Author Archives: Tom Baker

Tom Baker
Tom Baker is an Esri Education Manager, specializing in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education, teacher education, and educational research. He regularly publishes and presents on geospatial technologies across education.

Recent Posts

New book released – STEM and GIS in Higher Education

The new e-book from Esri, STEM and GIS in Higher Education compiles 19 university case studies describing innovative ways faculty are incorporating GIS to advance STEM related activities in higher education. As a successor to the 2012 Advancing Stem Education with GIS this book explores how faculty, staff, and students are successfully using GIS to analyze and better understand data in their specific STEM fields. As a sequel, this book is designed to foster the expansion of spatial analysis throughout the sciences and engineering. The content highlights successful experiences that describe innovative approaches to the collection, analysis, and display of spatial data and the unique benefits of applying GIS methods.  The nineteen chapters are assembled into three sections.

Section 1: Campus Support for Spreading GIS into STEM Disciplines

Demonstrate how major universities have established technical and academic infrastructure to support the use of GIS across campuses. These institutions represent models of “Spatial Universities” that have committed to the establishment of infrastructure to foster multidisciplinary spatially oriented learning and research. The examples provide a glimpse of how these organizations are serving as catalysts to stimulate interdisciplinary collaboration. Specific examples demonstrate new approaches to data sharing through enhanced library functions, highlight new ways to utilize cloud based servers for realistic technical training, and preview cutting edge geodesign applications. They also illustrate ways to incorporate GIS to support campus facilities and foster interaction with local communities.

Section 2: Teaching and Learning about Spatial Analysis

Provide examples of ways that GIS and spatial analysis can serve as the focal point of courses in STEM disciplines. These examples should be useful to faculty in STEM disciplines who desire to incorporate innovative new activities for their students. The case studies demon-strate how GIS can be used to expand the technical abilities of stu-dents, helping to improve their understanding of real world problems while generating products that foster communication skills. It is significant that these experiences strongly suggest that the new breed of GIS software, such as ArcGIS Online and Esri Story Map app, will provide a fast track to curriculum deployment.

Section 3: GIS Applications in STEM disciplines

Describe research projects conducted by faculty and students in sci-ence and engineering that incorporate spatial analysis. These examples are designed to clearly demonstrate the value of GIS oriented research methods to traditional scientific investigations.

The contributions to this book were selected from submissions in response to a widely distributed call for chapters. These chapters cover activities at a wide range of institutions that include a cross section of Carnegie One private research universities, major state universities, smaller engineering colleges, and state supported regional campuses. The authors include biologists, engineers, physicians, environmental scientists, chemists, and psychologists. These lighthouse authors empower their students to discover, create, analyze, and display spatial data within the constraints of traditional university settings.

Explore the story map and no-cost e-book at

If you are interested in contributing your university’s STEM and GIS program to the map, see the geoform at .

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Research: Geospatial technologies in teacher education

For nearly 25 years, teachers, researchers, and curriculum developers have designed, tested, and evaluated teacher professional development with geospatial technologies in education. These innovators created a better practice in teaching with mapping and location-based technologies, using methods and principles that advanced inquiry in meaningful and authentic ways. That path, while challenging and often shifting, shows signs of success—in classrooms, preservice programs, summer professional development, and beyond.

The Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education’s Society for Information Technology in Teacher Education (AACE-SITE) has released the special issue on geospatial technologies in teacher education (special issue editors Elizabeth Langran & Thomas Baker). This journal is intended to support university faculty members working in the teacher education or educational research in technology integration.

