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64 Posts authored by: cfitzpatrick-esristaff Employee

2020 is the year of online conferences!

Though separated by weeks, the Education Summit ("EdUC") will be a key complement to the User Conference ("UC"); coming just before most US K12 schools open, the EdUC will bridge the excitement of the UC with the realities of teaching in a pandemic.


The UC is open to all, for free, with registration required. For those who were unlikely ever to see the live in-person UC in San Diego, this will be the next best thing. Imagine being at plenary sessions, and hours of the tech sessions most important for you, all from the comfort of home … or at a watch party of colleagues! With a likely audience of many more thousands than usual packed into fewer days, think of this as a chance to see and hear tightly focused content, rather than racing between room and hoping to talk one-to-one with Esri staff in an extended fashion.

 UC graphic


Even non-customers can register and attend the plenary sessions, split across Mon-Tue-Wed July 13-15. Persons with an "Esri-access-enabled login to an ArcGIS Online account" (e.g. an ArcGIS Online login "with Esri access enabled" in the Org of a standard School Software Bundle) can use that and the institution's Esri Customer Number to register as educator or student. K12 students using properly configured account info should be able to attend the UC without needing to share any personally identifiable information, with access to hundreds of hours of content.


Time for education-focused content and interacting with friends, colleagues, and specialists comes at the Education Summit. The EdUC will feature different blocks for K12 and Higher Ed, so people can attend just their preferred segment or see everything for everyone. The exact schedule is still being tweaked but should provide time both for focus on how to use the free ArcGIS School Bundle and for networking.


In this time of unprecedented stress, upheaval, awakening, commitment, and change, taking advantage of tools and perspectives that help us each discover, illuminate, analyze, document, and share is paramount. Coming together and learning to make fullest use of these extraordinary platforms for exploration, integration, and problem-solving is our best way to reach toward common ground.


Check out the Esri 2020 User Conference and Esri 2020 Education Summit!

In 2014, Esri made ArcGIS Online Organizations available to U.S. schools at no cost. In July 2017, the ArcGIS School Bundle was born, made available worldwide in 2018. In July 2020 the ArcGIS School Bundle gets renewed, for all who either started it or used it since January 1 of 2018. This will happen without users needing to do anything. This new license will be active to July 31 of 2025, still at no cost.


There will be two different versions of the Bundle, and two different sizes. Both the version and the size will be arranged in the renewal without users needing to do anything. The "standard" version will fit most users, while a special "careers" version will include extra software useful for those steering toward GIS careers. All bundles will have at least 2000 logins, and larger situations will receive a jumbo size.


Existing content and configuration of the ArcGIS Online Organization will be retained with the refresh. This is a dynamic environment; components get incremental updates several times each year. Next generation beta versions are already available for Map Viewer and for Dashboard, and the new Experience Builder expands on the powers of Web AppBuilder. The hugely popular StoryMaps template continues to add capacities, as do Survey123, Collector, QuickCapture, and Explorer. Latest features are always available from the "What's New" page. Access to all these "essential apps" and "field apps" will continue built into all logins in the refreshed School Bundle (any involving publishing will still need a role with publishing privileges).


The School Bundle already includes a "premium app," Community Analyst, and the refresh will add its web-sibling, Business Analyst. Both are powerful research tools, and Business Analyst also has a mobile app. Access to both requires the Organization administrator to assign licenses, which can be done singly, in bulk, and as a default for new logins.


Standard Apps


All those tools in the "standard" ArcGIS School Bundle can be used on any connected computer or tablet, and some even on a smartphone. The "careers" version Bundle will add ArcGIS Pro and Drone2Map for robust Windows (only) computers, online tools GeoPlanner and Insights, and Urban Suite (which pairs online tool Urban with CityEngine for robust Windows and MacOS computers).

The refresh makes this an ideal time to consider implementing single sign-on. This streamlines access, reduces login troubles, and can prevent sharing of personally identifiable information ("PII"). It is also time to encourage users to manage their content, by delete-protecting what must be preserved, sharing only what is needed (and only where necessary), and deleting expired or test contents. Administrators can use the built-in tools and third-party tools to explore the Organization's contents and to clean out expired users, contents, and groups (see guidance).


Get ready for an exciting year, with tools that can be used at school, at home, and beyond, at any time, on any connected computer, tablet, or smartphone.

