GSA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, USA - 2016

Paper No. 306-7
Presentation Time: 3:15 PM


WHITMEYER, Steven J., Geology & Environmental Science, James Madison University, 395 S. HIgh St, MSC 6903, Harrisonburg, VA 22807, PYLE, Eric J., Department of Geology & Environmental Science, James Madison University, MSC 6903, Harrisonburg, VA 22807, DE PAOR, Declan, Dept. of Physics, Old Dominion University, OCNPS Bldg., Room 306, 4600 Elkhorn Ave, Norfolk, VA 23529, ATCHISON, Christopher L., School of Education and Department of Geology, University of Cincinnati, 511E Teachers College, P.O. Box 210002, Cincinnati, OH 45221, BENTLEY, Callan, Geology program, Northern Virginia Community College, Annadale, VA 22652 and PIATEK, Jennifer L., Department of Geological Sciences, Central Connecticut State University, 1615 Stanley St, New Britain, CT 06050,

The digital revolution has impacted geoscience teaching and learning in both indoor and outdoor settings. Interactive visualizations enhance the modern classroom and laboratory. Digital mapping and data collection techniques facilitate collaborative fieldwork and community mapping skills. The modern educational toolkit incorporates digital equipment and inquiry-based learning strategies that have transitioned curricula away from didactic lecturing toward interactive learning modules that promote group-centered investigation and peer instruction.

Contemporary instructional designs utilize laptops, tablets, and other mobile devices to enable students to investigate geoscience topics and concepts through guided inquiry. Many exercises use web-hosted imagery and information through interfaces such as Street View, GigaPan, and Google Earth. Exercises can be both summative and formative, or as components of a scaffolded set of learning modules. Preliminary assessment indicates improved short-tem learning gains, though longer-term learning is yet to be determined.

Digital technologies have precipitated major changes in field mapping and data collection. Paper-based field mapping is no longer the standard, with geoscience professionals routinely using a ruggedized tablet along with field book (possibly digital) and geologic compass. Digital field devices also have enabled community (group) mapping. No longer does a field geologist work in isolation, but through a team using web-linked mobile devices that communicate in real-time. This enables a group of students (or professionals) to see each other’s field data in real time. Group discussions need not wait until evening sessions at basecamp; field-based questions can be addressed and resolved during the field session.

Finally, recent work suggests that real-time, technology-facilitated communication among students can bring the outdoor learning environment to students with disabilities (SWD). Field settings present additional challenges to SWD because of accessibility and other issues, some of which can be addressed through real-time mobile communications, wearable devices, and data links. This has the potential for improved recruitment and retention of SWD in the geosciences.