Tag Archives: Careers

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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GeoInspirations: People Making a Positive Difference in Geography and Geotechnologies

GeoInspirations is my column in Directions Magazine where we are sharing the stories of innovative people for the purpose of inspiring Directions readers to pursue their own dreams.  In the column, I interview some of those men and women who have changed the face of the geospatial industry, shining a light on the importance of geography. It is my hope and the hope of Directions Magazine that you are inspired to make a difference with geography in your corner of the world.

We have featured people of a variety of backgrounds, interests, ages, and skills.  Dr Lesley-Ann Dupigny Giroux is the climatologist for the state of Vermont, professor at the University of Vermont, and is an active leader in the K-12 education community.  Madison Vorva is a student at Pomona College who has been working since age 11 as a “voice for change” in the areas of environmental science and deforestation.  Robert Saveland is a lifelong learner, war hero, and geography educator.  Dorothy Drummond is a writer, traveler, and educator.  Grant Ian Thrall’s work has been bridging the fields of economics, business, and geography.  Bob Dulli has influenced thousands of geography educators through his work at National Geographic Education.

You can use this column to inspire your students, and to encourage them to think about the types of career pathways that are possible. What sort of risks did these people take in their careers?  How did mentors help them along the way?  If you know someone that should be highlighted as a GeoInspiration in this column, please let me or the Directions editors know at jkerski @ esri.com or editors @ directionsmag.com.

Some of the GeoInspirations featured in Directions Magazine.

Some of the GeoInspirations who have been featured in Directions Magazine.  Clockwise from top left:  Lesley-Ann Dupigny-Giroux, Madison Vorva, Robert Saveland, Dorothy Drummond, Grant Ian Thrall, and Bob Dulli.

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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 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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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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The Conservation Training Resource

With special thanks to Jamie Chesser, e-Learning Designer and Developer at The Nature Conservancy for this guest blog.

As I write this, I am reminded that today is the first day of Autumn or the Autumnal Equinox. How truly fast summer came and went! With the kids back to school and summer vacations over, you should have more time now right? Maybe a little more time to learn something new? Check out www.conservationtraining.org. Have you visited before? If not, you should!

ConservationTraining is worth reviewing. Our site provides a plethora of conservation knowledge, from experts around the world to our learner community. All courses are free and available anytime from anywhere, as our mission is to share training with our conservation colleagues across the world. Some courses are even offered in multiple languages.

Numbers can be kind of boring; however, we are really excited about these numbers. ConservationTraining currently has 30,000+ users representing 200 countries. Since 2009, The Nature Conservancy along with several amazing partner organizations, like the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the IUCN, have created 400+ hours of content in more than 15 curriculums.

Our courses touch on a variety of science and technology including GIS, Climate Change – REDD+, and Protected Areas (and more). The Fundamentals of GIS for Conservation course uses ArcGIS and interesting and relevant data examples to paint a beautiful picture of how pertinent GIS is to the field of conservation. The curriculum, originally developed by The Nature Conservancy, Wildlife Conservation Society, and the World Wildlife Fund, is comprised of six (6) courses that focus on the foundational concepts of GIS. The course has several learning components including podcasts, web-based, self-paced trainings, demonstrations, and more to help students gain knowledge on foundational GIS topics. Technology does change, we do our best to stay current with the technology. Our team is currently working on an update for this course – more details will be forthcoming.

Why not give it a look? You really won’t be sorry. Oh, and please know for the caretakers of ConservationTraining, this is just the beginning; there is much more work to be done. Happy learning!

Question or comments, we are happy to chat! Contact Jamie Chesser at ctptraining@tnc.org.

The Conservation Training Resource

The Conservation Training Resource

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Fun with GIS 201: Instructional Guide for the ArcGIS Book

The ArcGIS Book offers “10 Big Ideas” about mapping, in hardcopy, free downloadable PDF, and free online in multiple languages. Equal parts coffee table book, text book, and workbook, some educators began teaching with it immediately after its release at Esri’s 2015 User Conference. It worked well having students reading on one screen (even a phone) and mapping on another.

