Tag Archives: Community

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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Story Maps for Education GeoNet Group Now Available

To meet the needs of a growing number of educators interested in using Esri Story Maps in teaching and research, I invite you to join a new Story Maps for Education group in the GeoNet Community. This will be our virtual place to connect, share and collaborate on topics related to “story maps in education.” Story Maps are multimedia web mapping applications that join audio, narrative, video, photographs, and thematic and base map in a compelling environment that is perfect for communicating the results of any investigation from local to global in scale.  GeoNet is where GIS users from a wide variety of disciplines can collaborate, share, and discover information through blogs, updates, videos, discussions, and more.

The Story Maps for Education group is a “members only” group, which means all content is public but, in order to contribute to the conversations and be alerted of new content, you need to click “Actions” and then “join group” in the top right.

Quick tips:

  • If you do have a GeoNet account and are not logged in to GeoNet, you’ll need to click “login” first to log in to GeoNet, go to the URL above, then Actions – > join the group.
  • If you don’t have a GeoNet account, click “login” and then follow the steps to create your GeoNet account. Once your account is created you can use the group link in this email or search for the “Story Maps for Education” group in the community.
  • For any additional questions, general tips and guidelines, please visit the GeoNet Community Help group.

Thanks for joining and we look forward to seeing you in the GeoNet Community!

Story Maps Group in GeoNet

Story Maps for Education Group in GeoNet.

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Fun with GIS 202: Roots & Shoots

Jane Goodall. The name conjures images of science, documentaries, jungles, crowded auditoriums, and visions for a better world. Jane’s work and passion have captured minds and hearts across the globe. For 25 years, young people have engaged in community projects through her “Roots & Shoots” organization, learning that they can make a difference, at home and across the globe.

Roots & Shoots makes it easy to start, with a 4-step formula: Get engaged, make a map, take action, and celebrate. This year, Roots & Shoots added ArcGIS Online to the mapping alternatives, so now projects can combine digital mapping, collaboration, and analysis. Is it powerful? See the video featuring teachers and students of the Math, Science, & Technology Magnet Academy of Roosevelt High School (Los Angeles, CA). See also the youth leader blog on the Jane Goodall Institute page; leaders from across USA visited Esri and learned about adding ArcGIS Online in their work and outreach.

Projects are not just the most powerful way for people to learn GIS. They are also the best way for people to see that they can make a difference in the world, no matter their age. Roots & Shoots projects epitomize “service” — something done for the benefit of another. Roots and shoots help plants spread out and grow, and Roots & Shoots projects can allow young people to shape their world and their future.

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri education manager

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Fun With GIS 196: Esri ConnectED Showcase

Esri joined President Obama’s ConnectED Initiative in May 2014, offering a billion dollars worth of learning resources and teacher support. Two years later, one school district stands out as a model of implementation: Loudoun County (VA) Public Schools.

Since 2005, LCPS had participated in the Geospatial Semester program (through James Madison University), teaching GIS to hundreds of high school seniors (and even juniors) through a project-based approach. Lead GIS teacher Mike Wagner attended Esri’s 2013 Teachers Teaching Teachers GIS institute, and science coordinator Odette Scovel in 2014, building strategies for helping others use GIS. ConnectED opened new horizons.

Agreeing that all 89 LCPS schools needed their own ArcGIS Online Organization, Scovel released Wagner from some classroom duties with “Get them up and running.” Now, every school has an Org underway, with students and teachers logging in. The district is more convinced than ever that ArcGIS Online opens doors for student learning, engagement, and opportunities.

Some LCPS schools use GIS more vigorously than others, according to their needs and culture. But 35 elementary schools fed data to the district’s Project Daffodil, examining relationships between weather and plants. Some first graders worked with high school honors students to map kindness. Middle school students use pre-crafted story maps to learn standard classroom content in science and social studies. High school students create story maps to deepen their own learning and help others, in history, science, and even English literature. Some special needs students use GIS to help them understand and document tasks in their day.

