2014 GSA Annual Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia (19–22 October 2014)

Paper No. 151-11
Presentation Time: 3:55 PM


ANASTASIO, David J.1, ACUTA, Leonard1, RUTZMOSER, Scott2, SAHAGIAN, Dork1 and BODZIN, Alec3, (1)Earth and Environmental Sciences, Lehigh University, 1 West Packer Avenue, Bethlehem, PA 18015, (2)Library and Technology Services, Lehigh University, 1 W Packer Ave, Bethlehem, PA 18015, (3)Education and Human Services, Lehigh University, A113 Iacocca Hall, 111 Research Dr, Bethlehem, PA 18015, dja2@lehigh.edu

Spatial reasoning skills help us manipulate, interpret, and explain spatially referenced data and improve higher-order cognitive processes including problem solving and decision-making. These skills can be taught and learned with well-designed technologies, software, and curricula. We present Web-based visualization and analysis tools developed with Javascript APIs to enhance undergraduate tectonics curricula while promoting undergraduate geospatial thinking and scientific inquiry. Features of our Web GIS based tectonics exercises include a swipe tool that enables users to see underneath layers, query tools for earthquake and volcano data sets, a subduction and elevation profile tool which facilitates visualization between map and cross-sectional views, drafting tools, a location function, and interactive image dragging functionality. Databases include bathymetry/topography, geology, population, heat flow, land cover, seismic events, fault zones, and plate boundaries. These exercises enable users to dynamically explore plate tectonic processes. Implementation with Lehigh University undergraduate students resulted in increased tectonics content learning and geospatial thinking and reasoning skills compared to business as usual instruction. Undergraduates needed scaffolding to investigate hotspot distribution but not transform faults, fracture zones or subduction zone structure. A culminating “Plate Game”(originally developed by K. Condie, and later embellished by D. Chapman and K. Furlong) integrates geological and geophysical data sets and requires learners to reconstruct ancient plate motions was more effective when delivered as a GIS as compared to a paper-based learning exercise. These tectonics GIS activities promoted high student engagement, learning by exploration trial and error, stimulated student discovery by promoting more frequent interactive synthesis, and allowed faster completion and real-time instructor feedback. The Web GIS and exercises are freely available on the Web (http://gisweb.cc.lehigh.edu/tectonics/).