The Instructional Guide for The ArcGIS Book now makes it even easier for educators to leverage the original. The Instructional Guide works like an outrigger, matching the concepts and technology of each section, speeding solid comprehension thru carefully designed activities. Linked movies launch chapters with an easy hook. Step-by-step guidance thru a bank of scenarios ushers even novices steadily into the power and flexibility of online mapping, via generic tools in browsers, browser-based apps, and mobile apps. End-of-chapter tasks summarize the fundamental ideas and skills. Many activities can be done without logging in, but many valuable ones require the powers of an ArcGIS Online organization account, and the Guide shows how educators in different situations can acquire such an account.

Coupled with the original volume, the Instructional Guide for The ArcGIS Book is a terrific resource for educators who want to see and employ true GIS power with online tools. And, especially for educators in Career/Technology Education (CTE) programs, or anyone who wants to see STEM in GIS, this demonstrates powerfully how online GIS can be engaged in day-to-day scenarios relevant to many different industries.

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Schools Program Manager

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Fun with GIS 200: Alternatives Matter

Education means freedom, the chance to learn and grow and change. Unfortunately, life can include roadblocks. Many public school districts support “alternative schools” for students who may not have stayed on schedule at a “traditional school.” At Esri’s 2016 User Conference, students from such a school — San Andreas High School (Highland, CA) — with only a few months of GIS experience, presented their work to over 10,000 GIS professionals from around the world.

Working with educators skilled in teaching with technology (but still new to GIS), the students learned to ask geographic questions, acquire relevant data, analyze it, interpret it, and present it, to their peers at school, and before a massive crowd of professionals. The school had let them do, and you can see the results.

From the first click, GIS offers the chance to do — to engage and explore, to puzzle and ponder, to tinker and tweak, to reflect and perfect. With boundless data available, users can dive deeper, focusing on matters of personal interest, whether topical or technological. GIS offers alternatives: ArcGIS Online provides easy access and quick success, and the broader ArcGIS platform means limitless opportunity. At all experience levels, users must make decisions constantly, and learn incessantly. New tools, strategies, and data appear endlessly, and at an accelerating pace, yielding ever more choices.

At San Andreas, one teacher heard about the opportunity of GIS via Esri’s ConnectED offer, investigated on her own, brought in her colleagues, engaged the students (with pioneers becoming leaders of succeeding waves), sparked a revolution, and presented to the world, in under 18 months.

Alternatives matter. Students in alternative schools are typically just as bright, capable, driven, engaging, feeling, and thirsty for opportunity as elsewhere. The endless capacity of GIS means those most open to and supportive of engagement, critical thinking, and fostering the opportunity for students to make a difference (for themselves, the community, and the planet) will succeed. All students can succeed with GIS; San Andreas showed it.

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Schools Program Manager

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Alexander Von Humboldt’s Biographer Andrea Wulf to Keynote Esri User Conference

Each year I look forward to the Esri User Conference, and the day of the plenary is always one of my favorite days there.  This year I have particular interest in hearing our keynote speaker, Andrea Wulf, because I just finished reading her magnificent biography of Alexander Von Humboldt, entitled The Invention of Nature:  Alexander Von Humboldt’s New World.  A historian and master storyteller, Wulf is the author of five books and has written articles for many well-known publications. Her latest book about Von Humboldt was a New York Times bestseller and recently won the 2016 Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the science and technology category. It is listed as one of the “10 Best Books of 2015” by the New York Times.

Nowadays, we take for granted discussions and investigations into human impact on the environment, climate change, and the interconnections between Earth systems such as the atmosphere, hydrosphere, and lithosphere.  We make maps of the variation of vegetation by elevation.  We weave together the sense of place and the description of flora, fauna, weather, landforms, and people.  But it wasn’t always this way:  Von Humboldt (1769-1859) was a pioneer in all of these areas, and more:  He was really the first to integrate the arts into STEM education, which sounds strikingly 21st Century!

