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286 Posts authored by: jkerski-esristaff Employee

3 new 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. 


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 about 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 course that I am creating with my Esri colleague, which we will publish later this year via the Esri Training site.


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. 

I have created a new lesson in the exciting new story maps tools.  The lesson guides you through the creation of a map similar to the geomorphology field trip story map that I created and recently wrote about.  In the workshop, I made some enhancements to the original story map that use some tools that have been created since then, including the Express Map and the Sidecar.   The map you will create also includes links to videos and work with configuring layers in ArcGIS Online maps. The tools are described here.  They are in beta now but will be fully released in July 2019.  The attached zip file contains the contents of the lesson in DOCX and PDF formats along with the images for the map.  These tools are rapidly evolving, so dip a toe into the waters today and get started!


I look forward to your comments.   Meanwhile, get out into the field, make maps, and do spatial analysis!


You need to get out into the field!

--Joseph Kerski

One of the most viewed blog essays I've ever written was entitled, What should I do for my GIS project?  While it certainly didn't go "viral", its theme seemed to strike a chord with many in education.   All of us in this field, at one time or another, whether at school, university, or even in certain workplace settings, have had to deal with this question, as I describe in this short introductory video and in this full length video. Let's discuss this topic from the student's perspective.  


I receive frequent inquiries about this topic, and when I do I encourage the student writing to me to discuss his or her thoughts with peers rather than simply focusing on my lists of what others have done.  Lists are fine for some inspiration, but if you are a student, I encourage you to start with issues that you are most passionate about.  Don't select something where you can easily find data, or even something your professor or co-workers or advisor is interested in; rather, pick something that you are interested in.  This will keep you interested, focused, and tenacious in learning new research methods, new tools, and investigating new data sets.  You'll need tenacity even for "small" projects, because the Earth is a complex place, and to investigate even a few of its processes requires focused attention. 

I wrote in 2011 that the United Nations Millennium Development Goals provide a good framework and starting point, and now here in 2019, I encourage you to look at the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  These goals that  address poverty, health, education, and other topics (1) can benefit by the spatial perspective and spatial analysis that GIS enables; and (2) provide one way for you to anchor your project in "what really matters."  Don't get discouraged and think that your project might not be "big picture enough", but may be focused on water quality in a very small part of a watershed, or about an urban greenway in one community.  It is my firm belief that thousands of these local projects are exactly what we need to build a better world.  


Another source of inspiration are the projects that the students winning the Esri Young Scholar challenge create each year, that I recently documented with an essay and story map.  Browse the posters linked to the story map to learn about the themes, the scales, the tools, and the methods that the students used to tackle the problems they identified, and consider how they could apply to what you are considering studying.  Another resource is the annual Esri Map Books that include problems addressed through the application of GIS in hundreds of disciplines from agriculture to zoology from many perspectives.  On that same theme, review the Esri industry pages, which give a good sense of the fields in which GIS is used.  While you are examining the pages in business, health, natural resources, utilities, and other fields, pay attention also to the organizations where the creators of these maps work, and think about which organizations sound interesting for you to work in someday.   Consider the societal implications of what you are studying including those discussed in our data blog, Spatial Reserves, such as data quality, copyright, citizen science, the Internet of Things, and location privacy.


I encourage you to read scholarly and trade journals, such as Transactions in GIS or xyHT, as well as Directions Magazine, Geospatial WorldGIS User, GIS Café, the Esri News, and other GIS news and research to understand how research with GIS is framed and conducted.  Follow those on Twitter or GeoNet from whom you can learn.  It may sound "old school" but one of my favorite sources of information are email listservs (though limit the number that you subscribe to so as not to get overwhelmed).  Keep current about Earth-related news to get a sense of issues of critical importance, from local to international.  Read about environmental issues or be inspired by innovations that have been achieved in the past and researchers who made those innovations happen.  In my state of Colorado, perennial issues include invasive species infestation, such as pine beetles, dealing with urban growth, planning greenways, wise energy use, and an issue that has been with us for 150 years—water quality and availability.  Look around you. These days, there are no shortage of Earth-based issues to address.  Current events from human health to political instability to natural disasters to economic inequality, energy, water, risk management, and many more are important issues that the spatial perspective and GIS tools can address. Consider also the type of research environment is most favorable to you:  Do you prefer working outside, in a lab or office, or a combination?  Does your preferred environment involve working in a team or alone? 


