Tag Archives: ArcGIS Explorer

ArcGIS Explorer and the Xbox 360 Kinect

The Microsoft Xbox 360 Kinect is one of most powerful consumer-oriented “Natural User Interface” devices available today. Its near-infrared camera produces 3D motion data of anything in front of the it and coupled with a standard webcam and quadraphonic microphone, the device is jammed pack with input sensors. The Microsoft Education team promotes Kinect and has prepared over a 100 lessons and activities to promote “active” learning. Microsoft also claims the Kinect may be useful as an assistive technology device and in promoting collaboration.

What you might not know is that the Kinect can plug to your computer and be used as an interface device!

Think about young students actively controlling a 3D ArcGIS Explorer Desktop globe – investigating the Earth while moving arms, legs, and torso to direct navigation, display data, or conduct an analysis. What an interesting way to engage young, energetic learners.

Last week, I demonstrated this concept at the meeting of the Esri Education Team. I connected my Kinect to my Windows laptop and we took turns controlling ArcGIS Explorer Desktop! To get the environment setup, I used the USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies recommendations. This set-up requires installing a set of drivers and then running the FAAST toolkit. Basically, FAAST allows you to create a mapping between Kinect-detected body movements to keyboard strokes. So, when I raise my right arm, the World spins right!

How to make the Kinect work for you:

  1. Acquire a stand-alone Xbox 360 Kinect or if you have a Kinect, just get an external USB power supply.
  2. Locate a computer with Windows 7, ArcGIS Explorer Desktop, and a free USB port.
  3. Visit the USC Institute for Creative Technologies to install drivers and configure the Kinect.
  4. Create your own mapping file or you can start with my simple mapping file.

Remember, these steps might require a little extra “tech-savvyness” and the FAAST toolkit from USC is an open source (neither a Microsoft nor Esri) project. Use at your own risk.

Post your comments and links using the Kinect to control ArcGIS Explorer Desktop below! Everyone should be able to create a fluid interaction with ArcGIS Explorer Desktop using the Kinect. Good luck!

- Tom Baker,Esri Education Manager

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New Series of GPS-to-GIS Videos

I have created a new series of videos on the Esri Education Team’s YouTube Channel and on my geography channel that describes the process of gathering field data with GPS and mapping and analyzing it with GIS in educational contexts. The videos feature explanations and demonstrations not only on the technical procedures involved with gathering data on locations and characteristics of data and then analyzing its spatial patterns, but also the pedagogical advantages to using these technologies within the context of spatial thinking in instruction. In short, they focus not only the “hows”, but also the “whys”.

Topics covered are suitable for all levels of education, formal and informal, in multiple disciplines ranging from environmental studies to geography, history, mathematics, and earth and biological sciences. The videos span multiple tools, from the Minnesota DNR Garmin program to ArcGIS desktop, ArcGIS Explorer, ArcGIS Online, and ArcGIS Explorer Online. The videos span multiple methodologies and discuss the merits of each. For example, one discussion illustrates the advantages of keying in field data and coordinates versus cabling the information to a computer, and the advantages of linking maps to multimedia taken from a standard camera versus that taken from a smartphone. Embedded throughout the series are issues of data and project management, scale, accuracy, precision, metadata, and appropriateness. At present, the videos include the following 25 titles with more to be added in the future:

  1. Introduction and goals of the video series.
  2. Considerations before embarking on a field data collection project.
  3. Collecting positions and attributes in the field with GPS and other devices.
  4. Considerations during and after conducting field investigations.
  5. Advantages to using a combination of GPS and GIS in the educational curriculum.
  6. Reflections on which tools and methods are most appropriate for use in specific educational settings.
  7. Cabling location and attribute data to a computer using the Minnesota DNR Garmin application; software considerations.
  8. Cabling location and attribute data to a computer using the Minnesota DNR Garmin application; hardware considerations.
  9. The difference between GPS tracks and waypoints.
  10. Accessing and using GPS-gathered waypoints and tracks.
  11. Mapping and analyzing field data with ArcGIS Online.
  12. Mapping and analyzing field data with ArcGIS Explorer Online
  13. Mapping and analyzing field data with ArcGIS Explorer virtual globe.
  14. Mapping and analyzing field data with ArcGIS Explorer virtual globe, part 2: Completed project: A Mojave Desert Joshua Tree example.
  15. Mapping and analyzing field data with ArcGIS desktop (version 10).
  16. Mapping and analyzing field data with ArcGIS desktop (version 10), part 2: Symbolizing and linking to multimedia.
  17. Using a smartphone for location, photographs, and video in gathering and mapping data.
  18. Using a smartphone for location, photographs, and video in gathering and mapping data, part 2: How to email photographs and videos from the field via a smartphone to a GIS to map and analyze it spatially.
  19. Using a smartphone for location, photographs, and video in gathering and mapping data, part 3: How to automatically geotag photographs and videos from the field via a smartphone to a GIS to map and analyze it spatially.
  20. Using a smartphone for location, photographs, and video in gathering and mapping data, part 4: Discussion and demonstration of how to automatically geotag photographs and videos from the field via a smartphone and a GeoRSS feed to map and analyze it spatially in a GIS.
  21. The positional accuracy of a smartphone versus a GPS receiver. Results of experiments comparing the positional accuracy of these two devices.
  22. Drawing with GPS, Mapping with GIS. Introduces and demonstrates how and why to draw letters and shapes with your GPS and mapping them with GIS.
  23. Dragging and dropping GPX files into ArcGIS Online locally.
  24. Dragging and dropping GPS files into ArcGIS Online internationally.
  25. Dragging and dropping text files with latitude-longitude coordinates into ArcGIS Online.


