2009 Portland GSA Annual Meeting (18-21 October 2009)
Paper No. 192-2
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:00 PM

USING GOOGLE EARTH GEOTOURS TO ENGAGE INTRODUCTORY GEOSCIENCE STUDENTS IN ACTIVE LEARNING

WILKERSON, M. Scott, Department of Geosciences, DePauw University, 602 South College Avenue, Greencastle, IN 46135, mswilke@depauw.edu, WILKERSON, M. Beth, GIS Center, DePauw University, 602 South College Avenue, Greencastle, IN 46135, and MARSHAK, Stephen, Dept. of Geology, Univ. of Illinois, 1301 W. Green St, Urbana, IL 61801

Google Earth provides a means of drawing students into interactive virtual field trips, where landforms, geologic structures, and manifestations of global change can be explored in a three-dimensional spatial context. The importance of this learning opportunity is that students are able to view features from any direction, distance, and angle, and thus can more easily perceive the form and meaning of features. The ease of use and availability of Google Earth software make it possible for faculty to develop a huge variety of active-learning exercises either for use within the classroom using standard projection equipment or with individual computers. Tools that work particularly well are draped geo-referenced maps whose transparency can be adjusted by students, linked photographs and cross sections, low-altitude flight paths (simulating movements such as stream flow and pyroclastic flow), and time-sequence imagery that allow students to view temporal changes of features such as coastlines, land use, and deforestation. Though students can benefit greatly by simply visiting the various sites, we have found that students learn more and are more actively engaged if there are specific tasks to perform at each site. With this in mind, we developed over 250 Geotours that take students to specific localities keyed to standard topics in introductory geology. In the first iteration of the Geotours, we provided open-ended questions that were presented in the classroom setting. This approach sometimes engaged only part of the class and/or resulted in a burdensome volume of grading. To address this, we revised the Geotours to present students with questions with multiple-choice answers, each with a unique Google Earth placemark. The benefit of this approach, namely that it requires all students to participate, overshadows the loss of flexibility in answering. Furthermore, the more focused questions and answers decrease ambiguity and frustration while still requiring students to employ critical thinking to answer the questions. Although digital realism can never replace reality, we have found that the Geotour approach proves effective in bringing real-world geoscience examples to life, as well as in increasing the geographic diversity of landforms to which students are exposed.

2009 Portland GSA Annual Meeting (18-21 October 2009)
General Information for this Meeting
Session No. 192--Booth# 360
From Virtual Globes to Geoblogs: Digital Innovations in Geoscience Research, Education, and Outreach (Posters)
Oregon Convention Center: Hall A
9:00 AM-6:00 PM, Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 41, No. 7, p. 499

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