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Why teach about migration?  Migration is inherently a geographic issue.  It touches on themes of physical geography (such as climate and landforms), cultural geography (political systems, political instability, political boundaries, demographic trends past and present), sociology (perception, push and pull factors), and many more.  It changes over space and time and is an excellent way to teach spatial concepts and skills. Since the dawn of humankind, migration has always been present; thus, it ever remains a current issue. It is also relevant, causing deep and long-lasting changes in culture, language, urban forms, food, land use, social policy, politics, and much more.  Migration is a global issue that affects our everyday lives. It is also a personal issue, because each of us has a migration story to tell about our own ancestors and families.


One of the maps in the Esri coolmaps gallery enables you to visualize migration data over time and space in a 2D and 3D tool that is a powerful and effective tool, yet it easily works in any standard web browser without any software to install. 


The map opens in 3D mode and in Play mode, showing a set of data for selected countries (the UAE, Mexico, China, and Singapore during the 1990s, 2000s, 2010, and 2013.  This selected set provides a good introduction for teaching about the patterns, relationships, and trends in the data.   The time periods are shown below the lower part of the map, with the out-migration and in-migration available for each of the four time periods.  The thickness of the lines coming out from or going to each country selected indicates the amount of migration, and the end points of each line indicates the countries sending people to or receiving people from each country.  For each country, the raw number of out- and in-migrants is indicated, along with the percentage of that country’s total population for each time period.  After viewing the introductory data, use the “pause“ button to stop the Play mode and to select among the list of the world’s countries.  The interactivity--being able to select countries, years--the compelling cartography, and the ability to switch between 2D and 3D modes combines to make this an incredibly useful teaching and research tool.


As with any web GIS tool, always ask the students, “Where did the data come from?  Can you trust it?”  In this case, the data came from the United Nations Trends in International Migrant Stock:  The 2013 Revision is provided by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.  Use the “i” button to go to the data’s source.  Encourage the students to investigate the data at its source, and to study how and when it was collected.   According to this data set, how long does a migrant have to live in a country before he or she is no longer considered a “migrant”?


I also encourage you as the instructor to have the students use this map to help them understand migration patterns and number.  As we have written elsewhere in GIS education essays, this could be an excellent supplement to the other sources you use.  For example, ask, “How has Australian immigration changed in amount and in the countries sending migrants to Australia over the past 25 years?  What are some of the social and political changes that are occurring in the country with the changes in migration?  What do you think Australia will be like in 25 years if current trends continue?”  These questions illustrate that the visualizations help students understand geographic phenomena, but can also be used in tandem with other sources – such as journal and newspaper articles, the Census Bureau’s international database, ArcGIS Online maps and story maps from Esri, and other resources that could shed light on the topic, changes in demographics in cities and rural areas, and much more. 


One of my favorite things about teaching with maps is that they often confirm some hypotheses and shatter others.  These maps confirm some of what I knew about migration, but they also raised questions and shattered other preconceived notions I had.  For example, I expected the amount of migration to the USA to be high in raw numbers and as a percentage of the USA’s population, and I also expected the in-migration list of countries to include most of the countries around the world.  But I didn’t expect to see such a high percentage of Reunion Island’s population moving to the USA.  Is it part of climate-induced sea-level rise migration, perhaps?  Also, as expected, I found the number of countries that sent people to Somalia to be small, and the number of countries receiving Somalians to be somewhat higher.  But I did not expect to see so much flow from Russia to the UK, and vice versa, nor did I expect to see that Australia currently has the highest percentage of migrants living there of any country, at nearly 50% of the total population.


For a few more ideas on how to teach with this tool, along with a short tutorial on how to use it, see my video.


If this map intrigues you, be sure to explore the other maps in the “Esri coolmaps” gallery.  These maps cover a wide variety of topics from economics to natural hazards and much more.  They rotate in and out periodically, so be sure to check back often.  All of them make effective teaching tools.

Data from the international migration map in the Coolmaps gallery.

Michigan's GRACE Project (GIS Resources and Applications for Career Education) helps students use GIS. GRACE uses a coordinated and multi-tiered approach for educators and students alike, and works with communities across the state to identify partners interested in high school student interns with GIS knowledge and skills.


