GIS - Geographical Information Systems

The Visual Leap is interested in GIS because it is a technology based visual tool of inquiry. (That, and the fact that we love maps.)

What is GIS

A Geographic Information System (GIS) uses computers and software to organize, develop and communicate geographic knowledge. In simple terms, GIS takes the numbers and words from the rows and columns in databases and spreadsheets and puts them on a map.

GIS is an emerging technology that is critical in our world today. GIS is a mapping software that allows one to query data and represent it graphically in maps. GIS is currently used by police departments, fire departments, the US Geological Society, cities, municipalities and universities. It may be one of the most significant emerging technology based industries. One of the most important parts about GIS is that it allows users to compare different kinds of data to uncover surprising connections and relationships.

GIS allows users to create geographic maps that reflect pretty much any set of data. Census data, ecology, temperature, crime data and more. Just about anything that anyone has cataloged in a data table can be imported and analyzed using GIS. For example, police departments use it to analyze, predict and solve crime. Social scientists use GIS to understand migrations of immigrants and how this relates to other factors.

Here is an interactive online map powered by ESRI

What is Geographic Inquiry

The Geographic Inquiry Process

What to do
1. Ask a Geographic Question
Ask a question about spatial relationships in the world around you.
2. Acquire geographic resources
Identify data and information that you need to answer your question.
3. Explore geographic data
Turn the date into maps, tables, and graphs, and look for patterns and relationships.
4. Analyze geographic information
Determine what the patterns and relationships mean with respect to your question.
5. Act on geographic knowledge
Use the results of your work to educate, make a decision, or solve a problem.

Resources for GIS

Our most up to date GIS resources are on our page.

FREE GIS Software - ArcExplorer Java Edition for Education (AEJEE)
ESRI GIS Education Community
ESRI GIS Lesson: Analyze the Last Seven Days of Earthquake Data:
ESRI Resources for Education
ESRI Blogs, Lessons, Ideas
ESRI International User Conference
Penn State U - PA Data Access Wizard
Philadelphia Police Crime Analysis and Mapping Unit
Census Data for Educational Uses
GIS Lesson
GIS Lessons
GIS Lessons

USGS GIS Data on Earthquakes

USGS Earthquake Page:
USGS Google Earth KMZ file:
USGS Latest US Earthquakes Page:
USGS Earthquakes Hazards Program:
USGS Earthquake Feeds and Data:
USGS Google Earth KMZ file repository:

My first GIS map

This is my first GIS map. I created it using the ArcView AEJEE GIS Client. This is a free, cross platform GIS Client, designed for education.