On the Cutting Edge - Professional Development for Geoscience Faculty
New Worlds for Geoscience Teaching: Using Online Games and Environments
Cutting Edge > Online Games > Workshop 08 > Brian Slator
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Brian M. Slator


Department of Computer Science, North Dakota State University

Brian Slator I am a Computer Science guy who collaborates with a couple of geologists at NDSU to develop the Geology Explorer, an immersive virtual environment for education. The geologists are Dr. Donald Schwert and Dr. Bernhardt Saini-Eidukat. The three of us (plus a bunch of students and staff) have been developing Planet Oit since 1998.

The NDSU Geology Explorer group has three main iniatives:

  1. the original game, implemented in 2.5D and used in a number of studies and schools throughout the country.

    A Waterfall on Planet Oit, with Rocks below.

    Navigation is achieved by clicking on the compass points in the scene. To the right are buttons for navigating backwards and reloading the scene, accessing a map of the planet, accessing a 'bookshelf' of reference materials, selecting an instrument or tool, storing samples, and magnifying an object. In this scene a player (upper left) is just floating into view from elsewhere on Planet Oit.

    A Completed Geologic Map on Planet Oit

    The student first needs to identify one outcrop of each of seven different types in the landscape, and upon completion of this goal, he is required to create a geologic map of the region. A geologic map shows the location and distribution of rocks and minerals within a particular geographical area

  2. ancillary materials, developed to assist with classroom integration, including a) the Geology Explorer Teacher Manual
    Geology Explorer Teacher Manual and b) Planet Oit Comics
    Planet Oit Comics
  3. the newest version, implemented in X3D and under development as a pilot project integrating environmental chemistry and statistics into the earth science curriculum

    No images of this are currently/easily available – soon though.

A 3D interface to the Geology Explorer

What is your experience with on-line games or environments?
World Wide Web Instructional Committee (more info) and Geology Explorer (more info) document ten years of experience with immersive virtual environments and multi-player online games for geoscience education.

What do you hope to learn from the workshop experience?
We are studying modalities for instructional materials for student and teachers, and the parameters important for collaborative learning. We hope to learn more about these topics.

What specific aspects of on-line games and environments in geoscience education are you interested in discussing with other workshop participants?
We can discuss many aspects, including software for shared geologic mapping, managing collaborative activities in virtual field camp simulations, and virtual beer for virtual geologists.