Last week, at the Great Lakes Research Center at Michigan Tech, in Houghton, in "copper country" of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, I joined dozens of community members to watch 10 presentations by students. They had worked for six weeks on paid internships, building data about their communities, analyzing it, interpreting it, and preparing their findings for the community. These were students in grades 9-12 who had learned about GIS from their teachers, been interested enough to complete an independent training program of about 20 hours of online courses from Esri Training, done the necessary paperwork and interview for an internship, and then exercised their brains day after day in summer.


(Graphic courtesy of Don Lafreniere)


The students grappled with issues common to GIS professionals and others: challenging community problems don’t come with a manual; data capture takes brains and persistence; not all data are equally good; initial findings don't always match expectations; there are many ways to analyze data, which can influence interpretations; and, no matter how much work one puts into a project, there are always more questions. Wrestling with such challenges required substantial skills, and new ones every day. Students needed to work independently and in groups, learn new concepts and skills aggressively, cope with different data formats and resolution, and use and interpret different means of converting many individual reports into a more useful broad display.




Across the state, GRACE has worked with cohorts of teachers, building their skills, and helping them introduce students to GIS. Their first summer of student internships, in 2016, yielded impressive stories. This summer expanded on those, from big cities to small towns. Students in varied communities recognized GIS as a stepping stone to a better future, for themselves, their community, and the larger world. Teachers recognized that GIS has value in all industries. Employers recognized that students have tremendous capacity and interest in the welfare of their world, and what they lack most are the pointers and permissions. GRACE points the way to a better tomorrow with GIS.

It is rewarding when one looks at innovative student projects. Below is an example of one such project, where the Insights for ArcGIS app was used by a student, Zach Matek, to visualize data in his Final Project in a Spatial Analytics course at Johns Hopkins University.  


What was impressive from an instructor perspective, was the fact that Insights was not taught in this particular course (though it will be in the next offering). The Insights app was shared with the student as an option to explore on his own, seeing that it could be useful to his project, and he was able to quickly create a workbook and perform analytics to enhance his project - without any instructional guidance!


The use of the Insights app was a small part of the project, but it presented the data in a clear way. Zach, a part time student, works for RainKing Solutions, which is a market research firm that helps businesses identify likely buyers of technologies on global scale using predictive analytics and sales intelligence. The organization collects data on global corporations, and sells this data to companies in the Business-to-Business (B2B) marketplace. GIS of course can aid in this effort, and Zach is testing the technology in his current workspace.


Zach’s project focused on one company,, Inc., and aimed to examine the geographic behavior of its customers. Salesforce provides Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and other cloud computing services to the globe and it is best known for its customer relationship management (CRM) platform. The data for this project was retrieved from RainKing’s database, and attempted to address important questions applicable to several stakeholders, such as:


  • Are the instances of Salesforce’s customers in statistically significant clusters?
  • Is there statistically significant clustering of customers based on certain weighted fields such as revenue, number of full-time employees, and IT budget?
  • Where is the median center of their customers?
  • Where is the center of their customers for each of the Census Bureau’s four study regions –Northeast, Midwest, South, and West?


Below are some screenshots from Zach’s workbook, please note that the interactivity of the maps and charts is lost in the screenshots - in a sense, the static nature of the screenshot does not do it justice. The live nature of the maps and charts, and the exploratory tools, was fantastic in the Insights app.  




Zach’s summary on the Insights workbook:


  • Salesforce data was exported from RainKing’s CRM to a CSV file, which was used in the Insights app.
  •       Data on Microsoft’s CRM was exported from RainKing database and compared with Saleforce customers.
  •       A heat map displayed locations of Salesforce customers, also showing similarity of distribution for Salesforce and Microsoft CRM
  •       The Density of customers was measured using the Calculate Density tool.
  •       Charts provide insight into the relationships between several variables:
    •       Three scatter plots show the relationship between budgets (IT, Sales, and Marketing), and Revenue – all yield an R2 over 0.9, which is not surprising.
    •       Four charts provide insight into the nature of the categorical data – through Bubble Chart and Tree Maps, the number of Salesforce customers is compared by state and city.
    •       Salesforce customer data was compared with several demographic factors – 2012 State Population, 2016 Median Income, and the Population with Graduate Degrees.


