Enhancing learning through the use of geographic
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