PURPOSEFUL INTEGRATION OF CASE STUDIES AND DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES IN INTRODUCTORY GEOLOGY COURSES
Case studies can be particularly useful in community colleges because they can be crafted to connect students to economic resources, environmental issues, or political discourse at a local level. Particularly for non-majors or undecided students, case studies can be used to educate students on careers in the geosciences as well as its significance in their own lives and communities. In New York, hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has been a source of public debate that culminated with a moratorium on drilling in 2008, yet many students are ignorant of the process, perceived risks, or specific economic benefits.
Case studies allow instructors to be creative in modes of assessment. Student follow-up can vary from gleaning definitions or cause-effect relationships from a text or blog, to engaging in small or large-group discussions, to writing cost-benefit analyses. In this way, the instructor may be freed from delivering basic terminology to students while also facilitating analysis and evaluation of findings, and thus assess both lower and higher-level competencies simultaneously.
Case studies allow instructors to purposefully integrate digital media and tools to enhance strong curriculum. Appropriate video links can bring concepts to life, while blogs from citizens or scientists with differing viewpoints can be used to debate issues of environmental justice or conservation, and also give students an opportunity to be a part of the on-going dialogue. Google Earth overlays of geologic maps can be used to understand the topographic variability in a region, while gigapans allow students to explore various scales and features of a landscape. Gigapans can also illustrate that, while glaciers, rivers, and structural geology may be taught as discrete chapters in a text, features can be found together on the Earth.