Allow me to back up what your professors are no doubt also telling you--one of the most important considerations on a GIS-based research project is doing something that is visionary, but yet is doable. To make it doable given your time and budget, you will need to limit your scope in several ways--reducing the number of variables or data sets, limiting the scale, limiting the number of research questions, and/or something else.  For example, for my PhD dissertation research, I originally wanted to examine GIS in education at all levels for the entire world. I eventually settled on the implementation and effectiveness of GIS in secondary education in the USA.  Keep a list of things that you are not addressing, and when this project is done, you can return to the most intriguing things on your list, for later. I have done this for my entire professional career and sometimes return to a project idea that I jotted down years ago.   For example, several years after my dissertation work was completed, colleagues and I collaborated on an international perspectives on GIS in education book published by Springer with inspiring stories from 33 countries.  


Finally, I encourage you to get involved in the GIS community--online via LinkedIn, GeoNet, or elsewhere, and/or face-to-face, at the Esri User Conference, a regional or national event such as the Applied Geography Conference, the IGU or ICA, or even a local MeetUp.  If you can make it to a face-to-face event, I encourage you to choose at least one track that is totally outside your own area of expertise--sometimes interacting with people with a different perspective and background can be the most inspiring and creative moments of all.  If time permits, don't just attend events, get involved in the organizations hosting them, such as the Society for Conservation GIS, the American Geophysical Union, or the Business Geographers, or another GIS or Earth related organization that you can contribute to in a leadership or other role.  Give back to the community through such initiatives as Geomentors or GIS Corps.


All best wishes to you in your project!  I welcome your reactions, below.  --Joseph Kerski


Researchers discussing a project.

Researchers discussing the scope and goals of a project. 

The title of this essay addresses a topic so wide in scope that a few paragraphs will not do it justice.  Yet is an important topic in which my colleagues and I on the Esri education sector team are deeply immersed and concerned.  Through campus visits and daily interaction with educators at all levels, we gain valuable insight on the challenges faced by and successes achieved by a wide variety of educational institutions, worldwide, and, with the community, cultivate what we believe to be best practices for course and program planning as we forge into the decade of the 2020s.  Why do we care?  First, we believe that the significant challenges our world is facing (energy, water, human health, natural hazards, climate, population change, biodiversity, sustainable agriculture) are all spatial in nature and can be understood and solved through the application of GIS.  Second, we believe that GIS is a key tool for 21st Century critical thinking, spatial thinking, and inquiry.  Our aim is to encourage educators, curriculum developers, and program planners to continually re-evaluate their programs and courses and to share best practices so that students in these programs will receive relevant and meaningful instruction and will become the leaders of tomorrow in business, government, nonprofits, and academia. 


As you are well aware from being someone interested in GIS in education and reading GeoNet essays, the combination of rapid change in the job market, student and societal expectations, goals and purposes of education, educational technology, and GIS itself, GIS courses and programs should naturally evolve as well to keep up with these changes. While some foundational tenets of GIS will always be with us (such as datums, data models, data quality), even these topics do not need to be taught, and I would argue should not be taught in the same way that they were 20 years ago, or indeed, even a few years ago.  We have summarized some of the conversations we have had with educators in a set of documents about "what constitutes a modern GIS curriculum" on GeoNet, which we intend to keep updating, that you are welcome to comment upon.  Core elements in this modern curriculum should include web GIS, GIS-as-a-service protocols and capabilities, APIs and SDKs, setting up and maintaining a GIS server including system architecture, field data collection and tools, 2D and 3D mapping, spatial analysis including big data analytics, using real-time services and the IoT, interior space mapping including BIM, visualization and cartography, web mapping applications (including configuring apps such as dashboards), communicating with GIS (including multimedia maps such as story maps and other means of geo-communications), and societal considerations (location privacy, data quality, ethics, crowdsourcing).  


