Tag Archives: Universities

Proposal for AP GIS&T

With support from the Geography Education National Implementation Project (GENIP), the American Association of Geographers (AAG) has developed a proposal for a new Advanced Placement course in Geographic Information Science and Technology (AP GIS&T). All U.S. high schools, colleges, and universities are invited to review the proposal by visiting www.apgist.org.

AP GIS&T is designed to introduce high school students to the fundamentals of geographic information science and applications of powerful geospatial technologies for spatial analysis and problem solving. Together with AP Human Geography, AP GIS&T offers an opportunity to engage students in outstanding geographic learning experiences and promote awareness of the many college and career opportunities available in the discipline. The course proposal has attracted broad support from prominent scientific and educational organizations, as well as major technology employers.

For AP GIS&T to become a reality, the AAG needs to collect attestations from 250 U.S. high schools that confirm they have the interest and capacity to offer the course. Similar assurances are needed from 100 colleges and universities that they would be willing to offer some form of credit to students who demonstrate proficiency on the AP GIS&T exam.

The AAG invites high school principals and academic department chairpersons to consider adding their institution to the list of AP GIS&T supporters by completing the brief attestation form at www.apgist.org. The AAG’s goal is to complete the attestation process by October 1, 2016.

Have questions about AP GIS&T? Contact the AAG at ap_gist@aag.org.

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Got MOOCs?

At Esri we want to do all we can to help people think spatially and engage with powerful, easy-to-use mapping and GIS tools and data.  As part of that mission, for several years we have been creating and teaching our own MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses).  We also partner with colleagues in higher education (such as Penn State, Elmhurst College, and the University of West Florida) who have created their own GIS-related MOOCs.  Esri MOOCs are 5 to 6 weeks in length, are instructor-led but are asynchronous, feature discussion, readings, videos, short quizzes, and – my favorite part – hands-on activities that immerse you in making decisions with GIS technologies.  Many Esri MOOCs are starting soon, as detailed below.  Register today and start learning!  And for those of you who are instructors, consider how you might use these MOOCs as part of your own instruction.

The starting point for all Esri MOOCs is: http://www.esri.com/mooc. Here is a video describing our MOOC program and another one filmed at the Esri UC.

Below is a summary of upcoming courses with links to their descriptions for remainder of 2016 and those planned for 2017.

September 7 – October 18, 2016:  Earth Imagery at Work:
http://www.esri.com/mooc/imagery.  Digital images of earth’s surface produced by remote sensing are the basis of modern mapping. They are also used to create valuable information products across a spectrum of industries. This free online course is for everyone who is interested in applications of earth imagery to increase productivity, save money, protect the environment, and even save lives.

September 7 – October 18, 2016:  The Location Advantage:
http://www.esri.com/mooc/location-advantage.  Location analytics uses the locational component of business data to improve users’ understanding of their market, customers, and business processes. Organizations throughout the world use location analytics to make better decisions and gain a competitive advantage.

November 9 – December 20, 2016:  Going Places with Spatial Analysis: http://www.esri.com/mooc/going-places   This course is for people who know something about data analysis and want to learn how the special capabilities of spatial data analysis provides deeper understanding. You’ll get free access to the full analytical capabilities of ArcGIS Online, Esri’s cloud-based GIS platform.

February 1 – February 28, 2017: Do-It-Yourself Geo Apps:
http://www.esri.com/mooc/diy-geo-apps  You don’t have to be a software developer to build valuable geo-enabled apps that make your communities smarter and businesses more successful. This course shows how to combine location and narrative in one application to better communicate and broadcast your story, create custom web applications that solve problems in your community, and build powerful native applications for iOS and Android devices without touching a piece of code. If you are a developer, you’ll be interested in Esri’s APIs, SDKs, and the buzzing GeoDev community.

February 1 – March 14, 2017: Earth Imagery at Work.

April 12 – May 23, 2017: Going Places with Spatial Analysis.

April 12 – May 23, 2017: The Location Advantage.

Esri MOOCs - free, engaging, online courses.

Esri MOOCs – free, engaging, rigorous, online courses.


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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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Valuable educational tips from mentor David Neils

My colleague David Neils is one of my favorite mentors.  David runs the International Telementor Program and is very active in connecting students and faculty at all levels with industry professionals for the goal of fostering workforce skills development.  He is also one of the greatest wildlife photographers and advocates for outdoor education that I’ve ever known.

He recently summarized some of the gems he is regularly sharing in his presentations and workshops, and graciously agreed to allow me to post this for the greater community:

1. Follow up quickly and professionally on all communication with industry professionals. Dead air is common today from students. Avoid it like the plague.

