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20 Posts authored by: tbaker-esristaff Employee

I have been able to judge the ArcGIS Online Competition for US High Schools and Middle Schoolssince it began.  I’d like to offer some tips to teachers and students as they consider creating competitive projects for the 2020-2021 school year.


1. Start with a clearly stated question.

This isn’t a book report. It’s an investigation aided by maps. Tell readers what you want to know, learn, or are curious about. This frames the entire story map and may mention how you plan to tackle the question or problem.


If most of your story map is telling about others’ data, stories, or information, then you may want to reconsider your question.


2. Storymaps have always been more competitive than apps.

According to the competition rules, you can submit apps.  But one has yet to win.  They don’t compete well because they usually don’t tell a clear story without explanation.


Regardless, all maps must be understandable. Include a legend or clear narrative to describe a map’s content.


3. The best projects involve collecting some data outdoors.

The data might be environmental, historical, or social but there’s no mistaking the extra mile a student takes when collecting, mapping, and analyzing their own data in conjunction with other relevant GIS data.  If COVID-19 or similar is active during the 2020-2021 school year, judges’ expectations will respect public health guidelines.


4. Customize your map pop-ups.

Few things are more disheartening than seeing beautiful data only to be let down by pop-ups that aren’t configured - or image links that are broken.  In fact, broken images in map markers are probably as common as unconfigured markers/pop-ups.


5. Fill out the metadata!

The item details page contains the storymap’s metadata.  Fill it out.


6. Check the national rules from Esri about media inclusion.

If the national competition limits storymaps to two non-student created images, don’t use more.  Check the number of videos and length allowed.  These limits are in place to ensure the final story map clearly shows student work - and not just a collection of media from around the web.


Keep in mind that not all states judge based on the media limits, guidelines, and rules in the national contest.  A story map that does well in a state competition, may not do well in national judging.


7. Analyze some data

I’ve seen a lot of maps containing markers with a bit of text and maybe an image.  The maps can be beautiful and stories compelling, but fundamentally, geographic data analysis (visually or with tools in ArcGIS Online) will always standout.   A buffer has a starting point - but don’t stop there. 


Bonus tip: Optimize large datasets that you build.  If you post a map layer with many vertices and columns of unused data, consider optimizing the layer so that it loads quickly.


Good luck!

Explore the map of state mandated US school closings from COVID-19 or add the feature service to your own maps. Data from March 18, 2020.






Is your school or district rapidly planning to move courses online?

General K12 resources for COVID-19 moving courses online


Specific resources to consider as educators move courses online

District school administrators and educators are moving quickly to form plans to increase their use of online instruction as the potential for corona virus increases in the United States. While district and state administrators may wish to consult the Esri COVID-19 GIS Hub, below we offer suggestions for resources from Esri that can easily be included in your online or face-to-face courses – this spring or next fall.


1. Pre-built online learning plan: Get to Know GIS for Secondary Students (6.25 hours)

Learn the basics of GIS. Work with ArcGIS Online to interact with GIS maps, explore real world problems, and tell a story. Find out how workers use GIS and what it takes to become a GIS professional. Explore >>

2. Semi-built online activities: GeoInquiries (20-30 minutes each)

Use the Esri GeoInquiry student worksheets to structure online learning of standards-based content with web-based GIS, in short, easily usable learning chunks.  Learn more >>

3. Pre-built online short course: ArcGIS Online Basics (2 hours):

ArcGIS Online is a cloud-based geographic information system used to map data, share content, and collaborate. This course will give you a foundation for working with ArcGIS Online. You will learn what ArcGIS Online is and the benefits that you and your organization can gain by using it.  Explore >>

Note: Free ArcGIS Online account required

4. Semi-built online activities: Teach with GIS (variable times)

Explore this collection of nearly 200 learning activities that use ArcGIS Online. Some activities require an ArcGIS Online login.  Discover more >>

5. Wide-open: GeoProjects

Build a class data collection project to which students can submit data – allowing students to explore a range of research questions from the safety of their own home. This resource also includes links to short courses on several field data collection apps from Esri.  Explore the hub >>

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

The long-awaited World Geography GeoInquiries collection has released 15  "Level 1" activities and ArcGIS Online maps, based on the content from the award-winning book, Mapping Our World.  The activities are designed for middle and lower-high school geography classrooms, are based on the C3 Framework for social studies, and tied to leading world geography textbooks.  All activities are licensed under Creative Commons for easy reuse by educators.

World Geography GeoInquiries

Currently, the collection includes "no-login" activities studying:


  • urbanization
  • temperature factors
  • seismic and volcanic activity
  • population density plate boundaries
  • political boundaries
  • population growth
  • standards of living
  • the Arabian Peninsula - culture
  • growth of global communications
  • the Arabian Peninsula - physiographic
  • monsoons of South Asia
  • GDP and development
  • Central America
  • sea level rise
  • North American trade



Explore the activities and maps >>


NCSS + NCGE 2019

Posted by tbaker-esristaff Employee Aug 21, 2019

The National Council for Social Studies (NCSS) and the National Council for Geographic Education (NCGE) are teaming up this fall in Austin, TX to bring what is surely to be one of the largest geography education events in the country! Planned for November 22-24, 2019, the event features a growing line-up of GIS sharing and learning.  We'll start tracking the Esri and partner-based presentations below to help give you a heads-up.


Thursday, November 21

  • CUFA Book panel

       Thursday, November 21, 11:15am - 12:30pm

       Location: Room 16B, Austin Convention Center

       Presenters: E-yung Shin, Sarah Bednarz, others including Thomas Baker


Friday, November 22

        Presenters: Thomas Baker, Barbaree Duke, Injeong Jo


Saturday, November 23




Photo credit.

