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One of the educators I have been working with over the years, Mark Bushman, at Denver Public Schools, works tirelessly to develop ecoliteracy in young students with the use of GIS technology.  An example of their work can be seen in the following richly detailed story map, one of the most powerful stories I have ever seen highlighting the work of young students:


The projects -- most from Grade 2 (8 year-old) students, are fascinating on many levels – (1) They incorporate fieldwork and map trees, birds, and much more; (2) They wonderfully combine art, science, geography, and other subjects.  (3) Rather than having to be "busy" the entire duration of the project, they spend time thinking and reflecting. (4) They engage young students in conducting research.  (5)  They embrace intercultural teaching.  (6)  They use a combination of tools and develop a variety of skills--GIS, writing, sketching, observing, and much more.  (7)  The project includes a citizen science component (eBird) and a community service component (building and deploying bird houses).  (8)  The teacher incorporates the work into a research project with some fascinating findings about the effectiveness of this ecoliteracy project and the utility of using GIS within it. 


Upon Mark's invitation, I had the pleasure of visiting this school to teach a workshop on mapping technologies.  The students and their teachers whom I met were just as inspiring in person as their story map shows.  I salute them and encourage you to consider and incorporate some of what they have done, combining it with your own interests and setting to make these tools and methods work for you. 


Ecoliteracy project.

Ecoliteracy project.

Ecoliteracy project.

Ecoliteracy project.

Ecoliteracy project.

Ecoliteracy project.

Additional screen shots from the ecoliteracy story map.

Students in many states are finding patterns, puzzles, and projects in the world around them, and turning these into adventures in learning, as part of the ArcGIS Online Competition for US High School and Middle School Students. After doing their research, they put together a Story Map or a web app. Five who do this well in their school advance to the state level, and those in the top handful at the state level win 100 bucks. And two students (or teams) from across the US get chosen to display the best in high school (grades 9-12) and middle school (grades 4-8) at the Esri Conference in San Diego, CA.


The ArcGIS Online Competition for US HS+MS Students


The competition is underway again, for school year 2019-2020. Teachers can start introducing students to the technology and the opportunity. But the teachers need also to pivot and point to state leaders, urging them to sign up the state. This is a binary event: Either all students get to participate or none do, and what ensures the former is a team of education-friendly, GIS-savvy, doers who step up and make it happen. In states with few student participants, high percentages have been award winners at the state level. And at the national level, even states with few participants have had winners. It just takes curiosity, vision, gumption, and tenacity … someone who is part Sherlock Holmes, part Jane Goodall, and part Katherine Johnson.


Winning teams meet Jack Dangermond at 2019 Esri Conference

 HS and MS student winners and their teachers chat with Jack Dangermond at the Esri Conference


The task for students is to research a topic of their choosing, within the bounds of their state, and present what they learn in the form of a web app or Story Map. Whether singly or as part of a team of two, this is a chance for unfettered exploration, observation, analysis, and tinkering, wrapped up in a presentation. The long-term rewards can be impressive. The short-term rewards could include sharing with 20,000 GIS users at the 2020 Esri Conference in San Diego.


Explore the opportunities, the guidance from 2019 winners and their teachers, and the whole collection of three years of award winners, at

Esri and the GLOBE program (Global Learning and Observation to Benefit the Environment - have been working together on initiatives and educator training for decades.  Globe was one of the first major education-focused citizen science programs, and it offers a wealth of data on soil chemistry, water quality, weather, and much more, as well as rigorously tested methods to have your students collect and contribute data, and a network of educators with which to collaborate.  Recently, two GLOBE educators asked me to conduct a webinar for their educators and students, and I documented the highlights in this video.  I have written about this topic before, documented on the GLOBE site here, and as an essay in GeoNet here, but in this recent webinar, I expanded and updated these explanations to include what I consider to include key elements of a project-based workflow:  (1) Obtaining the data > (2) mapping the data > (3)  Analyzing the data, and > (4) creating communications tools from the data.


