22 March 2013

Introducing SmartFigures

Posted by Callan Bentley

Previously, I’ve hinted that I was working on a top secret special project for Pearson Education. Now that the books have been published, I wanted to take a moment to discuss the details of the project. In the newest editions of both Earth: An introduction to Physical Geology (Tarbuck, Lutgens, & Tasa, 2014) and Foundations of Earth Science (Lutgens, Tarbuck, & Tasa, 2014), you’ll find a series of videos that I’ve made – over 165 in total! The videos are integrated with the text, using key figures as reference points. Next to those figures, you’ll find Quick Response (QR) codes. These codes exist so students can scan them with their smartphones and instantly bring up an explanatory video. We call the videos “SmartFigures.”

Here’s a video introduction I made to the project:

In addition to this novel medium, both texts have been thoroughly re-written and re-designed. Each chapter is now organized around a series of 7 to 12 learning objectives – tasks that students will be able to master as they learn. The learning objectives are laid out explicitly at the start of the chapter, then each subsection of the chapter tackles a single learning objective. Instead of  clumping all the review questions together at the chapter’s end (the traditional way of organizing an intro science text), there are 3 to 5 review questions at the end of each subsection. At the end of the chapter, each subsection gets a brief review: the learning objective is stated anew, key terms are listed for that subsection, and a bullet-pointed review follows. Here’s an example:

These reviews are often accompanied by a key image, and perhaps a review question. Extensional activities (called “Give it Some Thought”) follow that on a separate page. Throughout the chapter, the successful “Geologist’s Sketch” images are joined by “Eye on Earth,” which showcases some of the finest satellite and aerial imagery (most by Michael Collier) to illustrate key concepts of the chapter.

All in all, I think the re-imagined 11th edition of Earth and 7th edition of Foundations will be amazing tools for the modern student to master geology in a way that hasn’t been possible before now. I’m thrilled to have been invited to contribute to the project. We’ve got some other ideas about how to transform the geology textbook for the digital era, but if you have notions about how to make texts more effective, then let me or the authors know.