2005 Salt Lake City Annual Meeting (October 16–19, 2005)

Paper No. 4
Presentation Time: 1:30 PM-5:30 PM


KNOOP, Peter, Dept. of Geological Sciences, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109 and VAN DER PLUIJM, Ben A., Geological Sciences, Univ of Michigan, 2534 CC Little Building, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1063, knoop@umich.edu

Over the past three years we have successfully incorporated and evaluated the use of field-based information technology in introductory through senior-level field courses offered at the University of Michigan's Camp Davis Geology Field Station, near Jackson, WY. The use of GeoPads (field-durable Tablet PCs) and GeoPockets (field-durable Pocket PCs) -- both equipped with GIS, GPS, wireless networking, electronic notebook and other pertinent software -- have significantly enhanced our field exercises and exursions, for both students and instructors.

For example, using GeoPads to teach field mapping not only supports the traditional approaches and advantages of field instruction, but also offers important benefits in the development of students' spatial reasoning skills. Students are able to record observations and directly create geologic maps in the field, using a combination of an electronic field notebook (Microsoft OneNote) tightly integrated with intuitive, pen-enabled GIS software (ArcGIS-ArcMap). Specifically, this arrangement permits students to analyze and manipulate their data in multiple contexts and representations -- while still in the field -- using both traditional 2-D map views, as well as richer 3-D contexts. Such enhancements provide students with powerful exploratory tools that aid the development of spatial reasoning skills, allowing more intuitive interactions with 2-D representations of our 3-D world. Additionally, field-based GIS mapping enables better error-detection, through immediate interaction with current observations in the context of both supporting data (e.g., topographic maps, aerial photos, magnetic surveys) and students' ongoing observations. GeoPockets provide instructional staff with a more portable, though less feature-rich device, which is highly suitable to the role of "electronic reference shelf", in as much as it provides field-based access to background information, (e.g., maps with real-time GPS location, papers, figures, data tables, thin sections).

The overall field-based IT approach also provides students with experience using tools that are increasingly relevant to their future academic or professional careers, and is readily applicable to other types of field courses, in addition to field geology. For further information please visit http://geopad.org.