In addition to modifying existing curriculum, I’ve taken quite an interest in developing new curriculum. Most of my curriculum development to date has focused on incorporation of technology in the classroom in a meaningful way.
Digital Game-Based Learning
Games have been used as training and educational tools since the essentially dawn of human civilization. How did kids from ancient civilizations first start to learn how to hunt? By playing “chasing” games with each other. People growing up in society today are exposed to an incredible amount of digital media and gaming, and the literature suggests that computer and video games can be highly impactful educational tools…if properly designed.
For the last year I have been working on developing a hybrid dice and computer game to teach students in college freshman level geoscience courses about the water cycle. The main learning goals from the game are to:
– emphasize that the water cycle is more of a complex web of pathways rather than a neat circular cycle
– dispel the idea that groundwater is underground lakes
– dispel the idea that water in the atmosphere is only in clouds
– raise awareness that humans are capable of disturbing a huge global-scale system like the water cycle
The game was piloted for the first time in an introductory geoscience course this past summer. The preliminary results are promising, and I plan to collect publishable data on the efficacy of the game as an educational tool during AY 2018-2019.
Virtual Reality Activities
You can use Virtual Reality (VR) to increase the accessibility of field trip based class, introduce students to unfamiliar environments before visiting them there in person, engage students in experiential learning, and “bring” students to international and far away field sites that may be financially impossible to visit in person.
There is already a wealth of 360 images in Google Street View. These can be viewed as is, or strung together with embedded content and questions using Google Tours. These virtual field sites can be explored on a computer, tablet, phone, or through a full VR headset. I have a small fleet of inexpensive Google Cardboard headsets ($25/each) that give students the fully immersive VR experience, especially when combined with audio recordings of the site.
I use the headsets when I want my students to really experience the place I am talking about. For quick demos, I’ll typically load up a single 360 on one headset and pass it around while giving an introduction to the days activities. An example of a more in-depth exercise I have used in class is to have students get into groups of two and sit back-to-back. One student wears the headset and has to make observations of the scene they are seeing to their partner. The other student needs to record those observations and then make interpretations about exactly what geologic process, landform, or landscape the student is exploring. This activity is an exercise in scientific communication, interpretation vs observation, and extracting meaningful information from a field site.
Below is an example of a simple VR scene with information, pictures, and sounds embedded in it.