Dr. Egger, assistant professor of geological sciences and science education at Central Washington University, developed the module over nine years of teaching introductory geoscience courses and trying different approaches to engage students in both the topic of earthquakes and process of analyzing data. “The challenge in an intro class is helping students engage when they’ve often already decided they’re going to do something else,” she says.
After several iterations, Egger created the current version of the module, which makes use of real-time earthquake data collected by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). By having her students complete a series of activities interspersed with discussion, Egger has been able to turn “dots on a map” (the data points representing earthquakes around the world) into something meaningful to the students. In the final stage of the module, Egger’s students write essays comparing the seismic activity and relative risk in three cities where they would consider living after graduation. Not only do the students get excited during the discussion, but Egger has found that their assignments are much more interesting to read and less repetitive than past assignments.
Perhaps best of all, the module is free and can be used anywhere in the world. “This module is utterly adaptable to wherever you are, with whatever students, using a computer, or a smart phoneyou name it. There are earthquakes to look at all around the world,” Egger says.
Read Dr. Egger’s essay about the module and the process of using real-time data in the classroom, which appears in today’s edition of the journal Science. Then try out the module in your classroom or at home–from any computer or smart phone. It includes a downloadable student activity sheet, PowerPoint presentation for lecture, and writing assignment with a grading rubric.
For more about the history of plate tectonics and the forces that cause earthquakes, check out modules Plate Tectonics I: The Evidence for a Geologic Revolution and Plate Tectonics II: Plates, Plate Boundaries, and Driving Forces.
Explore real-time data collected by seismometers all over the world by visiting the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program website
Find out more about the Science Prize for Inquiry-Based Instruction
Written by Christine Hoekenga
Christine is a freelance writer, editor, and content strategist, specializing in science and nature. She holds an Bachelor's degree in Environmental Science and Media Studies and a Master's of Science Writing. She has been working in science communication and education for nearly a decade as a journalist, an organizer for conservation groups, and a museum educator. Before joining the Visionlearning team, she served as the New Media and Online Community Manager for the Webby award-winning Smithsonian Ocean Portal. Christine is assisting Visionlearning with developing new modules and glossary terms, managing the blog, and outreach through social media.