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I used a recent hike to Hanging Lake Colorado as an excuse to try some new things with the Cascade Story map app – including a looping video, link to a map-with-points-from-geotagged photos, testing new workflows now that Google folded Picasaweb into Google Plus/Google Photos, and some other features.  It is not perfect but I learned some things!




I used Bern Szukalski's advice here to add geotagged photos to a web map –

… to create my map tour to get my photos quickly added to ArcGIS Online as points.  I used it as this map:


… which is a part of the above Cascade story map.


--Joseph Kerski



This article in Business Insider shows heat maps of the 15 largest fast food chains:


Examining this type of data might be a great way to introduce students to spatial thinking and analysis, or build on what you are already doing in the classroom.  And nearly everyone has a mental map of where fast food establishments are located.  Why do these patterns exist the way they do?  Why do some exhibit specific regional predominance (such as Wendys, which started in Ohio, or Sonic, which started in Oklahoma, or Dunkin Donuts, which seem to be everywhere in Massachusetts)?  Why are the largest sales for many chains California, Texas, Florida, or New York?  What are some anomalies that can be detected?


What I like most about these maps is that underneath each one, hyperlinked to text such as “strong everywhere” or “concentrated in urban areas” are links to live web maps in ArcGIS Online, because that is where each map was generated in the first place. Try it!  That means you can zoom to your own city and your students can discuss the patterns that students see between different chains, relationship to population density and busy streets and/or high schools or universities, and more.  And the reason why different chains often locate near each other.  When you zoom to a certain scale, the popups reveal the name of the establishment along with the sales figures.  You can also change the base map, or change the symbology to analyze the sales volumes or the number of employees, or add additional layers such as zoning, traffic, and more, to really dig deeper into the investigation.   All of the maps can be found in this group in ArcGIS Online.


Sonic Drive In Heat Map

You can even use the maps to teach about what a heat map is, using the following as one source of information:


And  in ArcGIS Online (, you can create your OWN heat maps on other variables, such as crime, litter, invasive species, landfills, antique stores versus car washes, and …  you get the idea.   




Joseph Kerski

I have been using crowdsource story maps frequently as a networking tool in face-to-face and in online courses.  For example, I ask the participants in these courses to add a photograph to a map that shows the view out their window, shown below and linked here.  The first screen indicates what they are to do and displays a "Add Your Landscape" button in the upper right:


Crowdsource story map - front screen

The map allows us to have discussion on the diversity of landforms, land use, vegetation, and weather in the location where the participants work.  It also allows us to have a discussion on web GIS, story mapping, and how crowdsourcing works.  We discuss ideas of what they could do with crowdsourced maps--from mapping trees, shrubs, litter, or light poles on their school or university campus, broken sidewalks, "little library" kiosks, or pedestrian counts in their community, locations of major tsunamis of the past century, or to conduct a brief poll in class (indicate 1 location in the world where you think that water availability (or biodiversity loss) is at a most critical need right now), or other data from local to global scale.  Some of the responses on my web map are shown below, including my own photograph from the Esri building in Colorado:


Crowdsource Story Map - Editing


But let's say for some reason you as the author of the map want to delete some or all of the contributed photographs and points from the map.  When you first set up the map, you are presented with options to review each contribution as it submitted or not.  In my case study above, I want the map to provide instant gratification and feedback to those participating, so I chose not to review the submittals as they come in.  But now let's say I want to use this map for a different course.  Or, if I were mapping trees, maybe one of the trees was not actually on my campus at all, or the image was poor, or it was in the incorrect location.  For whatever reason, I want to remove some or all of the contributed "crowdsourced" information.  This is easy to do.  


Go to the story map that you wish to edit.  It is easiest to use the "My Stories" zone on  Edit your story map, and look in the upper right under "review new contributions."  You can review and approve all of them here, or only the new ones since you last reviewed.  In my case, I want to delete all of the contributions so I can use this map for another course with new participants.  I would therefore select All Contributions, as shown below:

Crowdsource Editing, continued...

Then, I select each of the contributions and reject, including the beautiful photo I took in Colorado, as seen below:


Crowdsource Editing, continued - approving or rejecting

I encourage you to do two things:  (1) Consider using crowdsource story maps in a variety of ways in your instruction.  (2)  Use the above method to easily remove or review the contributions to your maps.


