I have oft been quoted as saying that “I was blended when blended wasn’t cool.” Today’s Disruptivity blog is dedicated to a partner in crime that I have been using since its beginnings, the Digital Library for Earth System Education-DLESE (which for those of you unfamiliar is pronounced D’LeeSee.)
DLESE is a library of resources which work for a wide variety of science courses and grade levels, which involved using real data freely available in digital environments to learn. For example, you might pull data from a satellite over time and analyze change over time, or a database of earthquake data to use to predict the next big one. Taking a Systems approach means that the lessons here are usable in all of the sciences and ag, not just earth science.
What makes me love this site-its about students doing real and meaningful science with data. Forget your preconceived notions about “virtual labs” which can often involve cheesy simulations and look like a video game.* This is real data from a process commonly known as data mining. You see, all of those USGS, US Armed Forces, NSF, NASA and NOAA data sets — amongst others which our US tax dollars pay for– are public information (occasionally time delayed for security reasons). Which means you and I and any citizen scientist can access them and do meaningful work with them. The difficulty is knowing where and how to access the data and then having the software to do the analysis justice.
Enter DLESE. They take the guesswork out of it. By putting detailed step by step how to get the data and what to do with it lesson plans DLESE has made public data into a gold mine of teachable materials. I especially like their “teachable topics” section for those days when something just happened in the news, and the Earth Exploration Toolkit has been in many of my classes.
*Not that virtual labs don’t have a place, but my personal feeling is that they often do not embody the respect for safety, care and procedural elements that we need our young people to embody. The American Chemical Society agrees that virtual lab alone is not enough as noted in their position statement “Importance of Hands-On Laboratory Activities”.