Using Esri Basemaps in Education

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02-24-2017 07:09 AM
Esri Frequent Contributor
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Most users of Esri technology are familiar with the 10 or so base maps that are available through the Basemaps tool on www.arcgis.com - ArcGIS Online.  But did you know that there are many other wonderful basemaps available for your use and that these choices not only continue to expand, but are becoming more responsive to draw and are increasingly rich with content?  And probably the hottest topic in base mapping right now is the advent of vector basemap.  Vector basemaps have several benefits over their raster counterparts. One is their ability to customize the vector map style by changing colors, line attributes, and even fonts. Another benefit of vector maps is their ability to support updated data, such as the content contributed by communities through the Community Maps Program. 

The vector basemap group currently contains several dozen web maps and layers.  One of my favorites is the imagery hybrid, which shows satellite imagery and a vector layer with streets and other features; in other words, a best of both worlds, which is very useful when you are wanting a basemap underneath your field-collected data.  This layer even provides the date of the satellite image, the source, the resolution, and the accuracy.  The sample vector tile layers group in ArcGIS Online contains some interesting and different basemaps for you to try.  One of my favorites is the colored pencil basemap shown in the banner of this blog essay, which reminds me of the maps I made as a teenager using my own colored pencils.  I also like the Modern Antique map (shown below), the newspaper map, and the clever snow-filled Merry Christmas basemap shown below and described here.  Each can be added to your existing or new maps in ArcGIS Online simply by using the Add button and referencing the layer name.

The best way to keep up with these developments is to read the GeoNet blogs related to basemaps.  For example, a new basemap supporting the mapping of human geography themes was recently published, described here.

Consider examining these with your students in your cartography units, show them to your art teacher colleagues, and make use of them - they are all at your fingertips!

Modern Antique Basemap

Modern Antique Basemap

Merry Christmas basemap

Merry Christmas basemap

1 Comment
New Contributor II

Is it possible to use the basemaps in ArcGIS Pro?
Do you have the symbol sets / instructions for creating these, or similar, maps using local data?

thanks, nice work.

About the Author
I believe that spatial thinking can transform education and society through the application of Geographic Information Systems for instruction, research, administration, and policy. I hold 3 degrees in Geography, have served at NOAA, the US Census Bureau, and USGS as a cartographer and geographer, and teach a variety of F2F (Face to Face) (including T3G) and online courses. I have authored a variety of books and textbooks about the environment, STEM, GIS, and education. These include "Interpreting Our World", "Essentials of the Environment", "Tribal GIS", "The GIS Guide to Public Domain Data", "International Perspectives on Teaching and Learning with GIS In Secondary Education", "Spatial Mathematics" and others. I write for 2 blogs, 2 monthly podcasts, and a variety of journals, and have created over 5,000 videos on the Our Earth YouTube channel. Yet, as time passes, the more I realize my own limitations and that this is a lifelong learning endeavor and thus I actively seek mentors and collaborators.