Zach’s feedback after using the app (his quote):


“I think Insights is really cool. It has the feel and aesthetics of ArcGIS Online, but the workflow is different than anything we've used, so I'm glad I got to try it out. I think it would be great to incorporate it into more courses. Especially since, it seems there's quite a bit of server side functionality one can use with it. Also, for a project like mine, where one is working mainly with data in a CSV format, it's really easy to upload and do some analysis. The charts were fun to toy around with, and there's so much demographic data available! It really is a perfect tool to use for business and retail data. “


Zach’s project involved a lot more that what was shared above, but the ease of use of Insights and its applicability was joy to observe. He also created a video tutorial, to be shared in future courses or otherwise, attached here. Thank you, Zach!


Data Credits: RainKing Solutions

Roxana Ayala was the opening speaker of the student team on stage at Esri's 2013 User Conference. Having just completed 11th grade at the Math, Science, and Technology Magnet Academy of Roosevelt High School and LAUSD, in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of East Los Angeles, Roxana and her 90 classmates had worked with GIS for only four months, in a pair of adjoining classrooms (Social Studies and English) housing 15 laptops between them, on a wireless network that ground to a halt when a 12th computer signed on.


But she and they persevered, digging deep into learning about their community by gathering data of personal interest and analyzing it in ArcGIS Online. Some continued the next year, and because of her work, Roxana got to speak to educators, and governors, and even stand in the White House and shake President Obama's hand. At college, she continued using GIS, getting into summer internships in support of her double major in environmental science and urban studies.


To help mark the 25th year of Esri's program for K12 schools, Roxana agreed to come back and talk about how GIS had helped her discover and steer toward some big goals. 



Roxana Ayala, senior at University of California Irvine

"I hope that in the future I go to graduate school and attain a Master's in the field of environmental science, and continue using GIS in order to demonstrate to the world how precious and vulnerable the planet is, and how important it is to fight for our planet. I also do hope to become a role model for many low-income, first generation students of color, and empower them to dream big, just like I did ... GIS has the power to create powerful maps that tell stories, and that can be translated throughout the world, and I really do hope to continue this legacy, and ... continue telling stories in an effort to build a better tomorrow."


Roxana Ayala, summer Intern at University of Minnesota

Two days after her EdUC talk, and four years after her initial appearance on the main stage of the Esri conference, Roxana strode out after a terrific presentation by three 4-H youth from Tennessee, to help the world connect the dots about deep learning with GIS in school. Students like Roxana, who get exposed to powerful ways of seeing the world, and get to dive into personal projects with it, can make a tremendous difference, for their future, for many others in communities near and far, and for the planet.


Just a little change in trajectory early enough can help someone change the world. Jump in to GIS in your class, and help someone else begin to in theirs. Imagine a future in which all students join Roxana in changing the world.


Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

GIS Day is drawing near!  This year, it will be held on 15 November 2017.  I wanted to share 6 things about GIS Day with you.


  1. What is GIS Day?  The theme of GIS Day is "Discovering the World Through GIS".  GIS Day provides an international forum for users of geographic information systems (GIS) technology to demonstrate real-world applications that are making a difference in our society.  The first formal GIS Day took place in 1999. Esri president and co-founder Jack Dangermond credits Ralph Nader with being the person who inspired the creation of GIS Day. He considered GIS Day a good initiative for people to learn about geography and the uses of GIS. He wanted GIS Day to be a grassroots effort and open to everyone to participate.

  2. Host an event at your organization -- school, community or technical college, university, nonprofit organization, library, private company, government agency, or even in a park outside--sometime during or close to GIS Day week (15 November 2017).  Post an announcement about your event on  It doesn’t have to be elaborate or something that consumes a lot of your employees’ time, but something where you open a section of your organization to the community, other departments in your organizations, or local schools, universities, community colleges, and clubs, to showcase what GIS is and what you are doing to make a positive difference in the world using GIS.  It doesn’t have to even be on the actual GIS Day; the point is that your event is promoting the benefits GIS brings to communities, your organization, and society.  Or, look at the map on the GIS Day website to find an event near you that you can attend!

  3. Find resources on the website  Together with a few other good people at Esri, I have made about 75 changes to the website since last GIS Day.  The resources improved on the website include story maps, hands-on activities, videos, strategies on how to work with students and the general public, and much more. Stay tuned for updates of the press releases, and so on.
  4. Get some geo-swag!  The first 250 organizations that register for GIS Day this year around the world will receive 1 box of some wonderful GIS-related items that you can use for promoting your event.  
  5. Be a GIS champion!  I am seeking organizations who are GIS and GIS Day champions around the world to highlight the good things they are doing, to be featured in articles on GeoNetArcNews, and other outlets.  Videos too!  If you know of an organization that should be included, or think that yours should be, please let me know via
  6. Questions?  Please email  I am on the receiving end of those emails and respond to these on a daily basis.


I hope this is helpful.  Thank you for promoting and supporting GIS Day!


--Joseph Kerski 


Kids and adults celebrating GIS Day!

ArcGIS Enterprise can be deployed on many different platforms, both on internal infrastructure and in the cloud.  This blog will describe a series of items to keep in mind as one launches ArcGIS Enterprise in Amazon Web Services (AWS).  The steps outlined below can be considered for various implementations of the ArcGIS Platform, regardless of the infrastructure it is installed on.


The main purpose for launching ArcGIS Enterprise in this example was to provide access to a portal to be used by students in a MS in GIS program, along with access to Insights for ArcGIS.


There are a number of System Requirements that we need to keep in mind as we implement ArcGIS Enterprise. First, we would start with a base ArcGIS Enterprise deployment, which includes an ArcGIS Server, Portal for ArcGIS, ArcGIS Data Store and two ArcGIS Web Adaptors. Then add additional server sites, as needed, to support additional capabilities.  


NOTE: This is just an example of an implementation, there are many possible variations for the outlined steps.  


  1.      Launch an AWS ArcGIS Enterprise instance (one of the available Esri AMIs).
    •      Ensure it fulfills the system requirements for ArcGIS Server and Portal for ArcGIS – as a start m4.2xlarge, 32GB, 8 virtual cores system was used.
    •      A new security group was created in a VPC with all required ArcGIS ports (see ports used by ArcGIS Server, Portal for ArcGIS, ArcGIS Data Store). Using a launch-wizard or default security groups is generally not recommended, because they will allow all traffic in. 
    •      Once the instance was launched, the windows password was retrieved using a .pem file, and a remote desktop connection was made.
    •      A few logistical items were done, such as removing IE Enhanced security configuration, set default browser of preference, and install any programs of interest, such as ArcGIS Pro, Notepad ++, etc.
    •      The World Wide Web publishing service (Windows service) was started, then set to Automatic start.
    •      The ArcGIS Data Store and Portal for ArcGIS Windows services were started as well. The startup was changed to Automatic, versus manual. Why do this? Some of the components of ArcGIS Enterprise run under a dedicated Windows service (Arc GIS server, Portal for ArcGIS and ArcGIS Data Store). These services need to be running.


  1.      Work with IT to secure the following:
    •      Have a preferred domain in mind, i.e. IT department was contacted with the preferred domain name and the internal IP address of the instance. This is how eventually the DNS entry for the website was setup, that will map a domain name, such as, to the IP address of the AWS instance. This would work for internal access, then IT setup a NAT for external access.
    •      Add the machine to Active Directory domain (IT staff with proper permissions performed this) and confirm that the proper DNS records updated.
    •      Add a desired account to the local Administrators group, that way that person could login to the AWS instance using their university credentials, versus the local Administrator account.
    •      The university’s IT practice recommended against using Elastic IPs – on premises DNS was used. They focus on setting up internal access only first and then using a NAT for external access (one of the next steps).


  1.      Request SSL certificates (CA certificate) issued to the domain.
    •      University IT departments use various services. Some of the common ones are GlobalSign, Comodo, DigiCert, others.  
    •      Certificate Signing Request (CSR) was created.
    •      Once certificate was received, it was installed and configured. An example is here.
    •      Certificate was bind to the website.


  1.      Request Public IP NAT.
    •      At this point, the IIS Welcome URL ( ) was able to be reached while on the university network, but not outside of the network.
    •      IT created a Public IP NAT, then updated the DNS entry with the Public IP address.
    •      After NAT records were updated with the Public IP, was able to be accessed from anywhere (good indicator one could proceed).
    •      In a nutshell, all traffic was coming through an internal networked IP – the AWS machine was hidden from the outside world. Note that this is just one possible scenario of networking and implementation.
    •      RDP port was not open on the NAT. This means that one had to be on the university network to make a remote desktop connection to the instance.


