Tag Archives: ArcGIS Online

Fun with GIS 208: Competitions 2016 and 2017

In spring of 2017, Esri is hosting a network of US state competitions for grades 4-12. Successful pilot events occurred in 2016 in Minnesota (MN) and Arkansas (AR). “Students had a lot of fun with it and liked the freedom of making any type of map they wanted,” said MN teacher Kyle Tredinnick. A high school student said “This project was one of the most rewarding things I have done. It makes me respect the amount of work people put into their maps and information because I have now gone through the same process.” MN event co-leader Scott Freburg said “One teacher commented ‘Students who were doing poorly in most of their classes were absolutely loving this competition and thriving.’”

Competitions spark extra creativity and individuality, and students everywhere love that. MN students chose topics of personal interest ranging from commonplace to exotic: demographics, food, crime, pollution, health care, urban art, even Bigfoot sightings. The open-ended design yielded products ranging from more pictorial to more analytical.

MN’s professional GIS community jumped in quickly, offering to judge, and providing special T-shirts to all entrants and their teachers. The competition was highlighted at the state’s annual conference for GIS professionals; interested teachers were supported to attend a day of training, and contest awardees spoke to the more than 300 conference attendees at lunch. The state geography teachers’ conference also provided special recognition to winners.

(Top: MN co-leader Jim Hanson and some winners.
Bottom: Teachers and competition winners at GIS conference.)

Esri’s 2017 event has school, state, and national tiers. GIS professionals can help their state participate and serve as mentors or judges. Ultimately, one high school and one middle school winner will present at the 2017 Esri Conference. See the announcement for details.

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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Fun with GIS 207: Competition!

In spring of 2016, Minnesota announced an ArcGIS Online competition for high school and middle school students across the state. From initial discussion to completion was barely three months, but they had over 200 entries from 25 schools across the state. Hearing Minnesota’s initial announcement, Arkansas created a twin event. On the strength of these successes, it’s time to take the idea up a notch.


Esri invites all U.S. states to conduct a state-based ArcGIS Online competition in 2017.
For each state formally participating, students can submit to their school an ArcGIS Online presentation, web app, or story map about something inside the state borders. Schools can submit up to five projects to the state. Esri will provide each state ten prizes of $100, to go to five high school and five middle school projects. These ten awardees per state will get national recognition, with one each high school and middle school entry advancing to a top level competition. The best high school and middle school projects will earn trips to the 2017 Esri Education Conference in San Diego, CA.

ArcGIS Online maps and apps help users of any age discover/ explore/ display data, show analyses, and present interpretations. Project-based learning experiences such as these help students build the essential problem-solving skills and in-depth background content knowledge needed for college, career, and civic life.

GIS professionals abound across the country (Map#4 above)! They can help educators present ideas and strategies, establish an Organization account, and help students grasp the deeper learning available with GIS. Keep an eye out for opportunities to connect these valuable community resources to learners. Check out the competition!

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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Fun with GIS 206: Community Round Mile

Want to do a simple crowdsourcing activity? Want to engage students in an exploration of areas around school, across the state, or spanning the country, using both demographic and landscape data? Want to make it an activity based on your students’ choices? Want to use the analysis powers in an ArcGIS Online Organization? Try the “Community Round Mile.”

By dropping a point, creating a circle of a certain distance around it, and enriching that buffer with particular data, you can get some fascinating “apples to apples” comparisons. But it takes a little planning to do more than once. The Community Round Mile activity is a three-part process that walks you through creating some simple data, sharing that data, and then expanding.

This final part relies on Survey123, which just acquired some exciting new powers. Try this to “crowdsource data” among your classes. Enterprising states might even coordinate a state-specific effort emphasizing data of special interest. Check out the Community Round Mile!

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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Fun with GIS 205: Good Soil Yields Good Learning

Among the US 50 states, Nebraska ranks #37 in population, with about 1.9 million, or not quite 0.6%. But knowing about US population distribution and looking at the USK12GIS map, Nebraska stands out, with the sixth highest rate of “ArcGIS Online ConnectED Orgs per 100 schools.” How did this happen? Persons and policies matter, certainly, but so does timing, working along multiple fronts, and geography — matters of local significance.

