GSA Annual Meeting, November 5-8, 2001

Paper No. 0
Presentation Time: 4:25 PM


SUTHREN, Roger J., Earth and Environmental Sciences (BMS), Oxford Brookes University, Gipsy Lane, Headington, Oxford, OX3 0BP, United Kingdom,

There's nothing new about using technology in class. We've shown slides & movies for decades: an early approach to virtual fieldwork? Many 'innovations' using IT are just another way of bringing fieldwork into the classroom. Do they enable or encourage students to engage more in their courses? I would argue they do, though evidence is perhaps lacking.

The web allows us to integrate different methods of visual presentation in an interactive way, & enables students to study at their chosen pace, time & place. Animations, video clips, & diagrams built up in stages may help students understand processes more fully than in a complex static slide shown for a short time. Complex procedures are getting easier as more tools (many of them free) become available. I will show examples of such approaches in a first year course, & evaluations of student opinion.

Students get a sense of reward from seeing their work on the Web. In this course, students make short web contributions: these are compiled into web pages for all students to use. Compilation is automated, making marking & feedback easier. Later, students may become involved in writing whole web sites for our courses.

These all seem to be valid ways of engaging students, but are they? There has apparently not been much rigorous pedagogic research into effects of teaching & learning methods in the geosciences. Even when funding is available, geoscientists are reluctant to join in something they don't see as 'real' research, especially if the research methods are those used by sociologists!

How do we encourage our reluctant colleagues to join in? Rewriting courses to use IT is not a high priority, set against 'real' research, & yet all the time science courses are losing students, or failing to recruit them. If we show how effective these methods can be, maybe we can get colleagues to dip their toes in the water.

We must also seek to use methods unfamiliar to us, such as computer games. The Planet Oit exercise at North Dakota SU is an excellent example. I (& probably others of my generation) may struggle, but students who have grown up with role-playing computer games are likely to engage very quickly with this kind of activity. We need to combine valid teaching & learning methods with delivery that is attractive to students.

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