2. Look for ways to make a difference RIGHT NOW for these professionals and others who you connect with. Learn more about the industry WHILE MAKING A DIFFERENCE.

3. Be sure you set the bar at or above industry expectations for all of your student work and work outside of school. Don’t let your instructors set the bar of quality any more. They won’t set it high enough for you to be competitive. Grade inflation is rampant. Don’t be a casualty. Have all of your work reviewed by industry. You’ll find you are capable of producing stellar work and it will open up doors.

4. Make sure your education plan ALWAYS supersedes the institutional requirements of any institution you’re at. Your institution is simply a catalyst for you to blow the doors off with your interests, natural abilities, and energy. To be successful you must view your school as just one small part of your education experience, goals, and objectives.

5. Pay it forward. Help fellow students learn the ropes. Reach back into a local high school or middle school and share with students the powerful journey you’re on. Few things in life will produce more

6. Develop win-win relationships with successful alumni from the program you’re currently in. Dig in and learn all you can about these alumni before you connect. Determine why they’ve been successful. Figure out what keeps them up at night professionally, and figure out a way to help solve their challenges. Nothing opens up doors faster, nothing. Only one out of a million college students thinks this way. You’ll definitely stand out.

7. When you connect with a successful professional, use this approach:

1. Be humble, transparent, appreciative and professional in all of your communication.

2. Let the professional know you still have a lot to learn but while you’re learning you want to help.

3. Identify an area of mutual interest (you’ve done your homework) that you’d like to tackle and note the time frame, etc.

4. Be clear regarding what you’re asking of the professional and the time frame involved.

5. Note how you’re going to wrap things up and share the results.

6. Thank the professional in a heartfelt, professional way. (Handwritten thank you cards have the greatest impact).

Note from Joseph Kerski:  What are you reactions to the above?  I look forward to hearing your comments below.
Ways to contact David:


Want to be a mentor in the fields of STEM, geography, and GIS?  Or find a mentor for your school or program? One way to do so is via the GeoMentor program.

David Neils setting up one of his wildlife webcams in Colorado.

David Neils setting up one of his wildlife webcams in Colorado.

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Data Management Tips in ArcGIS Online

Like many of you, I frequently create Esri story maps and ArcGIS Online presentations for events, workshops, webinars, courses, and curricula.  Then I often want to modify those story maps and presentations for a different purpose, but yet preserve the original version so people can still access it.  The ArcGIS Online Assistant is the perfect tool for this.  It can be used for copying web mapping applications such as story maps, ArcGIS Online maps, layers, scenes, and other items from one folder to another, or between organizations, or even to the same folder within an organization.  It can also be used to view the underlying JSON for any item in ArcGIS Online or Portal, and to modify the URLs for services in web maps and registered applications.

Another very helpful feature about the ArcGIS Online Assistant is that it quickly lets you scroll through all of your content your organizational account.  If you have a lot of content in your organization, saves a great deal of time over the standard method of going through each page of your standard “My Contents” zone in ArcGIS Online.

Note that the copying procedure does not copy all of your data that your web mapping applications may refer to, but just the application or presentation that points to them.

If you need even more functionality, look into the tools created by Geo Jobe.  In the free version of their tools, there is a tool labeled “Copy Items” that acts like the AGO Assistant tool.  Their tools also allow for a filter that can select multiple items at once.  In the Pro/Portal version of their tools, you can “Clone Items”, which not only copies the selected item, but also copies and rewires all the data and content that the selected item depends on.  As noted above, the AGO Assistant does not do this, but Geo Jobe allows you to truly copy everything, including the source data.

For more information, see the GeoNet discussion on this topic, and for best practices and tools related to ArcGIS Online organizations, see the ArcGIS Organization Administration Wiki on GitHub.

The ArcGIS Assistant

After using the ArcGIS Online Assistant, I now have a copy of my original item in ArcGIS Online, which I can now rename and modify.

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Analyzing Real-Time Weather and Maps

A new activity based on ArcGIS Online invites students to analyze real-time weather data. I wrote the activity for university students but upper secondary students with some GIS background could use it as well, particularly if beforehand they work through the How’s the Weather? Geoinquiry.

Using real-time weather feeds from NOAA, the activity asks students to note the relationships between pressure, temperature, wind speed, wind direction, proximity to coasts, latitude, and elevation.  Students also create interpolated surfaces from the real time weather station data, classify and symbolize data in a number of ways, and predict upcoming weather at specific locations.  ArcGIS Online enables students to quickly and easily analyze spatial data such as this.  Weather is an engaging topic, and the activity connects to geography, earth science, and meteorology courses and curricula, and in the process, fosters skills in critical thinking, GIS, spatial analysis, and spatial data.

