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As I recently wrote in the guidelines and essay, More Power for Your GIS Analysis through Joining Features to ArcGIS , the paradigm that GIS users have been operating under for decades is being challenged in new and exciting ways.  One way, as I wrote above, is the standard workflow of "downloading data > joining the attribute tables of two data layers > performing analysis."  I demonstrated how you can join your data to layers in ArcGIS, and specifically, the Living Atlas of the World, an authoritative rich body of content, and thus bring that diverse content to bear on the analysis of patterns that may be inherent in your data.


Let's take another, related standard workflow--spatial joins.  A spatial join is a GIS operation that affixes data from one feature layer's attribute table to another according to its location. Spatial joins begin by selecting a target feature and comparing it spatially to other feature layers.  Spatial joins have been used for years, for example, to determine how many water wells are in a drainage basin, or businesses in a census tract, or the number of earthquakes that fall within specific countries over specific time periods.  Let's take this last example and apply it to the rapidly advancing web GIS paradigm.  


Let us say that I want to determine how many earthquakes occurred in the past 30 days according to the USGS National Earthquake Information Center.  The way I have done this for years in ArcGIS Desktop was to gather two data layers - a point layer for earthquakes, and a polygon layer for world countries, and perform a spatial join.  Nothing is wrong with that method, and it continues to work well in ArcGIS Pro, for example.  But let's say I want to do that in ArcGIS , and I don't want to download anything.  This is accomplished with an analysis tool in ArcGIS --Join Features.  To use the analysis tools, you have to be signed in to ArcGIS  and have a publisher role.  


To begin, I start with my web map: - the 

Earthquakes starting point map.  It contains data layers that are streaming from the USGS earthquake center, in my case, the last 30 days of earthquakes. 


Once the Join Features analysis tool is engaged, I find World Countries (generalized) in the Living Atlas of the World.  This is my target layer, so named because my goal or "target" is to create a choropleth map by country polygons.  The layer to join to these polygons is my earthquakes layer that is streaming from USGS.  My type of join is "intersect"--if an earthquake is inside or "intersects" the country polygon, I want it to be considered.



Spatial Join 2

Here is how I found the Living Atlas content, after searching on World Countries, I selected the generalized data set:


Spatial Join 1

I filled in the remainder of the Join Features dialog box as follows:  I chose the one to one operation; I added statistics so I could determine average magnitude and depth by country, which I thought would be interesting (always be curious! This drives you forward in your use of GIS as I explain in this video); I named my resulting layer and I unchecked "use current map extent" just in case my current extent happened to be cutting off any outlying islands in the South Pacific, for example, and then > Run Analysis:


Spatial Join 3


My results are below, with all countries defaulting as single symbol. 

Spatial Join 4

I will change the style shortly, but before I do, let's examine the new table of data.  The "join count" field contains the number of earthquakes by country:


Spatial Join 5

The average magnitude and average depth have been saved as fields in the new layer:


Spatial Join 6


Next, I used Change Style to symbolize the countries on Join_Count, as follows:



Spatial Join 7

Because the USA contains so many earthquakes, the default Counts and Amounts symbology lumps most countries into one category.  The reason why is in part because the USGS earthquake center is in the USA.  It is in Golden Colorado; I used to give tours there as a USGS employee; a fascinating place that I recommend highly for you to take a tour in next time you're in Colorado.  The earthquake center receives transmitted signals of information from the global seismic network, but it also senses ground motion from nearby earthquakes in the western USA.  So, it senses more small earthquakes in the USA than it does for other countries, resulting in a higher number for the USA.  This is all a critical part of knowing your data, as I write about weekly on the Spatial Reserves data blog.  So, under Options, I changed the classification to Quantile with 5 classes, as follows:


Spatial Join 8


The result is below.  Now I have a better sense, with a choropleth map, of the frequency of earthquake by country.  Given a ocean polygon layer, I could even map oceans by earthquake frequency.


