GETSI Teaching Materials >Measuring the Earth with GPS: Plate Motion and Changing Ice-Water
GETSI's Earth-focused Modules for Undergraduate Classroom and Field Courses
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This module is part of a growing collection of classroom-tested materials developed by GETSI. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
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This material was developed and reviewed through the GETSI curricular materials development process. This rigorous, structured process includes:

  • team-based development to ensure materials are appropriate across multiple educational settings.
  • multiple iterative reviews and feedback cycles through the course of material development with input to the authoring team from both project editors and an external assessment team.
  • real in-class or field camp/course testing of materials in multiple courses with external review of student assessment data.
  • multiple reviews to ensure the materials meet the GETSI materials rubric which codifies best practices in curricular development, student assessment and pedagogic techniques.
  • created or reviewed by content experts for accuracy of the science content.


This page first made public: May 28, 2019

Summary

Although GPS's first widespread use by geoscientists was to track plate motions, geoscientists have found that GPS can also be used to measure local movement due to changes in the amount of water, snow, and ice. This module guides students to read GPS graphs as scientists do, and use their interpretations of that data to support recommendations that address societal issues related to earthquakes, water resources, and glacier melting. Its flexible use, as in-class group work, homework, and lab activities, provide approximately two weeks of instruction that can be used in sequence, scattered throughout the semester, or used as individual, stand-alone pieces.

Strengths of the Module

Flexibility This module can easily be used as individual units or as a complete module. Units 2–4 have a similar structure, so students can become comfortable with the approach if more than one unit is used. The student exercises can be used as homework, in class, or in lab, and the module supports student learning individually, in small groups, and/or in large-group discussions. The units are designed to be used in both large and small classes.

Use real data to solve societally relevant problems This module presents students with authentic GPS data. By the end of each unit, they apply the knowledge and skills they developed to make data-supported recommendations about whether a community should spend money on earthquake preparations, whether people should invest in oceanfront property for retirement as related to glacier melting, and whether there needs to be restrictions on the amount of groundwater used during a drought. The units all use GPS data, so students do not need to learn new instruments and how to read different forms of data with each unit, despite the diverse topics the units cover.

Models scientific thought This module models scientific thought for students and guides them to approach reading data as scientists. Each unit asks students to make observations to describe data both qualitatively and quantitatively, interpret what that data means after learning the geologic processes involved, and apply what they learned to support arguments. It has a strong metacognitive component, so students reflect on their thought process and learning.

Great fit for introductory-level classes in:

  • geology
  • earth science
  • environmental science
  • natural disasters
  • geological hazards
  • global changes
  • earth system science
  • oceanography

Instructor Stories: How This Module Was Adapted
for Use at Three Different Institutions »



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This module is part of a growing collection of classroom-tested materials developed by GETSI. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
Explore the Collection »