Interactive Education Project a Tool for Students, Teachers, and Parents Alike

News

By Shawn Schaller
Fall 2011

Introducing young children to topics as complex as glaciology and radars can be a tall task. In order to facilitate a strong connection between grade school students and this uncommon and complex subject matter, the CReSIS Education Team took their lessons to a platform that children are already familiar with.

In April 2011, Graduate Research Assistant Brandon Gillette and K-12 Education Outreach Coordinator Cheri Hamilton made plans to initiate brand new, interactive, and widely accessible online content that would directly reflect the lessons and activities they bring to the classroom. Two months later, Education Technology GRA Kuang-Chen Hsu came aboard and the project was officially underway.

“There are very few simple programs that teach glaciology,” Hamilton said of the inspiration behind the new project. “This is a very easy way to learn about glaciers.”

However, it was only after project development began that Gillette and Hamilton realized the full potential of the new interactive, online content. As products unfolded, expectations evolved.

“We’re really trying to reach a broader audience,” Gillette said of the projects overall goals. Both he and Hamilton believe the new e-content will act as a quality resource for teachers and a new way for parents to see what the CReSIS K-12 program brings to the classroom.

Naturally, the primary goal is still to produce a more interesting and efficient way to reach children with CReSIS-related lessons. While classroom visits will always be exciting for children and the CReSIS education team alike, the activities presented are limited to demonstrating a single lesson in a linear format. The new online content provides users with realistic visualizations, and its interactive nature allows the users’ choices and clicks to result in different outcomes on the screen. The end product is a multi-dimensional, well-rounded glaciology lesson supplement and teaching tool.

“With this animation, what they can do is take the [classroom] lesson into a real world context,” Gillette said. “An activity doesn’t do anything unless you put it in context.”

The man developing this virtual world, Hsu, is equally optimistic about his work’s potential.

Hsu

Hsu turns in-classroom lessons into interactive, online activities.

“Nowadays, children are more familiar with computers,” Hsu said, “so if we can incorporate these activities into their daily lives, it will help them learn more and learn more easily.”

Relating CReSIS subject matter to anyone, especially to children, will always be a tall task. Ideally, playing to the strengths of our virtual world will make the education team’s latest project a success both inside and outside of the classroom.