I would like to make just a few adjustments.  Because over the last 30 days, according to the USGS, earthquakes had occurred in only 42 countries, and 254 polygons exist in the generalized world countries data set, countries with no earthquakes have no symbol or color:    


Spatial Join 8b


This looks a bit odd.  My goal is to show countries with no earthquakes over the past 30 days with a pale yellow color.  This is easily remedied with a few keystrokes.  The easiest way to do this is to use the Add Data button, add the generalized world countries from the Living Atlas of the World, and change its style to pale yellow with a yellow outline.  Once done, I moved its position to be located underneath my joined earthquakes layer.  I also moved the earthquakes to the top of the contents so that my map users could more clearly see them.  I also labeled the countries with the number of earthquakes that occurred within each one.   The resulting map is here. 

Spatial Join 9


Try the Join Tables to ArcGIS  on other data sets.  It can be accomplished in just a few steps but the results are powerful.  Think of ArcGIS  and the Living Atlas as a vast storehouse of data that you can join your own data to for rich analysis.

For those of you interested, and if you have not seen this already, this Story Maps and the Digital Humanities collection contains some inspirational examples of humanities/education/academic oriented story maps. 


It is a companion to Allen Carrol's recent blog post on this topic.



I am pleased to report that the registration link on  is working and is ready for you and your colleagues to add the event(s) that you are planning for this year.  This year, 2018, GIS Day is officially on Wednesday 14 November.  However, holding your event on another date that better meets your needs is perfectly fine, as I explain in this video.  


GIS Day provides an international forum for users of geographic information systems (GIS) technology to demonstrate real-world applications that are making a difference in our society.  You can hold an open house, conduct a presentation or workshop, or be creative and hold some other sort of event, that showcases what you are doing with GIS and why it matters.  Your event can be open just to your own organization, to the general public, or to a specific audience.  


The first 300-ish organizations that register on the above URL will receive 1 free box of specially prepared GIS Day items, so be sure to verify your shipping address when you register your event.  Also check the map and make sure your event appears in the correct location with the correct information.  Location matters!


In addition, I have added some new items to the GIS Day resources pages recently with more to come.


Thank you for being a GIS Day champion!


--Joseph Kerski

 GIS Day 2018

We often get asked “I’d like my students, staff or faculty to use ArcGIS Pro, what is the best way to distribute the executable to them”? This applies to any other Esri application that needs to be downloaded and installed, such CityEngine, ArcGIS Enterprise, etc. There are a few ways to accomplish this, and our recommendation is to use the institutional shared file system (same applies for distributing single use provisioning files, though the recommended way of licensing ArcGIS Pro is through a named user account in an ArcGIS Online organization).


  •      Use your institution’s shared file system – this could be Box, Google Drive, shared drives, whatever method is typically used to distribute files. Advantages are:
    •      One location for accessing the executables that can be used by everyone in the organization (this makes it easy for ArcGIS administrators, instructors and students).
    •      It can be behind the same single-sign-on (SSO) as your ArcGIS Online organization, LMS or other business systems – makes it easy for students, staff and faculty to simply login with their known enterprise credentials and download.
    •      Potentially faster download speed.


  •      Use My Esri – this could be an involved process if one wants to provide Download access to many students, staff and faculty. We generally discourage it for the reasons below – and of course exceptions apply.
    •      This involves an invitation to My Esri initiated by the administrator.
    •      Depending on whether the My Esri account is already in the system, there may be additional interaction to Request Permission (for Downloads in this case).
    •      There are a couple of notification emails that would go out to students, staff, faculty who are being given those permissions, such as “your permissions request has been received”, or “your request has been approved” notifications.
    •      This can be burdensome for administrators (to have to manage the requests), for instructors (to have to instruct their students where to go to download), and for students (to have to navigate My Esri to get to downloads).
    •      From Administrator standpoint, this does not scale well for increased number of users.


  •      Use trial downloads – we generally discourage this method, as it has users creating additional accounts that can be confusing with any other My Esri or ArcGIS Online accounts they already have.

Feel free to share feedback.

My new article in Geospatial World magazine is entitled Why GIS in Education Matters.  My goal was to reach a global audience of readers through this magazine with a message that they would be able to take to their own communities, schools, colleges, and universities to encourage the deepening and widening of spatial thinking through GIS in those educational institutions, and beyond those institutions, to libraries, museums, and after-school clubs and university clubs.  I begin the article with a reminder and a brief history of why mapping has long been valued.   I then discuss the chief reasons why GIS merits inclusion as a framework and a toolset, not just in GIS programs, but in sociology, mathematics, geography, engineering, health, business, environmental, planning, and other programs and subjects.  I focus on how using GIS as an instructional tool opens the door to inquiry, content, skills, and perspectives. 


