The goal of this exercise is to give you broad sense of what we mean by Geoscience Education Infrastructure by having you explore a number of examples from SERC and NAGT's work. The links will guide you to some materials that are, themselves, infrastructure and others that serve as the web presence for some larger element of infrastructure (e.g. the website of a face to face meeting where the meeting, not the website, is the infrastructure).
One possible framing for "what is infrastructure" is that infrastructure serves broad community needs and has some sort of ongoing, or enduring aspect. So, for example, in science research the traditional academic journal acts as infrastructure. It serves the community broadly by publishing work from many researchers and by being a source of information for everyone in the field. It is enduring in that issues are published on a regular basis allowing the community to rely on it: researchers engage in new work knowing there will be places to publish the outcomes and institutions can predicate tenure and promotion processes on an expectation that journals will be published in the future.
Another take on "what is infrastructure" is reflected in the goals that Serckit (SERC's online publishing platform: just one sort of infrastructure) aspires to meet.
- Serckit provides an online platform through which projects can develop, publish and disseminate their materials and through which they can coordinate their events and activities (e.g. workshops, webinars). It also serves as an internal project platform for communicating, storing and sharing information, and otherwise managing project work.
- Serckit offers a central location where a community can discover and engage with the work of multiple projects. Almost every education project has an intended audience that is also, simultaneously, being served by other projects. Both the individual projects and individual users are better served when there are connections made between related projects. Connections that allow users to move among the resources of multiple projects so that they can discover those that best align with their needs. Serckit needs to facilitate this cross-project exploration while preserving the identity and integrity of the individual project websites. The Teach the Earth portal is a key example of Serckit playing this role for the geoscience education community.
- Serckit reflects and appropriately supports the reality that the projects and the communities they serve are not distinct players. Instead projects emerge from communities and are one mechanism through which a community realizes its aspirations. Serckit functionality needs to reflect community (and not just project) needs. This includes elements like support of community-driven synthesis activities and shared community repositories, as well Serckit's role in providing administrative tools for NAGT and supporting SERC's collaboration with NAGT around the On the Cutting Edge Professional development program.
As you explore the links below consider the ways in which the resources they highlight are geoscience education infrastructure. In what ways do they serve a community and what ways are they enduring elements that the community can count on and build on?
Each of the links below has the potential to lead you in interesting direction for a very long time. While we encourage you to follow your interests we only expect that you'll spend a few minutes on each. The brief framing for each link provides a little guidance for your exploration.
The Teach the Earth portal provides an entry point for discovering geoscience education materials from many projects. Consider how a faculty member looking for teaching materials to use in a new course might start their exploration from here. Try out the search. Explore key resources such as this one and themes which might lead you here.
Consider how the Geoscience Education Research Toolbox might support a junior faculty member just starting to explore education research.
NAGT runs a regular peer review process for teaching activities. The results are reflected in many activities that can be discovered via Teach the Earth. Note the label in the search returns indicating review status, and consider how having this review process impacts sharing in the community.
A National Survey of Geoscience Teaching Practices has been conducted regularly over the last decade. Consider the value to the community of having this dataset.
Serckit is the online platform that underpins SERC-hosted websites (including NAGT). This draft report describes Serckit in detail. This briefer, high-level description of functionality may be a useful complement that is quicker to scan.
Common Formats and Strategies
Consider how having common formats like these streamlines the work of projects and help community members searching through online collections.
This InTeGrate program page highlights a strategy that has been used repeatedly. When there are multiple groups (e.g multiple institutions) trying to solve similar issues start by building a collection of descriptions of what each group is doing. Then look across the set of experiences represented by that collection to synthesize common themes and strategies. The resulting synthesis can inform new groups trying to move in the same direction.
The development of syntheses like this are support by a workshop process where participants capture their work in a Serckit workspace. Check out the program for the workshop that generated this specific synthesis and reflect on how the agenda led to the generation of the synthesis. While the workspace for this particular project is private here is an example of the type of scaffolding typically provided for this sort of event workspace. This strategy of having participants actively capturing their work as it happens is a characteristic feature of many SERC/NAGT events. Consider how this process supports things like small group report-outs during workshops and post-workshop follow-on activities.
Note that this workshop program includes an online end-of-workshop evaluation form This is just one example of how evaluation best practices get embedded into these sorts of events leveraging pre-built templates and standardized processes.
Another common use for private workspaces is to support project management. Here's the front page of a (fake) project workspace giving a flavor of the sort of information projects track in their workspaces.
The Earth Educators' Rendezvous is an annual meeting that brings the Earth Education community together. Consider how the program provides opportunities for sharing that wouldn't happen through other venues and encourages new people to become active and involved in the community.
The Traveling Workshop Program is a service that brings disciplinary professional development directly to campuses. Consider how the program extends and complements other professional development opportunities and the ways in which it can address local departmental or institutional needs.
Browse through the list of past events in the NAGT Webinar Series. Consider how this series might serve projects trying to reach community members and connect community members who might not be able to engage through other means.