A few weeks ago, I shared Python scripts with Peter Knoop at The University of Michigan.  He was kind enough to share a cool ArcGIS Online wordcloud generator, which as you might have already guessed, I tweaked and ran against ArcGIS Online this morning with a few Valentine's Day related terms: love and Valentine.


The Python script uses the libraries: ArcGIS API for Python, BeautifulSoup (text cleanup), and wordcloud.


The script searches the titles of up to 10,000 ArcGIS Online public maps for the keywords love or valentine and then grabs the description from the maps meeting our criteria.  Using the word cloud library, the most common terms are found in the descriptions and the word cloud created. 


The word "love" was found in the title of 277 maps in ArcGIS Online today. The descriptions of those maps produced this wordcloud.  

Love word cloud


Running the script a second time with "valentine" produced 57 maps with descriptions producing the following wordcloud.



I noticed "pest" showing up in our love wordcloud and the lack of "valentine" in our valentine wordcloud (at least the english version).  Let me know what you see in the wordclouds below.


Happy Valentine's Day!

"By the end of day one with enterprise logins, I'd saved an entire teaching day! I'm never going back to the old, manual way of creating student accounts!" 

      —Matt Winbigler, Science Teacher, Cloquet Middle School (Cloquet, Minnesota)

For teachers that have already requested a free ArcGIS Online organizational account for their school, know that managing student accounts in ArcGIS Online is an important part of successfully using ArcGIS Online in classrooms, but it doesn't have to be difficult.

Why Have Student (and Teacher) Accounts?
Many schools have an ArcGIS Online organization subscription, which can hold 500 or more accounts for students or teachers. Student accounts are great for letting students create, save, and share maps and apps. Student accounts can be used to complete Level 2 GeoInquiries or even make apps to compete in the ArcGIS Online School Competition.


How Do I Make Student Account Management Easier?
ArcGIS Online allows for enterprise logins, which provide a way for ArcGIS Online to talk to your school's or district's student login system. ArcGIS Online supports the two largest student login systems used in US schools today: Microsoft and Google. Teachers will need the help of your school or district IT staff to connect ArcGIS Online with a preexisting login process. 


Share this post or send the link below to your school or district IT staff and tell them you'd like to share ArcGIS Online with all the students in the school or district. Ask them to enable enterprise logins, which is a quick process when following the guidelines detailed in the link below. Keep in mind, this will create new accounts for all students. Depending on your situation, you may wish to keep using any existing student or teacher accounts through the end of the school year.


This short article describes a process where Python was used to harvest metadata from a list of identified ArcGIS Online maps and the maps’ data services. The data were logged to MySQL (with pymysql); a PHP web search and discovery page was created.  The process allows for keyword searching in titles and descriptions of maps and data layers. 



I was approached by a large K12 educational entity (greater than 10k) that wanted to implement SSO for user account creation and authentication.  However, they also wanted teachers to have publisher roles and students to have user roles.


Read more. >>

Single sign-on uses a school district’s identity provider software (such as Microsoft Active Directory or Google G Suite) to support student authentication on devices, when accessing the school network, or when using district software.  Single sign-on provides three broad categories of benefits to teachers: increased instructional time, stability and support across the school, and reduced teacher liability.   Read more >>

(with Python, the Python Imaging Library, and the ArcGIS Online API for Python)


Using geotagged images can be a great way to capture verifiable data in a project-based learning or citizen science exercise. Students can collect data with photographs, share their images to a common folder, and then use this script to map the pictures.


Geotagged images are taken constantly, usually by people with smartphones, perhaps even by people unaware that latitude-longitude information is embedded in the header of the images.  For many casual users, seeing these images in a smartphone’s built-in Photo app with a simple map feature is all the mapping they’ll want.  But, for the carto-literati ...



ArcGIS Online Organizations can accrete user accounts over time for a number of reasons. Bulk CSV based creation of user accounts or single sign-on or simply orphaned accounts from last year's classes all contribute. For bulk user management in ArcGIS Online, no tool is more powerful than the ArcGIS API for Python - however, it should be noted for the non-scripter, GEO Jobe Admin Tools are ....


Read more >>

E-book market growth continues to climb.  E-books, as a share of the worldwide textbook market sales, is estimated to jump from 12.3% to 25.8% from 2013 to 2018 (Statista). The advancement of ebooks (including etextbooks) is nowhere more evident than in education. A projection report from Technavio suggests, 49% of “students” had purchased and used an etextbook by 2015.  


With the rise of ebooks on more powerful mobile devices and the continued growth of digital instructional materials in education, it's worth noting that maps can extend a wide variety of standards-based instructional content in schools (e.g. see the Esri GeoInquiry project to validate this idea). Thankfully, ArcGIS Online maps can be inserted into at least one particularly ebook format: Apple's iBook.  Learn how >>

While GIS analyst and developer careers are readily available, the bulk of professional GIS users are in geo-enabled careers – like civil engineering.  Join the Esri Education Outreach team and Strivven Media’s Virtual Job Shadow as we explore the career field of civil engineering – focusing on storm water management.


Be sure to share this and all of the career videos with your students! 


Sara loved buildings as a girl and planned to become an architect. In college, she discovered art didn't interest her as much as science, math and GIS so she switched to civil engineering. Watch her video to see why she loves being a civil engineer!Civil engineer


Civil engineers design, build, supervise, operate, and maintain construction projects and systems in the public and private sector, including roads, buildings, airports, tunnels, dams, bridges, and systems for water supply and sewage treatment. Many civil engineers work in design, construction, research, and education.


Watch the civil engineer video >>

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