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I highly recommend investigating the amazing and beautiful new National Geographic map in teaching, learning, and beyond.  This is one of the rapidly expanding set of vector tile maps available to you, and this one presents different wonders and delights at different scales.  At smaller scales, a new cached base layer has been created, the National Geographic Style Base. It blends our multi-directional hillshade with a specially prepared version of the Esri/USGS Ecophysiographic Land Units Map. For more information on the science behind ELUs, see this link. At mid-scales, the ELUs give way to a single tone land color. The hillshade continues into large scale, matching the coverage seen on other basemaps such as Topographic.  To find out more about this map, see this essay from my colleague at Esri:  


To access the map, you have two options:


  1.  Later this year, the National Geographic basemap will be added to the basemaps default gallery.  At the moment, in ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Pro, you need to add both the National Geographic STYLE and the National Geographic Style BASE from the Living Atlas (see graphic below).  Note that this map is different from the one that has existed for years in ArcGIS Online (which is the National Geographic World Map).   

 Using the National Geographic new basemap.

2.  Another option to use it is to open the following map in ArcGIS Online:

This map contains both of the above 2 map items in a combined format, and is shown below.

Using the National Geographic new basemap, 2.


--Joseph Kerski

Doing powerful things with basic tools is far more impressive than doing basic things with powerful tools. Dramatic results can come from even a wee bit of well-crafted field work. And good projects can become great by engaging the power of GIS. These were just three lessons demonstrated by the school group on stage during the Monday plenary of the 2019 Esri User Conference. Before a registered attendance of 19,000, students from the small town of Lurgan in Northern Ireland, as part of the Shared Education Project, demonstrated these and other lessons for teachers everywhere, all while showing nations across the world that historic differences can be overcome.


(If you did not see the session live and have not seen the video, please watch it now before continuing.)


Esri UC 2019 Plenary Students


For a few hours on a cold winter day, geography teachers from three schools took 45 students on a bus around town to visit 15 sites, where students were to record two pieces of sentiment data, their school name, a photo of the site, and maybe some thoughts for improving things. The students -- from a Catholic school for ages 11-18, a mostly Protestant school for ages 11-14, and a mostly Protestant school for ages 14-18 -- collected 475 entries, using their phones and a simple survey. They returned to one school and looked at the data together.


The facts above could be replicated by most schools: What do students think about their community? Giving students the permission to share their thoughts and feelings is an important practice by itself. But for greatest benefit, educators must craft the experience carefully, asking clear questions and making it easy for participants to generate good data. Then, explore the patterns and relationships, going beyond the simplistic to tease out the full richness that geographic analysis illuminates.


The skills detectable in this story are legion: project architecture including thoughtful geographic consideration; database design; technological preparation (here, instruction on how to access and use the survey); careful data gathering; exploration of the raw data; in-depth interrogation, geographic analysis, and interpretation of data; and planning of next steps. All these students participated in a life-altering experience, in a single day. They learned powerful lessons, going far beyond what might have come from "just another typical day in class," which will influence their lives and ripple far beyond, for decades.


Good teachers, designing activities to engage students in powerful ways, and employing the tools and practices of geographic analysis, can work what seem miracles. Every school has the chance to engage these GIS tools for free, and every GIS professional can help nearby educators learn to do such projects. Imagine a world where the differences we share are understood. Let's build it, together. As the video notes, "these students are not our tomorrow … they are our today."

3 new hands-on lessons are now available, designed to foster inquiry, spatial thinking, and work with real data to understand our world that you are welcome to use and modify.  I wrote these lessons specifically aimed at the secondary/university level students, as well as for faculty, but you can modify them for more advanced students and also for those at younger ages.   Note:  I improved the GIS for Beginners lesson September 2019 and the Living Atlas lesson March 2020.


