Contextualizing Science Education via Earth System Science Events for Meaningful Lifelong Learning
de la Chica, Sebastian
The widespread deployment of ubiquitous communication technologies, including growing Internet access, in the early 21st century has resulted in a growing number of information sources available for educational purposes. These online information sources contribute to an educational landscape increasingly capable of near real-time access to news coverage, scientific data, and critical analyses about earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, and similar Earth system science (ESS) events. By contrast, traditional science textbooks provide sanctioned quality educational content, but require content updating cycles several orders of magnitude longer than online information sources. Lacking meaningful context, scientific information in traditional textbooks often leads to disconnected rote learning and limited understanding of scientific concepts. Lacking the appropriate cognitive skills, learners often fail to recognize and connect the salient scientific concepts and social issues underlying news coverage of significant ESS events with their existing scientific knowledge. Nationally-recognized science education standards have addressed the importance of learning how to be a scientist through learning goals related to science inquiry and critical thinking skills in authentic settings, including topics derived from current events (National Research Council, 1996; Project 2061, 1993). While real-world ESS events may support authentic integration of science in the classroom with science in the world, learners require appropriate cognitive skills to adequately process and integrate scientific content from diverse sources in the context of their immediate science curriculum learning goals. The proposed research addresses the following research questions: • How does the introduction of real-world Earth system science events change learners’ existing scientific understandings and their comprehension of the social relevance of the science curriculum content? • What are the cognitive skills and strategies required for meaningful learning from multiple sources in an online science research environment? • How can concept maps be integrated with educational digital libraries to scaffold the development of these cognitive skills and strategies in an online science research environment?