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Bringing Ocean Tracks to the Collegiate Level

The Ocean Tracks learning experience has been a major focus of our work at ODI over the past several years. We initially developed it as a way to get high school science students engaged in and working directly with authentic scientific data. We custom built the data interface for the program, using the principles defined in our Visualizing Oceans of Data work.

However, as we were building, testing, and refining the Ocean Tracks interface, it became clear that there was also interest among college educators in using Ocean Tracks. So for the past two years, we’ve been working with professors teaching oceanography and marine biology classes to develop curriculum and assessment tools so we can learn more about how to incorporate data-focused learning into college-level courses.

Our curriculum team just completed a workshop, hosted at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, where we took feedback from faculty and students who have used Ocean Tracks and are using it to refine the curriculum modules for additional testing next fall. A key aspect of this revision has been to reflect on and hone our Engage, Explore, Synthesize learning cycle goals and requirements by better aligning them with current science education research. The new revisions seek to provide a more cohesive experience across all the modules to more effectively engage students in the process of doing science.

As we continue to refine our work on Ocean Tracks, it is helping us to clarify for ourselves what is most important about the work we are doing. Ocean Tracks isn’t built to deliver a body of facts about predators or the oceans; rather, it is designed to engage students in a data-driven inquiry process, where the “right” answers are those which the data best supports. It is about developing critical thinking skills and learning to make and support arguments from data.

After working with dozens of students in a variety of undergraduate classrooms over the past year, our biggest surprise is that, for many of them, Ocean Tracks has been their first experience in actually doing science the way scientists do. And in a world where scientific observation is increasingly done by networks of autonomous sensors producing continuous streams of data, this feels like a fitting introduction indeed!

Best,

Randy Kochevar, Director
The EDC Oceans of Data Institute

Portrait of Randy Kochevar
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