CITE Journal 16(3) – special issue on geospatial technology


Special issue: Geospatial Technologies in Teacher Education

by Elizabeth Langran & Thomas R. Baker

Science Education

Persistent Teaching Practices After Geospatial Technology Professional Development

by Lori A. Rubino-Hare, Brooke A. Whitworth, Nena E. Bloom, Jennifer M. Claesgens, Kristi M. Fredrickson, Carol Henderson-Dahms & James C. Sample

Strategizing Teacher Professional Development for Classroom Uses of Geospatial Data and Tools

by Daniel R. Zalles & James Manitakos

Social Studies Education

Future Teachers’ Dispositions Toward Teaching With Geospatial Technologies

by Injeong Jo

Current Practice

Integrating Geospatial Technologies Into Existing Teacher Education Coursework: Theoretical and Practical Notes from the Field

by Stacey Kerr

A Curriculum-Linked Professional Development Approach to Support Teachers’ Adoption of Web GIS Tectonics Investigations

by Alec Bodzin, David Anastasio, Dork Sahagian & Jill Burrows Henry

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New GeoInquiry collection: Advanced environmental science and biology

The public field-testing of the fifth geoinquiry collection, GeoInquiries for Advanced Environmental Science and Biology is now open.  This collection is targeted at high school biology classrooms and includes 15 cross-curricular activities with ArcGIS Online. Activities include: 

  • Population dynamics
  • Megacities
  • Down to the last drop
  • Dead zones (water pollution)
  • The Beagle’s Path
  • Primary productivity
  • Tropical Deforestation
  • Marine debris
  • El Nino (and climate)
  • Slowing malaria
  • Altered biomes
  • Spinning up wind power
  • Resource consumption and wealth

The authoring team includes: Brandon Gillette, Perri Carr, and Roger Palmer.  Maps were created by authors and

You can explore the collection here:

A short story map for easy review of the collection is available at:

If a teacher chooses to field test an activity, they need only submit their comments to the URL at the bottom of page two (on each geoinquiry). That URL is:

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New GeoInquiry collection: Grade 4 Interdisciplinary

The public field testing of the fourth geoinquiry collection, GeoInquiries for Grade 4 Interdisciplinary is now open.  This collection is targeted at upper elementary classrooms and includes 15 cross-curricular activities supporting integrated science, social studies, math, and language arts with ArcGIS Online.

The authoring team includes: Mellissa Thom, Michael Wagner, and Anita Palmer.  Maps were created by authors and

You can explore the collection here:

A short story map for easy review of the collection is available at:

If a teacher chooses to field test an activity, they need only submit their comments to the URL at the bottom of page two (on each geoinquiry). That URL is:

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GeoInquiries on Twitter!

Want to stay up-to-date with the latest releases and updates from the GeoInquiries team?  Follow the GeoInquiries Twitter hashtag (#geoinquiries) to discover when K-12 instructional content is updated for geography, history, and earth science.

Discover more about Esri Education on Twitter.

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Urban Areas and Edge Cities – Classroom Activity

Edge Cities PDF

Edge Cities PDF

Explore the size, layout, and composition of urban areas around the world with the new advanced human geography geoinquiry activity.

  • What characteristics define a city?
  • What factors have led to urban growth?
  • How have edge cities changed the landscape?
  • What might urban growth look like in the future?

After completing this short activity, students will be able to locate urban areas and factors of urbanization and be able to identify characteristics and examples of edge cities. The activity is for 9-12 grade human geography classrooms.  Access the educator resource here.  You can also explore the human geography collection or all ArcGIS Online resources for schools.

Follow the author Megan Webster at @meglwebster!

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Content forward: GeoInquiries and K12 resources for all

In American schools, teaching is increasingly gauged, in part, through student learning.  For better or worse, student learning is commonly evaluated with standardized tests, using state or national curricular standards to define the content.   It should come as no surprise that many educators would be keenly interested in activities and content that directly support the evaluated learning in a classroom.

Over the past two decades, GIS instructional materials for schools have largely focused on either 1.) teaching the learner to use a GIS in the context of a curriculum or 2.) promoting field-based or open-cycle inquiry models of teaching with GIS (such as localized, custom project based learning models). It’s arguable, based on historic adoption patterns, that these two approaches serve Everett Rogers’ Innovators – a small class of highly motivated and well-positioned technology adopters (see Diffusion of Innovation). The great news is that GeoInquiries can engage all teachers and learners and through that engagement, may drive greater interest in GIS, field work, and project based learning.

