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Experienced GIS users (even K12 students) often speak in terms of custom projects. This is where GIS helps students be at their most powerful -- digging into a topic of one's choosing, allowing the user to explore, analyze, and customize at will. Tom Baker's blogpost on instructional materials and this Instructional Use of GIS document from Esri's T3G Institute show custom projects at the "high end" of learning activities. But it's tough to start there.


GeoInquiries let teachers and students jump into "core content" through maps. Their primary intent was as intro in situations where educators want quick nuggets and focused guidance. Some educators are going beyond the original purpose of GeoInquiries, enhancing and saving the maps as their own, but that takes some experience.


EarthXplorers was designed as a free, powerful guide along the path toward projects. Built by the Learning Technologies Media Lab at the University of Minnesota, with rich content support from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, this is a "scaffolded guide to learning the GIS project process." Six modules invite users to investigate historical sites and contexts, working with one's ArcGIS Online Organization account along the way. After walking through a carefully crafted activity with rich supports, students are challenged to turn around and apply the same tools and processes on a local project.






The best module for starting out is the "History of Cartography," which gives users interesting background about mapping and essential instruction about the ArcGIS Online environment. After that, users could do any of the other five projects in any order, as appropriate to time and interests: Elkhorn Ranch, Mississippi Delta, James River, Hinchliffe Stadium, and Manhattan Project. Through it all, a teacher management system helps teachers track and review student work. While big screens are always a help with GIS, EarthXplorers can work effectively in a 1024x768 environment like a tablet. (As always with online mapping, adequate bandwidth to handle each computer is a critical resource.)


GIS has unlimited capacity for instruction, but it takes experience to engage in the most powerful ways. Just as one doesn't start pole vaulting at 19 feet, projects require important skills that take time and experience to establish. The resources of EarthXplorers can help educators who want students to step into projects, but would like to provide students "project training wheels" to keep them upright at the beginning.

The human impact of the natural disasters occurring in North America in the last few weeks has been staggering – the result of a complex story of earth’s natural systems and human activities.  Independent of the subject you may teach, consider these pre-built activities, maps, and data to support your inquiry into earth’s systems with your students.


American Literature

Hurricane warning!



How much rain? Linear equations

Rates of population change

Perpendicular bisectors


Social studies

Exploring elevation with Lewis and Clark (elementary)

Climate (elementary)

USA demographics

M2L1 – The Earth moves

M7L2 – In the eye of the storm



Where does the water go?  (elementary)

Climate (elementary)

Weather forecasting  (elementary)

Seismic events: natural hazards (elementary)

Cracked plates

The Earth moves under our feet

Fluid Earth: winds and currents

Tropical storms

Climate change

Esri supported student work in remote sensing by donating ArcGIS software to each member of the winning team of the NASA DEVELOP video presentation contest.  NASA DEVELOP is a national program that fosters an interdisciplinary research environment where applied science research projects are conducted under the guidance of NASA and partner science advisors. The program is unique in that young professionals lead research projects that focus on using NASA Earth observations to address community concerns and public policy issues.  DEVELOP nurtures future science leaders, and therefore it was a pleasure to support NASA’s efforts in this way and to give students software that will enable them to continue working with GIS and remote sensing data.  We have supported the winners with software donations for many years and truly believe in the value of this program.  This year, the contest included 138 researchers conducting 30 projects across 12 DEVELOP locations.  

The virtual posters, featured on IEEE Earthzine, were scored by a 26-member panel based on content clarity (including community concern, project partner, NASA Earth observations, and products created), along with production quality, and professional communication.

Parts of the video from the winning project team.

Parts of the video from the winning project team.


The grand prize winner of the DEVELOP VPS video presentation was Say No to the Glow: Using NASA and NOAA’s Suomi NPP Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite to Model Artificial Sky Brightness, by a team of four participants at DEVELOP’s Wise County, Virginia location. Their study focused on this issue: "As more outdoor lighting is installed for safety and development, light pollution has become a growing problem that threatens the quality of life for humans and wildlife. The onset of light pollution in cities and dark sky areas hinders humans from seeing the stars and the Milky Way and has been linked to health disorders in humans and behavioral changes in flora and fauna. Park officials at Grand Teton National Park are concerned about light pollution’s impacts on visitor experience and the environment. Thus, in collaboration with the National Park Service and Wyoming Stargazing, our team created the Skyglow Estimation Toolbox (SET), a Python program that calculates images of artificial sky glow from the vantage point of a viewer on the ground."  See the project's highlights in this video.


Mentors and advisors included Dr. L. DeWayne Cecil (NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, Global Science & Technology), Dr. Kenton Ross (NASA Langley Research Center), and Bob VanGundy (The University of Virginia’s College at Wise).  


