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I get asked occasionally about some of the videos I have made and/or show with the aim to get students excited about what geography is and to understand what geography is about.  Each includes the important role that GIS has in helping us understand our world.  The following list of videos are only a few minutes each, and have been created in an engaging manner to hold students' interest:


  1. Geography Matters -  This starts with elevator speech, and even includes a roller coaster video I filmed at Cedar Point, Ohio.
  2. What does it mean to be a geographer?   My reflections with career information.
  3. Fast-talkin’ geography!   
  4. Five reasons why geography matters -  infused with Indian music.
  5. Esri videos - lately, I have been showing the "Seeing the Future" video and the "See what others can't" video. 


Because I have created many videos on this topic, I have created some playlists.  On this topic, the Why Geography Matters playlist is particularly relevant:


There are other videos that I frequently use with students, as well, such as the Roger Tomlinson 1967 Data for Decision series, the Esri Career Corner videos, and the Penn State geospatial revolution video series.  What are your favorites? 



A selection of my geography matters videos.

I hope that you find these videos useful!


--Joseph Kerski

Sharing a wonderful resource - a webinar recording and slides on Teaching Practical Spatial Data Science and Deep Learning”.


Huge thanks to Dr. Ilya Zaslavsky, UCSD and Dmitry Kudinov, Esri, for their wonderful presentation.



Thanks to all attended for the wonderful questions/discussion.

Adults ask “What can K12 students do with GIS besides following step-by-step instructions to a pre-determined result?” Quite a lot, I suggest, if one examines the research and product from Esri’s competition for high school and middle school students.


The ArcGIS Online Competition for US High School and Middle School Students is in only its fourth year, but already there are examples showing notable capacity. Students either solo or as a team of two research a topic in their state, and produce their result in a StoryMap or web app They are tasked with documenting their process and data, submitting it to their school for a first round of competition, which promotes to the state up to five for a second round of competition. The $100 awards earned by the top 5+5 at the state level are attractive, but nothing like the bragging rights and potential impact of elevation to the national level.


Competition results storymap


See the results from 2019, 2018, and 2017. Each year, the winner and honorable mention at both levels are highlighted, and links to the all state awardees are included.


The first three years show increasingly sophisticated presentations, but also more and more use of media from external sources. Therefore, we have tweaked the 2020 rules to limit external media, to emphasize student-generated content, particularly maps. We want to see what students can find, create, organize, and analyze about their world.


Students accustomed to independent research have shown that they can step out on their own, dig deeply, map powerfully, document carefully, and present impressively, heeding guidelines all the while, just like adults need to. Anyone anxious to see examples need only check the competition results. And students who wisely inspect what worked before will do well also to note carefully the 2020 constraints.

As a new member of the Education team (Hi! You can read my intro below), I've been exploring GeoInquiries. Going through the Gatsby one, I thought it might be fun to look at the same data in a new way. Instead of just using a web map opened in Map Viewer, what if I put it into a simple app?


Using Web AppBuilder, here's what I made: Gatsby - Then and Now app 



Mostly, I wanted to be able to more clearly look at the differences between the historical and current landscapes of Long Island, and this app has a swipe tool ( on the map) to visually compare them. I also liked that I could keep the interface simple and focused on the info and tasks in the GeoInquiry. Let me know what you think, and feel free to use this app as you'd like, the same as the GeoInquiries map.


A bit about me

As I mentioned above, I'm new to the Education team, but I'm not new to Esri. I've been here for about 17 years. Prior to this I was on the field apps development team and focused on documentation, best practices, and generally supporting users. I started exploring GIS with my children and in their kinder through second-grade classrooms. As my passion for how GIS could be used in the classroom grew, I met the wonderful folks on the education team and decided to throw in my lot with them. I'm excited to share my passion with teachers and all of you here, and I can't wait to see more GIS success in K-12 classrooms. 

Many valid approaches exist for effective professional development (PD) for educators in GIS, and here I offer one of mine.  I invite you to comment on this syllabus or a provide a link to one of yours in the spirit of sharing.  The PD I conduct varies depending on the level of instructor (primary, secondary, community or technical college, university, library, museum, other), the discipline(s) represented by the attendee (library and information science, environmental science, sociology, history, data science, business, geography, earth science, biology, GIS, computer science, language arts, or another discipline), the goals of the attendees, the setting of the workshop (including the mixture of outside vs. inside work), and the time available.  No matter the audience, however, my workshops are always over 90% hands-on work with GIS tools and geospatial data and focus on spatial and critical thinking.   