How might you be able to use these videos, and more importantly, these methodologies, in your instruction?

- Joseph Kerski, Education Manager

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Describing a Community or Region with Photographs and ArcGIS Explorer

Linking photographs to maps and saving and sharing those maps can be quickly and easily done using ArcGIS Online. These maps can be used to create a sense of place by telling a story about a community or a region. For example, I created a map of my home state of Colorado using photographs that I have taken at intersections of whole-degree latitude and longitude lines, as part of the Degree Confluence Project. Clicking on the pushpins yields a photograph that I have taken at that location, as determined by the GPS receiver that I carried to that point. Clicking on each photograph calls up a video that I filmed at that same location. Each point was added by entering the latitude and longitude in the search tool, adding a point and a hyperlink, saving the points as a map layer, saving the map to ArcGIS Online, and sharing the map with the world.

What story does such a map tell about a community or region? In the case of my map of Colorado, the photographs clearly confirm the popular image of Colorado as a mountainous state. Yes, the state contains numerous spectacular mountain peaks and ranges, as shown in the image at 39 North Latitude, 107 West Longitude, below. But the map also challenges the notion that some people may have that Colorado is completely covered by mountains. The map shows that this is true only for roughly the central third of the state. The western third of the state is best characterized as canyonlands, while the eastern third of the state is firmly entrenched in the Great Plains. What vegetation, water, landforms, climate, and evidence of human impact are visible at each location? What point best captures the “essence of Colorado?”

As you can see, I have a few more points to visit, but I hope to complete my map someday.

How might you use photographs hyperlinked to maps using ArcGIS Online to describe and tell a story about an area in which you are interested?

-Joseph Kerski, Education Manager

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Fun with GIS #81: AGX Shows Where Matters

“Is geospatial tech useful to instructors of all fields in community colleges?” That was the question I sought to answer in a speech to several hundred instructors from Virginia last week. The subtitle for the talk was “Where Matters,” with apologies to English teachers for a purposefully ambiguous phrase.

While my recent blogposts have emphasized web-based tools, for this task I chose ArcGIS Explorer Desktop (“AGX”), for its flexibility, power, and presentation capacity. What a powerful tool this is!

I created notes linked to external or local web pages, pdf files, images, and movies. I used local shapefiles and layer files, plus downloaded layer packages. I used a banquet of online web services by themselves or with image files of legends. I meandered across the planet, exploring data, applications, problems, analyses, and strategies for thinking about a few of the countless issues of today, using the exploding repositories of data. Finally, I captured the frames ahead of time and built a doc to run on my iPad with a few notes to keep me on track.

AGX is much more powerful than the strictly web-based apps I’ve emphasized in “Fun with GIS” # 49-80, and takes more getting used to. But it is a perfect “three-foot high jump” to come after the “one-foot high jump” of ArcGIS.com Map Viewer and “two-foot high jump” of ArcGIS Explorer Online. Students and educators who have mastered the web-based tools and yearn for more power (on a strong computer running Windows) should look here for the next step. Search for ArcGIS Explorer lessons in ArcLessons, check out the AGX Resource Center (especially the blog), and look for “20 Minute GIS” from GIS ETC for a set of classroom activities using AGX. Help other students and educators discover why “where matters.”

- Charlie Fitzpatrick, Co-Manager, Esri Schools Program

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Web & Mobile Tools for Teaching About the Earthquake in Japan [#eqjp]

A growing list of web & mobile tools for teaching about the earthquake in Japan and elsewhere follow.

A social Media map of news surrounding the earthquake in Japan is available. You can also have students explore the historical earthquakes in the area with the Timeline tool.

