2011 Annual Science Report

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Reporting  |  SEP 2010 – AUG 2011

EPO Activity: VFT EPO Report

Project Progress

The MIT NAI team continues to work on a suite of Virtual Field Trip products. This year, we continued our collaboration with the ASU NAI team and the Australian Center for Astrobiology on two VFT projects – the Flinders Rage of Australia, and Shark Bay, Western Australia. The Flinders Range VFT is now in a beta version and we are working towards evaluating the VFT as an effective teaching tool across a wide variety of audiences, from middle schools to colleges to informal learning environments. This process has involved a huge number of partners as we explore learning philosophies and work hard to create a product that will not only be engaging and entertaining, but educational as well.

In June of 2011, we traveled to Western Australia to create the next VFT on the stromatolites of Hamelin Pool in Shark Bay. This trip, a combined scientific and E/PO mission, was highly successful and we collected an immense amount of content in the form of images, videos, gigapans, underwater spherical images, and interviews with scientists. This VFT will focus on the importance of stromatolites to our understanding of the history of life on Earth, their importance in the rise of oxygen on Earth, and how they help us understand how life might evolve on other planets and how we might detect it. We are in the process of assimilating and organizing all of the Shark Bay data and will begin working on forming a VFT in the coming months.

In October, E/PO Lead Phoebe Cohen and ASU E/PO member Wendy Taylor presented on the Flinders Range VFT at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America during a short course on Virtual Field Experiences. During this workshop, we shared the project with 30 college and high school educators and other VFE creators. We plan on staying connected to this community as we move forward to ensure we are staying current with new ideas, pedagogies, and technologies, as well as creating networks to disseminate our finished products.