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Michelle Simms,
NSF Graduate Fellow

NSF GK-12 Project: Texas A&M University
Advancing Geospatial Skills in Science and Social Science
URL: http://agsss.tamu.edu

Thesis Title: Using Google Earth as a Visual Geographic Information Systems
College/University: Texas A&M University

Research Advisor: Sarah Bednarz

Degree Sought

University Department and/or Lab
Department of Geography

Research Focus
I am studying how to integrate geospatial technology into the K-12 environment.

Description of Research
Virtual globes, such as Google Earth, deliver an interactive experience with a dynamic interface that allows the user to “fly” from a global to a local perspective. However, only visual information in the form of satellite images or aerial photography is currently presented. By integrating geographic information systems (GIS) data, a learning experience can be developed that allows students to discover the interaction of variables at a specific location and the forces at work that form the characteristics of that “place.” Developing activities that allow students to utilize professional geospatial tools to build new knowledge is the focus of my research.

Example of how my research is integrated into my GK-12 experience
When delivering the first GIS activity of the school year, I asked our 10th grade students if they had heard the previous week’s news about a major discovery of oil in the Gulf of Mexico. Living in southeast Texas, most of their hands shot up in affirmation. I then told the students that scientists, like those who made that discovery, use geospatial technologies like GIS to investigate the layers of data that help them to pinpoint the most likely place where an oil pocket may be found. There was a buzz of excitement as they realized that they were using the same type of technology that professionals use everyday. Finding ways to connect students with the activities of the broader academic and professional world can be a challenge, but I believe it is critical, not only to motivate students to “own” their education, but also to realize that what they do in class both applies to the real world and prepares them for it as well.

Profile date: August 2007
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