.  If you do this, I think it is advantageous if the readers of your cartograms know what the areas that you are analyzing look like as a standard map for comparison purposes.  Thus, you might consider providing this standard map at the front of your set of cartograms, as I do below.  That way, your audience will more readily understand how the variables you are mapping distort the “standard” way of looking at that area.

The possibilities for increased spatial literacy and understanding with cartograms and ArcGIS are endless.

State of Kansas - Counties and cities - Standard View

State of Kansas – Counties and cities – Standard View

Population in 1900 by county in Kansas

Population in 1900 by county in Kansas.  Many of the eastern and central Kansas counties had similar population totals.

Population in 1930 by county in Kansas

Population in 1930 by county in Kansas.  The western third has now been settled, but the east continues to increase at a more rapid rate.

Population in 1960 by county in Kansas.

Population in 1960 by county in Kansas.  Many western counties have lost population or gained very little compared to the rise of the major urban centers of Wichita, Topeka, Lawrence, and Kansas City.

Population in 2010 by county in Kansas.

Population in 2010 by county in Kansas.  Urbanization continues, particularly Johnson County (suburban Kansas City) although selected rural counties are gaining population as well.

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Urban Areas and Edge Cities – Classroom Activity

Edge Cities PDF

Edge Cities PDF

Explore the size, layout, and composition of urban areas around the world with the new advanced human geography geoinquiry activity.

  • What characteristics define a city?
  • What factors have led to urban growth?
  • How have edge cities changed the landscape?
  • What might urban growth look like in the future?

After completing this short activity, students will be able to locate urban areas and factors of urbanization and be able to identify characteristics and examples of edge cities. The activity is for 9-12 grade human geography classrooms.  Access the educator resource here.  You can also explore the human geography collection or all ArcGIS Online resources for schools.

Follow the author Megan Webster at @meglwebster!

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