One new program that I believe exemplifies these tenets is that of the Location Intelligence Program at North Park University.  Location Intelligence combines aspects of natural and technical sciences, along with business principles and the latest in spatial technology, with a focus on preparing students for a wide array of careers.  The program, as is evident in the images below, is forward-thinking in its courses such as business communications, developing web apps, and spatial programming.  The very title of the program, Location Intelligence, speaks to a focus of breaking out a traditional audience for GIS and appealing to a wider array of disciplines, including social work, health, and business.  I have been pleased to work with the program since 2018, and developed and am teaching a course entitled The Art and Science of Map Design:  Geo-Visualization.  To find out more about the LOCI program at North Park University, see these web resourcesthis official video from the university, and my video about the LOCI 3100 course along with a set of weekly course videos.  I look forward to reading your comments and I salute you instructors, deans, and provosts for thinking creatively about how to mold your program for the future.  And for you students reading this--use this essay as a springboard in your search for the type of geospatial program that will best meet your needs. 


Location Intelligence Program at North Park University

    Location Intelligence Program at North Park University

Location Intelligence Program at North Park University

  Location Intelligence Program at North Park University

Description of the Location Intelligence program at North Park University.

Esri and AAG hosted a poster contest entitled Innovative Applications of Esri GIS Technology at the recent American Association of Geographers (AAG) Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, in April 2019.   The goal of the competition was to encourage students to create their own creative application of Esri's GIS software to understand and resolve problems from the local to the global scale.  The AAG annual meeting, which attracted over 8,500 attendees from all over the world, was the perfect venue for these students to display the results of their research and development.

I had the honor of organizing this event with AAG and my Esri colleagues, and it was a pleasure to interact with the participants before the conference and to meet them during the poster session.  The session was held at the front of the exhibit hall, and I enjoyed watching the students interact with hundreds of people who toured the posters, including Jack Dangermond, Esri founder and president.  "It was wonderful to see the passion and creativity that people poured into their entry posters," said Jack. "I had the opportunity to have a few really illuminating conversations with the contestants, many of whom are students. It's truly exciting to see that the future development of GIS application is in such inspired hands."

The winners are listed below; they and the other posters illustrate the diversity of problems, issues, and scales that GIS is able to address.  Tools included 3D analysis, Python scripting, ArcGIS Dashboards, remote sensing analysis including with UAVs, spatial statistics and analysis, story maps, and much more.  

  • 1st Place: Nicholas Bogen, Central Michigan University; The US In 11 Zip Codes. Cash prize $500.00
  • 2nd Place: Carly Robbins, Clark University; Warming’s Impact on Bird Distributions. Cash prize $450.00
  • 3rd Place: Tetyana Pecherska, Tufts University; US Offshore Aquaculture Potential. Cash prize $350.00
  • 4th Place: Douglas Stow, San Diego State University; Remote Sensing-Wildfire. Cash prize $200.00
  • 5th Place: Yaping Xu, Louisiana State University; Stepwise Soil Moisture Data. Cash prize $200.00

To see a sample of the posters, visit the following links:  On traffic sign detection and extraction, on estimating wildfire rate of spread, on legislative districts, on assessing urban structures, and on blending 3D and story maps

To view the press release for this event, read this.  To explore additional ways that Esri uses GIS to support higher education, visit

Collage of Esri AAG poster competition

Photo collage of the wonderful participants of the Esri AAG GIS poster competition and their work.  I salute not only the winners, but all those who participated in the event, as well as all those who are using GIS in education and beyond to make a positive difference in our world.   --Joseph Kerski

I had two goals in creating this geomorphology story map:  (1) To illustrate how story maps can enhance field trips and investigations. I took the opportunity to test the new story maps 2019 tools. (2) To emphasize the importance of fieldwork in education.