The 2020 ArcGIS Online Competition for US High Schools and Middle Schools was gearing up for the final quarter when March arrived. Just one of the 35 participating states had completed their work; the rest expected final pushes by students even into early May. Coronavirus brought serious roadblocks as students lost connectivity, devices, guidance, inspiration, and even the chance for fieldwork. Still, more than 500 in 29 states persevered, submitting storymaps about their research projects.


Competition process graphicSee 2020 results


There were new guidelines in place for 2020, increasing attention to maps and analysis, limiting use of imagery and video. Coupled with the spring shakeup, most students had a harder time this year. The overall stats camouflage the difficulties, because the 527 entries is the most ever. But one single school provided over 40% of all the entries, meaning most of the other 76 schools with entries had some tough sledding.


We therefore decided not to focus attention on a tiny handful of prize winners, but rather to highlight what viewers, teachers, and students should look at in these projects, and especially to see how some students did a particularly good job with this element or that.


Competition results storymapGo to 2020 results


When I was teaching geography to 8th graders, over my chalkboard was a sign:

"Geography = 3 Questions: What's where? Why is it there? So what?"

This is the crux of the competition: to identify and research a chosen phenomenon in a specific region, discover and illuminate the patterns, and lay out the impact, using GIS. By far the hardest part of the competition is formulating and answering the three questions. This, and the technology involved in meeting the challenge, is what draws some people.


At Sauk Rapids-Rice High School in Minnesota, this is why they do the project as part of 9th grade Geography class. All 320 students spent three weeks in late winter diving deep into the process of geographic inquiry. Students from three of the four teachers had just finished projects when lockdowns struck, and some chose to keep tinkering. They came up with a question, wrestled with data to analyze it, and prepared storymaps, addressing a bunch of state educational standards [see 8.3] along the way. "This makes people think. It's high-level thinking, geographic content, soft skills, and some kids even already want to do it when they're older," said teachers Brianne Wegter, Melissa Gebhardt, and Andrew Weber. These teachers followed a great plan: rely on exposures to intro materials in middle school and early in 9th grade, then launch into the project for a good chunk of time, well into the year. Their results speak volumes.


Explore all the results. See how some students met and even exceeded the expectations. Enjoy the way students see the world, and investigate and answer their own questions. And plan for the 2021 Competition.

Coronavirus has bludgeoned social patterns. Among the victims are youth clubs and camps, scrambling to give pre-teens and young-teens a new experience, parents a break from 24x7 oversight, and young adults a key transition step into responsible adulthood. How do we foster exploration, interaction, service, and creative expression? What tools are available?


The Esri K12 team offers a free "GIS Club Kit" to any US-based group, formal or informal, needing short-term logins to ArcGIS Online for youth instruction. Kits consist of logins for adults, logins for youth, and a secure, private group inside the K12 ArcGIS Online Org. Users can create and save content, and choose to share within the group. All have access to Map Viewer including analysis functions, plus Scene Viewer, configurable web apps, Survey123, Collector, QuickCapture, StoryMaps, Dashboard, Community Analyst, and Business Analyst … more than enough to keep one enjoyably occupied, attentively learning, and creatively building for the future.


Compare App 2D+3D views of a watershed


For instruction, there is unlimited access to K12 Org public content, Mapping Hour videos, educator GeoProjects, activities and paths from TeachGIS and Learn ArcGIS, web courses and videos on Esri Training, and GeoNet, plus the ever-expanding galaxy of authored StoryMaps (both classic and current).


Project collaboration


Want kids to make friends and a 2D/3D comparison app? Do a virtual transect of the community? Analyze the local watershed? Construct a dashboard tracking fitness activities? Craft surveys and design apps? Go spelunking in the StoryMaps archive? Explore the world? Need logins with which to do it? Sign up at

Facing uncertainty, would we know to grab opportunity? When she was in eighth grade, Roxana Ayala had no idea that her choice of high school would lead her to the White House before high school graduation, and a job in Washington DC after college. The hour-each-way between her home in Watts and her school in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles helped her perceive and appreciate nuances between communities. Her teachers at the Math, Science, and Technology Magnet Academy of Roosevelt High School offered challenges, expectations, and encouragement that helped develop skills and attitudes that opened up more opportunities. And, time after time, Ayala stepped up.