The attached workshop is one in which I use a variety of powerful but easy to use Esri geotechnology tools, including Survey123, web mapping applications including dashboards, storymaps, and other apps, and ArcGIS Online.   I vary the scale and problems that we address to keep the interest level high, and always include teaching about a current event.  I include a few pertinent videos and one crowdsourced survey to set the stage, and include connections to educational content standards.  I keep the goals in mind and in discussion throughout the workshop; in this case, (1) Develop knowledge and skills in geotechnologies focusing on social studies and science, (2) Develop workforce awareness of pathways in careers that use GIS and how to prepare students for them, and (3)  Develop confidence that participants can use these tools, methods, and data sets in their own teaching. 


The workshop closes with reflection, assessment, and "where do I go from here" additional resources.  I include additional activities that the participants can work on after the workshop ends.  I love conducting these workshops for a variety of reasons--It brings me joy to give educators confidence that they can teach with GIS and about GIS, impacting their own students' lives in positive ways, and providing career pathways for them.  Despite the changes that GIS has experienced over the decades, it has remained a tool for solving problems and investigation, and thus is incredibly relevant to education.  But there is another reason I do this -- I believe that using GIS is a key way to build a sustainable and healthier future. 

Training to be a teacher, I learned that I did not need to invent from scratch every part of every lesson every day. I needed instead to be able to identify good resources and know how best to use them for my specific needs. Back before personal computers, it was challenging and time consuming just to find good content, and then to grasp, tweak, and prepare it. Today, teachers need less time to build, but more time to sift, assess, grasp, and practice hands-on for themselves. One “good danger” these days is getting hooked on all the captivating practice available. A great resource is easily accessible, serves broad audiences, supports many concerns and desires, informs quickly, instructs deeply, fosters experimentation, and spawns new work.


A terrific case in point is Esri's Maps for Public Policy, part of the Living Atlas on ArcGIS Online. Without needing even to log in, policy leaders, community activists, and researchers, including teachers and students, can all use this collection easily and powerfully. And because it is online, it works on any internet-connected device, though even the biggest smartphones are too small to provide as much utility as a modest tablet; even the most basic Chromebooks work just fine.


Esri Public Policy Map example


While exploring, I thought about all the hours we social studies teachers spent searching for and struggling to prep data for use with our students. Here is robust content, really a pre-built online atlas, about people across the 50 states, down to neighborhood level, already formatted, so you can focus on your theme of interest, and cross-reference others in search of relationships.


Esri Public Policy Map example 2


These quick instructions will help you consider, explore, modify, collect, share, research, and use as templates to guide future work:



With these as guides, I explored as if leading a high school class in Los Angeles toward their own research projects. Following the process laid out above, I created my own small set of maps in just a few minutes — Take a look, then create your own at

For those using Jupyter notebooks and ArcGIS Pro out there, this is exciting news!  With the release of ArcGIS Pro 2.5, you can now create, edit, and save Jupyter notebooks as part of your ArcGIS Pro project with ArcGIS Notebooks, Esri’s Jupyter notebook environment.   You can also import existing notebooks created within the open source Jupyter.  No additional license is needed for using ArcGIS Notebooks in ArcGIS Pro 2.5 since it’s part of the core functionality.


Notebook tab works side by side with Map tab in ArcGIS Pro


With this integration, it is easy to access and combine python libraries from ArcGIS Pro and open source python in one integrated environment.  The content in your map can also be easily accessed through codes in the notebook window.  It works seamlessly between the notebook and the ArcGIS Pro user interface (UI).  For those teaching, the integration makes it easier to incorporate python programming into your GIS courses. 


Features and Capabilities

To learn more about the feature and capability and how to get started, refer to the following blogs and documentation:


Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) 

Register for the upcoming MOOC Spatial Data Science: The New Frontier in Analytics  that will start on Oct 28th, 2020. It’s a free online course to explore the application of spatial data science to uncover hidden patterns and improve predictive modeling.


Have Questions?

If you have questions about the using notebooks in ArcGIS Pro, feel free to:

With the updated Education Institutional Agreement (former site license), we have simplified Single Use licensing by including the core product and all extensions in one authorization code.  One authorization code now unlocks both the core app and all extensions* for the following products:


  • ArcGIS Pro Advanced (though we encourage a named user license model in most cases)
  • ArcGIS Desktop – ArcMap Advanced
  • ArcGIS Enterprise – ArcGIS GIS Server Advanced


*Note:  The Locate XT and Business Analyst extensions are an exception and have separate authorization codes.


In addition, the Education Institution Agreement now includes 2 sets of licenses for all products:  Academic Use and Administrative Use Separating Administrative Use from Academic Use keeps operational maps and data safe and secure without limiting experimentation and innovation by students and researchers. 


