How can we best teach science to non-scientists? Most students will always major outside the sciences, and it is increasingly important that these future voters and leaders understand the nature of science. Our education activities focus on innovative online teaching technologies to improve the science education of non-science majors. Our goal is to convey that science is not a collection of facts, but is a process of discovery.
We're applying our education research to the undergraduate experience at ASU by engaging students in immersive, interactive, adaptive, and game-like simulations and lessons. We believe that this type of pedagogy is more interesting, engaging, and enjoyable than traditional lecture-based classes, and will do a far better job in motivating and retaining students.
Habitable Worlds (SES 106) is an online astrobiology course developed by Dr. Anbar and Dr. Horodyskyj, with support from ASU Online. The curriculum is based on the Drake Equation, which meaningfully integrates concepts from astronomy, chemistry, geoscience, life science, and the social sciences. The pedagogy is organized around a term-long, individualized, game-inspired project in which each student must find and characterize habitable planets in a randomized field of hundreds of stars. Concepts are learned via interactive and adaptive inquiry-driven tutorials, powered by an intelligent tutoring system developed by Smart Sparrow LLC. Through the lab-like project and tutorials, students construct knowledge from experience, modeling the authentic practice of science while mastering complex concepts.
Virtual Field Trip (VFT) technology enables geoscience teachers to take whole classrooms into geologically significant but remote or inaccessible regions, overcoming obstacles of distance, hazards, cost, time, and logistics. Working with technologist Geoffrey Bruce and many faculty and staff at ASU and other institutions, Dr. Anbar is driving the integration of VFTs into cyberlearning environments to give students authentic field-inspired science "excursions" in the classroom. These field trips are created with hardware and software tools such as robotic Gigapan systems, cameras with advanced spherical tripod heads, unmanned aerial vehicles, seamless 360-degree digital video, and unique software for online dissemination mechanisms. The key objective of ongoing research, development, and evaluation of VFTs is to deliver science content to diverse audiences, including STEM teachers, informal educators, and students across multiple grade levels.