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Introduction to GIS for Geologists

Author Profile
Eric Grosfils
,
http://www.geology.pomona.edu

Pomona College
a
Private four-year institution, primarily undergraduate
.

Summary

This course is intended as an introduction to basic GIS skills. Targeted at an audience of geology students, it draws upon geological examples when teaching GIS techniques.

Course URL: http://geology.pomona.edu/classes/geology-111b-introduction-to-gis-for-geologists/
Resource Type: Course Information
Special Interest: GIS
Grade Level: College Lower (13-14)
Course Size:

less than 15

Course Context:

This is an introductory level elective that requires introductory geology and co-registration in any intermediate level geology core course. It meets in a single 3-hr block each week, and concludes with a multi-week, team-based research exploration of a selected topic.

Course Goals:

– Students should be able to employ GIS-grounded analytical techniques that incorporate complex geospatial data
– Students should be able to recognize common challenges encountered when locating, acquiring and inputting data into a GIS system, and be comfortable with solutions to these challenges
– Students should be able to collect GPS data in the field and input them into a GIS system
– Students should be able to address questions using basic GIS skills and 'industry-standard' software
– Critically, students should be able to self-instruct within an 'industry-standard' software package, enabling them to tackle unanticipated or new challenges as they arise and to adapt to ever-changing software configurations


How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

Working in 3-hr long blocks of time, all instruction in the course is hands-on, at the computer. Students are introduced to GIS using guided materials in-class coupled with weekly assignments that require them to employ and move beyond what they have learned during class time. The nature of instructor guidance shifts gradually from "point-and-click" instruction to modes which require increasing independent learning. This section of the course concludes with a week-long practicuum exam designed to evaluate their capacity to employ existing skills and self-instruct in new areas. Post-exam, the primary focus of the course shifts to a major, multi-week project that requires considerable student effort, and shifts them into "the deep end" where finding data, getting it into GIS, and analyzing it are concerned.

Skills Goals

– using data visualization effectively as a means to communicate geological concepts
– working in groups


How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

– weekly assignments permit opportunities for constant instructor feedback on effective layouts, color selection, data seletion choices/needs, etc., which helps students move from the "cluttered and busy just to be sage, the answer is in there somewhere" mode to one in which a diagram is a focused delivery of scientific (or related) information
– roughly 1/3 of the course is focused on jigsaw-style group work via the multi-week project

Attitudinal Goals

– in the first iteration of my course, this isn't a component I have focused on, though I try to help students see the applicability of GIS as a tool for enhancing their understanding of a wide array of interesting problems. "You can assess that yourself" is a constant theme of the course.


How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

– as an example, when students assess tsunami travel times in the Pacific, they compare their results with an existing plot for the same event, and use this comparison as a basis for thinking about challenges in their own analysis, potentially with the existing "expert" plot, etc., helping them build realistic confidence in their own capabilities

Assessment

– constant in-class interactions
– formal weekly homework assignments
– single practicuum exam (week long)
– major multi-week final project

Syllabus:

Syllabus, Geology 111b, Spring 2010 (Acrobat (PDF) 35kB Apr21 10)

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