  1.      Follow the Deploy Portal for ArcGIS on AWS
    •      Ensure that Portal for ArcGIS, ArcGIS Server and ArcGIS Data Store services are running and startup is Automatic.
    •      When creating the Portal Administrator Account, ensure there is proper storage on the drive where the components are installed. There have been issues with users trying to do the installation with small amount of space, for example 10GB, left. Also, proper permissions are needed for the windows account under which the Portal and Server windows services are running.
    •      NOTE: Make sure step 19 of the Deploy Portal for ArcGIS on AWS documentation is done to set the portal’s system properties in the Portal Administrator Directory.
    •      IMPORTANT: Follow this workflow to avoid redirect errors – the Web Adaptor URL has to be changed to in the Portal Administrator Directory.


  6.  Request enterprise logins, commonly referred to Single Sign On (SSO).  

  •      Worked with IT to configure a SAML-compliant identity provider with the portal.
  •      In this particular case, IT staff requested that a portal account with Administrator privileges be created for them, and they enabled SSO.  
  •      This step is very important to save time when it comes to user management – this means that no additional logins for students had to be created, and they could just login to the portal and the Insights for ArcGIS app using their student credentials.


Any comments or additions are welcome.

Esri offers five different Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). My recent experiences suggest our MOOCs are still a bit mysterious to students, educators and professionals.


In this post, I want to highlight how our MOOCs are different from Esri’s other free e-Learning offerings (Web Courses, Training Seminars, Videos and Tutorials).


E-learning options menu from the Esri training page, including MOOCs.


1. While some free e-Learning resources are accessible to everyone, others require you or your organization to own qualifying products under maintenance.


MOOCs are free to almost anyone, anywhere who wants to learn. All required accounts and software are provided for the duration of the course, without cost.


2. E-learning resources are video- or text- based; there is no interaction with the instructor or other learners.


While there is no “real time” instruction in an Esri MOOC, each course is led by an experienced instructor. MOOC instructors guide students and encourage students  to help one another. Many students note that learning from one another is the best part of the MOOC experience.


3. E-learning resources are available on demand. Students can take them when they need to learn or review a topic or technique or whenever they feel the itch to learn.


MOOCs are more like college courses. Students must register and exercises and other assignments must be completed by the end of the course.


4. E-learning resources run minutes or up to a few hours.


MOOCs run over a few weeks. The course material is most commonly introduced week by week.


5. E-learning resources typically cover specific skills on specific software products. A typical course is "Customizing the ArcGIS API for JavaScript Widgets.”


MOOCs focus on broader topics such as spatial analysis, location analytics, building apps without coding, applications of imagery, and cartography. While students use Esri software, MOOCs are not designed to train students to use specific features or software packages.


6. E-Learning Web Courses include quizzes and exercises; other learning formats depend on videos and text.


Here again, MOOCs are more like college classes. They include video lectures, step-by-step exercises, class discussions and quizzes.

Fall classes will be starting soon! I have prepared a 5-page guide to Esri e-Learning to help you identify and select Esri web courses for inclusion in your own college or university courses.


To create the list, I combed through the Esri training curriculum and selected the current web courses, MOOCs, and a few tutorials, that I felt would be most beneficial for introductory or intermediate levels. The document includes ArcGIS fundamentals, as well as selections from core capabilities: mapping and visualization, spatial analytics, data collection and management, and imagery and remote sensing. I also included a list for green infrastructure and GeoDesign.


Each list is organized into three sections so that you can compare and choose available courses based on what software students will use: ArcGIS Online, ArcGIS Pro, or ArcMap.


Fall 2017 Higher Ed Planning Guide to Esri e-Learning

A few questions and discussion points applicable to academic setting came up in a recent Web GIS Administration workshop during the Esri Educational User Conference in July 2017, and we thought we could share them with the community in case others had these same questions.


  1.        For anyone using Enterprise Logins (SSO), since a group is likely created for a course or a program in the respective enterprise identity store, can we automate certain workflows based on that group?
  •       Automatic Group creation for a course
  •       Automatic Esri Access Enabled
  •       Automatic ArcGIS Pro license assignment
  •       Automatic assignment of credits for the group


These are existing enhancement requests. If this is functionality of interest, please consider voting on the corresponding ideas on ArcGIS Ideas:

Automatic Esri Access Enabled

Automatic ArcGIS Pro license assignment

Automatic assignment of credits for the group


Currently a way to accomplish this is through a script using the ArcGIS API for Python or the ArcGIS REST API. A possible scenario for a script is to create a custom role equivalent to Publisher but with other privileges, such as enable Esri Access, assign ArcGIS Pro license, assign credits, etc., then assign it to all users in a group coming from a roster or LMS.