After reviewing the progress of how GIS is used in education around the world, the article returns to the essentials:  GIS is a powerful tool for analyzing the whys of where, and for understanding our changing Earth:  Students use GIS to understand that the Earth is changing, think scientifically and analytically about why it is changing, and dig deeper:  Should the Earth be changing in these ways?  Is there anything that I should be doing or could be doing about it?  This captures the heart of spatial thinking, inquiry and problem-based learning.  It empowers students as they become decision-makers to make a difference in this changing world of ours.


It is my hope that the article will be useful to many throughout the educational system, to geomentors, to GIS professionals, and beyond. 

GIS in education - Photos by Joseph Kerski

All photos by Joseph Kerski.

Esri Fall 2018 and Winter 2019 MOOC News


Change is afoot! I want to update you about changes to how you register for our courses and the latest course schedule. That map above? It's one of the maps you make in the Cartography. MOOC. 


Registration: Smoother than Ever


Esri MOOCs are now managed like other Esri training courses. You’ll find them in the Esri training catalog. Here’s a link for MOOCs by date


Once signed in to Esri training site with your Esri credentials, you can find your course and register with a single click. I encourage you to check which e-mail address is associated with your Esri credentials. Many e-mails sent to MOOC students bounce due to inactive e-mail addresses. Most individuals can review and change your e-mail address by clicking on your name at the top right to open the menu and then selecting Profile and Settings. If you are part of an ArcGIS Online organization you may need to contact your organization’s administrator.


Remember that registration closes at the end of the second week of each course. We cannot enroll students after registration closes. My advice: when in doubt, register! There are no downsides to registering: it’s free and no notation is ever made on your training record unless you complete the course. If you do not start the MOOC or complete only part of it, the MOOC will simply disappear from your My Schedule page after it closes.


System Check


Earth Imagery at Work and Cartography. require ArcGIS Pro. All students registered for those courses should have a computer that can run the software. MOOC students are provided with software and a named user license; the license is revoked when the course closes.Here’s a test to see if your computer can run ArcGIS Pro


2018 Third and Fourth Quarter MOOCs


Do-It-Yourself Geo Apps: Sept 5 – Oct 3, 2018 (four weeks; all content opens on the first day)


John Shramek, who helped develop and has been teaching The Location Advantage MOOC, will teach this offering. While much of the course has not changed and focuses on building apps without any programming, John enhanced the exercises to introduce students to Survey 123 and Operations Dashboard.


Cartography.: Sept 5 – Oct 17, 2018 (six weeks; new content opens each week)


This is the second offering of the course from Ken Field, Edie Punt, John Nelson, Wes Jones and Nathan Shephard. Student feedback suggests this course, which highlights ArcGIS Pro’s cartographic features, is also a great introduction to the software.


Earth Imagery at Work: Oct 31 - December 12, 2018 (six weeks; new content opens each week)

Kevin Butler leads students through scenarios highlighting how imagery is used in a variety of disciplines including disaster response, agriculture and commercial business. Students are often surprised at how many imagery exploitation tools are available in ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Pro.


2019 First and Second Quarter MOOCs



Do-It-Yourself Geo Apps: February 6 - March 6, 2019 (four weeks; all content opens on the first day)


Cartography.: April 10 - May 23, 2019 (six weeks; new content opens each week)


Earth Imagery at Work: April 10 - May 23, 2019 (six weeks; new content opens each week)




The training site includes MOOC Common Questions and a form where you can ask specific questions. 


Educators can contact me directly via GeoNet or e-mail at


I’ll see you in class!


Adena Schutzberg

MOOC Program Manager

The 2018-19 school year marks the third year for Esri's "ArcGIS Online Competition for High School and Middle School Students." It is also the second year for Esri's "Teacher Video Challenge." Both "tests" deserve serious consideration.


