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.
Webinar about teaching this module: Using GPS Data to Teach about the Earth in Introductory Undergraduate Courses: Plate Tectonics, Earthquakes, Water Cycle, and Ice Mass Change
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:
- earth science
- environmental science
- natural disasters
- geological hazards
- global changes
- earth system science