This summer, Wagner will lead two days of ArcGIS Online training for elementary teachers, and a week of activities for middle school and high school teachers. Such investment positions LCPS well for the huge market of GIS jobs in the region and beyond. This vision and action earned LCPS a Special Achievements in GIS Award in 2015, and already yields benefits in student learning. Kudos to LCPS for recognizing opportunity and rising to meet it! (For more info, contact Mike Wagner.)

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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Fun with GIS 190: Sharing Work

Got interesting student-made maps? Share them! You can, via ArcGIS Online Organizations, while controlling exposure of personally identifiable info (“PII“). Success depends on students minimizing PII in the content, Org admins creating a login for sharing, and having a location to share.

Orgs can use a single login to host the Org’s best content for sharing. (See “Showcase Logins” in AGO Orgs for Schools.) Such “showcase logins” need a well-designed and publicly visible profile that tells about the Org’s users. Org admins can then transfer into this login ownership of “completed content.” By helping students minimize use of PII during construction, good content can be shared safely.

A new GeoForm lets Org admins share a single map or app, a special collection, or the public parts of an entire Org. Follow the guidance on the GeoForm details page and you can safely share content beyond the school. Content nominated here for sharing may become accessible via the US K12GIS Story Map.

Let the world see student work! Keep the students and the work safe, while making them proud to share their best.

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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Why Maps Matter

How would you explain to fellow educators, to students, parents, or the general public why Geographic Information Systems (GIS) matters in education and in society?  One idea is to start with a document entitled “Why Maps Matter“.

While spatial thinking is much more than “maps”, I aimed at a phrase that would attract people to this workshop.  I frequently choose similar presentation titles depending on my audience, such as “Mapping Your Educational Research” or “Mapping The Social Studies.”

Themes of this workshop include:  Maps foster understanding, tell stories, and enable decision making.  I included my favorite maps and map books for a personal touch. Topics include population, land use, urban, economics, health, and natural hazards, with frequent mention of scale, systems thinking, critical thinking, time and space, and place. The workshop is taught through an inquiry-driven, hands-on, problem-based format.

I’ve posted related resources in the form of three videos and 20 resources for sharing GIS with others.  I look forward to hearing how you share “why maps matter” with others.

Why Maps Matter Presentation

Why Maps Matter Presentation and Workshop.

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Fun with GIS 185: Integrating STEM

“In which class does GIS belong?” I’m often asked. “Wherever you encourage critical thinking,” I reply. With furrowed brow, they continue, “We don’t teach geography, so maybe US history, or environmental science? Certainly not English or math or language. But, high school career tech, or middle school gifted, or what?” I smile and say “All of those, for sure, but more. Wherever you want students to dive in, explore, analyze data, integrate, present, and collaborate. Certainly from 4th grade on up, for every student, in all subjects, but even younger students can benefit. Web-based GIS means it is accessible on any connected device, anytime, anywhere.”

School should be a process in which all students learn why and how to learn; scaffold thinking skills; find, analyze, and interpret data; practice making decisions; engage deeply; integrate, communicate, and collaborate; create and share; listen, observe, and reflect. The content can vary widely, and GIS can be a great tool for all of these, whether examining community demographics, national history, soil productivity, urban planning, factors affecting variation in climate models, or the density of ant colonies across the school playground.

The recent meeting of the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) featured a presentation by the Math, Science, and Technology Magnet Academy of Roosevelt High School, from the Boyle Heights neighborhood of East Los Angeles. Four seniors and two alums, plus the 11th grade English and Social Studies teachers and principal, shared their story. Each year, the juniors have a major project that is service learning, community based, personally chosen, team designed, data driven, justice-oriented, intensely researched and analyzed, and mapped, written, and taught. In this STEM school, two “non-STEM” teachers coach the class on how to use ArcGIS Online to enrich their experience, expand their skills, integrate their knowledge, gather field data to expand their findings, and power their presentation. The standing ovation by state and national leaders at SETDA is what students in all grades, all subjects, all schools should be earning.