To gather citizen science data, you can use the Globe Observer app, iNaturalist, Survey123 from Esri, or another app.  You can use probes such as those from Pasco, Hanna Instruments, Vernier, or another company; or you can even go "old school" and use clipboards and pencils.  I believe all of these tools have value in education, and in this essay, I describe 6 ways to gather and map your field data.  The most important thing is that you end up with a spreadsheet of data, generated from your app or probe, or one you generate yourself from your clipboard notes.   This spreadsheet becomes the "I", or "Information", part of your GIS. The spreadsheet needs to contain some sort of location, such as street address, or ideally, latitude-longitude values.  In the video and webinar I obtained the data from the Advanced Data Access Tool (GLOBE Advanced Data Access Tools ) and selected the region, time frame, and theme--in my case, mosquito larvae data.  Download the data; in the case of GLOBE data, it is offered as a CSV (Comma Separated Value) table. Oftentimes, data tables need to be edited slightly for ease of use in your mapping software.  In my case, I brought the data into Excel, I removed the second header line, as only one is required, removed extraneous records at the end of the table, and formatted the numeric data for be "integer" or "floating point" numbers as needed.  Once done, I saved the spreadsheet as a CSV file, shown below, linked here, and attached if you would like to use it. 


Globe data table


Now for the fun and fascinating part!  In ArcGIS Online (, I signed in to my organizational subscription, went to my content, and added the CSV, creating a feature service from the data.  After giving it some tags and other metadata so that I could more easily find it later, and if I share it, so others could be more informed about my data, I then opened up the feature service in the map viewer. Once in the map viewer, I can now symbolize the points by elevation, date collected, number of eggs found, whether larvae were found or not, and on other fields in my data table.  I could make a heat map showing density of the collected points. I can also change the base map and zoom into and study specific locations on a satellite image, or at a regional or national scale, add data such as precipitation, ecoregions, population density, river systems, or other layers from ArcGIS Online and the Living Atlas of the World.  I can add fields, sort fields, and select specific data points to study further.  While doing all this, I am thinking about patterns, relationships, and trends of my data.  I can also use the spatial analysis tools, such as proximity, map overlay, routing, creating maps of statistical significant difference, and summarizing.  In my case, for example, I added a point as a map note on Minneapolis St Paul, and then summarized the number of data points within 250 km of that location.   Once done, I saved and shared my map and layers so others can examine them.  See screen shot below and also this link for the map


Map in ArcGIS Online of Globe Mosquito Data

Map in ArcGIS Online of Globe Mosquito Data.


Next, I created communications tools from this data.  Many such tools exist, and I chose to focus on story maps and operations dashboards.  The ones I created are shown below and linked here (story map) (Operations Dashboard).  ArcGIS story maps are multimedia web mapping applications, and Esri Operations Dashboards allow you to create graphs, maps, widgets, and other tools for you to monitor your data in real-time.  These were straightforward to make--once I shared the data in ArcGIS Online, I selected these two tools, choosing a map series story map, with different tabs showing different attributes of the data.  In my operations dashboard, I created a gauge that pointed to the number of points currently in my data set, along with the ArcGIS Online map, and graphs indicating where the mosquitos were found and if eggs were discovered.  If I add to my map in the future, the data in my dashboard automatically updates. 


Story map of Globe mosquito data

Series story map of Globe Data showing spatial analysis results.


Operations Dashboard of Globe data.

Operations Dashboard of Globe Data.


I encourage you to do even more wonderful things with spatial data, such as that from citizen science portals including, and elsewhere, to better understand the patterns, relationships, and trends, and to consider how you can contribute to the scientific community through your efforts!

Explore and share the new storymap, Getting to Know GeoInquiries from the Esri schools team.  The storymap walks new educators through the basics of GeoInquiries, including the anatomy of the teacher guide, accessing student worksheets, and interacting with GeoInquiry maps.  It's a great one-stop for learning about GeoInquiries and how to effectively use them in classrooms!  Share the short URL: 

Fellow Educators:


ArcGIS Online User Types have been in use for some time now as a way of providing apps and privileges to ArcGIS users. The Creator User Type has been available for Education program licenses.  


With recent updates to the Education Institution Agreements, the GIS Professional Advanced Use Type was added as the default option, versus Creator. GIS Professional Advanced User type differs from the Creator User type in the fact that it provides ArcGIS Pro Advanced licensing.


Everyone who has migrated to the new Institution Agreement (and has the GIS Professional Advanced user type as an option):


  •        Please switch all ArcGIS Online users to GIS Professional Advanced User Type. Instructions are listed here, and further info is below.
  •        If you do not assign GIS Professional Advanced User Type licenses, you will likely get a message “The number of user types and licenses assigned exceeds the number available”. The reason for this message is that users are now all GIS professional User Type licenses instead of Creator, while you may have Creator User Type licenses assigned.  


