IPAD GEOLOGIC MAPPING: INEXPENSIVE TECHNOLOGY FOR A POWERFUL APPLIED LEARNING FIELD EXPERIENCE
Our ETEAL experience instructs students in state-of-the art digital mapping using wifi+cellular iPad minis. It targets tandem spring-summer B.S. capstone geology field courses through Student Learning Outcomes that (1) link traditional field mapping and critical thinking with ease of use, cost effectiveness and digital data capabilities of tablet apps, and (2) modernize the thinking by which professional geologists locate themselves, using classroom instruction in Earth’s geology and topography joined with state-of-the art GPS technology. The iPad experience follows the 8 NSEE Principles of Good Practice for Experiential Learning Activities and relies on student critical reflections and assessment as a feedback loop.
Using iPad apps as a fieldbook combined with our in-house app lab manual, the instructor guides students through mapping projects in data observation and digital capture, storage, organization and analysis. The iPad focuses the field experiences on spatial geologic thinking and temporal relationships at the outcrop. It minimizes geopositioning issues due to mapping inexperience, a source of instructor-student frustration in traditional mapping courses. Geologic data are manually digitized on topo basemaps, an exercise we value, and are easily manipulated and changeable for in-the-field discussions on (1) interpreting results with respect to known mapped locations so as to focus on problem solving, and (2) multiple working hypotheses for geologic models. Students individually adapt data collection apps to their own learning styles and preferences while working with other students and maintaining the integrity of similar map site analysis. This freedom creates student professionalism in thought and judgment on the scientific rigor and validity of their data. While applied learning with iPads has some technical issues, students reflect that their work comes alive in the field when using mapping and drawing apps.