Geographical Association (GA) Annual Conference 2023

Big thank you to all at the GA for the opportunity to present at #GAConf23.

[Click here to view / download the PPT presentation used at the conference]

This introductory workshop to Survey123 was designed for anyone at #GAConf23 wanting to finally scratch that itch and have an easy, jargon-free route into collaborative GIS. I still see/hear many comments from teaching colleagues that, after trying for a number of hours, they are struggling to get set up.

My key message from this session: Time does not need to be spent coding or setting up logins for each and every student. You can unlock the countless benefits and power of GIS with just one login, your students’ own smartphones and a little bit of know-how.

Below are my follow-up notes. Even if they help just one colleague to feel more confident in using GIS in their teaching & learning, I’ll be absolutely thrilled.

Step 1: Register for ArcGIS Online

Make your way to and you will find the ‘Sign Up‘ page. Just to confirm, ArcGIS Online is completely FREE for all schools in the UK and Ireland.

FREE Tutorial: There is a fantastic step-by-step guide on Survey123, produced by Jason Sawle and Katie Hall at Esri UK. Go to Teaching Resources and search for Survey123, or click here.

Step 2: ArcGIS Survey123

Your Esri login will be the same for all software apps that you have been given a licence for, including ArcGIS Survey123. Signing in will bring you to the ‘My Surveys’ dashboard containing all of the surveys you have created.

Each survey has a number of icons attached to them:

  • Chain / Links : This will take you to the survey (which can be completed on-screen.)
  • Pencil : Edit the design of your survey. You can still alter the design after some data has been collected.
  • Globe : Sharing options – A few checks need to be made here (more on this later).
  • Bar Graph : Access data/entries that have already been submitted. This will be automatically updated each time a new survey is completed.
  • Text : This will take you to the live GIS map that is created from the data entries.
  • Ellipsis (3 dots) : Various admin options e.g. delete survey. ‘Save as’ will allow you to save a duplicate of your survey.

Step 3: Design your Survey

To keep things simple (I learned the hard way!) it is recommended that when you create a new survey via the ‘+ New Survey‘ button you then follow the Blank Survey option on the left.

Below is a short & simple walkthrough on how to create a survey for your students. In this example I am building a homework task based on the theme of Globalisation, where students are asked to investigate the origin of their clothing items:

How to set up a survey.

Step 4: Sharing your Survey

Avery teacher has experienced that awful IT-based lesson where 55 minutes of the 1-long lesson has been taken up with trying to get every student logged in. Thankfully, Esri have made it ever so simple for us to share and set survey tasks without the faffing and unnecessary jargon. You just need to ensure a couple of options are checked.

You will need to access the ‘Share Survey‘ options. This is reached from the Collaborate button when designing the survey. Once there, check the following…

You’re ready! It’s then up to you and what you think is the best (and easiest) method of sharing the survey link with your students. The winning aspect of this is that students can now access the survey on their own devices, anywhere and without the hassle of logins.

Below are some ways which have worked tremendously well for me…

A) Post / Message in Virtual Classroom

One of my ‘Covid Keeps’ is to have each of my classes in a group on MS Teams (the same as Google Classroom, Class Dojo and other virtual environments). For a quick Survey123 homework I can simply post the link and QR code.

One of my many QR posts in MS Teams!

B) Printing the QR Code / Adding to a Worksheet

If you are able to plan ahead, you could stick the URL link and QR code to the bottom of a worksheet or page within a booklet.

For additional support, I have often asked Learning Support Assistants to help me stick (and write) links into homework diaries.

C) Holding it Up!

Now my go-to for fieldwork. Print the QR code and URL onto A4 paper. Laminate. Give copies to all staff members attending the trip. At each site we simply hold up the code and students can access the survey immediately. No hassle.

My fieldwork pose!

No 4G / 5G / WiFi? No problem!

As we all know, some fieldwork locations are very remote and data connectivity can be an issue. If this is the case, just do the following BEFORE you set off:

  • Ask your students to download the Survey123 app from either their iOS / Android provider.
  • Students press ‘Continue without logging in‘ and click the QR code symbol.
  • Scan the QR code for the survey.

The survey will now save to the smartphone and students can use in the field. All data entries will be uploaded once the smartphone is back within data range.

Data can still be collected on smartphones without a data connection.

Step 5: The Results!

The best bit. Seeing all of the data come in. What’s more… seeing the data come in and be placed onto a map for you.

Click here for an example of what 140 completed surveys can look like when placed onto a GIS map!

Below is a short guide on what you can view / do with the data, using the same set of data from the link above.

As a teacher, think of the questions and overall level of inquiry you can have with your students. This is their data. They have collected it. Even by just projecting the results in a ‘Teach From the Front’ style can bring so much collaborative inquiry and discussion.

Taking the GIS Further…

Myself and a colleague recently coined the term, ‘#GISPlay’ which is the stage when you can alter, edit and generally play around with your maps until they are in a format to suit your pedagogical and/or visual needs.

The wonderful folk at Esri have worked it so that every survey created will open up a new subfolder in your Content section of ArcGIS Online:

You can see here that, for a recent Cloud Survey that I created for a class, a subfolder starting with ‘Survey…’ was automatically created in the Content section of my ArcGIS Online account.

By clicking on the Feature layer (highlighted in green) you will have the option to view the map in either Map Viewer (2D) or Scene Viewer (3D).

Click on the two links below to see the results from some river fieldwork, all taken by students on their smartphones:

River Fieldwork – 3D Scene Viewer

River Fieldwork – 2D Scene Viewer

3D view of results in Scene Viewer

BYOD: Yes or No?

A debate that will probably continue for some time. Fortunately, there are ways around this. I am in a school that sits on the left of this spectrum and it doesn’t look like shifting anytime soon. After multiple failed attempts to allow GCSE students to use their smartphones on some local fieldwork, I had to revert back to paper and clipboard.

The workaround… Teacher uses phone to record site locations and ‘retro-fit’ the data later.

  1. Create survey and publish as normal.
  2. Teacher uses own phone (either via Survey123 app or QR code/link) to complete a basic survey at each site: Site name/number; GPS location; Photos.
  3. Make all other questions in the survey optional.
  4. After trip, add data to the various columns in the Data section of Survey 123.

Below is the result of clipboard data collection and teacher recording the sites:

CLICK HERE to view the completed GIS map (Be sure to click on the lines and sites)

You will notice the blue proportional flow lines which have been drawn out to each site. In the case above I used the Town Hall in Omagh as a reference point to symbolise the CBD. Below is a superb walkthrough from Alistair Hamill on how to achieve this in ArcGIS Online:

Drawing lines to each site. Thanks Alistair!

[Apologies, I mentioned in my session that this can be done in Survey123, however we must access the map in ArcGIS Online.]

One Final Trick…

Trust me on this, it’s well worth it!

Once you have completed a survey and received/mapped some data, take yourself to the Data section of your survey and export your data as a KML file:

  • Head to Google Earth.
  • Click on the Projects icon and then New Project.
  • Click ‘Import KML file from computer
  • Locate the saved KML file and then click, ‘Open
Survey123 results in Google Earth!

Think about those students that couldn’t attend the fieldtrip, or you may wish to re-visit and explore the location again… just drop pegman in and walk around in Street View.


Andy Funnell


Twitter has been the platform that has enabled me (and many other #geographyteacher colleagues) to develop my skills and confidence in using GIS in the classroom. I must thank the following people and I strongly recommend that you follow them too. To say they are highly generous with their time and resources is an understatement!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: