Paper No. 10
Presentation Time: 10:40 AM


WHITMEYER, Steve, Geology & Environmental Science, James Madison University, 395 S. HIgh St, MSC 6903, Harrisonburg, VA 22807 and PAVLIS, Terry, Department of Geological Sciences, University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, TX 79902,

As GSA celebrates its 125th anniversary, it is highly appropriate to explore the progression of geoscience education and outreach over the past 50 years. If we narrow the lens to focus on the last 25 years, perhaps the most significant changes in geoscience education have occurred in the field, outside classroom walls. Many of these educational developments have benefited from new digital technologies and field equipment. Modern digital field devices allow students to access information and other data sets in the field and facilitate real time field data collection in spatially referenced databases and geographic information systems (GIS). Here we focus on how advances in mobile digital field equipment have fundamentally changed how we teach geology and field methods to today’s student cohort.

Perhaps the most significant event to impact digital fieldwork in the past 25 years was the removal of the Selective Availability degradation of the GPS signal in 2000. Following that change, the use of handheld GPS units for precise positioning in the field became the norm. Over the next decade a progression of ever more powerful digital devices were tested and implemented for field data collection and mapping. Many of us remember Palm Pilots, HP iPaqs, Trimble Pocket PCs, Panasonic ToughBooks, iXplore tablet PCs, to name a few. Today the ubiquitous presence of iPhones, iPads, Android devices, and apps of all varieties has transformed how we access and process information in the field. Techniques for data acquisition and mapping in the field have been dramatically advanced and simplified by these new devices, to the extent that crowdsourcing of geoscience field data has become a viable proposition. To a large extent, geoscience and environmental industries and government agencies have embraced digital field equipment and techniques, such that exposure to digital methods is fast becoming a necessary skill for students entering the workforce. However, there remains an important pedagogical question about the ideal proportion of traditional (e.g. paper-based) versus digital techniques that should be incorporated within the field education curriculum. Quantitative assessment data on this issue is sparse and it remains a topic ripe for exploration by field- and education-oriented geoscientists.