The People’s Choice Award for the most popular video this summer goes to “Tree Health Time Machine,” conducted by three participants at the NASA Ames Research Center DEVELOP node in Moffett Field, California.


Congratulations to all who participated in the NASA DEVELOP program.  By engaging in real-world issues with geospatial technologies, you are all winners!

Recently we have seen quite a few questions about ArcGIS and high performance computing (HPC), such as:


  •      I am part of a grant involving HPC – how do I run ArcGIS in HPC?
  •      What specific ArcGIS tools work in HPC environment?
  •      How do I license ArcGIS in a HPC environment?
  •      Where do I go for further questions?


Conceptual summary:


Some of the inquiries we’ve received do not distinguish between multicore computers and HPC. This could stem from general fuzziness about what some people mean by HPC, and how the term has evolved in recent years. Most modern desktop computers, including laptops, are “multicore” – meaning they have more than one CPU (central processing unit).


A lot of the tools in ArcGIS Desktop can take advantage of multicore hardware and parallel processing. Some tools do this automatically, some honor a geoprocessing environment, that allows one to specify how many processors one wants to use. Note that not all ArcGIS Desktop tools run parallel processing and these desktop tools do not run across multiple machines, therefore a user would need a beefy single machine to do a big job.


If there is an environment where multiple computers are connected together (and each of these may have multiple cores), then you have a compute cluster or distributed compute environment, which could be run in various infrastructures, commercial cloud being the likely place for such environment. Traditionally HPC, or a distributed compute environment, is described as multiple computers (hundreds) connected together and traditionally application software was specifically written for this compute environment. For a long time ArcGIS users have been asking about running ArcGIS on HPC computers, and now that is possible without additional coding and application writing.  


This is where ArcGIS Enterprise and specifically the GeoAnalytics Server and Image Server (Raster Analytics) server roles become useful because they are designed to run in such distributed compute environment, as well as run across multiples cores of a single machine. These roles are designed to take advantage of distributed storage (not all on one node/disk) and distributed computation (multiple computers).   


These roles are made available via ArcGIS Enterprise but can be accessed from a desktop application, such as ArcGIS Pro, or from a web browser (such as the Map Viewer). Running analysis tools utilizing these server roles can be much faster since the analysis tools have been optimized for the distributed computation across multiple nodes. Users utilizing these tools do not need to do anything additional (coding or writing an application) to take advantage of their distributed compute environment, the tools just know how to do it.


Bottom line: GeoAnalytics and Raster Analytics tools utilize distributed computing and can run across multiple machines, or multiple cores of a single machine. A base ArcGIS Enterprise deployment would need to be setup, and these additional server roles enabled.


Note: We also have heard some questions about ArcGIS Server clusters and associated confusion in HPC context. ArcGIS Server clusters are strongly discouraged and have been deprecated at 10.5.1. ArcGIS Server clusters were just a way to separate services, to run under a dedicated resource, i.e. “cluster”, which is different than the clustering we are talking about in HPC context.


Further questions:


As an academic user, please reach out to  with any Education-related questions.

GIS aids exploring complex situations and solving problems. Countless industry leaders, front-line analysts, behind-the-scenes developers, and in-the-trenches workers rely on it, for simple daily tasks on up to the biggest challenges. They seldom have step-by-step instruction, especially when venturing into new realms. They puzzle and explore, attempt and stumble, test alternatives, seek guidance from peers and public, encounter "Eureka moments," generate knowledge, and shed light. And students can do this, too!


For the 2017-18 school year, Esri challenges US high school (gr.9-12) and middle school (gr.4-8) students to explore something inside their state in a custom way, and present their results in an ArcGIS Online web app or story map. Teams of one or two students investigate their chosen topic and tell their story. The process can happen in or out of school (e.g. via clubs or even independently), but the channel for presentation is through school. In participating states, schools submit their top five entries to the state, and the top five HS projects and top five MS projects across the state each earn a $100 prize and national recognition, with 1-HS and 1-MS project from each state entered into a final national level competition.




Participation in a state requires application by and approval of a state leadership team. Information and guidelines are available online. Application deadline is Friday Sept 29, 2017. State teams can build out their "support crews" (publicity, judges, etc) down the road, but leaders need to move quickly so educators and students can know if they get to participate.


The 2017 results are visible online, and model well what students can do on their own. Creations by the HS and MS winners and runners-up, and all the other awardees in all the participating states, are viewable without login required. These students blazed the trail in Esri's first national student competition; returning students and educators alike are anxious to try again. This is what the millions of adult users of GIS do … explore, attempt, learn, repeat, and improve … building knowledge, making a difference, changing the world.

For over 25 years, the Esri Schools Program has created or collaborated on a variety of instructional materials.  Perhaps you recognize some of these. Maybe you've even used some of them.



