Chris Brick, University of Montana
For undergraduate education, and for in-service continuing education for teachers, I would use the library as a "one-stop shopping" source for data and maps. Ideally the library would provide this material cross-referenced by subject, data format,and temporal and spatial parameters. Although the Web is currently a rich source of materials for educators, these materials are found in many separate locations and in many different formats. Each research agency, University or consortium has its own Web site (NASA alone has some 230,000 web pages) where data, maps or research results are offered to the public.
While this is a phenomenal resource, it is difficult to combine information from different sources because of differences in format, projection, scale or resolution. A digital library for earth science education could provide simplified access to this data by acting as a clearinghouse. The information could be provided at several levels, from stand-alone map layers to value-added educational products complete with standards alignment and assessment. The information could be organized either as downloadable files in consistent format, or offered as part of a Web-based interactive GIS centered on certain topics. As an example of how the library could simplify access, imagine that students want to explore earth system effects of El Nino for a class project. They would want to get sea surface data from TOPEX/POSEIDEN, vegetation and moisture indices from Landsat and AVHRR, various weather products from NOAA, stream-flow from the U.S. Geological Survey, and perhaps remotely sensed worldwide fires from NASA satellites, to name a few possibilities. Combining information from these sources into a GIS is not trivial, but the existence of a library as a central clearinghouse would begin to make it a possibility for educational use, especially if it eventually encourages agencies to provide information in consistent format. Easy access to data and maps in a form that students can use would allow unprecedented opportunity for authentic investigation.
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