(Above: Adult and student presenters. SETDA presentation visible there, or see this presentation by MSTMA/RHS at Esri’s 2013 User Conference, before 10,000 GIS professionals.)

Any US K12 school can have the same GIS used by MSTMA, for free, via Esri’s ConnectED offer. Teachers who want an easy starting point will find instructional materials with which to explore the basics, in classic content or one’s own vision. Schools seeking to replicate the MSTMA model need to be willing to cross lines, break down barriers, and let go the reins of adult control and empower students.

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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GIS Brings Value to Community Based Projects

One of the ways that spatial thinking with geotechnologies is being incorporated into teaching and learning is through relevant community-based projects and settings.  One of the most compelling ones I have seen recently is the South Platte River Project at Englewood Public Schools in Colorado.  As illustrated by the graphic below, the project brings together content and skills in mathematics, science, reading, writing, communications, and social studies.  It engages students in piecing together the geography and history of their own local watershed in order to better understand the political, scientific, economic, and social impacts of water.  The South Platte River runs through Englewood, but its small size makes it easily overlooked in the importance it has for the entire region.  Water is a relevant issue not only to Colorado and many other semi-arid regions, but water quality and quantity are critical topics for the 21st Century, globally.

Ten 21st Century skills will be intentionally taught and practiced through this project, including critical thinking and problem solving, initiative and self direction, communication, collaboration, creativity and innovation, productivity and accountability, managing complexity, social and cross-cultural skills, prioritizing, planning, and managing for results, and leadership and responsibility.  A motivation for the district in this effort is to replace the age old question asked by students, “Why do I need to know this?” with “How can I generate the information required to help me figure this out?”

The project is aligned to Colorado Academic Standards, and is designed to be used across all courses, grade levels, and content areas within the district’s schools.  GIS and GPS will be used as key tools with the spatial thinking framework to examine and map water rights, identification of river basins, credible sources for research, interactions of organisms in a riparian ecosystem, chemical energy transfer, claim, evidence, and reasoning, argumentative writing, modeling population growth, collecting, organizing, and interpreting data, sustainable uses of water, river morphology, and living organisms.  Students will be able to take advantage of new watershed and river trace data and tools in ArcGIS Online, but more importantly, consider economic, scientific, political, and geographic implications of water in their own community and around the world.

How might you use  a local physical feature or issue to foster interdisciplinary education using geotechnologies?

Disciplines and skills addressed by the South Platte River project, Englewood Public Schools.

Disciplines and skills addressed by the South Platte River project, Englewood Public Schools.

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Fun with GIS 171: Lighthouses

Maps are magical because they expose so much info so quickly. This works even for GIS in education. In mid-2014, the White House announced Esri’s participation in ConnectED. ArcGIS Online Organization subscriptions started being issued to any US K12 school requesting one for instruction. At the 2014 Esri Conference, we launched a story map showing these. Today, that number is about 1000.

The second map in the series shows “Lighthouses.” A lighthouse is a beacon, a guidepost for those in need, a marker for all to consider as they make their way. Some are tall, robust, and brilliant, with clarion voice; others are more quiet, less dramatic. The best lighthouses work in concert with others, so explorers can advance ever farther. Today, this map shows just one per state, but we know there are other “lighthouses of GIS in K12 ed.”

The map has a link inviting lighthouse nominations — administrative as well as instructional, informal as well as formal. Tell us about someone using GIS in K12 education, or supporting it from outside, so we can explore the story, enrich the map, and help others progress more swiftly and safely.

The other maps contain powerful content as well — educators in search of mentors, GeoMentors willing to help educators, alums of Esri’s T3G educator institute who can provide guidance, and states and districts with broad licenses. The patterns and relationships in these maps tell powerful stories, but we really want more lighthouses with which to guide others. Help us out by nominating situations from which others could learn, whether your own story or that of someone else.

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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