Students in a geomorphology course took to the field to learn about drainage divides and landforms created by glacial processes, prevailing winds, rivers, and more. This particular field trip included 4 sites as described in the story map. The case study features Valparaiso University and northwest Indiana landforms, but story maps can enhance any field data gathering experience. Furthermore, I believe that fieldwork is important to many disciplines--geomorphology, geography, environmental studies, biology, engineering, planning, geology, anthropology, archaeology, meteorology, history, sociology, and many more.  Story maps can be used in a variety of ways, as I describe in the map.  The map includes interactive maps showing the study sites, watersheds and rivers, topographic maps, geologic maps, and more. Explore the story map, and I look forward to your comments below.   Then, go create your own story maps!


Geomorphology Field Trip story map

One of the interactive web maps I included in the story map.

One of the interactive maps that I included in the story map.

One of the images I included in the story map.

One of the images and descriptions I included in the story map.

Coordinated by Esri's international distributors and Esri's international and education teams, the Esri's Young Scholars Award program was launched in 2012.  Winners are honored each year at the Esri User Conference.   The program recognizes the exemplary work of current undergraduate and graduate majoring in geospatial science disciplines at international universities.  Winning entries are selected by a university panel formed by Esri's distributor in the recipient's respective country.  Award winners travel to San Diego to present their work and join nearly 20,000 GIS professionals in a week-long program of presentations, workshops, and social events.  This year, 31 Young Scholars were awarded from 6 continents, and their work spans covers topics ranging from transit, natural hazards, habitat, urban planning, historical monuments, and much more.  To accomplish their work, they performed some deeply insightful spatial analysis using Esri GIS software, examined existing and created their own spatial data sets, created web mapping applications, conducted a wide range of field work from noise monitoring to interviews, used UAV and other new tools, and more. The scholars honed their communication skills by creating graphs, charts, maps, story maps, and posters. 


See for yourself!  Use this story map that features the work that these fine Young Scholars have done that my colleague here at Esri and I created. Explore their posters and show your students, colleagues, and others how GIS helps make wise decisions and build a better world.  Use the story map to get a sense for the diversity of scales, themes, and problems that can be addressed with GIS.  Use it to be inspired that the future of GIS work is in good hands!


Collage of a sample of the 2019 Esri Young Scholars fine work.

Collage of a sample of the exemplary work by the 2019 Esri Young Scholars. 

Congratulations to all the award winners and best wishes to you on your journey!

After over 8 wonderful years, the Change Matters viewer recently had to be sunsetted (it was using old technology).  After testing several equivalent data sets and tools for a suitable substitute for teaching change-over-time, I settled on the Landsat Lens for introductory investigations.  It is a wonderfully rich tool that covers the planet as a series of images covering over 40 years of change.  For a follow-on activity, you could use the swipe tools that exist on the Landsat Explorer Esri app where you can build your own swipe image for your own customized dates.  And, finally, in ArcGIS Pro, there is no shortage of change detection tools that more advanced students can use.


Attached is the lesson I created that uses the Landsat Lens.  In it, you will examine change from natural and human causes in Abu Dhabi, Mt St Helens, the Aral Sea, and in Melbourne, but the most amazing thing about this tool is that it works everywhere on the planet!  Hence, you can use it to investigate changes in water levels in reservoirs, extent of glaciers, coastal erosion, urban sprawl, deforestation and reforestation, agricultural expansion and contraction, and much more. 


--Joseph Kerski

Examining change in Abu Dhabi using the Landsat Lens

Using the Landsat Lens for examining changes in Abu Dhabi.

Effective teaching and learning about demography and population change is enriched through the use of web mapping tools and spatial data.  These tools and data sets foster critical thinking and spatial thinking, learning about content, scale, change, and systems. In the attached document, I describe 8 short activities: Comparison of urban areas around the world, exploring population change at multiple scales, and investigating community demographic characteristics using a variety of spatial analytical tools and interactive online maps and charts.  Feel free to use these tools in your own instruction from secondary to university level. These activities and a thorough description of each will soon be published in a special issues about the 2020 Census in The Geography Teacher journal.


These activities have 6 common themes:  They all use interactive maps; freely accessible with no log in via the web.  They all focus on real-world investigations, inquiry and problem solving, use a variety of themes and scales, highlight change over space and time, and foster learning about interconnected systems (the carbon cycle, weather and climate, population dynamics, commerce).  


