|Interests | Observation-Assumption Model | Courses Taught||
I have spent most of my teaching career building and teaching courses related to computer programming and astrobiology. In college, I redesigned the curriculum for the computer science course Internet and introduced Flash and databases, which later became integral internet infrastructure. In graduate school, I redesigned the curriculum for the astrobiology course Earth and Life to include more experimental pedagogies and activities, including using snapshots of my daily life to teach about the fossil record and creating a combined individual/group activity where students worked on organisms and their responses to ecosystems and their various biological, geological, and astronomical stressors.
At Arizona State University, I have tackled online science pedagogies via Habitable Worlds. This project required many innovations in pedagogies as I built a digitally native online course. I conceptualized and tested the simulators used throughout the course and designed the activities around them. I also built the adaptive pathways and adaptive feedback that guide students through the experience. Some examples of my work can be found here:
Mindscapes - a concept activity to teach philosophy of science
Brightness - an activity built using a sim and adaptive design
Stratigraphy - an activity built using a virtual field trip
I am currently interested in developing new courses using the principles and pedagogies of Habitable Worlds. Adaptive feedback and adaptive pathways, informed by data from previous offerings and student archetypes that I am identifying, can transform education. I am actively developing concepts for additional astrobiology courses, an environmental diplomacy class, and virtual field experiences targeted for low-bandwidth environments.
Observation-Assumption Model (Pedagogy)
Teaching science is difficult. Teaching science online even more so. The problem with most science courses is that they teach information about science, rather than the actual process itself. That is typically left to lab sections, but even those don't actually teach the process either since they're focused on replication and methodology. So how do we construct a science course that actually engages students in the process of science? Habitable Worlds comes close by erasing the distinction between labs, lectures, homework, problem sets, and projects. Can we do even better?
Through Habitable Worlds, I have conceptualized a different way of teaching science. Science focuses very much on observations and the methodologies that have been developed to gather and analyze robust observations. However, few scientists and instructors of science ever talk about assumptions and the role they play in the scientific process. Assumptions are essentially "placeholder observations" (for example, "assume albedo is 0.5 for this exoplanet" or "assume a relative humidity of 40%"). They are critical to constructing scientific models because it is impossible to make all the observations necessary to construct a complete model. Models can range from assumption-dominated (a hypothesis) to observation-dominated (a theory). I suspect that this is a more intuitive way of understanding science and that it will be more accessible to a wider variety of students.
Philosophy of Science (beta) - first attempt at teach this conceptualization of science
Preliminary results show that at the beginning of this activity, students conflate "hypothesis" and "theory" in terms of definitions and confidence they should have in each. By the end of the activity, the confidence rating for the two begin to more accurately reflect how scientists would interpret the words. In addition, when given a variety of models to evaluate, they are able to correctly sort them into "hypothesis" and "theory" categories.
Future teaching assignments and projects will endeavor to put this philosophy into practice throughout the course, rather than remaining restricted to a single "philosophy of science" lesson at the beginning of the semester. I suspect that allowing students to incorporate more of their assumptions into their classwork will make science more accessible to them and make it easier to remediate misconceptions, since they will no longer be cast as "hypotheses" (which carries a judgmental tone that can make testing one intimidating and disproving your own embarrassing) and instead as "assumptions" (which are easier to discard without consequence).
Arizona State University
SES 106: Habitable Worlds (Spring 2012, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2018) - Instructor
SES 106: Habitable Worlds (Fall 2011 - Present) - Course Coordinator
Glendale Community College
Geology 110: Geologic Disasters and the Environment (Fall 2010) - Instructor
Pennsylvania State University
Geosciences 21: Earth and Life (Spring 2008) - Co-Instructor
Geosciences 21: Earth and Life (Spring 2004, Spring 2005) - Teaching Assistant
Geosciences 301: Environmental Geology (Fall 2003) - Teaching Assistant
Johns Hopkins University
Computer Science 113: Internet (Summer 2001, Fall 2001, Spring 2002, Summer 2002, Fall 2002, Spring 2003) - Head Teaching Assistant
Computer Science 113: Internet (Spring 2000, Fall 2001, Spring 2001) - Teaching Assistant