Saturday, 15 August 2015

Using citizen science to support global learning connections

Last week's #AsiaEd slow chat on Twitter discussed how we as educators can help our learners become globally connected citizens. As a follow-up I will outline what I think is a great way to do this, which is by encouraging students to get involved in citizen scienceI have written previously about how I have introduced my students to citizen science, which is essentially science carried out by amateur, non-professional scientists. In this post I will outline various citizen science projects and websites which offer opportunities for students to participate in citizen science. I will also explain why I think these kinds of projects are useful for helping learners to become globally connected citizens. 



Dr Lin Chambers from NASA has a videoconference with students who participated in the S'COOL project.

NASA


NASA has a number of citizen science projects, for example the CloudSat and S'COOL projects. Students participate in these activities by making careful observations of the sky conditions - cloud cover, cloud types etc - then uploading these data to the respective project web sites. One of the aims of these projects is to reconcile surface observation data with observations made by sensors on satellites, in order to try and improve the accuracy of the sensors. By taking part in these projects students can make connections on a global scale. This includes making connections with the science, for example the global nature of climate science. It also includes making connections with a global community of both citizen scientists (other schools who are engaged with these projects) and professional scientists, for example NASA climate change specialists. Students at my school have participated in videoconferences with NASA scientists and with a school in the US which also participates in the S'COOL project.


A student presents some data for the NASA S'COOL project videoconference.

SciStarter

SciStarter is a very useful website which contains links to a large range of different projects in which volunteers can get involved. Their website has a search function that allows you to select and search for a variety of topics and activities. There are links to many different projects across a range of fields. 

Zooniverse

Another great website which has a variety of citizen science projects across a range of disciplines is Zooniverse. Projects include Snapshot Serengeti, where volunteers help to classify animals in photos taken by camera traps, and Asteroid Zoo, where work is conducted to identify near Earth asteroids. 

Journey North

Journey North is a website dedicated to monitoring wildlife migrations and seasonal change. It also has a number of resources for educators, such as activities, slide shows and teacher guides. 

Project Noah

Project Noah is an online tool for documenting biodiversity around the world. Anyone can join, and once signed up members can upload photos of wildlife they have taken, along with details of the organisms they spotted. This information can then be used by ecologists in various ways, for example to track the spread of invasive species, or to determine if climate change is having an impact on the geographic range of a species. 

Summary

Citizen science affords students the chance to make global connections between what they are learning in the classroom, and the community of practice of scientists. It also provides them opportunities to become globally connected with other learners around the world. There are many different citizen science projects with which learners can sign up to and get involved. By encouraging our students to engage in these kinds of activities we can provide fantastic opportunities both for learning about real science in an authentic fashion, as well as affording rich experiences for learners in a globally connected environment.