--Joseph Kerski

I recently created or updated my activities for secondary and university students focused on the following themes, indicating starting point links for each.  It is my hope that these activities, data layers, and interactive maps are useful to many educators and students.  I have also compiled a "why and how to use GIS in education" set of slides to use as an introduction to these lessons and activities as an attachment to this blog essay.


I wrote the Foreword to this book, just published:


GIScience Teaching and Learning Perspectives (Advances in Geographic Information Science) 1st ed. 2019 Edition

The authors have done a stellar job of advancing GIS teaching and learning, and I highly recommend investigating this book.

Some of the chapters are in the graphic below.


--Joseph Kerski 

Selected chapters in the new GIScience teaching and learning book.

Tell your story!  I taught the following free webinar through the American Geosciences Institute on Thursday 14 March 2019.  Telling your Geoscience Story with Story Maps.  Fee free to share with colleagues!


Here are the recordings:

The main session:  45 minutes:  Telling your Geoscience Story with Story Maps - YouTube 

The Questions and Answer portion:   15 minutes:   Telling your Geoscience Story with Story Maps: Question & Answer Session - YouTube  


Communicating results of geoscience investigations to a diverse set of audiences will grow in importance in our 21st Century World. Communicating science is and will remain important to the entire community. GIS will continue to expand as an important tool for spatial analysis and visualization.  Story maps are web mapping applications that provide geoscientists with the ability to combine 2D and 3D maps, audio, video, photographs, and narrative that can be shared with research colleagues, or the general public, and embedded in web pages and online presentation tools. This webinar will quickly give you the knowledge, skills, and confidence to make your own maps for telling your own story.


Speaker: Joseph Kerski, PhD, GISP, Education Manager, Esri


Joseph Kerski

I frequently teach hands-on workshops so that people can see for themselves the power and data that is at their fingertips using modern GIS technologies.  Here are several workshops chock-full of activities that I want to share at this time, and I invite you to use these activities in your own courses. 


For activities inside a business course, let us focus on the following:

1.   My presentation - Spatial and Critical Thinking in Research and Instruction: Why and How   Spatial and critical thinking in business research and instruction - why and how.  Includes links to interactive web maps and tools.

2.  See attached regional convenience store activity.

3.  Exploring the demographics of 50 states using infographics:  

4.  Top 10 features about Infographics:  Top 10 Business Analyst Infographic Features 


For activities in a remote sensing course, let us focus on the following:

1.  Change Matters viewer:  ChangeMatters :: Using Landsat Imagery to Map Change   to analyze change over space and time:  Aral Sea, Mt St Helens, Dallas-Fort Worth TX, and elsewhere. 

2.  Wayback high resolution historical imagery:  Analyzing change over space and time with the Wayback Image Service   Examine how these places have changed:  Lake Mead, Plano Texas, Beachy Head England, the Three Gorges Dam in China, and your own community.  

3.  Landsat 8 app:  Landsat Explorer    Analyze different spectral bands, create a swipe comparison map, filter data, and more. 

4.  Sentinel-2 imagery to analyze the eruptions in Kilauea:  Using two new tools to analyze the eruptions in Kilauea   Add data from the Living Atlas:   Sentinel-2 views, bands 12, 11, 2, Filter on Acquisition Date of 23 May 2018, Image display as Geology with DRA, stretch, analyze. 


For the environmental science course, let's focus on the following activities that I created:

A new Higher Education GIS Immersive Hands-On Workshop - Joseph Kerski, Ph.D. - GeographerJoseph Kerski, Ph.D. – Geograp…    These include examining the global water balance, stormwater, ecoregions, population change, migration, and much more. 