Carl Rogers' Diffusion of Innovations is a theoretical model that describes how ideas (and technologies) can be spread over time in a social system. The innovation, communication channels, time, and a social system are all necessary to spread an idea according to the model. At some point, as an idea continues to diffuse it can reach “critical mass”. People in the social system are described based on their roles as either: innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, or laggards. Each group of people have typical actions within the system – from the rate at which they adopt a new technology to how they share that adoption. In this way, each group has strengths and weaknesses that must be planned for. For the interested reader, there are several additional elements (e.g. Moore's Chasm, Maloney's Rule)  to be considered in the model; it is worth an extended read.


 Imagine this curve representing the population of all U.S. school teachers – and the major groups they might fall into with respect to technology adoption.  Historically, our materials have been great at supporting innovative teachers and early adopters of technology. Our materials were great at helping people learn our technology – especially useful for application in project focused learning.  Unfortunately, as many of us know, project based learning is not all that commonplace in U.S. schools.  It takes time, resources, an experienced educator – and sometimes even runs counter to a school’s standards-based priorities. This tends to relegate project based learning to the realm of innovative teachers.


 For this reason, in 2014, we began developing GeoInquiries™ - materials targeting the receptive mainstream (Early Majority) to support the Esri ConnectED Initiative - a part of the Obama White House ConnectED Initiative.  Representing nearly a third of the teaching population, the segment's use of GIS quickly surpassed the use of GIS in project focused applications in the classroom.


Mainstream materials are subject-focused and use GIS to help teachers with day-to-day instructional objectives, supporting a range of classroom technologies, pedagogies, and levels of expertise. These materials are free, fast, and open access.  To understand how these materials support a segment of the community, rotate the diffusion curve 90 degrees counter-clockwise.  In addition to visualizing the mainstream Early Majority, we can also see how Early Adopters and Innovators have commonly used GIS instructionally.   (Click the graphic to enlarge.)



While our mainstream solutions, like GeoInquiries and Mapping Our World directly serve the Early Majority of the receptive mainstream in the teaching community, more advanced users, namely the Early Adopters, tend to blend pre-built content with custom classroom activities, while the Innovators tend to work with local and custom  projects.  Keep in mind, these are generalizations about instructional behavior. They don't describe the whole story of GIS use in classrooms.


Today, we commonly see fifty-thousand web hits a month for these mainstream activities and maps. Moreover, with the release this past summer of three new collections (American Literature, Mathematics, and World History) we now offer mainstream materials for all core disciplinary areas taught in school - with added support in the science and social sciences.

Does it work?  We surveyed teachers six months after a short, regional workshop event last year and found that approximately 50% of teachers are teaching completely from or blended with pre-built materials like GeoInquiries.  A smaller group of Innovators (~18%) continues to blaze forward with customized curricula and local projects and other adaptations.  Ideally, we'd love to see everyone teaching around local project work, but in the meantime, a significant body of educators is now teaching with GIS in the standards-based, mainstream classroom.


The ArcGIS Developer Subscription is now available and it is a way to provide students access to a variety of ArcGIS applications and capabilities, including their own dedicated ArcGIS Enterprise and ArcGIS Online portals, along with other developer tools.  


Of the following ArcGIS Developer Subscription plans, any student can sign up for the Essentials level, without going to a Site License Administrator, but that does not give them many options - it does not provide ArcGIS Enterprise licensing, dedicated ArcGIS Online organization (2,500 credits, 5 users), and more advanced capabilities. As part of a Site License, students are eligible for the Enterprise level of the ArcGIS Developer subscription.


In this blog, we wanted to document a possible process for obtaining ArcGIS Developer subscriptions (Enterprise level) for students. Why do that? I’d like my students to:


  •       Have ArcGIS Enterprise licensing, including advanced Server roles and capabilities – get experience in setting up and managing ArcGIS Enterprise.
  •       Have their own ArcGIS Online organization (2,500 credits, 5 users).
  •       Experience Administrator role functions, such as setup a portal home page, add users, delete users, experience portal management through scripting, etc. (ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Enterprise).
  •       Transfer their content from university portals (ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise) to their own portal (ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise) – they can build and keep a portfolio of all projects they have worked on.
  •       Have access to many other ArcGIS tools and capabilities available with the ArcGIS Developer Subscription.


Steps to request ArcGIS Developer subscription for students are below – note that there could be variations in the assignment and management of ArcGIS Developer subscription codes, depending on the institution preferences. My Esri account access is used for distribution of licensing and executables, as part of the ArcGIS Developer Subscription.


The workflow outlined below could be appropriate for issuing subscriptions to many students (i.e. in a course setting), and assuming that the students will not be accessing the university’s My Esri account. For issuing ArcGIS Developer Subscriptions to faculty or students who have access to My Esri, the majority of these steps could be done by Site License Administrator or faculty/staff who has licensing privileges in My Esri.


