Computation and Visualization in the Earth Sciences

Lesson 2: Reading Discussion


This week we will read and discuss the two papers below. They are linked from the discussion in Canvas.

Required Reading

  • Kastens, K.A., 2010, Commentary: Object and Spatial Visualization in Geosciences, J. Geosc, Educ., 58, p. 52-57.
  • Draganski, B., C. Gaser, V. Busch, G. Schuierer, U. Bogdahn, A. May, 2004, Changes in grey matter induced by training, Nature, 427, p. 311-312.

The first paper discusses the fact that successful geoscientists need to be adept at what cognitive scientists term "object visualization" and "spatial visualization." One of the challenges of designing successful learning materials for teaching geoscience concepts effectively is to recognize that these visualization skills are needed and to try to address them deliberately.

I think it is fair to say that K-12 science education is rather more focused on building vocabularic and conceptual knowledge (i.e. "List the three types of plate boundaries") rather than honing the skills used by scientists, such as the visualization skills brought up in this paper. One of my goals for this course is to explore and teach visualization skills through the medium of computer programming, so keep that in mind when you read the first paper.

The second paper is by a team of neuroscientists and my take-away from it is that even in adulthood, learning a new skill changes your brain for the better. That discovery addresses my second goal for this course which is to teach you a new skill set that will hopefully be useful to you. Even if it is not directly useful, my intent is that the learning process will be beneficial in and of itself.

Questions for discussion

As you read, consider the following questions, which we will discuss as a class:

  1. What's the difference between object and spatial visualization? Do you identify with one or the other more strongly?
  2. Can you think of some lessons you teach or previous lessons in this program that address visualization skills?
  3. What are the significant conclusions of the Draganski et al. paper?

Submitting your work

Once you have finished the readings, engage in a class discussion that will take place over the entire week devoted to Lesson 2. For specific dates, consult the lesson overview page. This discussion will require you to participate multiple times over that period.

  1. Enter the Lesson 2 - Papers Discussion Forum.
  2. You will see postings already there, each containing one of the discussion questions above.
  3. Post a response to each question. If you feel that your response has already been "said" by another student, then post a response to someone else's remarks that expands on what has already been said, asks for clarification, asks a follow-up question, or furthers the discussion in some other meaningful way. By the end of the activity, I would like you to post at least one original thought/opinion/question and at least one thoughtful response to someone else's post.

Grading criteria

You will be graded on the quality of your participation. See the grading rubric for specifics.