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I recently gave presentations at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee for GIS Day, and took the opportunity,  as most geographers would, to get out onto the landscape.  I walked on the Lake Michigan pier at Manitowoc, enjoying a stroll in the brisk wind to and from the lighthouse there, recording my track on my smartphone in an application called Runkeeper.  When my track had finished and been mapped, it appeared as though I had been walking on the water!walking_on_water-300x194.jpg

Map of my walk from

Photograph of my destination:  The lighthouse at the North Pier, Manitowoc, Wisconsin.

According to my map, I walked on water.  Funny, but I don’t recall even getting wet!  It all comes down to paying close attention to your data, and knowing its sources.  Showing these images provides a teachable moment in a larger discussion on the importance of scale and resolution in any project involving maps or GIS.  In my case, even if I scrolled in to a larger scale, the pier did not appear on the Runkeeper’s application’s base map.  It does, however, appear in the base map in ArcGIS Online.  In the book that Jill Clark and I wrote entitled The GIS Guide to Public Domain Data, we discuss how scale and resolution can be conceptualized and put into practice in both the raster and vector worlds.  We cite examples where neglecting these important concepts have led not only to bad decisions, but have cost people their property and even their lives.   Today, while GIS tools allow us to instantly zoom to a large scale, the data being examined might have been collected at a much smaller scale.  Much caution therefore needs to be used when making decisions when the analysis scale is larger than the collection scale.

What example have you used in class that well illustrates the importance of scale and resolution?

- Joseph Kerski, Esri Education Manager
I recently created a map in ArcGIS Online and a series of videos that shows the location of what may be the biggest city that never was:  Cairo, Illinois.  During the mid-1800s, many believed that this city, founded on the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, gateways to settlement of the central and western United States, could someday surpass Philadelphia or even New York

I created the map for several reasons.  First, like many of you, I am fascinated by maps.  Mapping is a natural way to tell a story, and Cairo has a very interesting story to tell.  For several geographic reasons, Cairo not only didn’t live up to its expectations, and has been declining by 10% to 20% per decade for the past 70 years (2010 population, 2,831).  While Cairo has a good situation on the point of land divided by the rivers, the site is flood-prone.  In addition, the rise of St Louis upstream on the Mississippi River also posed challenges for Cairo.  In fact, socioeconomically, Cairo remains one of the poorest communities in the region, which you can investigate for yourself by pulling up the “USA Demographics for Schools” layer in ArcGIS Online and investigating median income and median home value.  It nevertheless has a fascinating and unique character steeped in history and geography.

The second reason I created the map was because ArcGIS Online allows for the easy integration of multimedia elements to tell a story.  In my case, I created the map only after having the opportunity to visit Cairo this year en route to Murray State University, taking videos and photographs to be sure, but also getting a “sense of place” for Cairo.  During my visit, my discovery of a tiny community just north of Cairo dubbing itself “Future City” seemed to fit perfectly with the above themes.  At the river confluence, a weathered monument in the shape of Lewis and Clark’s boat the Merrimack standing in a rather forlorn state park seemed to reinforce the fact that this was the Biggest City That Never Was.  The photographs and videos I took there were easily integrated into my ArcGIS Online map.

What important places on the landscape have you visited or read about, and how might you create stories about them using ArcGIS Online?

--Joseph Kerski, Esri Education Manager
I have created a data set containing electoral history for the past 56 years in ArcGIS Online, so you and your students can interact with it, teach with it, and explore patterns. To accompany the data set, I wrote a lesson entitled, "Which states went for which candidate? Elections" is in the ArcLessons library.electoral_college_historical_agol-1024x764.jpg

What is the difference between the popular vote and the electoral vote? What influences voting patterns at present and what influenced the patterns in the past? Why do electoral votes sometimes exhibit a regional or national pattern and sometimes exhibit no pattern? After examining the maps dating back to 1956, which election years would you say were the closest in terms of the electoral vote, and which were the most one-sided? Which states voted consistently Republican, or Democratic, in the past? When have third-party candidates been a factor? When did the candidate lose his “home state?” Which states change back and forth in terms of political party over time, and do these correspond to what are referred to as “swing states”? How does population distribution influence the electoral vote and where candidates spend their time and money?

These questions and many more can be effectively analyzed by using the above maps and lesson. ArcGIS Online provides an excellent platform for learning about issues, patterns, and phenomena. Because elections data in the USA are tied to administrative boundaries, elections maps can be easily created. Examining election data in ArcGIS Online allows the data to be effectively and easily used by educators, students, and others, anywhere around the world.Another map and data set containing electoral votes by state for the upcoming election, along with demographic information and much more, was compiled by my colleague Charlie Fitzpatrick, and makes an excellent accompanying data set. These data sets can be used with an accompanying blog post describing what is there and how to use it.

It is my hope that these data sets and lessons will be helpful in teaching and learning in these next few weeks, and beyond.

- Joseph Kerski, Esri Education Manager

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