Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Tools for Making Virtual Fieldwork: Resources from the ReaL Earth Inquiry Project

As the Regional and Local (ReaL) Earth Inquiry Project has progressed, the tools and strategies for making and using Virtual Fieldwork Experiences (VFEs) have evolved. If you scroll back through this blog, you'll see periodic updates on how how to use and make VFEs. The project is now in its final months, but our VFE work will continue beyond the end of this particular project's funding.

VFEs are now being used in educational outreach for the Critical Zone Observatory Network and this work will add to the set of VFEs in our database, as well as to the set of tools and strategies for making and using VFEs.

This blog entry points to resources that have come online in the last few months, most importantly including the new regional Teacher Friendly Guides to Earth Science for Midwestern and Western US. Other regions will follow shortly, and older Northeastern and Southeastern Guides will be updated. The new guides all include or will include a chapter on actual and virtual fieldwork, and after this blog, is the next thing you should read as you begin your work with VFEs.

Most of the rest of the text of this post is a conference abstract from the October 2014 Geological Society of America meeting from a talk that shares the same title as this post. The abstract is followed by the Prezi used in that presentation and then by a set of related links. Most of these links are also embedded within the Prezi. Note that if you are viewing the Prezi in full-screen mode, the links will open in a new window that won't be visible until you exit full-screen viewing.


Why does a place look the way it does? How can we teach the reading of landscapes? Through two NSF-funded programs, “The Regional and Local (ReaL) Earth Inquiry Project” and “Improving Earth science education through teacher development in regional geology,” the Paleontological Research Institution has developed a rich set of resources and approaches to help educators teach about local geoscience in technology-rich, scientifically accurate and inquiry-based ways. The three-pronged approach: (1) develops a series of seven regional Teacher-Friendly Guides to Geoscience that collectively cover the entire United States; (2) develops, with our educator-partners, Virtual Fieldwork Experiences (VFEs) that are multi-media representations of actual field sites; and; (3) provides professional development (PD) programming that intertwines (1) and (2).

VFEs can serve in the place of actual fieldwork, but it is hoped that they serve more to catalyze and extend fieldwork than replace it. As framed in PRI’s work, VFE development requires actual fieldwork, and the VFE is a way to document that work and share it with others.

Resources include: (1) a set of regional Teacher-Friendly Guides; (2) a carefully crafted set of Bigger Ideas and Overarching Questions in Earth System Science, mapped onto idea sets like those in NGSS and the Climate Literacy Principles; (3) sets of questions that can be asked and productively investigated at any site, one set focused primarily upon the geosciences and a second focused upon ecology; (4) templates for Prezi and PowerPoint that help educators connect the question sets with local imagery and other data; (5) resources for connecting the field and the classroom via videolink in real time, and for connecting classrooms to one another, to facilitate students teaching one another about their local environments; (6) a still growing set of VFEs; and (7) tutorials for using Google Earth, Prezi, and other technologies in the service of making VFEs. Topics include using Google Earth to replicate the classic science education film Powers of Ten, but focused upon a local landmark rather than a Chicago park; how to use the VFE templates; how to mash up USGS digital geologic state maps with Google Earth’s profile tool, to show the interplay between bedrock geology and topography; and more. 

Session Prezi:

Selected Links:

    • https://evernote.com/skitch/ - Skitch is an app that allows you to mark up photos and maps in the field using your tablet or smartphone. 
    • http://gigapan.com - Gigapan is a robotic tripod head and software package for making gigapixel resolution panoramas.