She was in the first cohort of MSTMA students introduced to GIS as part of their 11th grade research project. Two teachers led 90 students into deep research on the community, with GIS illuminating patterns and relationships. In just a few weeks, on just a few computers, they presented work impressive enough to earn a place on stage at the 2013 Esri Conference. Ayala was the lead-off speaker.


Ayala presenting at Esri 2013 User Conference

Click image to watch the presentation at Esri 2013 User Conference; start at 7:00


A year later, Esri President Jack Dangermond decided to join President Obama's ConnectED Initiative and give software to any school in the US that asked. Esri needed two accomplished students to represent the dream. Ayala and a student from Arlington, VA, prepared for uncertainty, stood on the risers under the blazing lights behind the President, and shook hands with him at the close. "I can still describe it like it was yesterday, it's an experience that's impossible to forget," she mused.


Ayala shakes hands with President Obama in 2014


What do you do with dreams, skills, and passions for trees, justice, equity, and action, but no blazed trail? Go to college and be on the lookout for opportunity. Ayala headed to University of California Irvine and focused on conservation, working with the US Forest Service, state parks, and private institutions on restoration projects across the country. But, nearing her diploma and finding herself cleaning and labeling old plants to digitize a collection, it wasn't enough. She sought more, the chance to be interdisciplinary, to boost equity, to make an impact for people. A conversation led her to investigate a fellowship, which led to a job, in Washington DC.


ACEEE staff page for Ayala


The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy sought someone to help them conduct research and outreach on energy efficient policies and programs that target historically marginalized populations, which include but are not limited to low income communities and communities of color. "There's an analysis of 'energy burden' among 25 metro cities in the US underway. A household needing to spend more than 6% of their household income on energy costs are experiencing high energy burdens, and generally low-income and communities of color often experience higher energy burden than any other households," Ayala noted during our interview, from her apartment, right as Coronavirus-related shutdowns had swept across the country. "Now, with the pandemic, and so many people out of work, fortunately, many utilities have placed moratoriums on disconnections, but a big concern once it ends is that many households may experience significant challenges to pay off their bills which may ultimately put them at risk of service disconnections."


Did she feel prepared for this job? Ayala chuckled. "I was used to being out in the field for hours a day. I'm picking up the policy part on the job, learning the acronyms and policies. It's been almost a year and I feel like I'm just scratching the surface. There's a lot of learning, a lot of reading. But, off work, I find myself critically thinking of these issues as they relate to energy. I don't get to do GIS as part of my work right now, but it's definitely there in how I look at things."


So, what about high school -- did using GIS and doing the research project prepare you for this? "Absolutely. Doing complex, meaningful research at a young age, building perspectives, looking at data, integrating disciplines, doing presentations, it all empowered me, made college feel easier. And GIS … having a skill that employers are looking for … employers are impressed when I say I've been using GIS since high school. Having these opportunities definitely affected my trajectory, helped me get where I am right now. I love the work I do … I'll keep doing things related to environmental justice, specifically work that seeks to create equitable, low-carbon cities … making a difference … just like my teachers, Ms.Ramirez and Ms.Im, who planted the seeds for radical change and are still wonderful mentors."


From Watts to Washington is a substantial journey. Would that every student could have teachers so willing to help students get started in the right direction.

Facing disaster, the best odds for effective response lie with the generalist. Adaptability is crucial. Prior knowledge is useful, but especially about problem solving. At least as important are willingness to attempt, to fail without discouragement, tenacity in action, and an insatiable appetite for learning. These traits combine flexibly and repurpose quickly and easily, giving the best chance for success under the widest array of unpredictable conditions.


We have been pitched thru a one-way door into a bad-dream house of glass and mirrors, with collective vision of an exit clear, but proper path unlabeled, and people pointing in many directions. Parents are thrust into teaching at home; teachers are forced to abandon historic patterns; youngsters are isolated; and those less fortunate grow even more so. No direction is ideal. Never before have so many understood intestinally the meaning of "unprecedented."


In these conditions, what is the role of education? As always, it is to provide both roots and wings: an understanding of what is in place and how it came to be, and the ability to reach out and venture beyond. Of course, the parameters vary by age, experience, and situation, but a third grader can appreciate danger without being immobilized just as a high school senior approaching graduation can grasp the vagaries of "the future." Each may be best served by focusing on what can help them adapt to uncertainty: ability to ask questions, gather information, explore situations from multiple perspectives, analyze data and integrate diverse elements, and act.


