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Fall 1999

PAGE building new undergraduate resources

With a mandate from the university geoscience community and a well-defined agenda, the Program for the Advancement of Geoscience Education is developing new projects that will turn existing UCAR community resources into tools for undergraduate-level geoscience educators.

PAGE has just celebrated its second birthday, and during its infancy director Mary Marlino built it from a concept into a mission. She held several rounds of meetings with educators to clarify the calls for UCAR involvement in undergraduate education and to determine how UICAR resources could be leveraged. That period was capped with a community-wide meeting last fall to further refine the agenda for PAGE. Marlino says, "It was a very powerful meeting because it brought together representatives from the geoscience community who were able to articulate a common vision for our emerging program."

Those attending the meeting saw two primary goals for PAGE. First, the program should be a resource for the development, dissemination, and evaluation of electronic materials, and second, PAGE should build and empower a community of educators who will use these materials to support student-centered learning. These goals are to be reached within the intellectual framework defined in Shaping the Future of Undergraduate Earth Science Education, a 1996 report by the American Geophysical Union, the Keck Geology Consortium, and NSF.

The new resources

To meet the first goal, PAGE and a group of collaborators are developing a Geoscience Digital Library. The Web-based library will identify large data sets, curricular materials, collections, images, and abstracts that could be used in undergraduate classrooms. In the next two years, the organizers plan to implement a usable version of the library, which will be organized around a set of "desks." Faculty can contribute items and critique other materials. "We're still addressing such questions as how do faculty evaluate and renew resources," Marlino says.

The collaborators in this project, besides UCAR, are the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology, the Keck Geology Consortium, the Earth Systems Science Education Program of the Universities Space Research Association, and the University of Colorado. This team will share educational leadership of the project; the technical infrastructure will be created at UCAR. David Fulker of the UCAR Unidata program is co-principal investigator with Marlino. Also participating are personnel from the Alexandria Project, a digital library initiative at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

The Virtual Exploratorium project stems from a directive given to PAGE when it was first formed. "One of the things specifically asked for was that we leverage the resources of UCAR for the benefit of the community," Marlino says. The exploratorium will bring visualization technology that already exists at UCAR and elsewhere to the undergraduate classroom. It will be a "learning environment that incorporates technology, pedagogy, and classroom implementation strategies," she adds. The other project participants are co-principal investigator Don Middleton (NCAR Scientific Computing Division) and Bob Wilhelmson and Mohan Ramamurthy of the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.

The collaborators will design and develop modeling and visualization tools, discovery-based curricular elements that use these tools, data sets of relevant geoscience phenomena, and a virtual encyclopedia of basic scientific concepts. Marlino notes that the exploratorium will be designed so it can run on a $1,500 personal computer, putting it in the reach of even small colleges.

Marlino is also considering an initiative that would focus on groups that are underrepresented among scientists, particularly women and ethnic minorities. She notes that some universities have exemplary programs for incorporating these groups into science, but the programs are usually very high maintenance. She would like to study how a program that works well at one institution could be economically scaled to work at another.

Marlino summarizes, "This past year has been a good one. We have expanded and refined our community support. We have a much better handle on how we function with other institutions, and a better sense of how we're working with other parts of UCAR. And I think we have a clear blueprint for the future."

For further information on PAGE, visit the project's Web site, or call Marlino at 303-497-8350.

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Edited by Carol Rasmussen, carolr@ucar.edu
Prepared for the Web by Jacque Marshall
Last revised: Tue Apr 4 15:11:20 MDT 2000