Youth and Adult Water Science Education for the 21st Century by Rudolph Rosen, Ph.D.
Educational exhibits designed for today’s visitors and students rely heavily on technology. Technology enhanced exhibits generate added excitement for visitors and can deliver large amounts of information in a small space, reducing space requirements and overhead costs. They also provide flexibility to deliver different messages to different groups and can be updated easily at low cost.
Proposed for the Discovery Room, aquarium area, and outside educational areas are prototype technology enhancements. These enhancements will help save space in the Discovery Room and allow a high degree of flexibility in delivering educational messages. Used in outdoor areas, these enhancements will allow instructors to cover materials not possible in the past.
Several partners have been identified to assist RSI in ensuring technology is compatible with teaching requirements for K-12 use in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and will leverage seamlessly with other technology applicable for use in water education.
Multi-Screen Multi-Media Theater
Considerable flexibility is provided by a theater for education, as well as for RSI’s promotional purposes. In the small space formerly occupied by two to four static picture boards, up to two banks of six screens each will display as many as 20 separate messages, videos, pictures, or demonstrations simultaneously. Alternatively, a single message can be spread across all 12 screens.
Education options are infinite and the theater can be adapted over time to meet new demands on student education and visitor services.
Technology enhanced aquarium experience
Static signage in front of aquaria can be replaced by highly flexible touch sensitive video screens that can display informational material as well as video. This is also described on page 8 of the plan.
In addition, mobile devices can be set to receive additional, optional information at specific sites in the Discovery and Aquarium Rooms. This will allow students and visitors who have a smart phone or pad to access added educational material. This can add content to instruction or provide visitors access to significantly enhanced information.
Mobile technology for teachers and visitors
Inventive application of mobile technology, such as smart phones and pads, in student group education will come into play as educational programming delivered to mobile devices is used to enhance student experiences while at theSpringLakesite. By providing access to information through use of mobile devices, self-guided visitors who have handheld devices can also receive enhanced educational messages.
For onsite student education, mobile technology devices can be used to augment instructional methods and materials. Teachers and students will be provided access to applications, websites, youth-oriented social media, and other materials to provide integration of new mobile technology into RSI’s water education. Mobile devices may allow students to access video, write journal entries, access interactive educational games, role-play, view water data bases, use a plant and animal identification guide, and view graphic watershed simulation models.
For the self-guided visitor, local Wi-Fi and “barcode” messaging will enable mobile devices to receive specific information or allow for self-guided access to information — all without expensive wireless subscriptions.
Virtual air, water, and underground tour of Spring Lake and the watershed — applied research
Using the immense quantity of data collected forSpringLakeby the San Marcos Observing System, RSI researchers are building a prototype virtual landscape that will allow a “first-person” view and tour ofSpringLake. This virtual tour will be displayed (including narration) on the multi-screen multi-media theater or on mobile devices. Educational “way-points” can be added to the tour representing points of interest and integrating additional display or video materials to further enhance the virtual tour.
If successful, this tour can be extended to other parts of the watershed, including the ocean. In addition, if this proves a cost effective means to portray the watershed and its features, including impacts due to human caused or natural disturbances, testing this technology now may provide a future “applied research business stream” for the future.
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H2O (Headwaters to Ocean) is a cooperative project sponsored by the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University and funding partner, the Ewing Halsell Foundation which supports the project H2O. H2O is an experiential, technology-enhanced education program focused on water, from headwaters to the ocean (http://www.water-texas.org)