Bottom line: The assumption is that students don’t have access to the university My Esri portal, hence they will need to create a new My Esri account, activate their code, and from their My Esri account, download any software executables and licensing.


  1.       Site License Administrator or authorized staff/faculty would email Esri Customer Service to request “X” amount of ArcGIS Developer Subscriptions (Enterprise level), to be used by students in “X” course.


  1.       Esri Customer Service will issue the codes – they will be emailed back in an Excel file, and will appear in My Esri, under “Manage Developer Subscriptions”. Each code will start with “ADS” plus a series of numbers.


  1.       Two options to share with students:


  • In the Excel file, assign your students to a specific code, then share that code assignment with your students. Instruct your students to go to and click on the “Create a new account” link. The ArcGIS Developer Subscription code will be activated in the student’s My Esri account.


  • Site License Administrator or authorized staff/faculty, using the university’s My Esri account, could manually “Send Developer Subscription Codes” to the student’s email (under “Licensing”, then “Manage Developer Subscriptions”). The student would get an email asking them to “Register your ArcGIS Developer Subscription”. They would need to follow the “Register Your Subscription” link, and given that they do not have access to the university’s My Esri account, they will need to “Create a new account”. The ArcGIS Developer Subscription code will be activated in the student’s My Esri account.


Both options will achieve the same – the issued ArcGIS Developer Subscriptions would be tracked under “Manage Developer Subscriptions” in My Esri – date of activation, name and email, to whoever they are issued to, will be visible.


  1.       Students would need to go to their My Esri account and register their code (sent to them in the Excel spreadsheet or emailed to them, depending which method above is used). Under “My Organizations”, they will see “Licensing Forms” section. They would need to click on “Developer Subscription Registration” and register the code.





  1.        Under the “Developer” Menu, they will need to click the “Activate” button to activate their Developer Subscription.


   6.   At this point, they can create their ArcGIS Online organization, which will give them 2,500 credits and (5) named users.


  1.       They will be able to download their install executables (under Downloads), and download licensing available with the ArcGIS Developer Subscription (Create New Provisioning File), depending on the capabilities that would be taught in the class. Alternatively, the executables could be provided by the university or instructor via a distribution method of choice, if that is of preference.


  1.        Attached is a Word doc with possible instructions for students on how to Download executables and licensing for ArcGIS Enterprise or any tools provided with the ArcGIS Developer Subscription, and setup their own ArcGIS Online organization. Feel free to modify and reuse.


       Further items to consider:


  •      It would make sense that the ArcGIS Developer Subscription is issued per student. What if different instructors at a university decide to request ArcGIS Developer Subscriptions for students in different courses? How would one keep track of which students have been issued codes already?

       A: Regardless of the method used to register the codes, once the students activate their subscriptions, a Site        License Administrator would be able to see the name and email of the student that the license was issued to (Under        Manage Developer Subscription).


  •       ArcGIS Developer Subscription is active for (1) year – what happens after that?

       A: This is a university preference, licenses could be renewed upon request from Site License Administrator. An       option could be that the student purchases a student license and any ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise content       be transferred into that organization.  


  •       If the students have an existing My Esri account, or a My Esri account associated with the university, could this be confusing?

       A: A student could potentially end up with multiple My Esri accounts.     


Please feel free to share any thoughts or experiences with the attached workflow.

About 50 of the most popular technical workshops from this year’s UC are now posted on YouTube for the public. Any organizations that wish to purchase the full technical workshop collection can do so from our recording vendor at

Why teach about migration?  Migration is inherently a geographic issue.  It touches on themes of physical geography (such as climate and landforms), cultural geography (political systems, political instability, political boundaries, demographic trends past and present), sociology (perception, push and pull factors), and many more.  It changes over space and time and is an excellent way to teach spatial concepts and skills. Since the dawn of humankind, migration has always been present; thus, it ever remains a current issue. It is also relevant, causing deep and long-lasting changes in culture, language, urban forms, food, land use, social policy, politics, and much more.  Migration is a global issue that affects our everyday lives. It is also a personal issue, because each of us has a migration story to tell about our own ancestors and families.


One of the maps in the Esri coolmaps gallery enables you to visualize migration data over time and space in a 2D and 3D tool that is a powerful and effective tool, yet it easily works in any standard web browser without any software to install. 