This is what GIS practitioners do. A quick look at Esri's Industries page proves that these tools and skills have universal relevance. Some skills are built in seconds just through exploration; the more elaborate take hours of thoughtful study and practice. But the more skills, tools, data sets, perspectives, examples, and experiences one assembles, the more capable one becomes. This is why I have witnessed employers fidget with excitement when seeing high schoolers' projects, and college recruiters' eyes light up when hearing middle schoolers share their experiences, and civic leaders' jaws drop upon grasping what elementary students have discovered.


Geographic Inquiry Process

We cannot choose the winds and currents that greet us; we can only choose how we cope with them. To support learners most effectively, we need to help them construct a framework for understanding conditions, tools with which to explore and experiment, skills for thinking critically and solving problems, perspectives that honor diversity, and an insatiable thirst for learning. This is GIS -- a toolbelt, a mindset, a knowledge base, and a vision. It's never too soon -- or too late -- to begin learning. If you are a parent or teacher, feeling adrift, just discovering the indelible blazes of this trail, and pondering whether and where to begin, check out the Mapping Hour. Build a path for your learners.


Mapping Hour

Struggling to engage students who are stuck at home? Esri offers mapping and analysis tools free to schools for instruction. "But, I'm a 'suddenly-teaching-parent,' while my kids' teachers are trying to learn to teach online! We need something relevant, and interesting, and fast!"


"Mapping Hour" is a collection of 20 informal one-hour instructional videos about ArcGIS Online for parents and teachers, with chunks that scaffold concepts and skills. They cover desires from the basic "I need a map my class can see" to the lofty "How do I help my child use these final weeks of high school to do something powerful?" Videos posted starting Monday April 6, with access remaining open to all, for free.


Watch Trailer


Charlie Fitzpatrick, Tom Baker, Kylie Donia, and Joseph Kerski, all from Esri's Education Industry team, present to parents and teachers a suite of software tools, academic content, and instructional strategies that help students from grade school to grad school learn to spot patterns, illuminate relationships, and build captivating presentations. A steady climb through ArcGIS Online, Survey123, Dashboard, Business Analyst, and StoryMaps, using resources from the Training, Learn ArcGIS, and Schools teams, will show viewers what is possible and equip them to engage young minds eager for opportunity.




  1. Mapping Hour videos roll out starting Monday April 6, at ((Update: All 20 videos are in place as of Saturday April 25.))
  2. The first three hours engage ArcGIS Online without requiring a login. Remaining activities require an ArcGIS Organization login to replicate. Any user can use your own Org login ("Publisher" or equivalent), teachers can request software for your school (be sure to check your school's status on the map first), and parents or teachers without access can request a temporary Org login (Publisher level) from Esri Schools program (must be 18 or over).

In a world turned upside down, here is some stability. The ArcGIS School Bundle will be renewed through July 2025, at no cost to users. All School Bundle licenses showing any online or desktop use in the last couple of years will be automatically renewed. Existing ArcGIS Online subscription users and their content will be maintained. Users do not need to do anything to make this renewal happen.


Map of US ArcGIS School Bundle sites


Across USA and around the world, primary and secondary schools and formal youth clubs can acquire and use the software for instructional purposes for free. Thousands of US schools started using GIS after Esri made it available for free in 2014. Thousands more schools around the world joined when Esri launched its global program in 2018, supporting activities like that seen on stage at Esri UC2019. And today, with distance learning and "school at home" mandated by the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands more are engaging with free resources, discovering what is possible.


Esri User Conference 2019 student presentation


It's a challenging time around the world. The ability to grasp changing conditions, spot patterns, illuminate relationships, and identify alternative strategies for moving forward is essential for our survival. All students will be able to engage the ArcGIS School Bundle to support this for free for instructional use, for at least the next five years, anywhere, on any device with internet access (computer, laptop, tablet, smartphone), whether issued by a school or owned by the family.