  1.       Managing large number of users - some universities hold on to their student identities indefinitely. What are the best tools to manage large number of users and what are the recommendations to clean up inactive accounts? Is there a setting that if an account is inactive for a period of time, it can be removed? Disabled members still count toward the number of users in an organization, so simply disabling a member may not be a solution.


ArcGIS Online Development team is currently collecting requirements for large organization management and potentially timing out users. We are hoping to get some more bulk tools out for late 2017 or in 2018 (subject to change).


Currently the best tools to clean up inactive accounts are using a script that tracks last login or tags for deleting. This can be done via the ArcGIS API for Python or the ArcGIS REST API.


Please consider voting for the existing idea to Set Expiry Date for User Account.


  1.       Automatic provisioning of ArcGIS Pro – what are the future plans that would allow automatic provisioning of ArcGIS Pro licensing for anyone who joins an organization? This is particularly important when enterprise logins (SSO) are implemented since the ArcGIS Online administrator does not know when users would login, so provisioning happens manually. If accounts are created manually for a class, the provisioning is still an extra step, but at least it could be done at time of user/group creation.


Automatic provisioning for ArcGIS Pro isn’t on the road map, yet. It has been brought up to the ArcGIS Online team for consideration. Please consider voting for the existing idea.    


  1.       Is there an existing enhancement request or need for multiple federated logins? For example, if an ArcGIS Online organization is being used for a school district, but the various schools in the school district have multiple identity stores – what would be a way to accomplish this?


This is under consideration by the ArcGIS Online Development team as well. Please consider getting in idea logged, to our knowledge one has not been logged yet.  


   5: Is there a way for students to know how many credits they have left?


This is on the ArcGIS Online road map for users to be able to check their credits. Please consider voting for the existing idea.


  1.       We’d like to see more examples and uses of social logins and how they work with enterprise logins.


Social logins are especially relevant to K-12 schools which may use Google Classroom or other social media accounts. Social logins give you the ability to allow the members of your organization to be able to sign into ArcGIS Online using their credentials from various social networks. They are different than enterprise logins (often referred to as SSO), and currently there is no connection between the two.


Social logins are your Facebook or Google account which can be used to create a new ArcGIS Online public account. Once you have created a public account, you can sign in to ArcGIS Online and other Esri sites such as GeoNet and Story Maps using your social network login. With the recent ArcGIS Online 2016 updates, we can now even join an ArcGIS Organization by either creating a new account using your Facebook or Google credentials or using an existing public account created using Facebook or Google credentials (only if the organization is configured with the settings which allow members to sign up and sign in using Social network credentials).


  1.       When a student leaves the university, how could they transfer their certificates from Esri Training courses to another account?


Students can call Esri Customer Service ( or 888-377-4575) to have their training history transferred to another account. This will ensure that the students have an ongoing record of any Esri web courses taken.


  1.       Can one share content from ArcGIS Pro when using a concurrent use license?


Yes. While Concurrent Use licensing for ArcGIS Pro in academia is discouraged, it is possible. If implemented, one can still login to their ArcGIS Online organization in ArcGIS Pro, using named user credentials. This will be necessary if one wishes to publish content to the web, or use any of the ArcGIS Online maps and services. More licensing-related and other ArcGIS Pro questions can be found here.


  1.       Data Governance discussion – tools such as Geo Jobe Admin Tools and ArcGIS Online Assistant are extremely useful for managing workflows relevant to academia, but data governance guidelines specific to the institution should be established, especially when applied to transferring content from one ArcGIS Online organization to another. Providing access to content, whether to a 3rd party provider, or from one organization to another, could be of concern in some instances.

Planet Earth is a noisy place. Some sounds are made objects on, above, or below the natural landscape, and others by things that humans have constructed upon that landscape. Test your knowledge about those sounds by using my new "Sounds of Planet Earth" story map.  This story map contains 100 sounds.  After listening, take the quiz for each sound to test your answer on what each sound is.  Some are easy, and some are intentionally very challenging!