Visionary educators had presented to colleagues about the potential of GIS in Nebraska since before 2000, but saw little yield before 2013. Then, longtime geography teacher Harris Payne became the state social studies coordinator, and collaborations with many (including Geography Alliance leader Randy Bertolas, GIS instructor Leslie Rawlings, and state GIS coordinator Nathan Watermeier) lit rockets. A year-long push yielded a K12 state license for Esri software. Payne participated in Esri’s T3G Institute for educators, immediately on the heels of Esri launching its ConnectED effort (providing free ArcGIS Online to any US K12 school). And the Nebraska Environmental Trust provided a 3-year grant supporting summer workshops for “Educating the Next Generation of Nebraskans About Soil Conservation Using the Power of GIS.”

Numerous teacher workshops later, the impact is clear. Concerned about its place in the world’s breadbasket, Nebraska recognizes the need for soil conservation. Today’s learners require a holistic understanding to avoid “treating the soil like dirt,” in Payne’s words. Two-day workshops involved instruction about soil, gathering data, and building Story Maps with which to teach. But the learning grew into other fields: career guidance, mapping 9-1-1 calls, fire station coverage and travel time, restaurant maps, daily traffic and that after “Big Red football games,” diseases, tourism, personal history, and beyond. “It’s not about clicking but about improving the community,” said Payne.

GIS can make its way into school instruction when savvy leaders identify good opportunities. Just as New Hampshire spread GIS through a coalition of tech-savvy leaders in multiple arenas, and Arkansas spread GIS through its tech-based service learning, and Virginia spread GIS through statewide and district efforts, Nebraska saw that fertile ground was its fertile ground. When educators and influencers identify missions of local importance, the synergy offered by the power and flexibility of GIS yields great results.

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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Finding Map Content and Understanding What You’ve Found

Finding map content can often be a challenge, even nowadays when so much content is available in ArcGIS Online.  Recently, Charlie Fitzpatrick and I taught a a workshop entitled “Key Strategies for Finding Content and Understanding What You’ve Found.”   The goal of this activity was to enable GIS-using educators and their students to understand what spatial analysis is, effectively find spatial data, use spatial data, and become familiar with the ArcGIS platform in the process.  Based on discussions that take place in GeoNet and elsewhere about this topic, we would like to share it with the broader GIS community.  The document is located here.

The document makes it clear that we are still in a hybrid world, where people still need to download data for some work in GIS, but increasingly they are can stream data from cloud-based data services such as those in ArcGIS Online.  But these concepts make much more sense when one actually practices doing this–hence the activity.

In the activity, we ask the user to first practice search strategies in ArcGIS Online, using tags and keywords. Then, we guide the user through the process of downloading and using a CSV file with real-time data.   After a brief review of data types and resources, we guide the user of the activity through the process of downloading data from a local government agency to solve a problem about flood hazards.  The next step asks users to compare this process of downloading data with streaming the same data from the same local government’s site (in this case, Boulder County, Colorado) in ArcGIS Online.  The activity concludes with resources to discover more about these methods of accessing data.

Other hands-on activities focused on this theme of finding and understanding data exist in the 10 activities included in the Esri Press book, The GIS Guide to Public Domain Datashown here, and in selected SpatiaLABS and LearnGIS lessons.  I look forward to hearing your comments and we hope the activity is useful.

bouldercounty_data.png
Accessing data from the Boulder County local government GIS portal through the lesson described above.
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Fun with GIS204: Troubleshooting

Life online involves hiccups, from momentary to long-term. “My students are suddenly having intermittent ArcGIS Online issues,” a teacher recently told me. “Maps that some people made and saved are suddenly inaccessible. Their screens are just blank, but mine is not.”

Many educators have hit issues in online mapping. Identifying and addressing these involves multiple strategies. Troubleshooting is a critical thinking skill, with value far beyond simple comfort with any particular technology. I have posted on GeoNet a Troubleshooting document that educators may want to download and keep handy for when things go awry.


Frame from movie submitted by student as documentation.