Analyzing current weather data and maps in ArcGIS Online.

Analyzing current weather data and maps in ArcGIS Online.

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Why Maps Still Matter: Geotechnologies for a Smarter Planet: Course

I am teaching a course this coming semester at the University of Denver entitled “Why Maps Still Matter–Geotechnologies for a Smarter Planet“.  I would like to describe the course here with a larger purpose:  To start a discussion on the best approaches for teaching spatial analysis, mapping, and GIS for the “non-GIS community.”

Because my course is a part of the university’s enrichment program, which is designed for the “love of learning” for the general public, I deliberately focused the title on something that everyone is familiar with–maps.  I also wanted to make a point about the relevancy of mapping, and that spatial analysis can help people make smarter decisions.  A partial version of the course description follows; the full description is here.

Have you ever used your smartphone to locate the nearest coffee shop? Do you wear a fitness tracker? Have you played with Google Earth? What’s the common element among these helpful (and fun!) tools? Geotechnologies, such as GIS, GPS, Remote Sensing—all examples of the growing field of mapmaking. The impact of these technologies goes way beyond locating your favorite retailer; today’s maps can actually help to make the world safer, healthier and smarter. Join geographer and educator Joseph Kerski for a journey through some of the major issues of our 21st-century world to discover how maps are changing the ways we understand our planet. From natural disasters to global warming, from immigration patterns to transportation, from agriculture to epidemics, today’s maps not only provide location information, but also trends, projections and analyses. How exactly do today’s maps work? Each class features animations, videos and live web-based maps to illustrate advanced capabilities. Why are scale, resolution, data quality, projections, datums and other fundamentals of mapping still important? What impact are crowdsourcing, cloud-based computing and privacy having on mapping? How are maps being used to create a smarter planet? Map everything from real-time airplane locations to your last hike, explore some of the major challenges facing our 21st-century world, and discover why maps still matter. Recommended but not required: Internet access outside of the classroom; laptop or tablet for use in class. To get psyched about the course, watch the video:  Why get excited about web maps?

What is the benefit of teaching mapping, spatial analysis, and/or GIS for the general public?  I know that many of us are quite passionate about sharing what we do and why it all matters to others, but, what are your goals in doing so?  Is it worth the effort? How have you taught these concepts and skills for the general public, or faculty or students outside your own discipline?  What are the approaches that you and your students have found to be the most helpful?  What activities have you included?  I will include a wide variety of topics and themes, including population change, water, lifestyles and demographics, business locations, energy, current events, natural hazards, and health, to name a few.   I will include a variety of tools, including ArcGIS Online, the Change Matters viewer, WorldMapper’s cartograms, Esri Maps for Office, and the Urban Observatory.  What is the most suitable length for a course like this?  In the above case, I am teaching for a total of 7.5 hours, over three Thursday evenings.   This one is face-to-face, but since ArcGIS Online is the main tool I will be using, it could easily be taught online.

Teaching "Why Maps Matter" for the General Public

Teaching “Why Maps Matter” for the General Public.

I look forward to hearing about your experiences in this area of teaching to an audience outside of your own community.

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Analyzing Youth and Senior Population Distribution Around the Globe

A set of maps in the Urban Observatory collection makes the study of the patterns of the age structure of the population quick and powerful.  Two maps, Youth Population around the Globe, and Senior Population around the Globe are particularly useful in courses and units focusing on demographics, space, and place.  On the youth (grouped typically as 14 and under for most countries with a few exceptions) map, areas with more than 33% youth are highlighted with a dark red shading while a dot representation reveals the number of seniors and their distribution in bright red.  Areas with more than 10% seniors (age 60 and over for most countries, with a few exceptions) are highlighted with a dark red shading while a dot representation reveals the number of seniors and their distribution in bright red.

This dataset is comprised of multiple sources. All of the demographic data are from the Esri Business Partner Michael Bauer Research with the exception of nine countries.  The maps are presented as map services, which means you can add them as layers to your existing maps of other themes, such as birth rates, growth rates, and life expectancies by country.  This, along with the dynamic environment that ArcGIS Online is, allows for great flexibility in your investigations.

There are many ways to teach with these maps and I look forward to hearing how you are incorporating this into your courses, or plan to do so.  But in the meantime, one way you can teach with these maps is to compare selected youth and seniors in selected cities, at the same scale. In some rural areas, a higher incidence of youth gives a clue to the presence of college towns and military bases.  In others, such as the southeast coast of Florida, the presence of retirement communities makes the senior map quite bright indeed.