The student competition offers a lot of opportunity. In participating states, students (singly or as a team of two) do research and submit a presentation in the form of a Story Map or other web app. This can be done as part of school or outside of school (e.g. individually or through a club), but gets submitted through the school (high school for grades 9-12, middle school for grades 4-8). A school can submit up to five entries to the state, which chooses up to five each HS+MS projects to receive $100. These ten get national recognition, and one each at HS+MS get entered into a final competition, and a trip to Esri's User Conference in San Diego, CA, to present to GIS users from around the world.


School Competition diagram

The teacher challenge lets K12 educators describe their use of ArcGIS Online. Teachers create and share their own one-minute video as an entry, and Esri chooses one story per month for a more in-depth video interview, with a $500 honorarium. This collection shows the breadth of content areas, grade levels, teaching styles, school environments, and implementation strategies through which teachers can engage ArcGIS Online. Past awardees range from more traditional to decidedly non-traditional situations, but all teachers demonstrate real craftsmanship as educators.


Teacher Video Challenge awardees

ArcGIS Online has vast capacity, but even at its most basic it can be enormously powerful. In both the student and teacher challenges, what matters is implementation. It's far more impressive doing powerful things with basic tools than basic things with powerful tools. Learners and leaders who understand their focus area deeply make impact. See how by looking at the collection of student winners and teacher challenge awardees. Then plan your entries!

The Esri MOOC team has transferred the certificates  of completion earned during 2014-2017 from the Udemy platform to the Esri training website. MOOC students can visit their My Learning Activity page and sign in with their Esri credentials to view them.


Our programmers transferred nearly 30,000 certificates, but some are not yet linked to the correct student's Learning Activity page. If you believe a certificate for an Esri MOOC you completed on the Udemy platform is missing from your page, contact us via the form at the bottom of this page. Please include your name, your username and the name and date of the course. We'll find it and add it to your page.


In addition to printing the PDF certificates, the MOOC team encourages educators and students to link to them from CVs, resumes, portfolios and LinkedIn profiles via their unique public URLs. For example, here’s the certificate for the first Esri MOOC I completed back in 2016. 



We look forward to awarding more certificates of completion in the third and fourth quarters of 2018!

We often get questions by academic users on how to teach with ArcGIS Enterprise, especially by those who have been teaching with a standalone ArcGIS Server. For anyone new to ArcGIS Enterprise - ArcGIS Server was renamed to ArcGIS Enterprise as of the 10.5 release, to reflects its functional capabilities and a modern Web GIS pattern. ArcGIS Enterprise is how we do Web GIS in an organization’s infrastructure.


We wanted to outline a couple of possibilities in terms of teaching and deployment in the classroom. They are simply scenarios, and we welcome any feedback if anyone has utilized any of these, or other, patterns. Choosing an option will depend on your purpose:


  •      If one wants to empower many instructors and students to participate in innovative educational opportunities, enabled by ArcGIS Enterprise advanced services and capabilities, the first listed option would probably be best. In this case, the instructors or students do not necessarily need to know everything about the underlying technology, they just need to take advantage of the capabilities, once it is setup for them.
  •      If one wants to teach administrative aspects of deploying a technology such as ArcGIS Enterprise, then the second and third options may work better.


Note that there are a number of System Requirements that we need to keep in mind as we teach with ArcGIS Enterprise, specifically the need for Domain Name Service (DNS), Fully Qualified Domain Name (FQDN) and SSL certificates – items that we didn’t necessarily have to think about with the older standalone ArcGIS Server pattern.


  •      ArcGIS Enterprise deployed for a course/program
    •      All students are Publishers in the portal
    •      Everyone leverages advanced services (geocode, image, geoprocessing, etc.)
    •      Everyone leverages advanced capabilities and server roles (GeoEvent/Real Time GIS, GeoAnalytics, Raster Analytics, Business Analyst)
    •      Everyone uses ArcGIS Pro to share to the portal
    •      Enterprise logins (SSO) can be used to alleviate manual student user creation