The map opens in 3D mode and in Play mode, showing a set of data for selected countries (the UAE, Mexico, China, and Singapore during the 1990s, 2000s, 2010, and 2013.  This selected set provides a good introduction for teaching about the patterns, relationships, and trends in the data.   The time periods are shown below the lower part of the map, with the out-migration and in-migration available for each of the four time periods.  The thickness of the lines coming out from or going to each country selected indicates the amount of migration, and the end points of each line indicates the countries sending people to or receiving people from each country.  For each country, the raw number of out- and in-migrants is indicated, along with the percentage of that country’s total population for each time period.  After viewing the introductory data, use the “pause“ button to stop the Play mode and to select among the list of the world’s countries.  The interactivity--being able to select countries, years--the compelling cartography, and the ability to switch between 2D and 3D modes combines to make this an incredibly useful teaching and research tool.


As with any web GIS tool, always ask the students, “Where did the data come from?  Can you trust it?”  In this case, the data came from the United Nations Trends in International Migrant Stock:  The 2013 Revision is provided by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.  Use the “i” button to go to the data’s source.  Encourage the students to investigate the data at its source, and to study how and when it was collected.   According to this data set, how long does a migrant have to live in a country before he or she is no longer considered a “migrant”?


I also encourage you as the instructor to have the students use this map to help them understand migration patterns and number.  As we have written elsewhere in GIS education essays, this could be an excellent supplement to the other sources you use.  For example, ask, “How has Australian immigration changed in amount and in the countries sending migrants to Australia over the past 25 years?  What are some of the social and political changes that are occurring in the country with the changes in migration?  What do you think Australia will be like in 25 years if current trends continue?”  These questions illustrate that the visualizations help students understand geographic phenomena, but can also be used in tandem with other sources – such as journal and newspaper articles, the Census Bureau’s international database, ArcGIS Online maps and story maps from Esri, and other resources that could shed light on the topic, changes in demographics in cities and rural areas, and much more. 


One of my favorite things about teaching with maps is that they often confirm some hypotheses and shatter others.  These maps confirm some of what I knew about migration, but they also raised questions and shattered other preconceived notions I had.  For example, I expected the amount of migration to the USA to be high in raw numbers and as a percentage of the USA’s population, and I also expected the in-migration list of countries to include most of the countries around the world.  But I didn’t expect to see such a high percentage of Reunion Island’s population moving to the USA.  Is it part of climate-induced sea-level rise migration, perhaps?  Also, as expected, I found the number of countries that sent people to Somalia to be small, and the number of countries receiving Somalians to be somewhat higher.  But I did not expect to see so much flow from Russia to the UK, and vice versa, nor did I expect to see that Australia currently has the highest percentage of migrants living there of any country, at nearly 50% of the total population.


For a few more ideas on how to teach with this tool, along with a short tutorial on how to use it, see my video.


If this map intrigues you, be sure to explore the other maps in the “Esri coolmaps” gallery.  These maps cover a wide variety of topics from economics to natural hazards and much more.  They rotate in and out periodically, so be sure to check back often.  All of them make effective teaching tools.

Data from the international migration map in the Coolmaps gallery.

Michigan's GRACE Project (GIS Resources and Applications for Career Education) helps students use GIS. GRACE uses a coordinated and multi-tiered approach for educators and students alike, and works with communities across the state to identify partners interested in high school student interns with GIS knowledge and skills.


Last week, at the Great Lakes Research Center at Michigan Tech, in Houghton, in "copper country" of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, I joined dozens of community members to watch 10 presentations by students. They had worked for six weeks on paid internships, building data about their communities, analyzing it, interpreting it, and preparing their findings for the community. These were students in grades 9-12 who had learned about GIS from their teachers, been interested enough to complete an independent training program of about 20 hours of online courses from Esri Training, done the necessary paperwork and interview for an internship, and then exercised their brains day after day in summer.


(Graphic courtesy of Don Lafreniere)


The students grappled with issues common to GIS professionals and others: challenging community problems don’t come with a manual; data capture takes brains and persistence; not all data are equally good; initial findings don't always match expectations; there are many ways to analyze data, which can influence interpretations; and, no matter how much work one puts into a project, there are always more questions. Wrestling with such challenges required substantial skills, and new ones every day. Students needed to work independently and in groups, learn new concepts and skills aggressively, cope with different data formats and resolution, and use and interpret different means of converting many individual reports into a more useful broad display.




Across the state, GRACE has worked with cohorts of teachers, building their skills, and helping them introduce students to GIS. Their first summer of student internships, in 2016, yielded impressive stories. This summer expanded on those, from big cities to small towns. Students in varied communities recognized GIS as a stepping stone to a better future, for themselves, their community, and the larger world. Teachers recognized that GIS has value in all industries. Employers recognized that students have tremendous capacity and interest in the welfare of their world, and what they lack most are the pointers and permissions. GRACE points the way to a better tomorrow with GIS.

It is rewarding when one looks at innovative student projects. Below is an example of one such project, where the Insights for ArcGIS app was used by a student, Zach Matek, to visualize data in his Final Project in a Spatial Analytics course at Johns Hopkins University.  