In summer 2012, teachers sufficiently skilled in desktop GIS could let an anonymous user create point data in an online map. I demonstrated this in the blog "Crowdsource Your Fieldwork," using a "breakfast beverage map."


breakfast beverage map


At the time, it was exciting, but tedious; documenting the steps to create a feature service, publish it, make it accessible in an app, and test it required a lengthy doc. Today, creating a vastly better experience is really easy, all online, on a PC/Mac/Chrome device, for viewing and doing also on tablet or even smartphone, using Map Viewer, Survey123, Dashboard, and StoryMap ... tools provided free to schools in the ArcGIS School Bundle.


app icons


Especially in times of school disruption and social distancing, educators may find the process particularly engaging for learners (of any age), since they get to generate data and see their results quickly, and in different ways. Educators can experience this by recording your current situation via, in a separate tab.


education and coronavirus survey imageClick to see StoryMap


Construction was a basic design experience: Conceive, sketch, build-test-tweak-repeat, release. The workflow in this case was:


  1. Conceive the end product (the storymap as the container, with a survey feeding a map feeding a dashboard). What end product data should users be able to explore? How will they be able to explore? What data need to be generated, in what format?
  2. Identify the products needed (the survey, the map, the dashboard, the story map) and the components to engage in each step.
  3. Build, in this case, as follows:
    1. Design the survey questions and choices, optimizing for "valuable data" (in a format the dashboard could make dance) and ease of use for the survey taker.
    2. Submit enough test data so each possible choice is engaged at least once.
    3. Set permissions of the survey.
    4. Generate a new map with the test survey data; symbolize the data, set the popups, set the bookmarks; save the map, share the map to a dashboard.
    5. Build the dashboard components, optimizing for power and interest; configure interactivity.
    6. Build the story map, optimizing for ease of use, engagement, and power.
    7. Share all components and test each step and link as an anonymous user.
    8. Delete all test data.
  4. Release and promote.


As usual, the hard part is conceiving the end product with enough clarity to build efficiently. It takes some familiarity with each of the tools in order to see how they work together, just like in cooking a family meal, planning an event, or building a doghouse benefit from some previous practice. Participate in/ View/ Study the story map and process above and see if you -- or, better yet, your students -- can replicate the process with something simple ... even just asking people their location, age, gender, and favorite breakfast beverage.

Last week (see Fun with GIS 262) I posted strategies for schools to consider when disruption happens. School closings (and more) across the states (and globally) in the wake of Coronavirus/COVID-19 call for even more attention. Since many people are hurriedly shifting instructional tactics, here are some frequently asked questions.


      1. Q: "I see on the Esri Schools map ( that our school has software, but nobody knows who. How do we learn who has it?" A: Email "" with school name, city, state, and zip, and we can help connect you.
      2. Q: "We received software. How do I set up logins for students and teachers?" A: The ArcGIS Online Organization first needs to be "activated" (a three-step process), then the Org admin can set up logins. See guidance in Pay attention to "single sign-on and CSV." People will use these logins constantly, so be thoughtful about this process, do it carefully, and document what you do.
      3. Q: "One of my students can't see his content when he logs in." A: Ensure the student has logged into the proper location. Students MIGHT also have created their own public login as well, and gotten the two confused. After logging in, what does the URL show to the left of ""? Does it look like "" or like ""? The first is public, the second is an Organization. A single email address can be used for multiple logins. Just like if you have two accounts at a single bank/store/socialmedia/etc, make sure you log into the correct one.
      4. Q: "Students and teachers alike forget logins and passwords and we don't have 'single sign-on.' How do we help them out?" A: There are three possible steps to try, in sequence.
        1. STEP1: Go to and enter your email address to get a list of usernames attached to that address. (If the user's email is not used in the username profile, the user should confer with the Org admin.)
        2. STEP2: Go to and request a password reset for a given username. If the username had been operational, an email with a link will be sent to the email address attached to that username (might be the user, or the Org admin, or an email alias, depending on how the Org was set up). Click the link in that email to establish a new password (must be sufficiently strong), and record what password is established!
        3. STEP3: If either step above doesn't work, contact "," and clarify the situation (provide school name/city/state/ZIP, Org admin name and email, user's name and email, etc), and wait for a human to respond.
      5. Q: "The info from the troubleshooting page says 'Esri access not enabled.' What do I do?" A: There are two important locations for Esri technology. Those including “” are sites where mapping happens. Those including “” are sites about mapping. "Esri access not enabled" does not mean a username is locked out from making maps; it just means that ArcGIS Online Org admins have not granted to that particular username the permission to sign into special places on, such as to converse on GeoNet (, or to take courses on Esri's Training site ( That username may still make maps, publish data, and share items, to the limit allowed by the Org admin. The default setting for any new username is "Esri access disabled" (even for the admin), and an admin must proactively change that if s/he wants to allow those special privileges. See "Managing Esri Access" (p.30) of See also
      6. Q: "Some users in our Org have an 'Analysis' button and some do not. How do I let others do analysis?" A: Doing analysis is a process that generates services, which get stored in one's contents. That process requires the user to have a role in ArcGIS Online with "publishing privileges." Org Admins and the standard "Publisher" role can publish, and thus do analysis; other roles lack that privilege. Custom roles might or might not have received the privilege. See (p.9-11 and the links to the online help).
      7. Q: "We have our logins, but can't figure out how kids can collaborate on a project." A: See the summary in Fun with GIS 227. That document does not mention the new StoryMap template but the same rules apply. There are ways to collaborate; you just need to know what works and what doesn't.
      8. Q: "How do I know that each student actually did his or her own work?" It's always hard to tell anytime you're not seeing the activities being done. Note the usernames attached to contents. If students work in groups, have them comment on their portion, and how it looks and works, and comment on others' components. Have students do a project storyboard first, then individual tasks: design, creation, analysis, documentation. Easiest, everyone does their own project.
      9. Q: "We made a spreadsheet and saved it as a CVS {sic} file but it won't drag and drop on the map or even add to contents like I've seen people do. What gives?" A: See this doc: This is usually a sign of an improperly constructed CSV (comma separated values) file. A good table needs correct structure, carefully adhered to in each cell.
      10. Q: "Where can I find good instruction to learn to do cool things with ArcGIS Online?" A: There are multiple resources, depending on how much you know, how much time you can spend, and what you want to learn. See:
        1. ((Last week's blog on disrupted instruction))
        2. ((Training: ArcGIS Online: Getting Started items))
        3. (("Teach with"-focused portion of
        4. ((Path for Teachers in
        5. ((K12 Org))
        6. [And, as of April 01, 2020] ((Mapping Hour))