  •      ArcGIS Enterprise for a course (base ArcGIS Enterprise deployment managed by instructor, students having standalone ArcGIS Server machines, which they will federate with Portal for ArcGIS)
    •      Instructor has the base ArcGIS Enterprise deployment (Portal for ArcGIS, ArcGIS Server, ArcGIS Data Store, 2 ArcGIS Web Adaptors)
    •      If there are 20 students in a course, each of the 20 students will have their own ArcGIS Server machine – they will be Administrators on the Instructor portal and each student will federate his/her ArcGIS Server site to the Instructor portal (so 20 federated servers). They will do this as an exercise, i.e. practice some of the installation steps, but understand the importance of the portal in a modern Web GIS pattern. They will not get to setup the portal homepage and other settings.
    •      Everyone can leverage advanced services and capabilities.
    •      Everyone uses ArcGIS Pro to share to the portal.
    •      Note, this scenario with many federated servers has not been tested (a couple of universities are planning to implement it in Fall 2018) so please do test and share any results if this is your pattern of choice, especially if you have a lot of students in a course.


  •      Every student gets their own ArcGIS Enterprise deployment (students practice administration of ArcGIS Enterprise, including installation, portal setup (homepage, users, and various administrative duties)). We use this option in a "Web GIS" course at Johns Hopkins University, so I’ll take the liberty to document a few details.
    •      Students were given a scenario that they work for the City of X, and were tasked with deploying and administering a Web GIS in the city's infrastructure, to provide apps and capabilities to the city's constituents. They got to install ArcGIS Enterprise, setup the portal, add users, and wear an administrator hat. They really enjoyed it – it was empowering, after they’ve worked with a SaaS such as ArcGIS Online, to be able to do many things on premise themselves, including Real Time GIS!
    •      We leverage AWS as an infrastructure but this could be done on-premise or with other cloud platforms, such as Azure or Google Cloud (GCP). Every student gets a dedicated EC2 instance. We have AWS federated logins and SSO (which means no manual IAM user creation for students – access gets controlled through Active Directory (AD) groups and roles mapped to them). Therefore, students can just login to the AWS console using their student credentials, and they have privileges to start/stop/restart their own instances and no one else’s.
    •      Esri Cloud Formation, Esri ArcGIS Enterprise AMIs or ArcGIS Enterprise Builder can be used in this scenario.
    •      We favored the use of ArcGIS Enterprise Builder deployed by students on a preconfigured AMI we setup beforehand (starting with the standard AWS Windows Server 2016 instance, turning off Internet Explorer Enhanced Security Configuration, setting up Chrome as a default browser, installing Notepad ++, Installing ArcGIS Pro, copying the install executables on the AMI, and a few other tweaks)
    •      We used AWS Route 53 for DNS, our own domain hosted in AWS (such as, and record sets for each student. Let’s Encrypt wildcard cert was used by all students. We could have worked with Central IT to register all student instances with JHU DNS, but they recommended against Elastic IPs, required all internal traffic, which meant the students would have to VPN, which was not ideal for a fully online program, given that our students could be anywhere geographically. Hence, managing everything within AWS appeared to be an easier approach. However, there are many options in terms of networking and fulfilling the system requirements.
    •      At the end of class, we had a DevOps scenario, and students again got to configure a base deployment using Chef Solo (free Chef Client download), and Esri Chef cookbooks, specifically the ArcGIS Enterprise recipe – powerful way to observe Web GIS automation and deploy via a script.


Note that to deploy ArcGIS Enterprise for teaching, licensing will be needed for the ArcGIS Server component as well as the Portal for ArcGIS component. For the Portal for ArcGIS licensing, you will likely need to reach out to your Esri Account Manager and specify the number of named users you’d like to have in your portal. For the last described pattern (each student having their own ArcGIS Enterprise deployment), licensing for the Portal for ArcGIS component would need to be obtained for each student through the ArcGIS Developer Subscription, documented here. Students will get a portal with 5 named users.


If anyone has used the above scenarios, or others, please do share what worked, if any challenges were encountered.



"Web mapping? Sure, I use digital maps!" is a statement I hear fairly often. On the surface, it seems that these two concepts are the same. Indeed, for nearly 20 years, since the 1990s with MapQuest and in the 2000s with maps on mobile devices, interacting with maps in digital form rather than paper has been the more common everyday experience. But I submit that "web mapping" is not the same as simply using maps on the web, whether in health, energy, city planning, or, as is the focus here, in education.