One of the things I like about Wulf’s book is that she takes the time to investigate those who Von Humboldt influenced, such as Thoreau, Emerson, Bolivar, Darwin, and Muir, just to name a few.  Von Humboldt frequently met with the poet, writer, and statesman Goethe.  I would have loved to sit in that room or tag along on one of their many walks together, as they discussed art, science, and literature.

As a geographer, I knew about Von Humboldt before I read Wulf’s book, but I wasn’t aware until after I read the book that he really only made two epic treks in his lifetime:  To South America (with some time in Central and North America as well), and to Russia, all the way to China and Mongolia.  In fact, he walked all the way to China when he was 59 years old.  While he also traveled extensively throughout Europe, it is even more amazing that he accomplished what he did with these two trips:  It shows that he listened to others, read widely and gathered as much data as he could.  He was meticulous in his mapping, drawing, and research.  But my favorite thing about him is something we are always mentioning in our workshops with students–Be curious, and ask lots of questions.  

I won’t say any more – you need to read this book for yourself!  Then I encourage you to use Wulf’s book in your own instruction, discussing the above geographic themes that Von Humboldt pioneered and why they mattered in the 19th Century and why they matter now.  You could examine his traits in career focused discussions.  In addition, your students could create a story map about Von Humboldt, or those who he influenced, highlighting where they traveled, what they discovered, and what they thought about.

I look forward to seeing Ms. Wulf and all of you at the Esri User Conference and the Esri GIS Education conference as well.

The Invention of Nature, book by Andrea Wulf about Alexander Von Humboldt

The Invention of Nature, book by Andrea Wulf about Alexander Von Humboldt.

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Fun with GIS 198: Two ConnectED Years

Dateline Washington DC, The White House, May 27, 2014: President Obama welcomes Esri to the ConnectED Initiative, a partnership with private industry to help all US K12 students engage in digital learning. Of the four needs (devices, connectivity, educational resources, teacher support), Esri pledges educational resources and teacher support.

GeoInquiries: Sets of 15 lessons, each only 15 mins long, await educators in US history, human geography, earth science, environmental science, or elementary school. These are “choose and use” — no login required, no download, no install, just click and begin working through an activity with a custom-designed ArcGIS Online map. Designed for educators new to GIS, these address standard content with gentle nudges toward exploration, inquiry, and deeper investigation. The bank gets tens of thousands of views each month, as more educators find new ways to teach with online maps, and students experience new ways to understand their world.

ArcGIS Online Organization accounts: Any US K12 school can request a free school-wide account for instruction. Over 3000 accounts now serve K12 across USA. (Amazon Web Services works with Esri to support these.) Organization accounts are ideal where teachers present custom content or, even better, want their students to do their own projects, from 5-minute creations to contest entries to weeks-long research. Guidance and resources about instruction, Org design, data and maps, careers, and coding await those anxious to help students build capacity.

Professional Development: Esri’s “Teachers Teaching Teachers GIS Institute” began in 2009, but ConnectED intensified the mission to share GIS with K12 educators. The 2016 institute will add another 100 to those sharing vision and skills (see Map#5), with presentations to local departments and peers across the land. Esri also supported a bank of educator workshops in 2015, and is supporting another series in 2016.

GeoMentors: Galvanized by the ConnectED commitment, the Association of American Geographers has joined Esri to help professional GIS users engage with educators as GeoMentors. AAG has promoted the idea through professional publications and events, registered mentors, sought stories, and shared guidance. With over 1000 GeoMentors on the map (see Map#4), many educators now have a key human resource to assist with unfamiliar concepts, give technology support, point to data, and present career pathways for students.

At the 2014 launch, focus was on the potential “billion dollar commitment.” With now thousands of ArcGIS Online accounts in place, and tens of thousands of resource views per month, and more educators jumping in every week, and thus many thousands of students working with GIS each day, it’s exciting to consider how many lives have been changed, and how much more impact can come from engaging the rest! Click any link above and jump on in!

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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