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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 stories are still flowing in from the over 1,200 events that were held on or around GIS Day 2017, but a few of them are featured here.  Did you host an event in 2017?  If so, feel free to add it to the "How did you celebrate GIS Day" story map.


Did you miss out?  It is not too early to start planning for next year, 14 November 2018.  


GIS Day in Indonesia

In Indonesia, in the Begek Kembar ecotourism area of mangroves, GIS Day was held out in the field, combined with a location game called Gita Laut GO!  (a bit like Pokemon GO).  Organizer Muhammad Barmawi of the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries reported that, "One goal of the event was to build community awareness about the unique environment of the coastal berekosistem mangrove."


Cutting the GIS Day Cake in Pakistan.

Syed Zaheer Hussain, Punjab Information Technology Board, Lahore, Pakistan, sent this picture of cutting the GIS Day cake at the Punjab Information Technology Board and the Software Engineering group. 


Students in Greece.


In Greece, Vivi Antoniou, who is working at the 9th Primary School Kastorias as Primary Administrator at the Ministry of Education, shared this video, showing students learning about the world via GIS, maps, globes, and also out in the field.


Materials at the UIC event.

Moira Zellner, Associate Professor at the University of Illinois Chicago's (UIC) Department of Urban Planning and Policy, and Director of the Urban Data Visualization Lab (UDVL), said, that "GIS Day at UIC was a dynamic and engaging event, with presentations that spanned a wide variety of topics: Validating images captured remotely by robots, assessing flooding susceptibility and food access in the Chicago region, examining the mechanisms of gentrification over time, estimating the best location for green infrastructure and electric vehicle charging stations, developing water-themed visual story telling tools, and exploring evolving data infrastructure needs. The event ended with two demonstrations on how to use existing GIS platforms, and how to create your own applications. Of the 80 attendees, more than half were from outside the university, representing governmental agencies, NGOs, private companies and other academic institutions in the Chicago region. The event gave everyone the chance to exchange ideas and discuss new applications.  This year’s event was dedicated to the memory of Al Scorsch, III, the founder of the UDVL at UIC, and a champion of visualization technology to advance science and policy. He passed away a couple of weeks before the event."


Nicaragua GIS Day event

Elvis Danilo Perez shared the story of GIS Day in Managua, Nicaragua, that included a talk on technology trends, presentation of the GEOFUMADAS blogger, a video conference by Professor Rafael Beltran of UNIGI, and Elvis Pérez of blog, via this video.


GIS Day at UCF

I participated in the GIS Day event at the University of Central Florida.  Dr Timothy Hawthorne and his Citizen Science GIS team invited 375 primary and secondary students to the campus to fly and learn about drones, and investigate their community and their world using interactive web maps in ArcGIS Online.  His university students also gave a presentation on what they are doing with UAV and GIS technologies in Belize; we held a GIS career panel, and Dr Hawthorne; and I presented to education and sociology faculty at the university, showing them how they could use GIS in their own instruction and research. I also was honored to give a keynote address on 5 forces acting on GIS, 5 GIS trends, and the 5 most valuable skills for those seeking to use GIS in their career, available here (as a story map : - )).



Baby born on GIS Day

Perhaps the most significant event shared on the crowdsource story map that occurred on GIS Day was the arrival of a GIS analyst's first born daughter!  That one is hard to top!


For more stories, keep an eye on this GeoNet space, and also see the "How did you celebrate GIS Day" story map.The GIS Day story map is still open for you to submit your GIS Day stories!  

Dec 4-10, 2017, is Computer Science Education Week. Fans of GIS will find options in the two-page document “GIS for Coders” (or => “06.Apps & Programming”). Quick to lengthy experiences at three levels await.


In “Part 1: Explore Maps, Users, and Missions,” students can check out a bank of videos, map books, and Story Maps. Seeing and hearing the process and end product of GIS users, students can grasp how users solve problems with software. Whether responding to disasters or providing the resources that support everyday life, GIS users rely on core software and specialty apps to gather, manage, and interpret data.


GIS for Coders page


In “Part 2: Explore Apps,” students can dive into banks of apps that permit free form exploration. With no specific “right answer,” users can move from simple to complex creations, and discover volumes of patterns and relationships, global to local, without worry of “breaking anything.” (Stuck? Just refresh the browser or choose another app!)