For a crime analysis course, let's focus on analyzing crime in Lincoln Nebraska, as follows:  Search ArcGIS Online for crime Lincoln Nebraska and open the following web map:   You will see crime point locations, city limits, police stations, and police districts.  Change style for police stations to Safety-Health - Badge.  Change style for districts to unique symbol - color.  Label the districts by number.  Use Proximity to create 5 minute drive time around stations with dissolve option.  Next, calculate the percentage of crime within 5 minute drive times using the Aggregate Points tool.  For Choose layer containing points to aggregate into areas, choose Crime. For Choose layer containing aggregation areas, confirm that Five-Minute Drive-Time from Stations is chosen.  Change style on crime to map specific crimes, such as theft.  Change style on crime to see crime as heat map.  Examine imagery with labels to determine areas where more crime seems to be occurring.  Create hot spot map of areas of significant clustering of crime.


For a GIS in the Humanities course, let's focus on the following:

1.  Explore the Digital Humanities map collection:  Story Maps and the Digital Humanities   

2.  Build your own story map:  10 Things You Can Do with ArcGIS Online, Story Maps, Apps, and Spatial Analysis Workshops   > Scroll down to #2:  Story Maps.  Build a map tour, then, time permitting, a map journal.

3.  5 Forces acting in society to bring us to this pivotal moment in geospatial technology and spatial and critical thinking: 

4.  Data quality and societal issues:  My co-authored data book and blog. 

5.  Collect, map, and analyze field data with Survey123:  Use this form to collect tree height, tree species, and tree condition:   Examine the resulting map on: .  If you need the long URL, it is:,53.5424,10.0273,53.5… 

After uploading a test point to this Survey and seeing your results on the map, create your OWN survey on this or another topic (historical sites, homes, something else in your community) using the web form method via your survey is finished, create a map from your survey and examine the pattern of your results. Save and share as appropriate.


For activities in a Digital Earth, Geography, or Smart Planet course, let's focus on the following:

1.  10 things you can do with ArcGIS Online:  10 Things You Can Do with ArcGIS Online in Education  

2.   Teaching with web apps:  apps_teaching_with_activity.pdf - Box   These include examining Pacific typhoons in 3D, demographics of Zip Codes, creating viewsheds and buffers, and much more.  These apps are easy to use and yet very powerful.

3.  Introduction and Advanced Work with Story Maps:  Slides with core content with short activities and longer hands-on exercises.   These activities and exercises include how to build a story map from a web map, and how to build map tours, map journals, swipe, series, and other types of story maps.

4.  6 methods to map your own data:  6 Methods to Map Your Own Data:  A Workshop 


For examining the topic of Data Quality, Data Sources, and Spatial Analysis in ArcGIS Online, let us focus on:

1.  Why data quality matters, now more than ever:  Why Data Quality Matters More Now Than Ever 

2.  Data sources, data quality, and societal issues:  

3.   Trace downstream.  First add World Hydro by Esri, data to ArcGIS Online map. 

4.  Examine county health rankings, practice Arcade scripting:  

5.  Analyze zebra mussels from 1986-2011:    Summarize center and dispersion.

6.  Boulder County Hazards starting point:    Determine which areas are in floodplains AND in major geologic hazards, enrich final results with group quarters. 

7.  Cholera 1854 study starting point:  Determine which water pump had the most cholera cases within 500 feet, determine optimal walking route for Dr Snow to visit each well. 

8.  Real time weather analysis:   Symbolize data, create interpolated surface of temperature.  The full lesson I authored is here:  Predict weather—Predict Weather with Real-Time Data | ArcGIS  

9.  Join data to the Living Atlas of the World.   Start with this world earthquakes map:   and join contents to the Living Atlas of the world to understand the number of earthquakes by country.  The full lesson I authored is here:  Spatial Joins with ArcGIS Online and the Living Atlas of the World  

10.   The world of 3D analysis and visualization is also at your fingertips with cloud-based tools, as I show here of earthquakes:  Scene Viewer  

Today, there is no shortage of data available on open data portals, including those on ArcGIS Online (such as the Living Atlas of the World, and via ArcGIS Hub, and in many cities such as Cambridge Massachusetts and many countries such as Germany) and those we test and describe on our data blog  But there will always be a need for people to map their own data.  Great instructional value is inherent in doing so, including connectedness to the community, examining real world issues, field planning and methods, the use of data collection tools, outdoor education, and much more. 


