IEEE TCDL Bulletin
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TCDL Bulletin
Current 2005
Volume 2   Issue 1


Facilitating the Effective Use of Earth Science Data in Education through Digital Libraries

Bridging the Gap between Scientists and Educators

Tamara Shapiro Ledley
LuAnn Dahlman
2067 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140
Ben Domenico
Unidata Program Center, UCAR
PO Box 3008
Boulder, CO 80387
Michael R. Taber
University of Northern Colorado
Department of Earth Sciences
Ross Hall, Rm 3580
Greeley, CO 80639


Creating learning modules that utilize Earth data is a difficult task, requiring knowledge about the data, science, curriculum design, and the educational context. The Digital Library for Earth System Education (DLESE) Data Services group hosted a workshop to bridge the knowledge gap between data providers and educators by assembling teams of experts in these areas to create data-rich learning modules. Face-to-face collaboration allowed the sharing of perspectives and encouraged the contribution of individual expertise, facilitating development of data-rich modules.


1. Introduction

Though Earth science data and tools are officially freely available to the public, specific data are generally difficult to find, and are often provided in formats that are difficult to use. Digital libraries, such as DLESE (, provide a portal to educational materials and are moving toward more data integration [1]. Efforts to expand the use of data in education have been slow, in part due to a communication gap between the scientific and educational communities [2].

2. Bridging the Gap between Scientists and Educators

In an effort to bridge the gap between the scientific and educational uses of data, DLESE's Data Services group facilitated a workshop in May 2004. Participants represented five critical areas of expertise necessary for developing data-rich educational modules: Earth science data providers, analysis tool developers, scientists, curriculum developers, and educators. Participants worked on teams of 5-6 members representing the five areas of expertise. Each team was charged with generating the foundations of an educational module in the form of an Earth Exploration Toolbook (EET) chapter ( that utilized data, tools, and expertise represented by the team members. One of the most valuable outcomes was that participants could see the issues of data access from new perspectives and respond quickly to expressed needs.

One team envisioned a tool that would facilitate visual comparison of two global data sets. The team's tool developer had a prototype available the next morning, and the team's data provider tapped his support staff to prepare data for the tool. On another team, a curriculum developer had tried for months to bring a specific dataset into a GIS tool; the complementary expertise on the team facilitated accomplishing this goal in minutes. Another team chose to host a smaller, more specific version of the Data Services workshop to focus on their specific dataset and analysis tool. In this workshop, educators provided feedback on the analysis tool directly to the tool builder, resulting in a tool that addresses both scientific and educational needs.

The success of a team depended on team members sharing their perspectives on data use and access as well as the ability to break down the language barriers between data providers and educators. Face-to-face interaction facilitated rapid development.

Thumbnail image of poster

For a larger view of the Figure, click here.


3. Acknowledgements

NSF DLESE Data Services (TERC EAR-0305058, University of Northern Colorado EAR-0305074, UNIDATA EAR-0305045) NSF Earth Exploration Toolbook grant at TERC DUE-0226199.

4. References

[1] Caron, B, and the DLESE Data Access Working Group (DAWG), Building Earth Data Resources into DLESE, pp 29, <>.

[2] Manduca, C. A. and D. Mogk, 2002. Using Data in the Undergraduate Science Classroom: A Report from an Interdisciplinary Workshop <>.


© Copyright 2005 Tamara Shapiro Ledley, LuAnn Dahlman, Ben Domenico, and Michael R. Taber
Some or all of these materials were previously published in the Proceedings of the 5th ACM/IEEE-CS Joint Conference on Digital libraries, ACM 1-58113-876-8/05/0006.

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