Hurricane data

Two years after Katrina, we’re all conscious of the power of
hurricanes. Educators should be aware of their power for educational purposes.

This morning, I keyed into a search engine “hurricane
data” and one of the top entries was the Unisys Hurricane Center,
I chose “Atlantic 2007″, then scrolled down and chose to see tracking
information for Gabrielle. The data appear as a text file, with decimal degree
latitude and longitude … perfect for mapping.

Seeing data in one form and recognizing that it may have
additional value when presented in a different mode and combined with other
elements, and knowing how to make this happen, are HUGELY important skills for today,
as well as the future.

I copied and pasted the text into Notepad, did some quick
replacement of spaces with commas, did a little file cleanup, and exported the
file as “gabrielle.csv”, for “Comma Separated Values”. (I
opened the CSV file inside of Excel to make sure it looked right … a good error
checking process.)

Then I engaged AEJEE. One of the data sets mentioned on the
AEJEE page ( is
satellite data coming from Penn State. I thought this would make a good
backdrop for a map, so I told AEJEE to add that server and selected
“Latest Infrared Satellite.” Then I used AEJEE to convert my
“gabrielle.csv” into a point shapefile, and classified the dots by
storm strength. The whole process took about five minutes.

Since the data include projected path as well, it would be
an interesting process to go thru this several times with any given storm, to
see how well the forecasters have been able to predict. And then, of course, track
the news bulletins and analyses from the areas hit by hurricanes. These are not
just educational tools, but real events that threaten the lives of real people.
When teachers can integrate math, physical science, social science, communication
skills, tech skills, and current news, that’s a powerful way to make school
both useful and interesting to students.

Charlie Fitzpatrick, ESRI Education Manager

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The Scalable Vector Graphics Map Viewer

SVG Viewer ScreenshotStart the SVG Viewer at

As you return to the classroom this semester, you may want a quick way of having students explore web-based content, and in addition, explore different map projections.  The Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) Map Viewer allows you to do both in an intuitive way that displays amazingly quickly with just a standard web browser.  The SVG Map Viewer is a demonstration of ArcWeb Services vector mapping in SVG format. SVG is a nonproprietary file format developed by the World Wide Web Consortium. SVG Map Viewer allows you to zoom and pan, change the orientation, select different map layers, and choose from among a dozen map projections.   These include Albers Equal Area, Casini, Transverse Mercator, Lambert, Sinusoidal, Stereographic, Mollweide, and more.  The tool shows the advantages of vector mapping, including the ability for Web applications on a server to send compact, complex graphics that are quickly and clearly rendered on a local (client) computer.

For more advanced classes and students, students can use the SVG Map Viewer to create a mashup between their own data and the map view.  To start, they need to embed the map control (map_control.js) in a file and use the JavaScript functions that come with the SVG Map Viewer to add their own data.  The sample includes downloadable code in REST v2006, and a technical paper describing how to do this is included on the site.

Give it a try!

Joseph Kerski, ESRI Education Manager

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GIS in 4-H: New York State Fair

The New York State Fair is this week and the New York 4-Her’s have
created a Healthy Dining Map.  It’s on display at the 4-H building.  The link
below is to the NY 4-H site, with a photo of 4-Her Emma Long showing the map to
New York Governor Elliot Spitzer:

The Healthy Dining Map can be found at:

Local news article with a video that includes a few screen shots of the
maps are available too:

Esther Worker, ESRI Denver 

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New in ArcGIS 9.2: Create PDFs with layers

You now can
export a map to a PDF with layers that can be turned on or off.   Each layer in your map that is turned on at
the time you export it becomes a layer in the resulting PDF.  Anyone using Adobe Acrobat Reader version 6
or higher can turn the layers in the PDF on or off via the Layers control in
Acrobat Reader. Labels, annotation, and graphics are also shown as layer so
that users can turn the graphics drawn on top of the map on and off.


  • A Group layer in ArcMap will be consolidated into a single layer
    in the PDF.
  • Transparent layers or layers that use a picture fill symbol (e.g.,
    cross-hatch or pattern) consolidate all the layers below them into a single
    ‘Image’ layer. If you have multiple polygon
    layers that should be separate layers in the PDF, remove any transparency and use
    solid fills.
  • Raster layers such as orthophotos consolidate all layers below
    them into a single ‘Image’ layer. Raster layers should be place at or near the
    bottom of the ArcMap table of contents.
  • Graphic or text elements added to the Data Frame’s default
    graphics layer from the Data View become a layer called ‘<Default>’.
    These display above the layers in the data frame.

Angela Lee, ESRI Education Manager

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ArcGIS on a Mac?

Many people have asked members of the ESRI Education Team about whether ArcGIS works on Intel-based Macintosh computers. Thanks to some tools presented by Apple and by Parallels, we can respond with a clear “Yes!”, but with the understanding that the user must have a licensed
copy of Microsoft Windows XP and be facile with Windows-based operations.

Apple offers a strategy called “BootCamp” ( which
allows the user of OS 10.4 to install some special drivers and then install a
fully functioning version of Windows XP. Then the user can install and use
Windows-based applications, including ArcGIS Desktop, which runs quite nicely
on the Intel-based Macs. These computers are essentially just regular PCs with
some slightly different port configurations. The user chooses at boot-up which
OS to run — WinXP or MacOSX — and stays there until rebooting. All internal
resources focus on running the one system.

