GSA Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, USA - 2019

Paper No. 52-2
Presentation Time: 1:45 PM


MOYSEY, Stephen M., Geological Sciences, East Carolina University, 101 Graham Building, Greenville, NC 27858 and LAZAR, Kelly Best, Engineering and Science Education, Clemson University, Clemson, SC 29634

Even though field experiences are highly valued in geoscience education and often lead to increased student interest in geology, they are often difficult to provide to the large numbers of students who take introductory geoscience courses. Traditional field trips may also be limiting for students who face physical disabilities, experience cultural or emotional barriers to being in the field, have limited time to participate, or simply experience discomfort in the field. We therefore see mobile devices as a key to unlocking the door to non-traditional field experiences that increase accessibility of the field to all students. We discuss two distinct approaches to enabling field experiences for students in real and virtual environments. The first approach engages students using a model for independent exploration of local field sites based on geocaching, i.e., the GeoXploration Platform. The Platform allows students to use their own device to navigate to a local field site where they complete a guided activity prepared by the instructor. Students can complete the field activities independently, thus providing flexibility while avoiding traditional logistics required for traditional field trips. Observations and data collected through the student’s mobile device can also be graded by the Platform, thus minimizing the impact on instructors and enabling large numbers of students to undertake field activities. In contrast, virtual reality can bring the outdoors to a classroom setting. In this case, low-cost tools like Google Cardboard can transform a mobile device into a virtual reality viewer that transports students to any field site in the world. Such technologies can be used to produce experiences that range from informative interactive photospheres to game-like learning experiences with complex narratives that require students to synthesize observations and make choices about their actions. In both the geocache and virtual case, understanding what is gained or lost from traditional field experiences is important. While there is an increasing amount of work aimed at understanding the value of traditional field experiences for students, we also emphasize the importance of translating this into frameworks that can be applied to designing and assessing mobile device based experiences for large numbers (i.e., 1000s) of students.