The teacher and students above (11th graders from Roosevelt High School MSTMA in Los Angeles) had uncovered a bug in ArcGIS Online. Their unusual workflow led to dead ends in many maps when someone deleted a particular shared resource. Thanks to good documentation including a phone-shot video, technicians could isolate, replicate, and solve the problem. The next software release will not have this particular issue.

Most hiccup are not bugs. Troubleshooting is both science and art. Carefully iterating variables helps, but perception and situational awareness matter too. Educators and students alike need to practice troubleshooting, to solve what they can and be better prepared for the unexpected, whether it appears on a web page, walks in a door, or falls from the sky. This is what employers seek today — someone who can identify a problem, isolate it, clarify it, and come up with situationally appropriate strategies for coping.

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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5 Practices That Make Life Easier in ArcGIS Online

ArcGIS Online is an easy-to-use cloud-based Software-As-A-Service (SaaS) Geographic Information System.  I have found that the following five practices have made my work in ArcGIS Online a bit easier, and I trust they will do so for you and your students, as well.  I named them practices to encourage you to practice using them.  If you do, I think that you–and your students–will have a better experience in using these tools, data sets, and maps that are now literally at your fingertips.

1. Use folders.  As I explain in this video, using folders is an excellent way for you to keep your projects organized in ArcGIS Online.  Don’t place everything in the “root” folder.  Make it a habit to store the results of your analysis, which are stored as map layers, in a folder that you have created for one single project.  Periodically go through your folders and delete maps, services, and layers that you no longer need.  Along these lines, be a good digital citizen and clean up after yourself, by unsharing anything that does not need to be shared, with the general public, and organization, or a group.

2.  Take a few seconds to name your data layers descriptively so that you can find them in the future.  This is particularly important when you are running the analysis tools and making many layers in the process.  For example, I include the value of my buffer in my proximity layers, such as “Buffer of Broad Street Well 500 meters”.  And don’t neglect populating your metadata with description and tags.  Spending a little time with these practices will save you hours in the future in finding your data quickly.  You will also help others to find your data if you are sharing, and thus encourage the use of your resources and foster collaboration.

3.  To transfer content between folders in your own ArcGIS Online organizational account, and between ArcGIS Online organizational accounts, or in Portal, use the ArcGIS Online Assistant.  It also allows you to view the underlying JSON for any item in ArcGIS Online or your Portal, and you can modify the URLs for services in web maps and registered applications.

4.  To more effectively manage your ArcGIS Online organizational account, use the Geo-Jobe tools.  The folks at Geo-Jobe offer severe educational discounts, as well.  You can copy groups, add multiple users, change permissions, view item dependencies, and do so much more, with these tools.

5.  Use the “My Stories” zone to manage your story maps. Yes, you can see your story maps while looking at “My Content” in ArcGIS Online, but “My Stories” allows you to see all of your story maps listed at once.  My Stories also contains tools for you to check any broken links or any other problems with the click of a mouse.

Note that the ArcGIS Online assistant and the Geo-Jobe assistant tech support is available through the organizations that create these tools, not Esri.

What useful practices would YOU add to this list?

5 Practices that Make Life Easier in ArcGIS Online

5 Practices that Make Life Easier in ArcGIS Online

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Fun with GIS 203: Index Grids Rule

Think back to your early map reading days. Do you remember using an index or reference grid — rows and columns of letters and numbers — to find a zone in which to look for something? These grids are really helpful for many learners and many purposes. Now there is an app (still beta, but robust) with which to generate such grids as needed.

It’s simple. Log in to the app with your ArcGIS Online credentials (publishing privileges are required), pan and zoom to the region of interest, set the desired number of rows and columns, click a button and drag a box, and a graphic grid appears. If you don’t like it, just hit the trash button and try it again. When happy, click the button, and the system generates a feature layer in your contents for you. It works at all scales I’ve wanted to try — from a parking lot to a continent. (Naturally, local level minimizes issues of cartographic distortion.)

Some educators have wanted a grid atop a portion of their school grounds in order to assign data collection tasks, or even to reference player positions on an athletic field. Others have wanted a grid atop a state map to support teaching about features and locations. The grids can be generated quickly for ad hoc processes, and can be labeled, symbolized, and filtered by attribute.