As a part of the Esri commitment to the White House ConnectED Initiative, the education team sought to develop instructional materials that would strengthen Esri’s offer of ArcGIS Online to every school in the U.S.  This commitment requires approaching the education through a different lens of learning design.

GeoInquiries are short, standards-based inquiry activities for teaching map-based concepts in many different subject areas – all in the most commonly used disciplinary textbooks. Using either a 5-E based inquiry instructional model or the geographic inquiry cycle, GeoInquiries use ArcGIS Online technology to support subject matter content teaching. Lessons include learning objectives, technical “how-to’s”, textbook references, and formative whole-class assessment items – all packed into a single page.

Today, geoinquiry collections are available for:

Later in 2016, we anticipate releasing two new collections. In the meantime, share a geoinquiry with an educator or take a read through one of the latest publications related to geoinquiries:

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GeoInquiries for Advanced Human Geography Released!

A new collection of geoinquiries for high school advanced human geography has been released.  The collection contains 15 activities and maps tied to the AP benchmarks for human geography and the most commonly used textbooks.  Like the Earth Science and US History geoinquiries, each activity is intended to take about 15 of instructional time to deliver to students.

The authoring team included Dr. Seth Dixon, Mr. Chris Bunin, and Dr. Megan Webster. produced much of the data and many of the maps used in the collection.

The human geography geoinquiry collection contains the following activities:

Distance, transportation, and scaleUnderstanding Globalization

World Population

USA Demographics

You claim it, you name it! (Toponyms)

Language and Religion

Sacred space – sacred place

Migration – On the Move

Borders, boundaries, and barriers

Farming, vegetation and the rural landscape

Agricultural Patterns

The Human Development Index

Comparing country development

What’s the range?

Urban areas and edge cities

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Call for beta testers: Advanced Human Geography GeoInquiries

GeoInquiries are designed to be fast and easy-to-use instructional resources that AP Human Geography GeoInquiriesincorporate advanced web mapping technology. Each 15-minute activity in a collection is intended to be presented by the instructor from a single computer/projector classroom arrangement. No installation, fees, or logins are necessary to use these materials and software.

The Advanced Human Geography GeoInquiry Collection (project homepage) is now in public beta testing.   If you would like to contribute your experiences using a geoinquiry activity with students, submit your comments to   

The beta collection contains the following activities:

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New Book: Geospatial Technologies and Geography Education in a Changing World: Geospatial Practices and Lessons Learned

New Book: Geospatial Technologies and Geography Education in a Changing World: Geospatial Practices and Lessons Learned

Editors:  Osvaldo Muniz Solari, Ali Demirci, Joop van der Schee

This book is an initiative presented by the Commission on Geographical Education of the International Geographical Union. It focuses particularly on what has been learned from geospatial projects and research from the past decades of implementing geospatial technologies (GST) in formal and informal education. The objective of this publication is to inform an international audience of teachers, professionals, scholars, and policymakers about the state of the art and prospects of geospatial practices (GPs) as organized activities that use GST and lessons learned in relation to geographical education. GST make up an advanced body of knowledge developed by practitioners of geographic information systems (GIS), remote sensing (RS), global positioning systems, (GPS), and digital cartography (DC).

GST have long been applied in many different sectors; however, their first use in higher education began in the early 1980s and then diffused to secondary schools during the 1990s. Starting with GIS and RS, it evolved into a much broader context, as GST expanded to include GPS and DC with new communication technologies and Internet applications. GST have been used around the world as a combination of tools and special techniques to make research, teaching, and learning more effective.

Contributors include  Joop van der Schee, Sarah Bednarz, Niem Tu Huynh, Thomas Jekel, Lara Bryant, Karl Donert, Tom Baker, Joseph Kerski, Reed Perkins, Jung Eun Hong, Bob Sharpe, Injeong Jo, Marsha Alibrandi, and several others.

Springer link with Table of Contents:

Hard cover version:

Kindle version:

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