Please ensure that you utilize the New Member Defaults to auto-provision licensing for new users, preferably with Enterprise Logins (SSO). Note that the GIS Professional User type does NOT include all ArcGIS Pro extensions. When you set your add-on licensing on New Member Defaults, please note that you will have to add the extensions (and not ArcGIS Pro, since it is now part of the user type). Extensions count as one of the 5 add-on apps.


Note: If you have any ArcGIS Pro licenses who have been taken for "offline use", they will have to be recovered prior to making the switch from Creator to GIS Professional User type (for those specific users with offline licenses). All other users can be converted. We generally encourage administrators to "disable" taking ArcGIS Pro offline: Organization>Licenses>"Prevent Members from Taking ArcGIS Pro Offline".


How to Change User types – documentation here:


  1.       Login as an Administrator – Organization>Members tab.
  2.       On the left, filter by User Type – Creator.
  3.       Ensure that you are showing 100 members per page (maximum default currently), bottom right.
  4.       Check the box to in the upper Left to select all Members.
  5.       In the Upper Right, Manage User Types.
  6.       Select GIS Professional Advanced and Save.
  7.       Maintain the selection and click Manage add-on licenses in the Upper Right and enable ArcGIS Pro extensions, then click Save.


Changing User Types can be done in an efficient manner via an ArcGIS API for Python script, such as:


from arcgis.gis import GIS


# Update these values for your ArcGIS Online organization orgURL = ""

orgUser = "an_admin_user"

orgPwd = "admin_password"


gis = GIS(orgURL,username=orgUser,password=orgPwd)


# Enumerate and iterate over all users

users = for user in users:

     # Change user type for each user

     print ("Changing user type for " + user.username +" to GIS




Further feedback is welcome!

My colleagues and I have had numerous inquiries over the years from educators asking, "How do I teach a specific topic with the expanding variety of web GIS tools and data sets?" and these inquiries also exist on GeoNet, in the National Geographic educators network, and elsewhere.  Let's take one specific example, a set of resources I sent to an educator who is putting together units on the history, colonialization, and geography of Africa for her social studies course.  My list of 10 tools included the following:

  1. Examine the interactive David Rumsey 1787 map of Africa:   Discuss:  How much detail was included? What was left off?  What lands did local people know about?     Then examine the 1790 Cassini map cast on an Esri 3D globe:  Discuss the differences between the 1787 and the 1790 maps.  What modern countries occupy where “Nubia” and “Abissinia” were in the past?
  2. Study the ecological tapestry map. In Africa, compare the bioclimates, landforms, rock type, land cover:   For more on ecological units, see story map: 
  3. Examine the Esri international migration map in the "cool maps" gallery:    Examine the metadata:  Where did the data come from?  What time periods does it cover?  How accurate is the data?  Stop the animation.  Select South Africa and examine incoming and outgoing migration over the 5 time periods.  Compare to another country in Africa, noting the differences in numbers and spatial patterns.  How many emigrate to the USA from each country?  Change to Somalia and discuss reasons the total numbers are so much lower and why outgoing is much more than incoming.  Discuss challenges there (food security, political instability) and what causes people to decide to stay vs what causes them to emigrate, and - what hinders them from emigrating.
  4. Access the Esri Water Balance app:  Go to > “precipitation” >  compare regions in Africa, especially Sahara versus the topical regions.   Change to “soil moisture” and discuss relationship.  Change to “snowpack” – make sure graph is on Monthly Normal.  Does it snow anywhere in Africa?  Go to Atlas Mountains in Morocco and then examine Mt Kilimanjaro on the Kenya Tanzania border where some snow exists (for now, anyway, but perhaps not in the future).  Supplement this activity with the seasonal change in snow cover map and animation, that I describe in detail, here:  Seasonal Changes in Snow Cover Map.  
  5. Go to ArcGIS Online ( and search for Baltimore Maryland.  Pan north and south along the east coast of the USA, noting the abundance of harbors.  Then search for Mombassa Kenya.  Pan in both directions along the coast and note the absence of good harbors, with Mombassa being one exception, and discuss the implications of the lack of harbors and the table-land geography of Africa, and the implications on the patterns and amount of exploration and development and colonialism.
  6. Use MapMaker Interactive from National Geographic:    Add data > add climate, language diversity, religion.  Discuss language and religion influence from colonialism and other forces.  Show legend and discuss the patterns, relationships, and trends. 
  7. Go to Google Maps, and zoom to Kenyatta Ave & Uhuru Hwy, in Nairobi > Street View (drag street view person to map) > discuss influence of the British colonialism on:  architecture, the roundabout, the side of the street people are driving on, the manicuring of the parks, and more.  Examine French and other colonial influences elsewhere in Africa.  Where StreetView does not exist, you can use the Mapillary citizen-science generated images on  
  8. Study the pattern and amount of urban growth in Cairo using the Esri Wayback imagery app: > go to Great Pyramids >  Check “only updates with local changes > pan to the area to the west of the pyramids, observing  the 2014 to 2018 changes. Discuss the implications of urban growth on society, schools, and natural resources.  Using the same app, examine the impact of urban growth in Tunis, Lagos, Johannesburg, and selected small villages of your choice.  Using the same app, determine if you can detect other changes on the landscape, whether from political instability, expansion of agriculture or energy exploration, encroachment of the Sahara on the Sahel, tourism infrastructure growth, the impact of national parks and preserves on the return of forested land, and other changes.  
  9.  Use a selection of the GeoInquiries collections to investigate physical and cultural themes in Africa:   GeoInquiries | Standards-Based Inquiry Activities for Teaching Map-Based Content .  For example, examine population growth as part of the "Growing Pains" unit under the World History collections.  These lessons were built for primary and secondary school instructors, but if you are instructing at the university level, you can still use the interactive maps tied to these lessons and insert your own questions. 
  10. Investigate the world's largest cities, including those in Africa, via the 3D ArcGIS Globes here:  Get creative with globe visualizations . Next, examine global population density and compare to world cities.  Why are zones sparsely populated in Africa a short distance away from heavily populated zones, such as in Nigeria and in Egypt?  Next, examine the population density filter tool on the same site and slide the filter tool so that you are only examining high density population areas across the continent.  What are the physical, cultural, and historical reasons for the population settlement patterns in Africa? 

These maps, data layers, tools, and questions can be applied to other areas of the world, as well.  By using these tools in a problem-solving, inquiry-driven educational environment, students become investigators, thinking spatially and critically, and asking even deeper questions than the ones posed here.  


How are you using these tools in your courses and classrooms? 


Ecological Land Units of AfricaEcological Land Units map focused on central Africa.

Two excellent apps were released in summer 2019: ArcGIS QuickCapture and the Attachment Viewer web app template. Educators can use these powerfully! To test both, I decided to record notables on my morning walk.


iPhone showing QuickCapture display


Electric scooters have sprouted like fairy rings in my neighborhood. QuickCapture lets me capture the location (click#1) and a photo (click#2) and confirm the data (click#3), which auto-sends while I move poorly parked ("strewn") scooters out of the path of others. I created a point feature service with 8 elements to choose from, essentially converting an 8-item pulldown into 8 big buttons, which I laid out in two columns ("pain" or "joy") for each of four items (scooters, bikes, other human things, and natural things). With a little exploring and experimentation, I was able to configure the buttons and ensure each permitted a photo.


QuickCapture project


QuickCapture lets you tweak your "project" setup after creation, so I tested and adjusted things a couple of times, optimizing for data sufficient to play with behind the scenes, but not display on the map. Because I wanted to share the results focusing on the photos (with the map simply as context until I get enough data), I used the new Attachment Viewer web app template. This meant creating a view of my feature service (to protect the source data; create item 3 from item 1, below), building and configuring a map (item 4), and sharing it by creating and configuring a web app from a template (item 5). Ta-da!


ArcGIS Online contents of the project


The Attachment Viewer will work with any feature service used for data collection, so think Survey123 and Collector as well. The rather minimalist display gives enough space for map, context, and image. This will be ideal for educators and students after a data gathering experience! (See my neighborhood scooters!)


Attachment Viewer app


The GIS toolkit for educators keeps getting better and better. Take some time to try these apps. I have updated a document about Survey123 and Collector to include QuickCapture as well.


My morning walk has a new appeal for me, and even the irritation of hazardously placed or strewn objects now has a slight silvery lining for me.

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