Integration and Exploitation of Advanced Visualization and Data Technologies to Teach STEM Subjects

Wednesday, 17 December 2014: 3:10 PM
Mark Alan Brandon, Open University, Milton Keynes, MK7, United Kingdom and Kat H Garrow, Open University, Milton Keynes, United Kingdom
We live in an age where the volume of content available online to the general public is staggering. Integration of data from new technologies gives us amazing educational opportunities when appropriate narratives are provided. We prepared a distance learning credit bearing module that showcased many currently available data sets and state of the art technologies. It has been completed by many thousands of students with good feedback. Module highlights were the wide ranging and varied online activities which taught a wide range of STEM content. For example: it is well known that on Captain Scott’s Terra Nova Expedition 1910–13, three researchers completed the “the worst journey in the world” to study emperor penguins. Using their primary records and clips from location filmed television documentaries we can tell their story and the reasons why it was important. However using state of the art content we can go much further. Using satellite data students can trace the path the researchers took and observe the penguin colony that they studied. Linking to modern Open Access literature students learn how they can estimate the numbers of animals in this and similar locations. Then by linking to freely available data from Antarctic Automatic Weather Stations students can learn quantitatively about the climatic conditions the animals are enduring in real time. They can then download and compare this with the regional climatic record to see if their observations are what could be expected. By considering the environment the penguins live in students can be taught about the evolutionary and behavioural adaptations the animals have undergone to survive. In this one activity we can teach a wide range of key learning points in an engaging and coherent way. It opened some students’ eyes to the range of possibilities available to learn about our, and other planets. The addition and integration of new state of the art techniques and data sets only increases the opportunities to teach STEM in ways that truly grab attention.