2004 Denver Annual Meeting (November 7–10, 2004)

Paper No. 29
Presentation Time: 6:30 PM-8:30 PM


LIVINGSTON, Jack, Geography, Geology and the Environment, Slippery Rock Univeristy, 107 SWC, Slippery Rock, PA 16057 and SCHIAPPA, Tamra, Department of Geography, Geology and the Environment, Slippery Rock Univ, Slippery Rock, PA 16057, jack.livingston@sru.edu

Integrating new technologies with traditional field-based instruction presents many challenges. These include a steep learning curve of emerging technologies, different educational levels, the field environment, diverse and unstated outcomes that are implicit to the field project, and others. Today it is critical to develop a field pedagogy that balances students’ exposure to current technologies with the appropriate and critical evaluation of these technologies as components of the field experience. A field learning experience was conducted at the Gerace Research Center, San Salvador, Bahamas as part of an Oceanography course for majors and nonmajors. As part of the course’s overall learning goals, students were expected to become familiar with the island’s diverse environments. In the field, these were investigated through a series of guided observations and measurements including beach profiles, sand analysis, and patch reef mapping. Students used a basic GPS receiver (Garmin V) and an advanced system with integrated GIS capabilities (Trimble Geoexplorer XT) for data collection. Faculty limited the introduction to GPS technologies to basic coordinate gathering exercises. Using the Garmin V’s students collected and recorded coordinate pairs for field localities. Students were also introduced to basic mapping techniques with the Trimble units. These introductions were purposefully kept brief to retain the focus on field observations. In addition to the expressed educational outcomes of the field experience, three additional outcomes were observed. First, because the students were not overwhelmed with the technology they became proficient at using the Garmin units and many took the initiative to learn the basics of the Trimble device. Second, students learned to carefully enter field data after observing errors in coordinate pairs when data points were mapped on the GIS database. Finally, students developed a confidence with technologies and an ability to critically evaluate their application. Some students elaborated critiques of the spatial resolution of the Trimble units in collecting field data. Based on field experience and understanding the spatial requirements of the collection exercises students were able to select appropriate equipment and defend their choices.