RTD vs. Archived data

We, Virginia Sea Grant, are currently in the process of revising our strategic plan. This new plan will guide our research, extension, communication and education initiatives over the next five years.

During a “listening session” we held here at VIMS yesterday, I had a very interesting conversation with VIMS Physical Sciences professor, and VIMS’ Virginia Estuarine and Coastal Observing System (VECOS) contributing scientist, Dr. John Brubaker. Dr. Brubaker has worked with us many times in the past at various teacher workshops, including one focusing on ocean observing systems during the summer of 2007. Dr. Brubaker builds an excellent rapport with our educators and always leaves them wanting more information. Is it any surprise that both his wife and daughter are classroom teachers?!

During our conversation, I told Dr. Brubaker that I had utilized real time and archived data from the VECOS buoys for a Bridge/COSEE NOW data activity focusing on buoyancy. I explained which data I had used and how I used them. He then asked me a question that has come up in countless coversations I have had with OOS educators and scientists, “Which data do teachers prefer, real time or archived?”

An excellent question, indeed!

In a survey the Bridge conducted in 2005, we asked educators this very question and had interesting results. The answer…both!

In many cases, teachers and students love looking at real time data. The fact that you are seeing data roll off the sensors as it happens is very intriguing and exciting. “Wow, that’s what’s happening RIGHT NOW!” However, by its very nature, real time data are also very scary to educators:

“Will it work in five minutes when this classroom is filled with teenagers?”

“What if a sensor or the web crashes mid-lesson?”

What we have found is that educators most prefer a mix of data in their activities, some nice canned, or archived data, to fulfill the main objectives of the activity, and then either an ending piece, or extension on the activity where the students look up the real time data and continue to draw conclusions, nowcast, etc.

With this information in mind, we have tried to develop new activities where we utilize both real time and archived data to help make educators the most comfortable when using ocean observing systems. By building in that comfort level, we hope that more and more educators will “live on the edge” and give these data a whirl.

What do you think??? Do you prefer starting with archived data and then moving to the real time stuff, or do you just go for it and not worry about the what-ifs?

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One Response to RTD vs. Archived data

  1. Laura Dunbar April 3, 2009 at 3:53 pm #

    A few times I’ve gone for it and fallen flat on my face when things didn’t work out (so now I always make sure I have an archive backup to use, if necessary) ~ but I have to say that each time it happened the students were right there with me. That was part of the excitement of the event and we always learned something.

    The questions the students come up with are amazing! I don’t regret any of the times I’ve looked at real-time data with students ~ even though it didn’t always go as planned.

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