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K-12 Schools Get Free Cloud-Based GIS Mapping Software

Esri today reported it's committing up to $1 billion in free accounts for its cloud-based GIS mapping software, hosted through Amazon Web Services. Amazon said it's committing AWS resources for three years to support the effort for all schools that participate.

Esri is the maker of ArcGIS, a geographic information systems (GIS) software suite that provides tools for creating interactive Web-based maps. The software is already widely used in schools, with some statewide licenses in place. It's used in project-based learning across disciplines, including science (such as gathering data from the field and mapping it), math (calculating volumes of water) and social sciences (calculating population densities).

Through the program, elementary, middle and high schools will be able to receive grants for the use of ArcGIS Online, the hosted edition of ArcGIS. The move is in response to the President's ConnectED initiative, which has already attracted commitments from several other tech companies, including Microsoft, Dell, Lenovo and others. In addition to the software, the program also provides teacher training, a community space, educator mentoring and other student and teacher resources.

"The connection between STEM education and a 21st Century career path is undeniable, and early experience with technical skill development will help prepare our K-12 students for high-paying, rewarding careers later in life," said Teresa Carlson, vice president, worldwide public sector, Amazon Web Services, in a prepared statement. "Geographic information is part of how we view our world today — not just how to get from here to there, but also in learning to perform analysis, communications and planning functions. We are excited to support the President's ConnectED initiative and Esri's effort to bring information and technology into the lives of students by providing free cloud-based infrastructure to K-12 schools across the country to support the ArcGIS initiative."

"We are proud to be part of the President's ConnectED Initiative," said Jack Dangermond, Esri president, also in a prepared statement. "Geographic Information System technology gives students powerful tools for understanding our planet, and teaches them to become problem solvers. It is a perfect complement to STEM courses and many other classroom activities, while preparing students for further education and expanding career opportunities in fields that can help better manage our world, build better lives for more people, and design a better future."

Individual ArcGIS licenses run $10,000 per school. Through the program, the licences and hosting will be provided for free.

Complete details for educators who wish to participate can be found at


About the Author

David Nagel is editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Technology Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal and STEAM Universe. A 29-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at or follow him on Twitter at @THEDavidNagel (K-12) or @CampusTechDave (higher education).