Using Digital Globes to Explore the Deep Sea and Advance Public Literacy in Earth System Science

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 11:05 AM
Stace E Beaulieu1, Annette Brickley2, Meredith Emery3, Abbey Spargo2, Kathleen Patterson1, Katherine Joyce1, Tim Silva1 and Katherine Madin1, (1)Woods Hole Oceanographic Inst, Woods Hole, MA, United States, (2)Ocean Explorium, New Bedford, MA, United States, (3)M&E Professional Teacher Consultants, Wareham, MA, United States
Digital globes are new technologies increasingly used in both informal and formal education to display global datasets. By creating a narrative using multiple datasets, linkages between Earth systems - lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere - can be conveyed. But how effective are digital globes in advancing public literacy in Earth system science? We addressed this question in developing new content for digital globes that interweaves imagery obtained by deep-diving vehicles with global datasets, including a new dataset locating the world's known hydrothermal vents. Our two narratives, "Life Without Sunlight" (LWS) and "Smoke and Fire Underwater" (SFU), each focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) principles related to geology, biology, and exploration. We are preparing a summative evaluation for our content delivered on NOAA's Science on a Sphere as interactive presentations and as movies. We tested knowledge gained with respect to the STEM principles and the level of excitement generated by the virtual deep-sea exploration. We conducted a Post-test Only Design with quantitative data based on self-reporting on a Likert scale. A total of 75 adults and 48 youths responded to our questionnaire, distributed into test groups that saw either one of the two narratives delivered either as a movie or as an interactive presentation. Here, we report preliminary results for the youths, the majority (81%) of which live in towns with lower income and lower levels of educational attainment as compared to other towns in Massachusetts. For both narratives, there was knowledge gained for all 6 STEM principles and "Quite a Bit" of excitement. The mode in responses for knowledge gained was "Quite a Bit" for both the movie and the interactive presentation for 4 of the STEM principles (LWS geology, LWS biology, SFU geology, and SFU exploration) and "Some" for SFU biology. Only for LWS exploration was there a difference in mode between the interactive presentation ("A Little") and the movie ("Quite a Bit"). We conclude that our content for digital globes is effective in teaching the STEM principles and exciting viewers about the deep ocean frontier. We attribute this success to the tight collaboration between scientists, educators, and graphic artists in developing the content for public audiences.