The Global Change App: The Creative Transformation of Scientific Research

The Global Change App: The Creative Transformation of Scientific Research

Stephanie B. Borrelle, Stanley Frielick, Roman Asshoff, Sebastian Leuzinger
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0256-2.ch007
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The global carbon and water cycles, and the process of photosynthesis are integral components of any high school science class or university science degree. Despite being intricately linked, these important global processes are often taught in isolation. This disconnection can lead to students having an incomplete understanding of the interconnection of leaf level processes, global cycles, and how they are affected by human activities. The “Global Change” app is an interactive teaching tool that illustrates how the biotic and abiotic systems involved in carbon and water cycling are connected to the stomata, and how human activities are affecting these processes in a meaningful way for students. In this chapter, the authors identify key gaps in students understanding and explain how the app addresses these. Example lessons are provided that encourage student self-inquiry, in a way that allows flexible, interactive learning. The Global Change app demonstrates how creative design and science can be combined to enhance the engagement of students with complex scientific concepts.
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Knowledge about the carbon and water cycles are critical scientific concepts for participating in global climate change discussion. Without an understanding of these cycles and especially comprehension of how human activities impact on these cycles, students lack “preparedness for life” in society (OECD, 2006). Nevertheless, there are still several difficulties in understanding the evidence for climate change not only in students but also in adults (e.g. Robelia & Murphy, 2012). Thus, learning about the global processes and how they are influenced by human activities from a social perspective is a highly relevant topic for students. The Global Change app (hereafter “the app”) integrates complex scientific concepts of these ecological processes with design and animation; placing an interactive learning environment to teach these concepts at the fingertips of students and lecturers via their mobile devices. The app is free to download from the iTunes and Google Play stores. In addition, there is a PC version that is ideal for lecturers to use in a classroom setting. The app provides an overview of the physiological function of stomata; the terrestrial interface for the carbon and water cycles, the major components of the carbon and water cycles as well as the main global change impacts that are acting on them. The aim of the app is for it to be used as a teaching support tool for illustrating how the biotic and abiotic systems involved in carbon and water cycling are connected to the stomata, and how human activities are affecting these global processes in an approachable and meaningful way for students. In addition to the embedded content, the app links to external information, including open access peer-reviewed literature; where both students and lecturers can further explore concepts with scientifically robust information to enhance understanding of the connection between the natural world and human activities.

The app is a prime example for teaching scientific literacy, which aims to improve students’ understanding of scientific principles and processes that will enable personal decision-making, and students´ participation in discussions of scientific topics that affect socio-scientific issues (e.g. National Science Education Standards, 2006). The ability of students to make use of these competencies depends on the students´ scientific knowledge, i.e. their content knowledge of the natural world (e.g. carbon and water cycle are connected through stomata), their procedural (e.g. procedures used by scientists to establish scientific knowledge), and their epistemic knowledge (e.g. to understand the reasons for common practice of scientific inquiry (OECD, 2015)). The purpose is not to offer any new information about either cycle or the role of the stomata in the interactions between the cycles; rather, the app provides an interactive educational platform for teachers, students and non-climate-scientists. This chapter provides an overview of the capacity of educational apps on mobile devices, such as Global Change to address known students’ knowledge gaps or learning demands about the complex processes of photosynthesis, respiration and the links between the natural world and human activities.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Carbon Cycle: The term used to describe the flow of carbon (in various forms e.g. carbon dioxide) through the atmosphere, oceans, terrestrial biosphere and lithosphere.

System Thinking: A learning approach that focuses on the understanding the components of a system and how they interrelate to each other.

Stomata: Microscopic pores on the surface of the leaves and stems of plants through which gases (carbon dioxide, oxygen and water vapour) are exchanged.

Global Change: Planetary scale changes to atmospheric circulation, ocean circulation, climate, the carbon cycle, the nitrogen cycle, the water cycle and other cycles, sea ice changes, sea-level changes, food-web alterations, biological diversity loss and change, pollution, ecosystem health, changes to fish stocks and more.

Biosphere: The area or zone on the earth where biological organisms exist, which includes biodiversity; the total diversity of all living things within an ecosystem at various spatial scales, biomass; the total mass of all living organisms in a given area or volume, and biome; the geographic region that contains distinctive community of living organisms and climatic features.

Application: Software designed for smart devices (e.g. iPads, iPhones, android tablets and phones) that allow the user to perform activities, functions and/or tasks in an interactive way.

Fluxes: The movement of water or carbon between the earth’s carbon and water pools (e.g. oceans, atmosphere, and terrestrial vegetation) via chemical and biological processes.

Water Cycle: The cycling of water through the atmosphere, oceans, lakes, rivers, ice, aquifers, and soil. The cycle is made up of pools and connections (fluxes).

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