In my view, using maps on the web includes looking up a place name, examining thematic maps such as ocean currents, world biomes, or demographic characteristics by neighborhood across your city, finding the distance between two points on a map, finding the route between two points, mapping locations that you have visited in the field, and so on. Nothing wrong with any of those tasks. Using maps on the web focuses on the "What's Where?" question.

But web mapping's purpose is for examining patterns, relationships, and trends. It examines change over space and time at a variety of scales, and across themes. For example, what is the relationship between the location of mines and water quality across a mountain watershed, or between median age and median income across a city? How does the land use change across a region over time, or the precipitation across a mountain range? All of these questions end with, "And why?" Charles Gritzner wrote a great article about geography being about what is where, why there, and why care.  Web mapping focuses on the "Why there"? and "why care?" part of Gritzner's framework. 


To summarize in tabular form:


Maps on the webWeb Mapping


             Navigation       Navigation
             Visualization       Visualization
       Creating web mapping applications
       Collecting and exploring field-collected data
Where are the field sites I visited?Why does the water quality vary across the field sites I visited?
Where are the younger and less affluent neighborhoods in this city?Is there a spatial and attribute relationship between median age and median income in this city, and if so, what is the relationship, why does it exist, and does it change over time?
Where is the mountain range in a region and what is the precipitation regime across them?How and why does the precipitation regime change across the mountain range?


Using maps on the web is a stepping stone to web mapping, but is not exactly the same as web mapping. They are not exactly the same thing, but there is overlap between them to be sure.


In short, web mapping uses the concept of GIS as a platform, including web, mobile, and desktop, with its analytical, multimedia, and application ability, to its full potential. 


The educational implications of this are many.  How do we teach in this new paradigm of web mapping?  What concepts should we teach, and what skills should we seek to foster?  What tools and data sets should we use?  How should we incorporate new field techniques and apps?  How should we assess student work given the ease of creating web mapping applications such as story maps?  How should our primary, secondary, community college, and university courses and programs change to encompass this new world?  


In addition, Web GIS is not just "more and better" GIS, it also requires new ways of managing GIS. 


All of this is part of the continued shift from desktop-only GIS to web GIS.  This shift involves the movement:

  • from software products to platforms and APIs,
  • from client/server to web services and apps,
  • from standalone desktop to connected devices,
  • from print maps to web maps and data visualizations,
  • from static data to data services, streams, and big data
  • from custom applications to interoperable packages and libraries
  • from a single all purpose application to many pathways and focused apps
  • from proprietary data to open data and shared services.



If all this seems like mere semantics, this is why I believe this matters: Like all of you, I care deeply about meaningful student learning with geotechnologies. To foster spatial and critical thinking with geotechnologies requires more than looking up place names on a map, or routes from a certain point to another point. It requires that we be purposeful about using maps as the analytical, exploratory tools that they are.


Education for a brighter future with GIS

Using the Web GIS paradigm in education and society offers a brighter future for students and the entire planet.

In a recent Ed Summit 2018 workshop on “Best Practices for Administering ArcGIS in Education” we shared a number of recommended workflows applicable to academic setting. Some of the key ideas are below:


