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Online Workshop 12-28 May 2008

Questions from the Application Process. See also Comments from the Application Process.

Here are most of the questions or concerns asked on the application form and some answers:


Q: I think this is a great idea for getting a broad spectrum of views; I hope the number of participants isn't too limited!

A: Of the nearly 500 applicants 150 will be accepted as active primary participants and those not on the primary list will be able to observe the process and meet and talk on the observation platform.

Q: If I am not selected to be a primary … then I would like to be allowed to 'observe'. However, as I said above, my experience as a communicator in oral, written and graphic media may be helpful to the discussion, suggesting that I be allowed to 'have a voice'.

A: There will be an "observation platform". So if you are not selected as a primary participant then your voice will be heard on the observation platform.

Q: I am bilingual in English and Spanish. I wondered if any discussions may be had concerning the inclusion of our growing Hispanic and other minority populations in earth science literacy?

A: We are sensitive to the inclusion of differing populations in the conversation in Earth Science literacy. We are attempting to have a diverse group of participants for the online workshop. We are somewhat limited to who applies but we are reaching out as much as we can in the short time we have.

Q: I feel it is important a broad cross-section of both academics and industrial geologists are utilized for this project if it is to be successful.

A: We are selecting a larger percentage of scientists and professors than educators per se, and industry, government and other sectors will be represented.

Q: Please consider allowing representatives of the general community to provide input to the ESLI. It may be valuable to have "non-experts" provide views that are less focused on specific fields of study and can provide a general overview.

A: There will be a range of participants with different disciplines, positions, careers and interests.

: I was confused by your definition of primary and secondary experience and am unsure exactly what level of expertise you are looking for.

A: We hope you were able to make some judgment on the application form. At this stage in the process (one week before the workshop starts), after nearly 500 applications we have closed the application process for active participation.

Nature of Online Workshop

Q: If possible, to create interaction between participants…

A: The online workshop is all about interaction, learning from each other, and working together to produce a shared result.

Q: The format is very different to anything that I have experienced. More education on the process before the meeting could be helpful. I really do not understand what asynchronous participation is--seems that there will be no interaction; just passive viewing of .ppt?

A: The essence of the entire workshop is based on interaction. It will not be passive. Asynchronous means that everyone does NOT have to be in same place at the same time to carry on conversation! Responses will be left, and the next time you log on the system remembers you – and shows you what is “NEW”….then you can read all responses, chronologically, and then respond at the end of the conversation flow.

Q: I would like to know what would be expected from me, if I were to become a participant and/or contributor. How will the exchange of ideas, theories and hypothesis be organized and moderated? What will be the communication format? Can I reasonably participate while on travel, using web access either from a hotel or other location.

A: If selected you will be expected to sign on each day for at least an hour a day in total if not more. You should anticipate spending the same amount of total time you would spend in a face to face meeting of 2 and 1/2 days, or 20 hours.
The agenda is evolving as we get more information from applicants and the pre-workshop survey. Much will be constructivist in nature – but there will be facilitation.

Q: Can you describe the process of interacting, the agenda and other things we might want to be pondering before this meeting?

A: There will be a series of Caucus forums for discussions, or separate “rooms” for various areas of focus in the workshop and for different discipline emphasis to meet and help identify big ideas in Earth Science.

I have taught online for a dozen years or so (along with regular lecture classes), and I find that online students in particular can tend to be lazy. Presumably your workshop attendees (?) are not like the typical college online student, but I urge you to press for participation and don't let anyone -- including me -- be a "lurker."

A: No they are not the typical college student, they are motivated and committed professionals from a broad cross section of science, education, industry, government, media and some international. And from the comments received we think everyone accepted and also those on the "observation platform" will have ample opportunity to engage. And have no fear we will be pressing for participation if people intend to lurk. We can and do track who is attending and what they are reading, so we can always encourage the readers to talk. And we do send reminder emails, and summaries. There will always be a range of engagement.

Q: If you are planning to ask the participants to build consensus documents and/or summary statements, make sure that you understand how each user's permission setting affects the common website. I am also interested in how you plan to assess changes in the participants (attitudes, actions) during and after the workshop and I bet NSF will also be interested!