Parallels (
takes a different strategy. They sell an application “Desktop 3.0 for
Macintosh” (retail of $80) that sits on top of MacOSX, partitions the hard
drive, and allows installation of Windows (we tested using XP Pro) and
applications. The user can run programs in MacOS and Windows simultaneously,
and the hardware does some nifty shifting of resources to allow programs to run
at nearly full speed. There was some degradation of performance on our test
machine (MacBook Pro with 2 GB RAM), but it was modest and ArcGIS performance
was peppy enough for use in classroom instruction. I was even able to install
and operate ArcGIS Server and ArcIMS as well as ArcInfo, and run them simultaneously,
viewing data from ArcIMS on my Mac-based AEJEE while viewing data from ArcGIS
Server on my PC-based ArcMap.

Many parameters and settings can influence your performance,
but the bottom line is that, if you are interested in running ArcGIS products
on an Intel-based Macintosh, it can be done pretty well.

Charlie Fitzpatrick, ESRI Education Manager

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Education User Conference

ESRI EdUC 2007 LogoWhat an
event for GIS Education!  The 2007 ESRI
Education User Conference was “simply fantastic” as one participant put
it.  With over 700 educators from dozens
of countries, the conference did not disappoint with a dazzling array of
workshops, sessions, special events, and expositions.

The opening
plenary session lead out by the ESRI Education Team, shared new developments,
including the education community portal (,
the Mapping Center (, and
ArcGIS Explorer (  New curriculum on ArcLessons ( and via ESRI
Press were also shared.   Next, Professor
Stig Enemark of Aalborg University,
discussed applications of learning and educational programs.  Summarily, Curtis Sumner, Executive Director
of the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping discussed GIS and surveying
as the foundation for GIS data and development, respectively.

the conference, attendees were busy attending the Education Expo, the Higher Ed
Fair, a GPS Treasure Hunt, the opening User Conference plenary, technical
workshops, paper sessions. Many of the workshops focused on teaching with new
2D and 3D GIS tools on the desktop and the web. 
While a highlight of many paper sessions was the sharing of innovative
GIS activities, programs and curricula. 
The meetings of the Special Interest Groups (SIGs) was even more
exciting as educators with shared passions for curriculum development,
educational research, international development, and technical development
converged for all out share-a-thons.

Be sure to
mark your calendars now for the 2008 conference, August 2 – 5 in San Diego, CA.

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Welcome to the new ESRI Education Community!  While we’re rapidly growing, we have a number
of exciting opportunities for you to share with and learn from other educators
who use GIS. 

Begin by sharing “Your GIS Story”.  Tell us about what you do with GIS that
excites you – maybe it’s a particular lesson from Mapping Our World or perhaps you and your students are mapping the
migration of monarchs through your community and mapping it with ArcGIS.  Tell us how you use GIS and why it’s
important to your students.

Next, drop into the “Educational Materials Review”
area.  Peruse the registry of GIS
materials for education.  You may find
something new as you explore items from ESRI Press, ArcLessons, the National
Research Council, and more!  If you
locate a resource that you’re familiar with, provide a comment and rating to
share with other educators.  This can
help your colleagues as they locate great new materials for their classroom.

The Education Community Blog (“web-log”) is a journal
describing ongoing activities related to GIS in education.  Note that you can comment on postings to the
blog and for tech-savvy folks, subscribe to the blog’s RSS feed (feeds provide
nearly continuous streams of updated information from a website).

By now, you may have noticed that in order to post anything
to the site, you must login first using your free ESRI Global Id.  If you don’t have one, look to the
upper-right corner of the website to “Sign Up”. 
The process takes little more than a minute and allows you access a wide
variety of resources across the ESRI websites.

Many more exciting additions and changes are coming to the
Education Community. Plan to visit often!

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Spatial Thinking: Understanding Your Data

Think of spatial data as the fuel for your GIS engine.  It is fundamental to any spatial analysis.  On listservs, blogs, and in the ESRI Knowledge Base, discussions about data are commonplace.  The volume of spatial data available has increased dramatically as have the formats in which that data is stored, and the means by which that data is delivered to the user—via web-mapping services, servers, FTP sites, media, user-defined boxes and predefined tiles, and more. 

In this avalanche of spatial data, it is more important than ever to encourage students to fully understand the data they are using.  They tend to view anything on the computer as accurate and complete, including maps.  Maps are incredibly useful, but inherently full of errors and distortions, from the map projection, to missing data, to generalized lines.  Nowadays, anyone can make a digital map.  Help students understand that data quality affects subsequent analysis.  For example, in my lesson on plate tectonics (on, I ask students to study 2001’s largest earthquake, below, at the arrow:

Students measure that the earthquake is 4 km off of the coast of Peru.  But then I ask them to consider the generalized coastline digitized at 1:30,000,000.  How confident are we that the earthquake was offshore?  Consider the length of the British coastline—the more detailed the scale, the longer the coastline becomes, because at larger and larger scales, it includes every cape and bay.  Peru’s coastline may actually twist and turn, so the earthquake could have occurred on the beach.  The “so what” and spatial thinking component continues with discussion of the impacts of coastal earthquakes versus underwater quakes. 

Encourage your students to be critical of spatial data—knowing its source, who produced it, when and why it was produced, the scale at which it was produced, and its content.   Show them how to create and access metadata.   They will then be able to critically evaluate spatial information and decide whether they will use it in their present and future decision making.

- Joseph Kerski, ESRI Education Manager

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