What was impressive from an instructor perspective, was the fact that Insights was not taught in this particular course (though it will be in the next offering). The Insights app was shared with the student as an option to explore on his own, seeing that it could be useful to his project, and he was able to quickly create a workbook and perform analytics to enhance his project - without any instructional guidance!


The use of the Insights app was a small part of the project, but it presented the data in a clear way. Zach, a part time student, works for RainKing Solutions, which is a market research firm that helps businesses identify likely buyers of technologies on global scale using predictive analytics and sales intelligence. The organization collects data on global corporations, and sells this data to companies in the Business-to-Business (B2B) marketplace. GIS of course can aid in this effort, and Zach is testing the technology in his current workspace.


Zach’s project focused on one company,, Inc., and aimed to examine the geographic behavior of its customers. Salesforce provides Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and other cloud computing services to the globe and it is best known for its customer relationship management (CRM) platform. The data for this project was retrieved from RainKing’s database, and attempted to address important questions applicable to several stakeholders, such as:


  • Are the instances of Salesforce’s customers in statistically significant clusters?
  • Is there statistically significant clustering of customers based on certain weighted fields such as revenue, number of full-time employees, and IT budget?
  • Where is the median center of their customers?
  • Where is the center of their customers for each of the Census Bureau’s four study regions –Northeast, Midwest, South, and West?


Below are some screenshots from Zach’s workbook, please note that the interactivity of the maps and charts is lost in the screenshots - in a sense, the static nature of the screenshot does not do it justice. The live nature of the maps and charts, and the exploratory tools, was fantastic in the Insights app.  




Zach’s summary on the Insights workbook:


  • Salesforce data was exported from RainKing’s CRM to a CSV file, which was used in the Insights app.
  •       Data on Microsoft’s CRM was exported from RainKing database and compared with Saleforce customers.
  •       A heat map displayed locations of Salesforce customers, also showing similarity of distribution for Salesforce and Microsoft CRM
  •       The Density of customers was measured using the Calculate Density tool.
  •       Charts provide insight into the relationships between several variables:
    •       Three scatter plots show the relationship between budgets (IT, Sales, and Marketing), and Revenue – all yield an R2 over 0.9, which is not surprising.
    •       Four charts provide insight into the nature of the categorical data – through Bubble Chart and Tree Maps, the number of Salesforce customers is compared by state and city.
    •       Salesforce customer data was compared with several demographic factors – 2012 State Population, 2016 Median Income, and the Population with Graduate Degrees.


Zach’s feedback after using the app (his quote):


“I think Insights is really cool. It has the feel and aesthetics of ArcGIS Online, but the workflow is different than anything we've used, so I'm glad I got to try it out. I think it would be great to incorporate it into more courses. Especially since, it seems there's quite a bit of server side functionality one can use with it. Also, for a project like mine, where one is working mainly with data in a CSV format, it's really easy to upload and do some analysis. The charts were fun to toy around with, and there's so much demographic data available! It really is a perfect tool to use for business and retail data. “


Zach’s project involved a lot more that what was shared above, but the ease of use of Insights and its applicability was joy to observe. He also created a video tutorial, to be shared in future courses or otherwise, attached here. Thank you, Zach!


Data Credits: RainKing Solutions

Roxana Ayala was the opening speaker of the student team on stage at Esri's 2013 User Conference. Having just completed 11th grade at the Math, Science, and Technology Magnet Academy of Roosevelt High School and LAUSD, in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of East Los Angeles, Roxana and her 90 classmates had worked with GIS for only four months, in a pair of adjoining classrooms (Social Studies and English) housing 15 laptops between them, on a wireless network that ground to a halt when a 12th computer signed on.


But she and they persevered, digging deep into learning about their community by gathering data of personal interest and analyzing it in ArcGIS Online. Some continued the next year, and because of her work, Roxana got to speak to educators, and governors, and even stand in the White House and shake President Obama's hand. At college, she continued using GIS, getting into summer internships in support of her double major in environmental science and urban studies.


To help mark the 25th year of Esri's program for K12 schools, Roxana agreed to come back and talk about how GIS had helped her discover and steer toward some big goals. 



Roxana Ayala, senior at University of California Irvine

"I hope that in the future I go to graduate school and attain a Master's in the field of environmental science, and continue using GIS in order to demonstrate to the world how precious and vulnerable the planet is, and how important it is to fight for our planet. I also do hope to become a role model for many low-income, first generation students of color, and empower them to dream big, just like I did ... GIS has the power to create powerful maps that tell stories, and that can be translated throughout the world, and I really do hope to continue this legacy, and ... continue telling stories in an effort to build a better tomorrow."