If you are new to GIS, especially to web GIS, I encourage you to start with this HDI map of world countries, and this world plate tectonics map.


Thus, there is no shortage of methods in which to collect your own data.  In recent GIS workshops for faculty, I focus on the following 6 methods:

  1. Add data via a GPX file.  GPX files can come from a variety of sources, including GPS receivers and smartphone fitness apps.  Attached to this essay is a GPX file I collected in and around the University of Hamburg, Germany, using the RunKeeper app.  Save this file to your device, and add this to ArcGIS Online or Pro using the Add data tool. Symbolize the points and line as you see fit, and select your basemap of choice.  Note the "zinger" that appears in the GPX file.  I on purpose did not remove this, because these occasional spikes in the field path provide useful teachable moments.  This particular one occurred while I was inside St Michaels Church, gazing around at all the beauty, with the track "collecting" the whole time but losing some Wi-Fi hotspots, cell phone towers, and/or GPS satellites; hence guessing at my true position and, for a time, being a few hundred meters off.
  2. Add data via a simple table in Comma Separated Value (CSV) or text file (separated by commas).  Attached to this essay is a text file "fieldwork_hamburg_ped_counts.txt" in text format that I collected at 5 locations.  The data I collected was the number of pedestrians in one minute at each location, on a Sunday afternoon in winter. Symbolize the points as graduated symbol on pedestrian count.  Select a basemap of your choice.   Save and share as you see fit. Pedestrian counts is one useful set of data that you can collect with students, comparing different times of day, days of the week, and seasons of the year.  Note the high number of pedestrians at point #3 enjoying ice skating!
  3. Add data via an expanded table in text format for the same locations, but with a URL of a picture I took at each location.  FYI, my Flickr photos for this activity are from this set here.  After adding the data, click on each point, noting the "more info" for each popup that points to the photo.  Symbolize as you see fit, and practice customizing the popup.   Select a basemap of your choice.  Save and share as you see fit. 
  4. Use Survey123 to collect data in the area.  Use this form to collect tree height, tree species, and tree condition:   Examine the resulting map on: .  If you need the long URL, it is:,53.5424,10.0273,53.5… .  After uploading a test point to this Survey and seeing your results on the map, create your OWN survey on this or another topic using the web form method via  When your survey is finished, create a map from your survey and examine the pattern of your results. Save and share as appropriate.   See attached slides for more information on this powerful field data collection tool.  
  5. Create a story map of the data collected.  Several ways exist to do this, but start with the simplest one:   Go to > Apps > Create Map Tour > Sign in to your ArcGIS Online account > add images from Flickr > access my images of the University of Hamburg and waterfront in the folder  joseph_kerski (note underscore) > Done.  In the story map, note the photo captions are read from the Flickr header information.  Add the number of pedestrians at each point as follows, from points 1 through 5 (with 1 being the northernmost point, 2 to its southwest, and then 3, 4, and 5 progressively closer to the harbor front).  Then, customize the color, basemap, logo, and extent.  Save and share as you see fit.  Under My Stories, edit the map for this story map and add the GPX file that you used earlier.  Change one of the photo to an embedded Hamburg video from among the Hamburg choices on my channel:  Our Earth - YouTube   Re-save.  Once you understand this method, use the map tour template as a guide to creating a tour table, for an even faster way of creating a story map.
  6. Use Mapillary to collect your own street view scenes and map them.  Download the app and begin collecting on a path on your campus or in your community.   Mapillary is an Esri business partner and I love using their tools for professional results without a great deal of work.  See my essay here for more information:  Examining Mapillary Views in ArcGIS Online.     


The capabilities of these tools continue to become more powerful and easier to use with each update.  Get out there into the field!


--Joseph Kerski

Greetings Everyone:


Perhaps this article I wrote about the status and perspectives surrounding GIS in higher education will be helpful in your own efforts as you continue to champion the cause of why teaching, learning, research, and administrative use of GIS makes a positive contribution to academia and society:


--Joseph Kerski

GIS in higher education article

GIS workshop at a university, attended by those from the library, IT, engineering, data science, geography, humanities, biology, and other disciplines.

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