  • Web GIS is not just “more and better” GIS, rather a whole new way of doing GIS, which requires new ways of managing GIS.
  • Build bridges with stakeholders within your institution who can facilitate these best practices – collaborate with experts in enterprise systems, identity management, information assurance, etc.
  • Maximize access to ArcGIS and minimize time/cost spent managing ArcGIS - it takes more time to restrict access.
  • Enable enterprise logins, commonly referred to as Single Sign On (SSO), and auto-provision new users for Role (Publisher), Credits, Esri Access, Entitlements, etc. This eliminates manual account creation and management when user status changes (student graduates, faculty retire, staff leave).
  • Enable access for everyone – once SSO is implemented, new users can automatically join and leverage the technology. Consider ArcGIS to be enterprise-level system similar to email, LMS, file servers. 
  • Enable Esri Access for any incoming user as part of auto-provisioning (possible after latest June 2018 ArcGIS Online release) – empowering users to help themselves by getting access to Esri Training, Learn ArcGIS, GeoNet.
  • Enable access to everything – grant entitlements for all common apps (ArcGIS Pro, GeoPlanner, Insights for ArcGIS, Community Analyst, Business Analyst, etc.) for any incoming users (currently done via script). Ensure that any such scripting is enterprise-level – robust, scalable, secure, reliable.
  • Set credit quota – high enough so that users can do their work, low enough to protect them from mistakes.
  • Use a single ArcGIS Online organization, where possible, which avoids impeding collaboration and means reduced combined management workload.
  • Disable offline licensing for ArcGIS Pro via Named User licensing, and instead provide Single-Use licenses for potential offline use cases. 
  • Do nothing as a best practice – no need to delete accounts, delete content, etc. 
    • Rely on official institution sources to track when person’s status changes – students graduate, faculty retire, staff leave – configure SSO to deny access for ineligible users.
    • Do not delete content as there may be dependencies and others may be relying on this content.


We welcome any feedback on the above recommendations!


Peter Knoop (University of Michigan)

Geri Miller (Esri)

"It's the work of freedom." These words by history teacher Mariana Ramirez near the end of the education section of the 2018 Esri User Conference plenary summarize the power of teachers helping students investigate their world. The Math, Science, & Technology Magnet Academy at Roosevelt High School, in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, presented their work on Esri's stage in 2013, and two teachers (Ramirez and English teacher Alice Im) were brought back in 2018 to receive the "Making a Difference" award, because the work their students do is such a powerful model.


Theirs is not a "simple research project" that could be replicated immediately in any given week, or even a month. Teaching under-privileged youth in an inner city public high school sometimes involves helping students facing serious personal responsibilities and family distress, working with English language learners, overcoming difficulties in reading and math, wrestling with layers of "administrivia," coping with inadequate resources, all while covering classroom content. How then does one help students build substantial background knowledge and long-term life skills?


MSTMA at Esri UC 2018

Amid exploding reams of data, often conflicting or unbalanced sources, and shifting and confusing scales of attention and value, what matters is not accumulation of facts but ability to learn -- to ask good questions, handle varied inputs, derive substantive meaning, think critically, make good decisions, and act, singly and in concert with others. Teaching these skills takes all the time, energy, empathy, attention to detail, coaching skill, content expertise, pedagogical experience, planning and adaptability, capacity to tolerate risk and withstand failure, and multi-tasking that a teacher can muster, for dozens of students at a time, typically over 100 on any given day. The best teachers know that education is a process of engagement, not simply delivery. They teach people, not content, and so tweak their interactions scores of times per minute, at once speaking, listening, looking, feeling, cataloguing, digesting, planning, and reacting … explaining here, asking there, cajoling one, praising another … all while helping to erect the scaffolds of knowledge and skill, and the trust with which students frame their view of the world.


MSTMA presents to Esri

Because of its capacity for incorporating limitless types, amounts, and scales of data, GIS is a powerful tool for learning. The MSTMA teachers help students build their skills, then turn the focus to the world they know, asking them to dig deep, seek the data, analyze it, and present their conclusions. It takes time to build the requisite skills, conduct the research, and present to their peers, their teachers, their community, and the broader outside world. But the students recognize the rewards, inside and out, often very quickly, occasionally only over time.


"One person can make a difference … and everybody should try," says Esri president Jack Dangermond at the close, echoing the words of President John F. Kennedy. Anyone in doubt, or anyone simply seeking affirmation, need only watch the video, and then share it. "It's the work of freedom."

I taught a story mapping workshop and a growth in tribal GIS colleges workshop at the Society for Conservation GIS conference, and have attached the slides and activities for these workshops to this essay.  The story mapping workshop covered why to use story maps, how to use story maps, and how to create map tour, swipe, series, map journal, and other types of story maps.  The tribal GIS workshop covered the application of GIS to teaching and learning in Tribal Colleges, the recent 2nd edition of the Tribal GIS book published by Esri Press, and other related topics. 