In cities, patterns of international migration and country growth rate become evident.  For example, examining the map below showing the distribution of youth in Lagos, Nigeria can be contrasted with the same map at the same scale at the location of Tokyo, Japan, underneath it.  The higher growth rate in Lagos and throughout Nigeria is reflected in the higher incidence of youth there than in Tokyo and elsewhere in Japan.  The pattern and number of the senior population is much higher in Tokyo than in Lagos.  Within some cities, the pattern of seniors reflects retirement high-rises and neighborhoods, such as in southeast Denver, Colorado, USA.

Map of Youths in Lagos, Nigeria

Map of Youths in Lagos, Nigeria

Below is the map of youth in Tokyo, Japan:

Map of Youths in Tokyo, Japan

Map of Youths in Tokyo, Japan

Below is the map showing seniors in Lagos, Nigeria:

Map of Seniors in Lagos, Nigeria

Below is the map showing seniors in Tokyo, Japan:

Map of Seniors in Tokyo, Japan

Map of Seniors in Tokyo, Japan.

I encourage you to begin investigating these powerful web maps today.

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Facilitating 7 Ways of Learning: Connections to GIS in Education

A fascinating and practical book entitled Facilitating Seven Ways of Learning by James R. Davis and Bridget D. Arend is a resource for more purposeful, effective, and enjoyable university teaching.  In addition, I believe that the seven ways presented by the authors provide a useful framework for instruction focused on spatial thinking and geotechnologies.  The seven ways include behavioral learning, cognitive learning, learning through inquiry, learning with mental models, learning through groups and teams, learning through virtual realities, and experiential learning.   Each way of learning is associated with intended learning outcomes, or what students learn, and is accomplished through specific methods.  For example, the intended learning outcomes in learning through inquiry are developing critical, creative, and dialogical thinking, and is accomplished through question-driven inquiries and discussions.

As we have discussed numerous times in this blog, teaching and learning with GIS invites students to ask questions, solve real-world problems with real data, and think critically about why and how they are solving that problem.  Every single one of the seven ways of learning identified in this book have been used by educators and students who analyze spatial relationships, patterns, and trends through GIS, as is evident in these and other case studies.  Furthermore,  all of the methods identified in the Seven Ways book, including tasks and procedures, practice exercises, presentations, explanations, inquiries, discussions, problems, case studies, labs, projects, group activities, team projects, role playing, simulations, games, internships, and service learning, are the “bread and butter” of teaching with GIS.  No one single method is used, which illustrates the versatility of GIS in instruction to meet different learning objectives.  We use all of them when we model effective teaching with GIS at our annual T3G instructor institutes.

I recently met with one of the authors, Dr. Arend, who is the Director of University Teaching at the Office of Teaching and Learning at the University of Denver, and I believe that the Seven Ways can be used effectively by instructors (1) to make a strong case to their administrators on campus that teaching and learning with GIS meets numerous instructional objectives and learning styles, and (2) as a guideline in their own instruction, to ensure that they take full advantage of the 7 ways, and the result will truly be more purposeful, effective, and enjoyable teaching!

How might you be able to use this book and framework in your own instruction?

Facilitating 7 Ways of Learning:  Book

Facilitating 7 Ways of Learning: Book.

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Got Skills for the Digital Earth? Sign up for Free Elmhurst College Online Course

Do you have a desire to build your skills in location-based analysis, and to discover why location matters in our everyday lives?  If so, sign up for a free 4 week Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) offered by Elmhurst College, beginning 1 March 2015.

The course explores why “where?” is vitally important to a myriad of disciplines in our digital world.  Participants in the MOOC will learn what location technologies are used for, as well as fundamental geospatial concepts, skills and applications.  Taught through video lectures, interaction opportunities and discussion forums, participants will complete exercises and run through real-world examples using online spatial software that works on any device with a Web browser.  The MOOC is designed for those with no prior experience with geographic information systems (GIS) software all the way to advanced users. Participants will earn badges after each module, and those who complete six of the course’s seven modules will receive a certificate of completion. An additional certificate will be awarded for completion of all seven modules.   Module titles include fundamental geography, fundamental computing skills associated with geography, creative thinking, problem-solving and decision-making in geography, geospatial tools and technology, business fundamentals of geospatial environments, and advanced abilities in the field.

One of my favorite things about this course is its adherence to the Geospatial Technology Competency Model (GTCM).   Developing the personal, academic, workplace, industry, and management skills of the GTCM is a fundamental goal of the course.   To keep in touch with the conversations around the MOOC, see @ECDigitalEarth and #mydigitalearth on Twitter.  Hope to see you online in the course!

Elmhurst College

Elmhurst College

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