Disruptions come in all magnitudes, durations, formats, causes, and degree of foreseeability. After coping with life trauma and handling the logistics around disruptions great and small, how can GIS help students engage in school, learn, even progress? Esri provides schools and districts a great raft of free content, tools, and instructional activities that teachers and students can use, together or separately. Here are some options.


If the students don’t have ArcGIS Online logins available…


1. For the teacher: Visit Explore “Instructional Resources” first, then “Educator Support.” Open the “Getting Started for Educators” item and go through #1-9 in sequence, quickly, and eventually through #15. In #14, determine if the school/district has software, and, if not, request software for the school. Use the “AGO Orgs for Schools” doc to guide implementation and set up student logins. Meanwhile, continue with items below.


2. Have students go through a GeoInquiries activity of relevance, using the prepared text or teacher-generated instructions. (If you have not used GeoInquiries, see the GeoInquiries StoryMap. If this is students' first time with GeoInquiries, have them first watch the “About GeoInquiries” video.) Have them arrange the map to show what they choose, create three screenshots, annotate the screenshots If desired using image software, and use a word processor to assemble the images into a story with explanatory text.


3. Have students use ArcGIS Online Map Viewer to assemble a single map of personal content, with a set of Map Notes (points, lines, areas, text) about a specific topic (e.g. personal history, review of previous topic, item of personal interest, etc). Create screenshots with specific assemblages of content displayed (turned “on”), and use a word processor to assemble the screenshots into a story with text.


4. Have students explore the collection of public Story Maps, use one or more as content to study, take appropriate screenshots, and use a word processor to construct a summary.


5. Have students explore four Story Maps (one each of four different formats) from the public gallery and create a summary of characteristics and capacities noticed within the technology. What techniques tend to yield effective story maps?


6. From the results of the ArcGIS Online Competition for US HS+MS Students, have students explore four different story maps. What commonalities exist in the state and national awardees? What are some situations in which a student could have been more successful with a different technique?


If the students have ArcGIS Online logins available…


7. Have students go through a GeoInquiries activity, then save the map into their contents, then build a Presentation of at least 3 frames explaining the importance of the content and the patterns and relationships visible.


8. Have students assemble a “personal map and Presentation”: Use Map Viewer to assemble a single map of their choice, creating or uploading or accessing data, then create a “Presentation” of at least three frames out of the elements.


9. Have students with publishing credentials create a Survey123 form through which to gather data about a relevant topic. Have them share the survey with all members of the class.