--Joseph Kerski  is the recorded video from my webinar today for the North American Association for Environmental Education using GIS. 



(1)  Mapping Your Stories with Esri Story Maps


Free NCGE-Esri webinar – 8pm ET / 5pm PT Wed 7 December.


Instructor:  Joseph Kerski


Register here:


DescriptionEsri’s story maps platform allows you to easily and powerfully embed and combine dynamic web maps with audio, video, photographs, sketches, and text in a compelling framework. Explore issues and topics ranging from glacial retreat, population change, global ecoregions from local to global scale. Teach with existing story maps in the online library, or have students create their own for their own projects, including local fieldwork. Use them as communication tools, assessment tools, and lesson activities.


(2)  On a related story maps note:

There is still time for your students, aged fifteen (15) to nineteen (19), to participate in the International Year of Global Understanding (IYGU) Story Maps Competition.


Students may work in groups of up to two (2) persons. Their story map should focus on one of the six (6) official IYGU themes: 1. Eating, drinking, surviving  2. Moving, staying, belonging   3. Working, housing, urbanizing  4. Communicating, networking, interacting  5. Wasting, recycling, preserving   6. Sports, entertaining, recreating.  For further information, visit:


Joseph Kerski


Joseph J. Kerski, Ph.D., GISP  |  Education Manager

Esri | 1 International Court | Broomfield CO  80021-3200 | USA

Tel 303-449-7779, ext. 1-8237 | Cell-Mobile 303-625-3925 |



We have compared different field data collection devices and apps in this blog over the years, including between smartphones and recreational-grade GPS receivers here and here,  and between two smartphone apps.  We have also discussed Esri field apps such as Survey 123 and Collector for ArcGIS.   How do tracks collected with smartphone apps compare to those with a survey grade GPS receiver?

I was recently in the field collecting the rim and the bottom of gullies incised through head cut erosion with some excellent high school students and their instructor from the Santa Fe Indian School.  The instructor brings his students to the same site each year, and over time, it is evident that some of these gullies are very actively eroding.  In a semi-arid region where topsoil is one of the primary natural resources, erosion is a very serious matter.  I like the project because it incorporates time, space, fieldwork, GIS, and GPS, and real-world issues, but most of all because the students are active in experimenting with solutions to the problem, such as the construction of "Zuni Bowls" which can slow erosion rates.

I mapped the tracks that I had collected with 2 smartphone apps (RunKeeper and Motion X GPS) and the tracks collected by students using Trimble GPS receivers running Pathfinder Office.  It was easy to bring the data into ArcGIS Online for comparison purposes from the original GPX and shapefiles.  As you might expect, the tracks from my smartphone apps are quite angular compared to that collected with the Trimble, which have sub-meter spatial accuracy capability.  By contrast, the geo-tagged photographs that I typically use in creating campus story maps, such as this one of New Mexico State University, over the past year,  even though they were collected with a smartphone, have been steadily improving in spatial accuracy.  They are now usually less than one meter away from where I actually took them, as measured on a satellite image base map.  Therefore, point data from a smartphone is often better than line (track) data.  But the track collected on a smartphone with Collector for ArcGIS will be much more accurate than that from my non-GIS smartphone fitness and GPS apps.

But note that I used 2 low-end apps on my smartphone to collect the tracks.  What if I had used Collector for ArcGIS?  As is explained here in these slides, Collector allows collection of data with extremely high accuracy.  Here is an example of Collector being used by a water district with excellent results, and in this video from the field, I explain how educators are using it to collect trees, light poles, curbs, and other information in a city.

As we have mentioned many times in this blog, using geotechnologies in instruction comes down to:  Use the most appropriate tool for the job.  The gullies measured by the students in this study have intricate perimeters, and thus, the higher end GPS receivers were essential. Or, they could have used the Collector for ArcGIS app.  For collecting water quality in streams or trees on your school campus, a recreational grade GPS receiver or a smartphone app might be the most appropriate solution.

Results of comparison of field methods and devices in ArcGIS Online.

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