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Looking for a new way to teach geography and geospatial technology, its foundations, and its implications, with many ties to environmental and conservation issues?   I have written a new book, named:


Interpreting Our World – 100 Discoveries that Have Revolutionized Geography:


For more information, see the above and the following video:


Joseph Kerski

Looking for a new way to teach and learn about geography?  I have written a new book entitled Interpreting Our World:  100 Discoveries that Revolutionized Geography, described in this video.  This book demonstrates why geography matters in the modern-day world through its examination of 100 moments throughout history that had a significant impact on the study of geography—which means, literally, "writing about the earth" or "describing the earth."

Geography is not simply accounts of the lands of earth and their features; it's about discovering everything there is to know about our planet. This book shows why geography is of critical importance to our world's 21st-century inhabitants through an exploration of the past and present discoveries that have been made about the earth. It pinpoints 100 moments throughout history that had a significant impact on the study of geography and the understanding of our world, including widely accepted maps of the ancient world, writings and discoveries of key thinkers and philosophers, key exploration events and findings during the Age of Discovery, the foundations of important geographic organizations, and new inventions in digital mapping today.

The book begins with a clear explanation of geography as a discipline, a framework, and a way of viewing the world, followed by coverage of each of the 100 discoveries and innovations that provides sufficient background and content for readers to understand each topic. Students will gain a clear sense of what is truly revolutionary about geography, perhaps challenging their preconceived notion of what geography actually is, and grasp how important discoveries revolutionized not only the past but the present day as well.

It is my hope that the book clearly provides readers with an understanding of why geography matters to our 21st-century world and an awareness of how geography affects our everyday lives and is key to wise decision making. I have also ensured that the book addresses and explains key themes of geography, including scale, physical processes, cultural processes, patterns, relationships, models, and trends.  The book also integrates time, space, and place in geography, documenting how it is not only the study of spatial patterns, but also the fact that many discoveries in geography came about because of the particular time and place in which the discoverers lived.

The book was published by ABC-CLIO and is available from the publisher and via Amazon.

And yes, the book includes plenty about geotechnologies that we discuss in this blog, including GIS, GPS, remote sensing, web mapping, UAVs, and other technologies from astrolabes and compasses to theodolites and the Internet of Things.

Interpreting Our World: 100 Discoveries that Revolutionized Geography.

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.
Accessing data from the Boulder County local government GIS portal through the lesson described above.

Join Glenn Letham of GEO Jobe and Brendan O'Neill of Esri to learn strategies for managing your institution’s ArcGIS Online organization efficiently.  They'll host a webinar Thursday, October 27 from 2:00 - 3:00 PM EDT (6:00 PM GMT).


Register at


GEO Jobe’s Admin Tools for ArcGIS Online empower administrators at higher education institutions to manage large numbers of users, credits, and licenses quickly and easily. Learn how to lower your administrative efforts so you can concentrate on what you love doing - providing instruction and supporting your community so they can succeed in solving spatial problems. You’ll also learn what to do with ArcGIS Online users and their content when individuals move on from your organization during that annual rite of passage known as graduation.


If you have specific questions, let us know with a comment below!

Not long ago, obtaining data for a GIS-based project was an arduous task. Because great time and effort was involved with either creating your own data or obtaining data that someone else created, you had to think carefully about the quality of the data that would go into your project. While it can still be cumbersome to obtain data at specific scales for specific areas, cloud-based data services, crowdsourced maps and databases and real-time streaming make it easy for anyone to obtain vast amounts of data in a short amount of time.

In such an environment where so much data is available, is data quality still of concern? I believe that yes, data quality does matter. In fact, because data is so easy to obtain data nowadays, and with the advent of crowdsourcing and cloud-based GIS such as ArcGIS Online, I submit that data quality considerations actually matter now more than ever before. And for those of us who are GIS, STEM, and geography educators, I believe this topic merits inclusion in many courses. In fact, I have found that discussing this topic connects well to critical thinking, spatial thinking, location privacy, and other relevant themes that we need to address in our courses.  In these three examples, I illustrate in an article I wrote for Directions Magazine, I focus on why data quality matters both now and in the future.

The first example describes my mapping of a GPS-collected track in ArcGIS Online.  The second example focuses on mapping health data for Rhode Island towns.  The last example is entitled "Walking on Water?" - and it has to do with resolution and scale.  But I won't spoil it for you - read the article, and then below this essay, I look forward to hearing how you teach about data quality.

Why Data Quality Matters - Now More Than Ever. Examples.

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

You’re invited to exchange ideas and best practices with fellow GIS educators and administrators at the  Esri Education GIS Conference in San Diego, California, July 8-11, 2017.


This year’s conference theme is “From Inquiry to Insight.” A vital aspect of GIS education is the process by which students ask questions, collect and analyze data, and make sense of the results. Esri has supported inquiry-based learning for many years, and as we celebrate the 25th anniversary of Esri’s Education Program, the Education GIS Conference will showcase those engaged in inquiry-based learning.


You’re welcome to propose your contribution by October 28, 2016.  Submit your proposal at

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