Paper No. 4
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM


LANG, N.P., Department of Geology, Mercyhurst University, Erie, PA 16546, LANG, Kelley T., Asbury Woods Nature Center, 4105 Asbury Road, Erie, PA 16506 and GERAGHTY WARD, Emily M., Department of Geology, Rocky Mountain College, 1511 Poly Drive, Billings, MT 59102,

Google Earth’s rich graphic nature and ease of interactive use makes it a seemingly logical choice when teaching geomorphology. However, how effective is it over the use of aerial photo stereo pairs, which have been a traditional means of helping teach geomorphology? To begin answering this question, we used both air photo stereo pairs and Google Earth in a geomorphology course at Mercyhurst University this past spring to help facilitate lessons on specific landforms and processes. The class of eight students was randomly split into two groups of four and assigned eight homework assignments that consisted of constructing a geologic map and deriving a geologic history using either Google Earth or air photos; groups alternated between using either Google Earth or air photos with each assignment. Each assignment had a series of learning objectives related specifically to the examined geomorphic topic; the degree to which each assignment met the listed learning objectives was scored on a rubric from 0-4. Students also took pre- and post-tests to gauge the amount of learning that occurred on each assignment; questions on these tests ranged from having students identify specific landforms to applying higher-level geologic concepts. In all cases, regardless of using Google Earth or air photos, students showed positive increases in learning after having completed an assignment. The group that used Google Earth on an assignment typically had the largest increase in scores from the pre-test to the post-test; this was a statistically significant increase where the t-statistic was 3.47 and the p-value was 0.05. An examination of rubric scores, though, does not reveal any statistically significant difference in learning when using Google Earth vs. air photos. Our initial results suggest that Google Earth may be more effective than air photos in achieving a deeper understanding of various geomorphic topics, but when learning to recognize and identify landforms and processes, the examining instrument (i.e., Google Earth or air photos) may not matter. However, additional factors such as material covered in lecture and pre- and post-test questions need to also be considered. Ultimately, given the size of our study group, additional testing needs to be performed on larger sample sizes in order to more fully understand our results.