NOVA Chautauqua: Exciting College Faculty with "Digital Inquiry"

submitted by

Stephen K. Boss University of Arkansas
Author Profile

Hands-on, inquiry-based activities utilizing Internet data resources and state-of-the-art computer animation programs available on desk-top/laptop computers. Animations are developed by faculty and students to illustrate complex Earth System processes.

Learning Goals


Higher Order Thinking Skills:

Data acquisition, manipulation, analysis, and interpretation.

Develop mulitple working hypotheses, articulate logical process-related understanding based on application of fundamental physical principles to complex systems.

Develop observation and questioning skills.

Develop abilities in data visualization that is useful for understanding complex systems.

Other Skills:

Become familiar with technology applications as they relate to understanding complex Earth Systems.


Instructional Level:

All of the above.

Skills Needed:

Students should have some familiarity with desk-top or laptop computers, but not much. The software tools utilized as very user friendly.

Role of Activity in a Course:

The course is built around the activities.

Data, Tools and Logistics

Required Tools:

Desktop computers with Internet access. The software applications are user friendly and largely intuitive, so there is a very short learning cycle (1-2 hours).

Logistical Challenges:

Large class sizes are not recommended as each participant should have access to a computer. Computers should be operating Windows XP or equivalent operating system.


Evaluation Goals:

The overarching objective is for participants to utilize technology to illustrate Earth System processes that would be very difficult to comprehend using any other methods.

Understanding processes and their variability over time.

Observing and articulating "how" systems work.

Evaluation Techniques:

pre-test and post-test results suggest improved understanding of interconnections among Earth systems, improved comprehension of spatial and temporal scales of processes, improved ability to articulate and explain natural phenomena in the Earth System.



Stephen K. Boss, Department of Geosciences, 113 Ozark Hall, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701,; Caroline Beller, Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction, Oklahoma State University, Sillwater, OK, 74078,; Lynne Hehr, Center for Math & Science Education, 106 Ozark Hall, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701,; John G. Hehr, Fulbright College of Arts & Sciences, 525 Old Main, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701,

The NASA Opportunities for Visionary Academics (NOVA) Program conducted two 1-week workshops for faculty from 2-year/4-year institutions to develop skills in the application of digital technologies for inquiry-based learning across science curricula. Each workshop utilized the "Chautauqua model" of learning wherein participants are immersed in a residential, focused learning experience. The objectives of each NOVA Chautauqua session were 1) provide faculty with an overview of principles of inquiry, 2) permit faculty to participate in exemplary activities using inquiry, 3) provide faculty with hands-on access to an online Earth System Science course utilizing "digital inquiry" via manipulation of Internet-based data resources (, 4) train faculty to utilize animation software included with the Windows XP operating system, 5) allow significant time (4 days) for faculty to develop inquiry-based learning modules utilizing Internet data resources and newly-acquired digital technology skills, 6) promote partnerships between faculty of 2-year/4-year institutions. On the final day, participants presented their learning products in an informal discussion encouraging free exchange of ideas and suggestions for enhancing inquiry with digital technologies. Participant evaluations of NOVA Chautauqua indicated extraordinary enthusiasm for the Chautauqua model as a method of enhancing professional development of college faculty and assisting implementation of "digital inquiry" technologies across all science/education curricula. This poster presentation will include examples of digital media produced by NOVA Chautauqua participants.