In “Part 3: Explore Software Development,” learners can see the bank of tools available for building, from configuring templates, thru building apps via drag and drop, to simple development and customization, to full-scale coding. For these choices, learners need to be able to log in and store content, ideally via an ArcGIS Online Organization for greatest options.


The 21st century is awash in ever more data — digital raw materials with attributes and properties that can be queried, integrated, and used in countless ways. People who understand the nature and power of these digital bits, who know how to combine and manipulate them, can better control their own lives, and use these powers to make life better for all. Explore!

On September 20, 2017, Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico, pummeling the island's people, human infrastructure, and natural environment. In following weeks, companies gathered aerial imagery which multiple organizations used to understand the damage and help plan and coordinate the rescue and recovery efforts. On Oct.11, using post hurricane Maria imagery facilitated generously by Vexcel, Esri made public a crowdsourcing tool for marking damage to buildings.


Mapping Maria tools


Through a simple swipe tool, users could see "before and after" imagery, then indicate with green/orange/red dots their interpretation of the damage. A publicly accessible video showed the entire process. Participants needed to join an ArcGIS Online group via an Organization-based login. Esri communicated directly with some educators and, on Oct.11, posted a public blog, inviting participation. An update blog followed a week later. Over the next month, users generated almost 70,000 entries.



Recent developments in technology have made public action easier, but "crowdsourcing" and "citizen science" have been around for a long time. Starting in 1900, the Audubon Christmas Bird Count has relied on community members recording observations according to a protocol. Today, both government and civic communities rely on -- and debate -- the merits of data generated by people who may or may not have the desired qualifications. Quality control and assurance are essential if the data are to be believed.


The data generated in the Maria project was impressive in quantity, but there were many entries about which people raised objections. Their number and distribution mean the entire data set would need manual confirmation and editing before being useful to the response community, which is too costly in human resources to do.

Education is an act of faith. Communities want young people to learn important background knowledge, skills, and values. Learners seek joy, which can come from extrinsic influences (e.g. earning praise, receiving a prize) or intrinsic influences (e.g. acquiring new knowledge, resolving confusion, developing a skill, making choices, influencing how someone feels, etc). Educators strive to optimize scores of competing forces (time, investments already in place versus those needed, expectations, mandates, learner engagement, individuals and groups, etc). Balancing these in the dynamic world of today means constant tradeoffs.


Esri had several goals in launching this project. We hoped learners, educators, and the public would see better how geographic data, tools, skills, and knowledge can generate benefit. We hoped participants would get joy, on multiple levels -- learning, participating, contributing. In an ideal result, the data would prove valuable for response teams. And we expected to learn, as we always do, from the experiences, ideas, and concerns of users.


Everyone learns by doing. Our lives are filled with imperfect attempts, at tasks large and small. But such "failures" yield important lessons, so we adjust and try again. Learning from "a missed swing" helps us all do better. So we hope you can help us one more time, below, by commenting below on this project (sign in to comment). If you chose not to participate, please tell us why. If you chose to participate, please tell us what the experience was like, what you learned, and what we should keep in mind for "next time." And if you're willing to share comments only in private, please send email "cfitzpatrick{at}" Thank you!

Thanks to everyone who joined the "ArcGIS API for Python” web meeting on Nov 8, and special thanks to the presenters, Rohit Singh (Esri) and Peter Knoop (University of Michigan)! Below is a follow up of our discussion. 



Feel free to post any further questions here.


Look forward to seeing everyone at the Big Data Analytics web meeting on Wed, Dec. 6 at 10am PDT.

At a recent meeting for State of Virginia University Consortium (~18 institutions), a lot of best practices were discussed surrounding portal administration and management of ArcGIS Online (cloud) or ArcGIS Enterprise (on-premise) portals.


One of the items discussed is what to do with existing content created by students who have graduated. As administrators of ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Enterprise portals in academia, we often work with influx of students coming to our organization and graduating after certain amount of time. What do we do with all the content they create? We all have dealt with this in different ways, such as:


  •      Let it accumulate over time and keep it in the production environment ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise portal
  •      After student graduates, delete the content and remove the student user
  •      Stage a separate portal to keep a copy of the student content, then delete it from the production environment portal
  •      Others?


While any of the above are valid approaches, as a best practice, we’ve started suggesting that instructors at the end of a course or a program advise students to use the ArcGIS Online Assistant  tool to transfer content from a production portal to their own Personal, Developer or other ArcGIS Online/ArcGIS Enterprise account.  The ArcGIS Online Assistant would give students (or any named user in a portal) the ability to transfer their content and “take it” with them.


Chrissy Rothgeb at James Madison University, Cise IT Labs and Server Support, has already started advising faculty to incorporate this approach. As a result of our discussion, she created the attached PPT to be shared with faculty and students, listing specific instructions on how to transfer this content. Thanks for sharing, Chrissy, and for providing permission for anyone to use the attached PPT and share with respective faculty/students!!


Advantages of this approach:


  •      Students get to keep their content and build a portfolio of maps and other information products to share with potential employers
  •      Students are empowered to administer and manage their own ArcGIS Online portal, which gives them an essential and marketable skill in today’s GIS world
  •      It gives us as administrators the ability to safely remove content and delete users without having to worry about lost content
  •      Others?


Further considerations:


  •      For anyone using enterprise logins (SSO), this must be done before the user is removed from the enterprise directory, which disables the ArcGIS account and the user can no longer login
  •      This can be done for ArcGIS Enterprise portals as well – the name of the tool could be deceiving. Also, Portal for ArcGIS is now a component of ArcGIS Enterprise, and on the tool itself one would still see “Portal for ArcGIS” as the option (vs ArcGIS Enterprise).
  •      This tool can be shared and used by any named user, whether student, faculty or staff
  •      Distributed collaboration could achieve a similar result - it is currently available between ArcGIS Enterprise and ArcGIS Online portals. In future releases, we will see ArcGIS Online to ArcGIS Online collaboration, where transfer of content would be possible between two ArcGIS Online portals.


Further feedback is welcome!

Thanks to everyone who joined the "Insights for ArcGIS” web meeting on 10/11, and thanks to all the presenters! Below is a follow up of our discussion. 



Feel free to post any further questions here.


Look forward to the ArcGIS API for Python web meeting on Wed, Nov. 8 at 10am PDT.

Thanks to everyone who joined our “Teaching ArcGIS Enterprise” web meeting. Attached are some of the resources we discussed, the presenter slides, as well as the recording for those who didn’t make it.



Feel free to post any further questions here.


Look forward to the Insights discussion on Oct 11 at 10am PDT.

Opportunities abound for use of GIS by students in schools and clubs, and for their leaders. Education about these does too. Herewith a cornucopia of links to key items:


  1. GeoInquiries provide a feast of intro GIS activities in key classroom content areas, requiring no login, download, or install, at
  2. Getting Started with GIS for Educators is a one-page step-by-step pathway that helps teachers or club leaders begin, at
  3. ArcGIS Schools & Clubs Bundle is available to any K12 school or formal youth club, for instruction, for free, at
  4. GeoMentors can help schools or clubs use GIS. Anyone who wants to be or to find a GeoMentor can get started at Map#4 of
  5. GIS Day is November 15, 2017, though any day can be used as "GIS Day." See tons of events and resources at
  6. Computer Science Week is December 4-10, 2017, and GIS can play a role (this week and all year long). See
  7. 2018 Esri School Teacher Video Challenge gives a monthly prize to one educator who submits a 60-second video about how they use ArcGIS Online,
  8. 2018 ArcGIS Online Competition for HS+MS (17 states participating as of this writing), with state deadlines in advance of Esri's final deadline in May 2018,
  9. 2018 Esri Education GIS Conference is accepting presentation proposals through December 1, 2017, at


No lack of opportunity for students or educators!

