In a democratic society, it is essential that citizens and leaders – most of whom did not major in science in college – have a basic, realistic comprehension of the nature of science.
teaching science to non-scientists
The focus of our education activities is to use innovative online teaching technologies to improve the science education of non-science majors. Most students will always major outside the sciences, yet in a democratic society it is vital that these future voters and leaders understand the nature of science.
Our primary goal is to convey that science is not a collection of facts, but rather a process of narrowing the uncertainties in areas where the facts are not known. In addition, we aim to tighten the ties between cutting edge research and undergraduate education. Emerging digital technologies, when used creatively, can greatly facilitate these goals by engaging students in immersive, interactive, adaptive, and game-like simulations and lessons that bring students closer to real research experiences. Our thesis is that this type of pedagogy will do a far better job than traditional lecture-lab pedagogy in motivating students and modeling the authentic practices of science.
Habitable Worlds (SES 106)
To grapple with climate change and other science-infused challenges, the public needs to understand that science is not a body of facts organized by discipline, but an active process, often crossing disciplines, that narrows uncertainties. Unfortunately, traditional large lecture classes are passive, teacher-centered, and disciplinary, reinforcing misconceptions about the nature of science.
We are exploring the use of emerging online technologies, and the curricula they enable, to address this challenge, in Habitable Worlds (SES 106) an online-only astrobiology course developed by Anbar and Dr. Lev 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 rare habitable planets in a randomized field of hundreds of stars using concepts learned in the course. Concepts are learned via interactive and adaptive inquiry-driven tutorials built 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 Trips
The emerging landscape of digital 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, Anbar and his group are driving the integration of VFTs into cyberlearning environments to afford students an infrastructure for authentic field-inspired science in the classroom. Using advanced 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, students are presented with engaging and rich educational experiences. A 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.