A: Yes we will know how each user's permission settings affects the common website. Not sure what you may mean about attitudes but we think that the changes should be self evident, as well captured in a pre-workshop survey, during the workshop survey, and post workshop survey of the selected participants.

Q: I didn't have experience for online workshop until now. It is interesting for me. Which will be the preliminary schedule?

A: This will be an opportunity for you to either participate in or be an observer an online workshop. The agenda will be published at the beginning of the workshop.


Q: I would like to know about what are the objectives of the workshops?

A: The objectives are to:
1. Create a short list of the "big ideas" in Earth Science and begin to identify supporting concepts.
2. Offer the opportunity for Earth Science scientists, educators, researchers, practitioners, etc to meet and begin to build a community of interest and hopefully consensus or some agreement about what really matters.

Q: I do have a major concern that the term "Earth Science" returns to the old school approach to geosciences that I experienced in 8th grade, when rocks ruled. If this is meant to primarily or solely be focused on solid Earth, then call it that: solid earth literacy. In the minds of many, Earth science means the entire Earth system, not just the hard part. Nothing against geologic sciences, and there is a need for such a geologic science literacy framework.

A: This specific workshop is focused on Earth Science Literacy. That is everything except the Ocean and the Atmosphere. In the next year or so all of these efforts are planned to be combined in an Earth SYSTEM Science literacy effort.

.Q: I am concerned that a long list of complex topics that should be included in introductory style courses will only deepen the gap between geologists and the general public. We must find ways to help students understand both the fundamental concepts and the more complex issues that face us today. I hope that the group concentrates on the skills that must be developed before we determine the list of topics.

A: The goal of the online workshop is to identify and describe the "big ideas" of Earth Science. The other goal is bring together leading Earth Science scientists, professors, researchers, educators, industry and others to help build a community of interest in Earth Science Literacy. If you think identifying skills is an important step to the big ideas then there will be opportunities to highlight them,

Q: I think that a section on something like "using IT/web 2 for improving earth sciences literacy" would be interesting.

A: This would be interesting and you will have an opportunity to start and therefore lead, a discussion on this topic, although specific technologies and communication approaches are not the goals of this particular online workshop.

Q: Big science means some new fact and results. Who and how are to keep such data and documents as security process even in on-line meeting. Our idea contains some patent application document and idea which is "strictly" controlled by our university rule (academic part is OK, but some others are required "strict" security processes. Is it OK? There is no security process here, but you show only process on publication after meeting).If there is no such security process, I have to "withdraw" some project and discussion.

A: The website is secure – everyone has a USER ID and PASSWORD. People will be in groups with different permissions based on their role and their expected contribution. The content of the workshop is all information that is in the public realm, we are not dealing with proprietary information or State secrets here!!

Q: Look beyond the interest of the academy to the interest of the country and the general public outside the academic research community and this will be a much more relevant and valuable exercise.

A: We are interested in establishing the big ideas that every citizen should know. And while this is primarily an effort in the USA we are hoping for international participation and observation.


Q: It would be interesting to generate a document out of the experience.

A: There will be various and many documents and presentations as a result of the experience.

Q: Will the transcripts and any other materials be available, before/during and after the event for reference? When will the results of the workshop be made available? What will be needed from the participants before the event?

A: The whole transcript will be available before, during and after the online workshop. After the workshop there will be a small working group who will work to condense and refine the content created in the workshop. The results should also appear on the website And before the event participants will be asked to read background material and complete a pre-workshop survey.

Q: Will you be offering any ideas on how to convince administrators and school boards that earth science should be, in my opinion, a core science course and how to "sell", for lack of a better word, that idea?

A: We hope that the process will spark a renewed emphasis on Earth Science literacy throughout society.

Q: The results from this committee could potentially reach many different stakeholders (educators, industry, government). I think it would be valuable to have someone with K-12 experience but who also possesses the technical, graduate-level knowledge needed to participate in this process.

A: There will be a range of participants to include k-12 educators…and scientists / researchers and those in the fields.

General Questions

Q: Will there be any college credit given for this workshop?

A: No.

Q: Are you going to provide a certificate for participant?

A: We do not have plans to provide a certificate at the moment, however we are looking at ways to acknowledge participation and contribution and a certificate may be the answer. Please check during the workshop for announcements..