I like to put a grid atop just the topographic basemap, save the map, share it, and open the map in Explorer for ArcGIS. Try it, and I think you’ll agree: grids rule.

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Schools Program Manager

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Landsat Thematic Bands Web Mapping Application Enhancement

Not long ago, I described the Landsat Thematic Bands Web Mapping Application, an easy-to-use but powerful teaching and research tool. It is a web mapping application with global coverage, with mapping services updated daily with new Landsat 8 scenes and access to selected bands that allows the user to visualize agriculture, rock formations, vegetation health, and more.  The Time tool allows for the examination of changes over years, over seasons, or before and after an event.  The Identify tool gives a spectral profile about each scene.  I have used this application dozens of times over the past year in remote sensing, geography, GIS, and other courses and workshops, and judging from the thousands of views that this blog has had, many others have done the same thing.

If that weren’t all, our Esri development team has recently made the tool even better–one can now save a time sequence or a band combination as a permanent URL that can be shared with others.  The flooding of 20 districts in August and September 2016 in Uttar Pradesh, India, for example, can be easily seen on this link that uses the application, with screenshots below.

Another example is the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire in Alberta, Canada  – the user can change the time to see the region’s vegetation cover before and after fire, and the extent of the smoke during the fire.  Or, you can analyze a different band combination, as is seen here.

To do this, open the application.  Note that this application’s URL has been updated over the one I referred to last year.  Move to an area of interest.  Select any one of the available thematic band renderers (such as agriculture, natural color, color infrared, and so on), or create your own band combination using build.  Then, turn on “time” to see your area of interest at different periods using your band combination.  Next, share this image with other people.   Simply click on any one of the social platforms (Facebook or Twitter) in the upper right, which will create a short link that can be shared.  When the person you send this link to opens it, the Landsat app will open in exactly the same state it was in before social platform tool was clicked.  This makes it a very convenient teaching, presentation, and research tool.  Give it a try!

Landsat 8 Image for Allahabad India on 31 May 2016

Landsat 8 Image for Allahabad India on 31 May 2016.

Landsat 8 Image for Allahabad India showing flooding on 19 August 2016.

Landsat 8 Image for Allahabad India showing flooding on 19 August 2016.

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How to Georeference a map and serve it in ArcGIS Online

In response to inquiries that educators and others have had recently, I created several videos explaining how to georeference a map and serve it in ArcGIS Online, beginning here and continuing here and here.  Georeferencing is the process of aligning spatial data in map form has no spatial information explicitly attached to it, usually because it has been scanned from film, paper, or another medium, and attaching spatial information to it.  By “spatial information” we mean a real-world map projection and coordinate system.  The process of georeferencing is powerful because it allows you to add historical or other documents to your GIS project, so that you can work with them just like you can with your other GIS maps and data.  You match your scanned aerial photo, map, or other document by creating a series of control points, which I explain here.  I did this using ArcGIS Desktop (ArcMap); soon you will be able to do this in ArcGIS Pro, and, I hope, someday in ArcGIS Online.

Georeferencing has been around for as long as GIS has existed–since the 1960s.  But more recently, with the advent of cloud based GIS platforms such as ArcGIS Online, you can now serve your newly georeferenced data to the cloud, as I demonstrate in the third video in the series.  Serving it in ArcGIS Online enables you to use it anywhere, on any device, at any time.  Then, if you share your data in ArcGIS Online, others can use it as well in their own maps and projects.

Let’s say you have georeferenced and uploaded a historical map, as I do in these videos with one of the wonderful historical Sanborn fire insurance maps, and now have published it to ArcGIS Online.  Now you want to create a Swipe story map web mapping application so that you can compare how a city changed over time.  I explain how to to do that in this video.  As with any GIS-based project, being organized about your work is crucial, and in this video I demonstrate how to effectively use folders in ArcGIS Online to support your organized work.

I hope these resources will be valuable to the community and I look forward to hearing your comments and how you have used georeferencing in your own work.

Georeferencing a historical map in ArcGIS.

Georeferencing a historical map in ArcGIS.

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