10. Have students build a StoryMap, using classic templates or the new template. Topic options could include:

  • focus on the class (e.g. review the year to date)
  • focus on the disruption (e.g. tell the story of the event causing disruption)
  • assemble your life geography (e.g. where have you been and what factors led you here)
  • share a topic of personal interest (e.g. “if I had 2 weeks to focus all day on a topic of influence on my life today, including to prepare a presentation about it, it would be about … and go something like this …”)
  • design a research project (e.g. plan out the project steps and timelines)


ArcGIS Online allows users to explore, create, analyze, and integrate endless content across disciplines, then design presentations, and share everything. For educators needing to adapt to disruptions in school, having resources that facilitate such work can generate significant value in place of potentially lost instructional opportunity, from a single “sub day” to an extended school closing.




- - - - -

Follow-up: Because so many schools are juggling their instructional calendar and methods, I am continuing this with "School Disruptions 2," posted Sunday March 15, 2020. - Charlie

And, see also Tom Baker's blog "Is Your School/District Moving Courses Online posted Monday March 16, 2020. - Charlie

Science relies on facts. We may differ in interpretations, but we should be able to agree on facts … gravity, temperature, numbers of items in a set, and so on. Facts are scientifically observable and describable by others.


Asked about a news item, one of my high school teachers asked "Is he lying if he points to his legs and says 'blood flows up one leg and down the other'? No, he is not, but neither is he wholly truthful, so you have to take time to listen and think carefully … decide what is not true, what is true but incomplete, and what is complete … and then act." Years later, teaching social studies, I asked my students to be Sherlock Holmes, be scientific, seek all the relevant facts, shape their interpretations to best fit the facts instead of the reverse, say what they saw/ heard/ understood, and why they made a certain decision, based on facts. Working with GIS helps one see, hear, and understand situations through multiple layers, patterns, relationships, and perspectives.


The world faces staggering challenges. We must rely on facts, science, data from credible sources, and methodologies of experts. Everyone should be able to explain how facts were determined, and how interpretations were reached, just like my students and I did with each other. We need to seek a holistic picture, unlike the proverbial blind men at different portions of an elephant describing the creature as a large fan, a wall, a tree trunk, and so on.


Case in point: the rapidly accelerating newest challenge: COVID-19 Coronavirus. In our ultra-connected world, it can race from country to country in less than a day. To combat it, we need an even more viral resource: knowledge, based on facts and science, which can spread at the speed of light. Unfortunately, so too can misinformation, which has the distinct advantage of not requiring painstaking assembly.


Esri has opened a new public website, the COVID-19 GIS Hub, linking content from experts: dashboards, applications, storymaps, data sets, news, relevant articles, and select social media. Of these, a key item for educators is the blogpost "Mapping coronavirus, responsibly." Maps are interpretations of data, meaning cartographers make decisions, and should map responsibly. Especially important for educators is that responsible producers of content tend to be critical thinkers about content from others, and vice versa; people who design interpretations learn about traps, why to avoid them, and how some take advantage of them, and become more critical consumers of information. Educators anxious to build critical thinkers and content consumers would do well to engage students in constructing, analyzing, and evaluating such content themselves. The necessary tools are free to schools for instructional use, around the world, in the ArcGIS School Bundle.


Coronavirus GIS Hub

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.

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

The "best event in town" for a GIS-using K12 teacher just got better for those at a school with an ArcGIS School Bundle. K12 teachers attached to the Bundle can attend all four days of the Esri Education Summit for $100.


The Education Summit features two days, Saturday plus Sunday, just with educators, in plenary sessions, user presentations, and hands-on workshops, plus hours of the best networking around, with hundreds of GIS-using educators swapping tips and strategies. Then we join the launch of the main Esri Users Conference, in the vast auditorium with nearly 20,000 GIS users, for the Monday plenaries followed by the afternoon reception up in the Map Gallery in a forest of amazing maps! And finally Tuesday, in the enormous Expo, with Esri staff from technical, training, and industry teams, plus hundreds of companies, agencies, non-profits, and partner organizations. If you can extract yourself from the Expo, you can immerse in any of hundreds of technical sessions and user presentations.


registration page screenshot


The screenshot above from the registration page appears about 6 screens into the actual registration process. When registering, be prepared to provide your Esri Customer Number, ArcGIS Online Org "shortname" (the part of the URL before ""), and "login with Esri access," along with your standard information.


For $100, K12 teachers can be part of the world's largest GIS event, with education everywhere you turn! Be there! See!

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