I created these materials for the annual conference of the Society for Conservation GIS (SCGIS).  SCGIS is a non-profit organization that assists conservationists worldwide in using GIS through communication, networking, scholarships, and training, and it was a pleasure working with the participants.   The themes, tools, and approaches in these materials will be useful to other communities, and I hope you find them useful, too!

Site of the SCGIS conference - Pacific Grove, California.

Site of the SCGIS conference - Pacific Grove, California, and its unique coastal ecosystem. 



Last year I wrote guidelines on how to go beyond the standard base maps available in ArcGIS Online to access others that are now available.  There's plenty to love about standard base maps - satellite imagery, OpenStreetMap, National Geographic, and others, and for the USA, the USGS topographic maps.  But the ability to easily access the unusual and fascinating ones such as Colored Pencil and Antique Modern is interesting and useful in many ways, such as integrating Arts into your STEM instruction (thereby creating "STEAM"), for discussion about cartography, to lend interest to your maps, analysis, and story maps, and much more.


There are additional ways to access these maps over and above the ways I described in my previous essay.  One way is to access a map that contains a set of new custom vector tile base maps, on  Change the base maps simply with the base maps tool.  Grab the URL for the base maps that you are interested in and use it in your own maps - many are listed here:  


The newspaper base map, showing central London.


The newspaper base map, showing central London, but available globally at multiple scales. 


Since ArcGIS is an integrated system (web, desktop, field, enterprise), you can also access these base maps in ArcGIS Pro.  To add one of these base maps to your ArcGIS Pro project, click on the View Tab > Catalog Pane, > Living Atlas > Search 'vector tile basemap', as shown below. 


Adding basemaps to ArcGIS Pro.

Adding one of these fascinating base maps to ArcGIS Pro.


Now challenge yourself and your students to go the extra mile. Now that you are using a variety of different base maps, discussing the merits of each cartographically and artistically, a logical next step is for you and them to create your own base maps.  That's right!  As my colleagues describe in these guidelines, you can edit everything from fill and text symbols to fonts, halos, patterns, transparency, and zoom level visibility!  This is a great way for you to enhance your GIS and cartography skills but also to tap into your creative, artsy side!


For more information, read the GeoNet blogs about vector base maps.   Happy mapping! 


I confess, my favorite is still Colored Pencil.  What's yours? 

During this week as I spend time with 18,000 people at the Esri User Conference and at the Esri Education Summit, several themes have become evident.  First, the GIS education community has enormous energy--they are enthusiastic about the new tools and data at our fingertips, yes, but more importantly, about the task of educating primary, secondary, community college, and university students about how to use GIS effectively to tackle a wide variety of problems.  Second, they are dedicated--many are new to the field, some are 30 year veteran educators, but all are willing to invest the time needed to learn the most effective ways to teach with GIS and teach about GIS.  They see the enormous return on investment--student engagement, job opportunities, community connection, and a wiser, more informed populace.  Third, they model what it is to be a lifelong learner--willing to teach each other and learn from each other in our rapidly changing field and in our rapidly changing world.  At the conference, we heard many inspiring stories and were presented with many models of the use of geotechnologies in the areas of natural hazards, population change, energy, water, health, business, and other application areas that we can use in our instruction. 


For example, at the Education Summit keynote, stories were shared about the progress of GIS in education in the UK and beyond, about how the University of Southern California is understanding aging in the community, and how an innovative masters degree among three universities in Europe was conceived and implemented.  We learned about new imagery, layers in the Living Atlas of the World, new capabilities in field apps, in ArcGIS Pro, in Community Analyst, and in ArcGIS Online that we can use.  We learned about new books such as Cartography and Getting to Know Web GIS, new resources such as the new Esri Training site and the Learn ArcGIS library, that can be accessed again and again.  


Our community is faced with an enormous challenge--to increase the spatial literacy of our students, and by extension, all of society.  But we have excellent tools, excellent data, and most of all--a wonderful and diverse community of people, to meet this challenge for a brighter future.   


Esri User Conference 1

Learning about new tools, resources, and people at the Esri User Conference plenary session.


One of the Young Scholars at the Esri UC

One of the Esri Young Scholars.   They came from all over the world and were truly were inspiring. 


At the Esri User Conference

Learning and growing at the Esri User Conference Expo. 

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