Dozens of lesson plans are also available in the ArcLessons database at the Esri Education Community.

USGS latest earthquakes data from Japan and elsewhere:


You can save these data and use in a GIS and compare it against plate boundaries and population to help students understand this tragedy.

Or you can go to http://www.arcgis.com and search “latest earthquakes” or “recent earthquakes near Japan”. Add this data to the ArcGIS Online base map and analyze the earthquakes online with a web browser, add data to this map. Screenshot below.

Also try the free QuakeFeed app on your smartphone:
“Six different basemaps provided by ESRI. Past 7 days of earthquakes with magnitude > 2.5, displayed on a map or in list. Variety of filter / sort options. Location aware – find quakes that are closest to you. Beautiful UI – check out our screenshots! Twitter, Facebook, and email integration.”

- Esri Education Team

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Mapping St Patrick’s Day with GIS

An easy yet powerful activity is to map place names using a GIS. This can include mapping place names of a particular theme, ethnicity, or even containing a student’s name. In an earlier blog entry, I mapped place names containing the words “love”, “heart”, and “rose” for Valentine’s Day. I am now curious about the distribution of names having to with St Patrick’s Day. I ran five queries against the Geographic Names Information System, using the words Dublin, green, Ireland, Patrick, and shamrock. I exported each file as a comma separated value (CSV) file in decimal degree format. I brought each file into ArcGIS Explorer using Add Content.

According to the US Census Bureau, Irish was the USA’s second most reported ancestry, at over 36 million, and only Germany, Italy, the UK, and Mexico have accounted for more immigrants to the USA since 1820. Massachusetts is the state with the highest percentage of people claiming Irish descent, and a map from 1872 following the first 50 years of Irish immigration shows the highest concentration of people born in Ireland stretching from Massachusetts to Iowa. Would these patterns be evident in place names?

Places are named for a variety of reasons, and while names may provide no indication of the people who settled them, they are interesting to study geographically. Of the names I selected, as expected, “green” was the most popular by far, with 1,796 places, followed by Dublin with 49, Shamrock with 43, Patrick at 34, and Ireland by 30 place names. Saint Patrick is a place name in three states–Minnesota, Missouri, and Ohio.
Mapping these place names reveals, as expected, a concentration in the more populous eastern half of the country. However, this pattern does not necessarily follow that of the 1870 settlement. Two unexpected clusters appear, one in west central Florida, near Tampa-St Petersburg, and another from Washington DC to Philadelphia.

Out west, Phoenix and Salt Lake City had higher-than-average numbers of place names containing the above terms.

Other fields in the data are interesting to study. Green Acres, Louisiana, is the lowest green, at 3 feet below sea level, while Fiddlers Green in Carson City, Nevada, sits at 6,227 feet high. Patrick Place, Utah, is the highest Patrick at 5,804 feet in elevation, while South Patrick, Florida, lies at just 10 feet above sea level.
I invite you to explore the possibilities of analyzing names through the use of a GIS.

- Joseph Kerski, Esri Education Manager

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Where Can Love Be Found? Mapping Valentine’s Day with GIS

An easy yet powerful activity is to map place names using a GIS. Make it even better by mapping names associated with holidays. For Valentine’s Day, I mapped place names containing the words “love”, “heart”, and “rose.” I ran three queries against the Geographic Names Information System, exporting each file as a comma separated value (CSV) file. I brought each file into Excel, deleted a few fields I did not need, re-saved, and brought the file into ArcGIS Explorer using Add Content.

Rose was the most popular (the 591 red circles), then love (the 136 yellow notes), and heart (the 38 blue circles). Candy and chocolate resulted in only 6 and 3 places, respectively.

My Picture

There seems to be a clustering of “Rose” place names in Minnesota, the southern Mississippi Valley, and along the Delaware River.

Can love scale any height? You top 7,303 feet at Loveland Heights, Colorado, not far from the city of Loveland, where more than 200,000 Valentines are mailed to all 50 states and more than 110 countries, just to receive the Loveland postmark. Sadly, you hit bottom in aptly named Love’s Folly, Maryland, at 7 feet.

You could also analyze businesses and industry responsible for producing things associated with Valentine’s Day. For example, 1,170 locations produced chocolate and cocoa products in 2006, employing 39,457 people, led by California with 128. To access the data, go to http://www.census.gov/, then “Business and Industry,” “County Business Patterns”, then select a state, and look up “Details” for “Industry Code 31, Manufacturing.” Locate code 31133, “Confectionery Manufacturing From Purchased Chocolate.” After noting the number of employees and establishments involved in the manufacturing of confectionery from chocolate, use “Compare” to compare other states. Chocolate comes from cacao trees found in Central and South America and is imported to the USA by confectionery manufacturers. You can probably guess the city where the largest producer of chocolate products is! Next, do the same thing with florists.