Roxana Ayala, summer Intern at University of Minnesota

Two days after her EdUC talk, and four years after her initial appearance on the main stage of the Esri conference, Roxana strode out after a terrific presentation by three 4-H youth from Tennessee, to help the world connect the dots about deep learning with GIS in school. Students like Roxana, who get exposed to powerful ways of seeing the world, and get to dive into personal projects with it, can make a tremendous difference, for their future, for many others in communities near and far, and for the planet.


Just a little change in trajectory early enough can help someone change the world. Jump in to GIS in your class, and help someone else begin to in theirs. Imagine a future in which all students join Roxana in changing the world.


Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

GIS Day is drawing near!  This year, it will be held on 15 November 2017.  I wanted to share 6 things about GIS Day with you.


  1. What is GIS Day?  The theme of GIS Day is "Discovering the World Through GIS".  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.  The first formal GIS Day took place in 1999. Esri president and co-founder Jack Dangermond credits Ralph Nader with being the person who inspired the creation of GIS Day. He considered GIS Day a good initiative for people to learn about geography and the uses of GIS. He wanted GIS Day to be a grassroots effort and open to everyone to participate.

  2. Host an event at your organization -- school, community or technical college, university, nonprofit organization, library, private company, government agency, or even in a park outside--sometime during or close to GIS Day week (15 November 2017).  Post an announcement about your event on  It doesn’t have to be elaborate or something that consumes a lot of your employees’ time, but something where you open a section of your organization to the community, other departments in your organizations, or local schools, universities, community colleges, and clubs, to showcase what GIS is and what you are doing to make a positive difference in the world using GIS.  It doesn’t have to even be on the actual GIS Day; the point is that your event is promoting the benefits GIS brings to communities, your organization, and society.  Or, look at the map on the GIS Day website to find an event near you that you can attend!

  3. Find resources on the website  Together with a few other good people at Esri, I have made about 75 changes to the website since last GIS Day.  The resources improved on the website include story maps, hands-on activities, videos, strategies on how to work with students and the general public, and much more. Stay tuned for updates of the press releases, and so on.
  4. Get some geo-swag!  The first 250 organizations that register for GIS Day this year around the world will receive 1 box of some wonderful GIS-related items that you can use for promoting your event.  
  5. Be a GIS champion!  I am seeking organizations who are GIS and GIS Day champions around the world to highlight the good things they are doing, to be featured in articles on GeoNetArcNews, and other outlets.  Videos too!  If you know of an organization that should be included, or think that yours should be, please let me know via
  6. Questions?  Please email  I am on the receiving end of those emails and respond to these on a daily basis.


I hope this is helpful.  Thank you for promoting and supporting GIS Day!


--Joseph Kerski 


Kids and adults celebrating GIS Day!

ArcGIS Enterprise can be deployed on many different platforms, both on internal infrastructure and in the cloud.  This blog will describe a series of items to keep in mind as one launches ArcGIS Enterprise in Amazon Web Services (AWS).  The steps outlined below can be considered for various implementations of the ArcGIS Platform, regardless of the infrastructure it is installed on.


The main purpose for launching ArcGIS Enterprise in this example was to provide access to a portal to be used by students in a MS in GIS program, along with access to Insights for ArcGIS.


There are a number of System Requirements that we need to keep in mind as we implement ArcGIS Enterprise. First, we would start with a base ArcGIS Enterprise deployment, which includes an ArcGIS Server, Portal for ArcGIS, ArcGIS Data Store and two ArcGIS Web Adaptors. Then add additional server sites, as needed, to support additional capabilities.  


NOTE: This is just an example of an implementation, there are many possible variations for the outlined steps.  


  1.      Launch an AWS ArcGIS Enterprise instance (one of the available Esri AMIs).
    •      Ensure it fulfills the system requirements for ArcGIS Server and Portal for ArcGIS – as a start m4.2xlarge, 32GB, 8 virtual cores system was used.
    •      A new security group was created in a VPC with all required ArcGIS ports (see ports used by ArcGIS Server, Portal for ArcGIS, ArcGIS Data Store). Using a launch-wizard or default security groups is generally not recommended, because they will allow all traffic in. 
    •      Once the instance was launched, the windows password was retrieved using a .pem file, and a remote desktop connection was made.
    •      A few logistical items were done, such as removing IE Enhanced security configuration, set default browser of preference, and install any programs of interest, such as ArcGIS Pro, Notepad ++, etc.
    •      The World Wide Web publishing service (Windows service) was started, then set to Automatic start.
    •      The ArcGIS Data Store and Portal for ArcGIS Windows services were started as well. The startup was changed to Automatic, versus manual. Why do this? Some of the components of ArcGIS Enterprise run under a dedicated Windows service (Arc GIS server, Portal for ArcGIS and ArcGIS Data Store). These services need to be running.