Introductory view of the Sounds of Planet Earth story map


Each point on the map is associated with a sound.  You can navigate to each sound through the map interface, or use the navigation bar on the left side of the map to move to each sound in numeric order, or feel free to skip to specific sounds.  One you choose a sound, a player appears, allowing you to listen to it.  A link appears below each sound for you to submit your guess as to what that sound is.  The quiz is optional but is a fun way to engage with the content. 


Sound #100 in the Sounds of Planet Earth Story Map with its quiz

Each sound player shows the interactive web map next to it; for example, Sound #20.  In this case, the map gives a mighty good clue, but in other places around the Earth, the map provides very little additional information!


One of the sounds in the Sounds of Planet Earth Story Map


Here is the answer for Sound #20.  In this case, I provide a few answers that would be acceptable, instead of just one answer.   Oops, I just gave the answer for this sound away!


Quiz answer.


How did I create this story map?  1)  I created a spreadsheet with city, state, country fields for each sound.  My goals included wanting to have sounds of nature and sounds created by people, a diversity of different places around the world, to spark spatial thinking, and for them to be interesting. I used my own sounds because I own the content and did not need to seek permission to use them.


2)  In ArcGIS Online, I added this spreadsheet and created a feature service and a map from it.  In the map, I used a custom sound speaker graphic created by a wonderful artist that I know for the point symbol.  Using the technique to access the new basemaps that I discussed here, I used the Modern Antique basemap for this story map for something fun and different.  I used the new functionality with Arcade expressions to label my features.  I shared the map with everyone.  


3)  I selected and downloaded 100 of my videos from my YouTube channel and used Camtasia from TechSmith to separate out the audio.  Web utilities exist that allow you to download audio files from YouTube but beware--most of them contain nasty malware and worse.  Camtasia works very well for this task, and is much safer; plus, you can trim your sound clips.  Why did I download the videos in the first place?  Well, I originally wanted to point directly to my YouTube audio from my story map but after several tries, I could not get this method to work.  So, on to Plan B of downloading, stripping out the audio, and uploading, as I explain below. 


4)  I converted my 100 sound files from wav format from Camtasia to MP3 using Format Factory.  I have used Format Factory for many years and it works well for conversion of audio and video files into different formats. 


5) I uploaded the 100 mp3 sound files to a library on is the Internet Archive, a non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites, and more.  For each file, I provided metadata and made them Creative Commons in licensing so that anyone can now use them. In a spreadsheet (separate from my spreadsheet that I used for my geocoding, above) I recorded the URL for each mp3 file so I could point to the sound file in my story map.  


6)  I created 100 quizzes and answer keys using Google Forms.  I then viewed each quiz, recording the URL in my working spreadsheet.  


7)  I used the Map Journal story map app to build my sound story map, pointing to the map that I created in step 2.  For each sound, I set the appropriate map scale and extent.  For each sound, I edited the HTML, pointing to my sound file and to the quiz. 


When done, I tested each sound to make sure it was working, and that the correct quiz and answer key was associated with each sound. 


One of my blocks of code looks like this, below, with the first string representing the sound file and the second string representing the quiz, below.  So, it shows that if you and your students can get comfortable with a little bit of coding, it can reap great rewards. 


<audio controls=""><source src="
" type="audio/mpeg" /> does not support?</audio>

<p>What is this sound? Submit your answer <a href="
" target="_blank">here.</a></p>


I hope the story map is useful and sparks ideas for what you could do with these tools.  I encourage you to continue your exploration by studying physical and cultural geography, getting out onto the landscape, and observing with all 5 of your senses. Then, try creating a story map like the one I made with your own sounds, photographs, text, and/or videos! You can use my technique or try another method of creating a sound-based story map.  


If this topic interests, you, a few of my other favorite sound story maps include Alan Lomax's documentation of the music of the South, a concert tour by the Grateful Dead, and that doesn't make you grate-ful, more Dead here from 1977, some of the traditional Christmas holiday music from around the world, the Sound of Music filming locations, and a map on the Lakota language that I created with James Rattling Leaf.


Thank you for reading about my Sounds of Planet Earth map:  Hear the sounds, examine the map, test your knowledge, get out onto the landscape, observe with all of your senses, and make story maps of your OWN sounds!

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