Tuesday, October 07, 2008

At the Geological Society of America Meeting in Houston Talking About Tablet PCs, Mapping, and Higher Education

I’m at the GSA meeting for the first time in five years. The last time I went to GSA was in 2003 in Seattle at which time I discovered tablet PCs, so this trip feels a bit like coming full circle.

I gave a talk in an interesting session today, full of geoscientist educators. The session was called “Advances in Using Recent and Emerging Technologies to Facilitate Learning of the Geosciences in the Classroom, Laboratory, and Field.” I want to tell you about some of the interesting things that were discussed.

First, the talk I presented. I gave a talk very similar to the one we gave and the NERCOMP meeting in March, but today's talk was titled “Taking It Outside: Using Tablet PCs to Facilitate Learning In Undergraduate Field-Based Earth Science Courses.” The slides are here and below. I also showed for the first time to a live audience our new tablet PC video. That part could have been better; I think the laptop that I used couldn't handle the .mov file. But I will link here to the YouTube site and our Vimeo site so you can see the GOOD quality videos. I think the talk went well. I felt good about the fact that little Vassar College is doing cool stuff with technology along-side the likes of UC Berkeley, Duke and Univ of Michigan.

Not shown at GSA but still something I'd like to share, is our 11-minute long documentary on tablet PC use in field-based classes at Vassar College, here in Vimeo.

Declan De Paor showed us how he uses scanned geologic and topographic maps in Google Earth in his talk called “Deconstructing Classical Geologic Maps Using Google Earth's Keyhole Markup Language.” De Paor Photoshops TM out the extraneous edge material on the maps to make the KML smaller, and he talked about using Super Overlay to reduce the size of the image files to make the KMZ a manageable size. He showed how he uses cross sections in his KMZs and then uses the timeline feauture to 'play' the relative motion. Very interesting talk by a powerhouse in geology using Google Earth and someone who I have discussed before.

Steve Kluge, in “Encounter Earth: Interactive Geoscience Explorations,” also discussed ways geoscience educators can use Google Earth in the classroom and showed off his new textbook from Prentice Hall with the same name as the talk. The book has many geological topics covered with exercises included. It looks like a great addition to the world of off-the-shelf geospatial exercises.

The other two tablet PC discussants were George Brimhall of UC Berkeley talking about the use of GeoMapper and tablet PCs in advanced field mapping, field camp. And Thomas Hoisch of Northern Arizona Univ talking about the use of tablet PCs for professors to teach about and students to learn how to engage with optical mineralogy concepts. I have very un-fond memories of optical mineralogy, so if Hoisch can design a way to make the topic easier to understand and grasp for his students, bless him!

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