Earth Motion Monitor
Charles J. Ammon
Used this activity? Share your experiences and modifications
An activity based around the display near real-time seismograms in the classroom.
I use this in all levels of courses - and introductory natural hazards course for non-science (~150) students, as well as smaller intermediate and advanced seismology courses. This activity is designed for a geophysics course, but can also be used to integrate geophysics into a core course in geology. This activity is also appropriate for an introductory geology course.
Skills and concepts that students must have mastered
The level can vary from minimal science background to advanced graduate students.
How the activity is situated in the course
In my introductory hazards course, I have two screens, so on one screen I can project a near real-time display of seismograms acquired from IRIS. Students can see the occurrence of earthquakes within minutes, before even formal locations are available. When something happens, we can discuss the situation.
Content/concepts goals for this activity
Depending on the level of the students, the content goals are primarily simple reasoning - estimating a rough earthquake location using very simple principles (which station was closest, etc.).
Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity
Simple reasoning for the basic level of interaction, more advanced characteristics of seismogram analysis in the more advanced courses.
Other skills goals for this activity
Description of the activity/assignment
This activity is based around Macintosh software that I wrote to display near real-time seismograms in classrooms with projection systems and internet communications. I use the display in courses at all levels, from large non-science courses to advanced graduate courses in seismology. In my introductory course, I have been fortunate to have a room with two projectors and large screens. That allows me to display the seismic monitor on one screen and use the other for that day's material. In smaller advanced courses I often project the real-time display on one screen while I use the chalk board during that part of the class that I use to cover new material. Although you might think that it's rare that an earthquake would occur during any given class, that's not true (have the students estimates the odds using the Gutenberg Richter relation if you doubt it). If needed, you can load specific earthquake signals (say from the night before) to talk about it at the beginning of a class period. Activity that occurs during class often leads to interesting discussions of earthquakes and tectonics.
This activity uses online and/or real-time data, has minimal/no quantitative component, and can be used to address student misconceptions.
Determining whether students have met the goals
I use this tool for a grade, but only to show students how common earthquakes are, and how we use seismometers to study such events. I rely on feedback from students to know whether it is working.
More information about assessment tools and techniques.
Teaching materials and tips
You can get the older version of this software from the IRIS software pages - formally, it is a DHI client. Or you can download it directly (the most up-to-date release) to one of my pages by clicking here