My objective was to incorporate quantitative data, maps, the locations around the world our incoming students are in, and the Field Sciences (Agriculture, Forestry, Energy Production, and Mineral Extraction) that are also key global economic drivers.
I tasked our students to make these connections, and communicate their findings via data graphs, text explanations and video. The result was the Google Earth project, which conveys fascinating Field Science info about places around the world.
No student was assigned to a location they are in, so the outcome was this great interdisciplinary and global perspective on the value of a tiny snippet of Field Sciences from all the places our incoming class hail from. Along with building community through teamwork, students built community through learning about where they and their peers all are.
Q: What’s one benefit of digital learning that you want people to know about?
As a field-based educator, digital learning was a big slap to my identity! However, I am very keen on accessibility and inclusion, which has been a plague on Field Sciences for all time, so the benefit of digital learning has been to create a truly accessible field-oriented curriculum that still meets the learning objectives. Rebuilding teaching material from the ground up with the objective of inclusion and universal design for learning, rather than revising material in an ad hoc manner where inclusion feels like an afterthought, is a definite plus.
Q: How have you adjusted to remote learning? What was the main challenge, and what’s the best thing about it?
Being on in front of a computer constantly is hard for me. But the best thing has been the challenge of developing DIY labs and field trip templates for my students to do at home, wherever they are. With DIY kitchen labs and field trips my students can still engage in the active hands-on aspect of learning — literally embodying doing science — despite the remote/online classroom environment.
Q: Can you tell us about a cool moment you had in this class? Like a student, or you, having an ‘aha’ moment?
The Google Earth project was a team-based assignment with the added challenge of working remotely across time zones. I deliberately assigned teammates at random. The cool moment for me was reading the student reflection discussions about the activity. Their discussions highlighted that they learned the value of collaboration and compromise of teamwork, that they recognized both utilizing someone’s strengths in the group and the strength of group discussion in overcoming points of confusion, resulting in a better final product that all group members felt proud of.
I can’t ask for a better learning outcome for trying to teach the value of teamwork!