Educators and scientists have worked for years to convey current ocean science to students and public audiences. Traditionally, this has meant bringing a scientist into the classroom or bringing educators to laboratories, on research cruises, or on a trip to a field site. These interactions have been successful in some venues, but in many cases the science is happening too fast and the people involved are too geographically separated for either of those models to be enough.
That's why COSEE NOW is creating a virtual workspace where educators and scientists can collaborate in real time, or close to it. In particular, COSEE NOW wants to make use of the ocean-observing technology, such as gliders, high-frequency radar, satellite imagery, and sea-floor sensors, that are either already in place or in development, through programs such as the Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) and the Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI).
COSEE NOW's central objective is to develop a productive online community in which scientists, educators, policy makers, and the public can exchange information, collaborate, and learn new skills. In addition to forums and workspaces that will be designed to foster collaboration, the community will be able to share resources such as lesson plans, visualized data, or media presentations that relate to coastal and ocean research.
The challenge of building a virtual workspace in which scientists and educators (and their students) can all collaborate is both technical and social. Because of the highly specialized and customized nature of social and collaborative networks, no existing solution is a perfect fit. Over the past year, COSEE NOW team members have reviewed and tested a variety of platforms to determine which network elements are essential for collaboration yet feasible to build. The significant social challenge is building virtual relationships in a budding and evolving professional community that is working to both define itself and learn to effectively use online technologies.
If We Build It, Will They Come?
During Year One, COSEE NOW focused on assessing the knowledge and needs of ocean observing systems (OOS) users and target audiences. We conducted online surveys regarding our proposed virtual community center and queried various groups, including our own project team, our COSEE colleagues, aquatic scientists (in particular ocean researchers) and educators (in particular classroom teachers using ocean data with their students).
Survey results to date indicate that the majority of our audiences think there is a need for a virtual OOS collaborative community (67% to 79%); that such a center could help them with education and outreach activities (59% to 85%); and that they think they would use such a center (51% to 79%). We learned that the greatest barrier to participation in the community is the ever-present lack of time (61% to 84%). When we asked two of our audiences (COSEE colleagues and educators) how they might use such a center, top choices were: learning more about ocean observing systems and searching for real-time-data lessons or activities. Community feedback is essential to our work and we will continue to collect data on OOS audiences and their needs.
Enhancing Ocean Literacy Using OOS as a Vehicle
As building, testing, and refining of the site continues, COSEE NOW will work to further two major objectives: 1) to illustrate the relevance of OOS science in relation to both locally and nationally important issues while demonstrating the nature of real-world science; and 2) to provide context for ocean science literacy, in science for citizenship and life-long learning.
We will enable the development of resources that will increase awareness of and access to OOS research activities, technology and findings through both innovative and traditional media outlets. For example, with guidance from advisory board member Josie Quintrell, Director of the National Federation of Regional Associations, COSEE NOW is bringing together educators and scientists from the IOOS regional associations to work together with an ex-Hollywood screenwriter, learning how to develop engaging stories about their field of science. These stories will be linked to a Google Earth/Google Map application that will allow audiences to obtain a global view of ocean observatories as well as explore areas of regional significance.
We welcome anyone with an interest in ocean observatories, educational use of data, online technologies, or connecting with scientists and educators to join and participate in our emerging community. We look forward to hearing what you have to say!
Visit COSEE NOW!