In the first lesson, Change over Space and Time, you will explore themes that are near and dear to the heart of just about everyone who loves geography, history, earth and environmental science, and other disciplines, and examining change spatially and temporally is key to why GIS is such a powerful framework and toolkit.  In this lesson, you will explore Landsat imagery, Sentinel-2 satellite imagery, and historical imagery; you will study migration at different scales, the Human Development Index, create a swipe map, and create a time-enabled animation map.  All the while, you will build your GIS skills in querying, sorting tables, writing Arcade expressions, creating web mapping applications, and more.  


In the second lesson, GIS for Beginners, as the name implies, you will quickly, gently but powerfully, be immersed in 10 key tasks.  If you become familiar with these tasks, such as creating, saving, and sharing maps, opening tables, symbolizing, classifying, and adding data, you can do most anything in GIS.   This lesson provides you and your students with an opportunity to conduct spatial analysis, including summarizing data, buffering, creating walk times, and creating routes. 


In the third lesson, Teaching and Learning with the Esri Living Atlas of the World, you will dig deep into this rapidly expanding library of content, including its data layers, maps, and apps.  You will not only use political, population, environmental, and historical data, but you will also discover how to join your own content to the Living Atlas, which opens up innumerable new possibilities for spatial thinking, access to data, and analysis.  This lesson is a prelude to a more extensive set of courses that I am creating with my Esri colleague, of which 1 is already published via the Esri Training site, specifically, here.


I have provided these lessons as attachments to this essay in PDF format, but also as Word Documents so that you can modify these lessons to suit your own needs. I have also provided the introductory slides for your use as PDF files.  I will be teaching these lessons in hands-on mode (the best way to teach them!) at the 2019 Esri Education Summit, but you are welcome to use them anytime.  Have fun with them!  I look forward to your reactions. 



Just a few of the maps and data sets you can explore in these lessons.

Just a few of the maps and data sets you can explore through these lessons. 

Your Quick Start Guide for Getting the Most Out of the Education Summit


If you have never attended Education Summit at Esri User Conference, here are a 6 tips to make your conference experience productive, rewarding, and fun.


  1. Meet new people. The best thing about any conference is meeting new people with different experiences and different ideas. Make it a point to introduce yourself to one new person in each session you attend. Here are some great opportunities to meet and network with others:
    1. Education Summit Plenary (7/6, 10 a.m.)
    2. Welcome Reception (7/6, 5 p.m.)
    3. Special Interest Groups (SIG)
    4. UC Plenary (7/8, 8:30 a.m.)
    5. Academic GIS Fair (7/8, 4 p.m.)
    6. Map Gallery Opening and Evening Reception (7/8, 4 p.m.)
    7. UC Expo (7/9, 9 a.m - 6 p.m)
    8. Science Symposium (7/9, 4 p.m.)
  2. Plan your 30-second "elevator pitch”. Be able to introduce yourself and say what interests you in half a minute. Include an intriguing fun fact. And be sure to ask others what interests them.

  3. Think big thoughts. This year’s conference theme is “Digital Transformation”. Explore a vision of how gaming could transform education by reading Junana. Attend the Education Summit Plenary where author Bruce Caron will discuss how close we are to achieving that vision. 

  4. Sharpen your skills. Training opportunities abound with workshops and the Hands-On Learning Lab. Here are some suggested workshops to help sharpen your skills:

    1. Modern GIS Practices in Your Curriculum
    2. Getting Hands-On with ArcGIS Pro
    3. Spatial Data Mining
    4. Teaching with Story Maps
    5. Esri Technical Certification and Education Program Alignment: A How to for Modern University Programs
    6. Teaching and Learning with the Living Atlas of the World
    7. And so much more! View online agenda.
  5. Get the Esri Events mobile app. Figure out which sessions you’d like to attend and add them to your calendar using the Esri Events mobile app (available for iOS and Android). Many of the workshops fill up fast, so arrive early!

    image of Esri Events app
  6. Expand your comfort zone. Experience and learn about something outside of your usual area of interest by attending a session on an unfamiliar topic.


Start planning your trip by viewing the online agenda!


Esri Education Summit | San Diego, California | July 6-9, 2019

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