You will see different quantities for Academic and Administrative use under "View Authorizations".


The authorization codes for Administrative Use licenses are explicitly labeled as Administrative Use, e.g.,:

  • Education Site ArcGIS Pro – Education License; Administrative Use License
  • Education Site ArcGIS Desktop – Education License; Administrative Use License
  • Education Site ArcGIS Server Enterprise – Education License; Administrative Use License


The authorization codes for Academic Use licenses are labeled as follows:

  • Education Site ArcGIS Pro – Site License
  • Education Site ArcGIS Desktop – Site License
  • Education Site ArcGIS Server Enterprise – Site License


License files are created on My Esri under the Licensing tab, using the License Esri Products link. Please ensure that you are leveraging this option for any ArcGIS Enterprise GIS Server and ArcGIS Desktop licensing.


To generate Portal instances for ArcGIS Enterprise for versions 10.7 and above, use the License Esri Products link. For versions 10.4 - 10.6.1, the licenses are created using the Generate Portal for ArcGIS Licenses link.  


If you require earlier versions of ArcGIS Enterprise for v10.3-10.6.1, these can be created upon request. Please contact your Customer Service representative for assistance. 

I am pleased to announce that Dr Diana Stuart Sinton and I have co-authored a chapter for the UCGIS Body of Knowledge on GIS&T Education and Training:


Abstract:  GIS education and training have their roots both in formal educational settings and in professional development.  Methods and approaches for teaching and learning about and with geospatial technologies have evolved in tight connection with the advances in the internet and personal computers.  The adoption and integration of GIS and related geospatial technologies into dozens of academic disciplines has led to a high demand for instruction that is targeted and timely, a combination that is challenging to meet consistently with diverse audiences and in diverse settings. Academic degrees, concentrations, minors, certificates, and numerous other programs abound within formal and informal education.


A Body of Knowledge (BoK) is defined as "a comprehensive inventory of the intellectual content that defines a field" (DiBiase et al., 2007).  For those not aware of this collection, this documents the domain of geographic information science and its associated technologies (GIS&T). By providing this content in a new digital format, UCGIS aims to continue supporting the GIS&T higher education community and its connections with the practitioners.  The wide variety of chapters published in the BoK thus far, under the leadership of good people including Diana Sinton, John Wilson, Ling Bian, and others, can serve as a valuable resource for instruction and also for charting new areas of research in the field.  


--Joseph Kerski

I developed a GIS workshop for environmental science university students that you might wish to use portions of or in its entirety in your own instruction.  The workshop can be covered in a half day, but ideally is a full day; or it could be parsed into several standard class periods. 


The workshop is designed to:
1. Develop knowledge and skills in geotechnologies focusing on environmental applications: GIS, remote sensing, and
GPS/GNSS, technical skills and foundational underpinnings, cloud and SaaS data sources and formats, multimedia, data quality; projections, symbolizing, georeferencing, measurement, classification, databases, and mobile workflows.
2. Develop workforce awareness of pathways in environmental careers that use GIS and how to prepare for them.
3. Develop confidence that you can use these skills and perspectives to move forward with your own career.


I state the workshop philosophy at the beginning of the instruction:

• This is your workshop. Let me know how we can help you today and in the future as you use geotechnologies.
• Using geotechnologies effectively is a journey that will require building a network with your colleagues.
• We will not work with every GIS tool and data set but we will build a foundation so that you will be empowered and feel confident.
• The activities include core themes and skills that can be used in many aspects of environmental work.


The workshop uses the following tools:  ArcGIS Online, web mapping applications such as Dashboards and Storymaps, Survey123 field data collection tool.  For more advanced work, there are links to ArcGIS Pro and Insights. 

The workshop includes the exploration of data from local to global scale, including ecoregions, river systems, population change, historical and current satellite imagery, human health, weather and climate, and natural hazards.  The field activity involves gathering tree type, height, species, and condition on whatever campus you happen to be teaching in. 


Underlying the workshop are the following themes:

(1)  Geotechnologies are critically important tools in environmental science to build a healthier, more sustainable future.

(2)  Geotechnologies are essential tools for your environmental career:  They enable you to apply your environmental skills and knowledge and contribute to the work that nonprofits, government agencies, private industry, and academia is using everyday.

(3)  Modern cloud-enabled GIS tools and spatial data mean that it is easier than ever to learn how to apply GIS to solve problems. 


The attached document contains the workflow and all the links for the workshop to be successful.  I hope this resource is useful. 

Environmental science images and maps

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