iVFTs - immersive virtual field trips for interactive learning about Earth’s environment.

Friday, 19 December 2014: 10:35 AM
Geoffrey Bruce1, Ariel D Anbar2, Steven C Semken2, Roger E Summons3, Carol Oliver4 and Sanlyn Buxner5, (1)Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, United States, (2)Arizona State University, School of Earth & Space Exploration, Tempe, AZ, United States, (3)Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, United States, (4)University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, (5)Planetary Science Institute Tucson, Tucson, AZ, United States
Innovations in immersive interactive technologies are changing the way students explore Earth and its environment. State-of-the-art hardware has given developers the tools needed to capture high-resolution spherical content, 360° panoramic video, giga-pixel imagery, and unique viewpoints via unmanned aerial vehicles as they explore remote and physically challenging regions of our planet. Advanced software enables integration of these data into seamless, dynamic, immersive, interactive, content-rich, and learner-driven virtual field explorations, experienced online via HTML5. These surpass conventional online exercises that use 2-D static imagery and enable the student to engage in these virtual environments that are more like games than like lectures.

Grounded in the active learning of exploration, inquiry, and application of knowledge as it is acquired, users interact non-linearly in conjunction with an intelligent tutoring system (ITS). The integration of this system allows the educational experience to be adapted to each individual student as they interact within the program.

Such explorations, which we term “immersive virtual field trips” (iVFTs), are being integrated into cyber-learning allowing science teachers to take students to scientifically significant but inaccessible environments. Our team and collaborators are producing a diverse suite of freely accessible, iVFTs to teach key concepts in geology, astrobiology, ecology, and anthropology. Topics include Early Life, Biodiversity, Impact craters, Photosynthesis, Geologic Time, Stratigraphy, Tectonics, Volcanism, Surface Processes, The Rise of Oxygen, Origin of Water, Early Civilizations, Early Multicellular Organisms, and Bioarcheology. These diverse topics allow students to experience field sites all over the world, including, Grand Canyon (USA), Flinders Ranges (Australia), Shark Bay (Australia), Rainforests (Panama), Teotihuacan (Mexico), Upheaval Dome (USA), Pilbara (Australia), Mid-Atlantic Ridge (Iceland), and Mauna Kea (Hawaii).

iVFTs are being beta-tested and used at ASU in several large-enrollment courses to assess its usability and effectiveness in meeting specific learning objectives. We invite geoscience educators to partake of this resource and find new applications to their own teaching.