I invite you to explore the endless possibilities of analyzing names and industries through the use of a GIS.

May you find yourself in Lovewell Kansas this Valentine’s Day rather than Loveless Park Alabama!

Joseph Kerski, ESRI Education Manager

Originally posted February 12, 2010

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Analyzing Coordinates Before Mapping Them

Today’s GPS and GIS technologies allow us to quickly collect data in the field, and then quickly map the data in a GIS environment to analyze spatial patterns that the field data reveals. However, just as the ease of digital photography has allowed us to get into and out of the field rapidly, it is often advantageous for us as educators and students to slow down! Numerous teachable moments arise even before data is mapped. Consider the following points that I collected during a recent GIS-GPS workshop for educators in Colorado Springs:

point, lat, long
1, 38.98701, -104.76221
2, 38.98700, -104.76198
3, 38.98701, -104.76176
4, 38.98703, -104.76154
5, 38.98702, -104.76127
6, 38.98702, -104.76103
7, 38.98701, -104.76068
8, 38.98719, -104.76059
9, 38.98739, -104.76059
10, 38.98761, -104.76064
11, 38.98764, -104.76084
12, 38.98763, -104.76103
13, 38.98765, -104.76124
14, 38.98768, -104.76149

Observing how the latitude remained relatively constant while the longitude decreased for the first 7 points, how the latitude increased but the longitude remained relatively constant from points 7 through 10, and how the latitude remained constant and the longitude increased for points 10 through 14. From these points, can students visualize that I must have first walked due east, then due north, and then due west? If not, help them visualize this by starting with paper, pencil, and the Cartesian Coordinate System, and then entering and mapping selected points using the Esri EdCommunity latitude-longitude finder, ArcGIS Explorer Online, or ArcGIS Explorer Desktop. In addition, can they visualize based on the coordinates that the area traversed is not that large?

Once the students can start to visualize their world as x and y coordinates, then map the data, as I did in ArcGIS Explorer. Did the coordinates map where they had predicted they would be?

I am continually amazed at how accurate even recreational-grade GPS positions can be. Using the measure tool in ArcGIS Explorer, I discovered that the trees I was mapping were between 1 and 5 meters off from their location as indicated by the Bing satellite image.

Try this technique with your students and let the GIS education community know what you discover!

- Joseph Kerski, Esri Education Manager

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Esri Sponsors GIS Lab for Teachers at NCGE, Savannah, GA (#ncge)

Esri staff, T3G trainers, and select Esri Press authors will be leading a variety of GIS workshops over a three day period at the upcoming meeting of the National Council for Geographic Education (NCGE).  Workshops focus on the technical, pedagogical, and content knowledge of attendees wishing to further their use of GIS in the college and K-12 settings.

For those conference attendees, workshop registration is required prior to attending the sessions. [More about NCGE.]

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Got Field Data? Mapping Field Data Stored in Excel in ArcGIS Explorer 1500

One of my favorite new features in the newly-released

ArcGIS Explorer 1500
is the capability to upload data from an Excel spreadsheet. This was a feature that many of us in education had asked for and I am very pleased with the results. Among the most common uses of Excel in GIS is to store field data tied to coordinates gathered with GPS receivers.

I returned from a beautiful hike over the Continental Divide in central Colorado with data that I wanted to map and analyze. I used the

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) free Garmin utility
to upload my GPS track and waypoints. After saving my GPS coordinate data as two Excel spreadsheets—one for my waypoints and one for my track, I then accessed my Excel waypoints file so that I could enter my field data. In my case, I wanted to describe the landforms that I had traversed during the hike, so I added a field for the landform type and entered the data manually into my spreadsheet. I then saved the spreadsheet and accessed ArcGIS Explorer.

Adding the Excel spreadsheet data was a snap: Add Content, choose text file, point to Excel spreadsheet, indicate which field is latitude and which is longitude, and I was done. I repeated the process so that I could upload my track as well. Next, to the waypoint file, I added notes containing images and links to videos that I had filmed to the sites where I had collected multimedia. Because ArcGIS Explorer is a 3-D tool, I could study the relationship of the landforms to the elevation and terrain. My 12 difficult but rewarding hours hiking were made even more rewarding by the ease of mapping it in ArcGIS Explorer!

For those of you who, like me, remember the days in GIS where the above process took much longer, I can confidently state that it doesn’t get much easier than this!

What field data would you like to map and analyze today?

-Joseph Kerski, Esri Education Manager

Post script: Learn more about the new ArcGIS Explorer at the ArcGIS Explorer Blog!

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