The GEODE Initiative

Project Overview

Enhancing learning through the use of geographic data

The GEODE Initiative is dedicated to the improvement of Earth and environmental science education through the use of data visualization and analysis tools to support inquiry-based pedagogy. Through an integrated program of research and development, the GEODE Initiative is advancing our understanding of learning in the Earth and environmental sciences, design of curriculum and educational software, and teacher professional development. Equally important, the GEODE Initiative is creating useful and useable products for students and teachers at levels ranging from middle school through college.

The Potential of Geographic Data Visualization and Analysis Tools

Data visualization and analysis technologies have transformed the practice of science in recent years by capitalizing on the power of the human visual perception system to identify patterns in complex data. In the GEODE Initiative, we are exploring the potential of this technology to improve science education in similarly dramatic ways. Our research is exploring the hypothesis that scientific visualization, incorporated into inquiry-based learning, can enable students of diverse abilities to develop an understanding of complex phenomena in the Earth and environmental sciences. Our challenge is to identify the specific software and external supports that are necessary to transform data visualization and analysis into an effective educational technology.

Designing Tools for Learners

Our previous research has shown that visualization and data analysis tools can be valuable for students engaged in inquiry-based learning. However, this research also revealed the need for a software that can provide the support required by learners. The transformation of tools and techniques developed for scientists into environments to support students is a significant challenge. Understanding the requirements of such supportive visualization and data analysis environments for education is an important goal of this research. We are developing and evaluating geographic data visualization and analysis environments for the study of a diverse range of topics in the Earth and environmental sciences. These supportive environments enable learners to examine data sets created by the scientific community and to create their own data. They allow students to view geographic data in the form of interactive maps at a variety of spatial and temporal resolutions.

Curriculum and Professional Development

To insure that our research is relevant to the real world and makes a difference in schools, we are engaged in the development of curricula. This development yields concrete products for teachers and students and provides an opportunity to conduct research in a real, practical context. Our curriculum development efforts are targeted at middle school, high school, and undergraduate Earth and environmental science courses In the inquiry-based curricula we are developing, students use geographic data visualization and analysis tools to conduct meaningful investigations of data. The curricula are being developed in close collaboration with teachers and are field tested in a wide variety of settings. We also conduct professional development workshops for teachers and provide ongoing support.

Research on Design, Implementation, and Outcomes

Using these environments, we are conducting a series of studies designed to examine the prospects for and challenges of geographic data visualization and analysis as technologies for science education. In these studies, we are examining the ways in which the supportive scientific visualization architecture impacts both students' conceptual understanding and the process by which they conduct scientific inquiry. We are also investigating the process by which students learn to make sense of visualizations, and the way that scientific visualization environments are adopted in classrooms.

The GEODE Initiative was previously known as the WorldWatcher Project.


Page updated on: May 7, 2007