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By author: Chris Warren

Creating Teaching Tools: GeoShear

Aside from the penthouse suite*, company car*, and three-hour lunch breaks*, the best part of my job is working with people to create new technology tools for teaching, learning, and research. These projects generally start with a small problem to be solved, and grow into a more general, powerful tool. A great example of this process is the creation of the GeoShear application.

Professor Karabinos of the Geology department teaches rock deformation and analysis in GEOS 301. He had a stack of cards with drawings on the side which could be deformed by shifting the stack, and a series of computer images which could be flipped through. He felt there had to be a better way. He contacted OIT and got together with the project development team to figure out what could be done. In discussion, it became clear that animating images for demonstration in a lecture was just the beginning.

The idea quickly evolved into an application that students could load onto their own computers and play with to see how various deformations occur. From there we added some analysis pieces (numbers and charts) to show not only what a deformation looks like, but also how it relates to the underlying data. The next leap was the realization that with the analysis piece in place, this tool could be useful for research… if data from real, deformed rocks could be entered. So, we added ways to load in images of rock cross-sections, and trace out relevant parts of those images.

After all this (plus some back-and-forth to refine the user interface), we have a technology that not only illustrates rock deformation, but also allows students to explore the ideas further on their own, and even opens up research possibilities by making some kinds of data analysis much faster and easier. Professor Karabinos has demonstrated and shared GeoShear at national conferences as well as within the Williams community. GeoShear, and some other software we’ve released publicly, is available on the OIT site.

* exists only in my imagination

Geoshear: before and after

Geoshear cards
Geoshear screnshot