Using Visualizations to Explore and Understand Data

Scientists have long known the power of visualizations in making sense of data and thereby learning about the earth. With new access to on-line data and new technologies for visualizing data, this is becoming an increasingly powerful technique for teaching geoscience.

Jump down to GIS * Virtual Field Trips

Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

Bringing GIS into the introductory Earth Science classroom at Middle Tennessee State University (Acrobat (PDF) 75kB Feb25 04)
Mark Abolins, Middle Tennessee State University

This essay describes the use of GIS in teaching Earth Science at Middle Tennessee State University. The author does so to address three goals: familiarizing large numbers of undergraduate non-majors with GIS, recruiting students for GIS courses, and recruiting geoscience majors.

Applications of GIS-based Laboratory Exercises In Entry-level Geoscience Courses (Acrobat (PDF) 278kB Feb25 04)
Laurel Goodell, Princeton University

This paper discusses the use of GIS-based exercises in basic collegiate geoscience courses. The PDF includes several examples of work assigned to the students in these entry-level courses and describes how this data manipulation fosters learning. By using these technologies effectively, students can work with data and test fundamental ideas in the context of an introductory course.

What is the impact of scientific visualizations on understanding of Earth processes (Acrobat (PDF) 114kB Feb25 04)
Michelle Hall-Wallace, University of Arizona

This essay considers the need to balance simplicity and accuracy in visualizations. It is based on experience working with visualizations as a tool for the instruction of high school and college students, and it also examines how GIS-based information can be best be presented in order to facilitate learning. The paper explains how models are effective tools for demonstrating concepts that cannot be easily demonstrated in the laboratory.

Geovisualizations for pre-collegiate science education (Acrobat (PDF) 124kB Mar9 04)
Thomas Baker, University of Kansas

This paper includes information on the use of GIS as an educational tool in pre-collegiate education in the context of a larger experimental effort by students. It further references a quasi-experimental study examining the success of GIS-based information provided in static and dynamic formats. Even when the GIS was animated with controls for playback, the study found that students learned best by studying static GIS data.

Virtual Field Trips

Acquisition and Use of 3D photorealistic models for virtual fieldtrips and exercises (Acrobat (PDF) 68kB Feb25 04)
Carlos Aiken, University of Texas, Dallas

This essay describes the use of 3D photorealistic imaging technology in order to create virtual fieldtrips. The authors have developed an advanced mapping system that makes it easy to view and work with these 3D models in an educational context. So far, their technique has been used to map both geologically and historically significant sites.

Teaching Field Geology is all about Visualization (Acrobat (PDF) 47kB Feb25 04)
John Geissman, University of New Mexico

The importance of visualization in geology is discussed in this paper. The author contends that successful use of visualizations and visualization techniques is critical to successful field geology. Through the use of visualizations, students are better able to derive inferences from the information available in the field based on previous experience in the classroom.

Use of a Virtual Environment in the Geowall to Increase Student Confidence and Performance During Field Mapping: An Example from an Introductory-Level Field Class, Journal of Geoscience Education, v. 54 p. 158-164.
Michael M. Kelly, MMKAA, Inc. and Nancy R. Riggs, Northern Arizona University

Geology students often have difficulty learning the baseline terrain-analysis skills required for success in introductory field geology. To improve spatial skills and enhance student confidence, these researchers added a computer-based virtual environment (VE) to training for field experiences. Using the GeoWall, we developed a VE in which students navigate and transfer location information and geologic contacts from the VE to a paper topographic map. The researchers conclude that together with student narratives and attitude surveys, the virtual environment had an effect on student mapping performance that is coupled with an increase in spatial survey knowledge and increased confidence in the field.