  1.      Work with IT to secure the following:
    •      Have a preferred domain in mind, i.e. IT department was contacted with the preferred domain name and the internal IP address of the instance. This is how eventually the DNS entry for the website was setup, that will map a domain name, such as, to the IP address of the AWS instance. This would work for internal access, then IT setup a NAT for external access.
    •      Add the machine to Active Directory domain (IT staff with proper permissions performed this) and confirm that the proper DNS records updated.
    •      Add a desired account to the local Administrators group, that way that person could login to the AWS instance using their university credentials, versus the local Administrator account.
    •      The university’s IT practice recommended against using Elastic IPs – on premises DNS was used. They focus on setting up internal access only first and then using a NAT for external access (one of the next steps).


  1.      Request SSL certificates (CA certificate) issued to the domain.
    •      University IT departments use various services. Some of the common ones are GlobalSign, Comodo, DigiCert, others.  
    •      Certificate Signing Request (CSR) was created.
    •      Once certificate was received, it was installed and configured. An example is here.
    •      Certificate was bind to the website.


  1.      Request Public IP NAT.
    •      At this point, the IIS Welcome URL ( ) was able to be reached while on the university network, but not outside of the network.
    •      IT created a Public IP NAT, then updated the DNS entry with the Public IP address.
    •      After NAT records were updated with the Public IP, was able to be accessed from anywhere (good indicator one could proceed).
    •      In a nutshell, all traffic was coming through an internal networked IP – the AWS machine was hidden from the outside world. Note that this is just one possible scenario of networking and implementation.
    •      RDP port was not open on the NAT. This means that one had to be on the university network to make a remote desktop connection to the instance.


  1.      Follow the Deploy Portal for ArcGIS on AWS
    •      Ensure that Portal for ArcGIS, ArcGIS Server and ArcGIS Data Store services are running and startup is Automatic.
    •      When creating the Portal Administrator Account, ensure there is proper storage on the drive where the components are installed. There have been issues with users trying to do the installation with small amount of space, for example 10GB, left. Also, proper permissions are needed for the windows account under which the Portal and Server windows services are running.
    •      NOTE: Make sure step 19 of the Deploy Portal for ArcGIS on AWS documentation is done to set the portal’s system properties in the Portal Administrator Directory.
    •      IMPORTANT: Follow this workflow to avoid redirect errors – the Web Adaptor URL has to be changed to in the Portal Administrator Directory.


  6.  Request enterprise logins, commonly referred to Single Sign On (SSO).  

  •      Worked with IT to configure a SAML-compliant identity provider with the portal.
  •      In this particular case, IT staff requested that a portal account with Administrator privileges be created for them, and they enabled SSO.  
  •      This step is very important to save time when it comes to user management – this means that no additional logins for students had to be created, and they could just login to the portal and the Insights for ArcGIS app using their student credentials.


Any comments or additions are welcome.

Esri offers five different Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). My recent experiences suggest our MOOCs are still a bit mysterious to students, educators and professionals.


In this post, I want to highlight how our MOOCs are different from Esri’s other free e-Learning offerings (Web Courses, Training Seminars, Videos and Tutorials).


E-learning options menu from the Esri training page, including MOOCs.


1. While some free e-Learning resources are accessible to everyone, others require you or your organization to own qualifying products under maintenance.


MOOCs are free to anyone, anywhere who wants to learn. All required accounts and software are provided for the duration of the course, without cost.


2. E-learning resources are video- or text- based; there is no interaction with the instructor or other learners.


While there is no “real time” instruction in an Esri MOOC, each course is led by an experienced instructor. Instructors guide students, provide support and answer questions, often on topics beyond the course content. Further, students are encouraged to help one another. Instructors acknowledge “the most helpful students” with Esri prizes.


3. E-learning resources are available on demand. Students can take them when they need to learn or review a topic or technique or whenever they feel the itch to learn.


MOOCs are more like college courses. Students must register in advance, or within the first two weeks of a course to join the current offering. Exercises and other assignments must be completed by the end of the course.


4. E-learning resources run minutes or up to a few hours.


MOOCs run over a four or six-week period. The course material is introduced either all at once or week by week.


5. E-learning resources typically cover specific skills on specific software products. A typical course is "Customizing the ArcGIS API for JavaScript Widgets.”


MOOCs focus on broader topics such as spatial analysis, location analytics, building apps without coding, applications of imagery, and cartography. While students use Esri software, MOOCs are not designed to train students to use specific features or software packages.


6. E-Learning Web Courses include quizzes and exercises; other learning formats depend on videos and text.


Here again, MOOCs are more like college classes. They include video lectures and conversations, step-by-step exercises, class discussions and quizzes.