Curation of spatial data is an important topic for anyone working in GIS, particularly with the advent of web GIS.  In this dynamic environment, services behind the layers in any online map could change, rendering components of that map unusable.  Yes, even your maps and mine.  Let’s make an example of a weather map tied to a lesson that I created and frequently use


This lesson asks students to analyze the patterns of wind speed, wind direction, pressure, and temperature, for the USA and for the world, asking them to consider latitude, altitude, proximity to coastlines, prevailing winds, high and low pressure zones, and stream gauging stations.  The lesson asks students to make weather predictions in specific cities and to interpolate surfaces (by state, to keep the lesson manageable) of temperature, pressure, and wind speed based on point data.  I love this data set and lesson because they (1) require hands-on inquiry and investigation; (2) connect geography, meteorology, climatology, mathematics, physics, GIS, and change over space and time; (3) use real time data that are interesting and that students can tie to their own local observations; (4) use weather data that is global in nature. Admittedly, some countries have relatively few weather observations in the data set, but even that fact that be turned into a teachable moment (“can we trust an interpolated surface from only 2 observations in that country?”).


 Real time weather map and data.


Several educators alerted me recently to the fact that the weather layer containing current wind speed, wind direction, temperature, pressure, and other variables was no longer working in my map.  How did these educators know it was my layer and how to contact me?  Well, I maintain metadata for my maps and layers in ArcGIS Online, and also a profile for each of my ArcGIS Online accounts, so that data users know how to contact me.  I encourage you to do the same—populate metadata for your maps and maintain a profile in ArcGIS Online.  Besides being a good steward and serving the community with the metadata that you provide, doing this can also save you time in data curation, and can even be a lifesaver.  While this doesn’t excuse you from periodically checking your maps and layers to make sure they are working properly, I suspect that many of us have a large number maps and layers online and a lack of staff we can delegate data curation tasks to. The resulting reality is that sometimes some of our content is not working as it should.  Therefore, I really appreciated that these data users notified me!


In short, in my Feature Layer item: was a reference to ‘’, which I needed to replace with ‘’. It had the same service directory and name; just the server had changed.


To update my map, I needed to point to the updated location of the layer.  I could have done this either by re-creating my web map from scratch, and pointing to the new location, or by accessing my layer’s data service, using the AGOL Assistant by using the “Update the URLs of Services in a Web Map” as shown below.


Here is URL of one of my services:






Another thing I needed to address now that the service had changed was as follows:  Using the livefeeds server requires the user to have an account in ArcGIS Online.  This new situation means that the users of my map now need to log in to ArcGIS Online to use it.  But let’s say I want to provide an option for anyone to open the map, even if they do not have an ArcGIS Online account.  That way, anyone could complete the first part of the lesson, before the steps requiring the analysis tools.  Once the analysis steps are reached, everyone needs to be logged in.


To allow users to use the map without logging in, I created a “Stored Credential” item for this layer or service under my account and then I added the resulting item to the map. In my case, the Live Feed Services require subscription access, but will not consume credits.  Creating the stored credential allows anyone to access my layer by using my own ArcGIS Online credentials.   Once done, I added the layer to my map, shared it publicly, and now, anyone can open my web map in ArcGIS Online without being asked to log in.


I decided to create two identical maps, one for the educator and student who just wants to work through the front half of my lesson, that did not require a log in, and one for those who want to complete the entire lesson.  Once I created these two maps, I rewrote the front part of my lesson as follows:


Open and save map.  Open either of the following maps that use ArcGIS Online:

  1.   This is the Real Time Weather Map Starting Point that requires you to be logged in to ArcGIS Online, because it is accessing data in the Living Atlas of the World.  Use this map if you wish to run through this entire exercise, including the analysis steps.  After you log in, save this map in your own ArcGIS Online account’s workspace.  As you work through the steps below in this exercise, save your map after each step.
  2. This is the Real Time Weather Map Starting Point that does not require a log in.  Use this map if you are simply doing a visual inspection of the patterns that you see on the map.  You can change the style, filter the data, and perform other tasks, but you will not be able to complete the interpolation portion of this exercise with this map and without logging in to ArcGIS Online.

For further investigation about storing credentials for map services, read the documentation here.  If you are interested in more weather data, see the layers supporting the USA Weather Warnings and Watches Live Feed Service, which are maintained automatically. These layers contain even more information than the layers tied to the map that I use in my lesson, including Public Forecast Zones, Fire Forecast Zones, and Coastal/Offshore Marine Zones as well as current Warnings and Watches. 

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