Welcome to ASU Center for Education Through eXploration
The ETX Center promotes a new way of teaching. Traditional approaches, especially in science, emphasizes mastery of facts, teaching from authority, and disciplinary silos. We aim to change the practice of teaching and learning by articulating and advancing a new philosophy: teaching through exploration of the unknown, rather than through mastery of what is known, centered on transdisciplinary questions rather than disciplines. We call this philosophy “Education Through eXploration” – or ETX.
To do this, the ETX Center develops and deploys digital learning products and platforms that are engaging, adaptive, and transdisciplinary, to educate-through-exploration effectively and at scale.
As we stumble into an unknown future increasingly of our own creation, we need more humans to be self-conscious problem-solvers rather than self-involved “algorithm-appliers” or “fact regurgitators”. Ultimately, our aim to promote societal transformation at global scale.
The ETX Center is a partnership between Arizona State University and Smart Sparrow.
What We Do
The ETX Center designs, develops, deploys, and researches interactive, exploration-based learning experiences through the use of digital platforms, as well as the teaching networks through which content can be created, deployed, adopted, analyzed, and adapted.
The ETX Center is not a traditional Research & Development center. Instead, our focus is on doing and distributing, and carrying out research primarily to enhance these goals. Instead of “R&D”, we think of ourselves as a “DDR” center, organized around Development and Deployment, enhanced by Research.
The Center currently is developing three major projects:
Online science courses for non-scientists, teaching science as the exploration of the unknown through game-like, adaptive/personalized, project-based education.
Online Immersive Virtual Field Trips (iVFTs), experiences which enable teaching in the context of place-based exploration.
Inspark Science Network, a network of digitally-empowered educators in the U.S. (and eventually globally). Educators create and share next-generation courseware and technology – dedicated to enhancing student success in entry-level science.
ETX Center is a non-traditional Center. Thus, it is led by a non-traditional, diverse team of renowned scientists, researchers, and visionaries in education
Ariel is trained in the fields of geology and chemistry, and as a professional scientist specializes in the field of isotope geochemistry – a branch of geoscience in which careful and precise measurements of isotope ratios are used to learn about the world around us. He is also an educator with broad interests in the past, present, and future of Earth as an inhabited world, and the prospects for life beyond. Ariel’s passion for science combined with his desire to transform how students learn catalyzed the formation of ETX. Ariel also is a President’s Professor, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor, and lead of the Anbar Lab at ASU. He holds a Ph.D. in Geochemistry from California Institute of Technology.
Dror is the founder and CEO of Smart Sparrow, an ed-tech start-up pioneering adaptive and personalized learning technology on a mission to empower teachers to make the world a smarter place. Prior to founding Smart Sparrow, Dror led a research group in the field of Intelligent Tutoring Systems and Educational Data Mining at UNSW, Australia. Dror maintains research and academic activity through his Professor of Practice position within ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. He also an Adjunct Academic at UNSW Australia’s School of Computer Science and Engineering where he co-supervises research students in Intelligent Tutoring Systems and Learning Design. Dror holds a Ph.D. in A.I. and Education from UNSW Australia.
Liz has been in higher education administration and fundraising for many years at ASU and other non-profits in the Phoenix area . While she is not a scientist – she has a keen interest in innovation, creativity, new thinking and making the world a better place which is part of the mission of the ETX Center. She has a degree from Penn State, grew up in Pittsburgh, loves the arts and is an avid Steelers fan!
Joe has an eclectic background in science education that brings a wealth of knowledge, skills, and experience to the ETX Center. He has worked with the NASA Astrobiology Academy at Ames Research Center, as well as served as a classroom teacher for more than 15 years. Joe has also worked in the eLearning community designing, reviewing, and managing the development of online science courses. He is a trained scientist who holds a M.S. in Molecular Biology from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, as well as a formal educator with a M.Ed in Curriculum Design & Instructional Technology from the State University of New York at Albany.
Chris serves as the Research Manager for the Center. He plays an active role in day to day research while shaping the longer-term research goals of the Center in order to develop deep understanding of transformative education technology to support learners and educators. Originally trained in isotope geochemistry, Chris began conducting science education research during his Ph.D., ultimately including both areas of research in his dissertation. His current focus is in developing and validating new tools for educational measurement. Chris holds a Ph.D. in Geological Sciences from Arizona State University.
Steven provides oversight and guidance across the education agenda of the Center with his deep expertise in science and education fields. Associate Professor of Geology and Geoscience Education in the School of Earth and Space Exploration and Senior Sustainability Scientist in the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at ASU. He is an ethnogeologist who studies influences of culture and sense of place on geoscience inquiry and education. His research is focused on the American Southwest, and particularly its Native American and Hispanic/Latino communities. He earned his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an M.S. degree from the University of California, Los Angeles. Professor Semken is a Fellow of the Geological Society of America and a Past-President of the National Association of Geoscience Teacher.
Don is a curriculum developer with Smart Sparrow and is affiliated with ETX through the Inspark project, which seeks to develop and deliver high-quality next-generation courseware for introductory courses in the sciences. Don is a veteran science educator and has taught chemistry and biology to students in sixth grade through upper-level undergraduates. Don became a National Board Certified Teacher in 2014, joining the ranks of teachers who have passed a rigorous process and earned the highest teaching credential in the United States. Outside of ETX, Don spends time with his wife and young son, practices Okinawan martial arts, has been known to fence from time to time, and is an avid tabletop and video gamer. Don earned a B.S. in chemistry from the University of Southern Mississippi and an M.S. in the same from Florida State University with concentrations in biochemistry.
Geoffrey is the Senior Exploration Developer for the School of Earth and Space Exploration and serves as lead of Immersive Virtual Field Trips (iVFT) at ETX – 360 interactive content to enhance the educational experience that explores scientifically significant remote sites throughout the world that study the origin, history, and structure of our planet. He is an education technologist with over 20 years of experience: 12 years of experience as a Technical Director in the Education Division at NASA Ames Research Center, 4 years developing and running a virtual reality environment entertainment facility in Laguna Hills, CA. and 2 years of prior gaming development experience. He was also the technologist behind a number of award winning NASA educational technology products.
Leon has a background in planetary geology as well as computer information systems. His research interests include planetary volcanology with a focus on Mars basaltic volcanism. More recently Leon spent 4 years working with the nationally recognized Mars Student Imaging Project, an inquiry-based learning and student-centered education project with the Mars Education Program at ASU. Leon currently develops educational online learning experiences.
Lev leads the development of curricular materials spanning topics from astronomy to geobiology to sustainability for delivery in an exclusively online format through the Center’s Habitable Worlds project. He has developed various simulators that help students visualize complex processes, from star formation to the carbonate-silicate cycle to cellular metabolism. Lev also analyzes the significant amounts of data generated by this platform to investigate the effectiveness of these curricula and its unique format on student learning, and works closely with the Research Team at ETX to translate data into meaningful findings for practitioners and students. He also frequently teaches the ETX course, Habitable Worlds, at ASU. Lev holds a Ph.D. in Geological Sciences from Penn State University.
Diana is the Project Manager for the Center for Education Through Exploration (ETX). In this role, she is responsible for managing the day to day operations of multiple projects for the Center.
Diana began her career as an educator. She spent 8 years teaching earth science, physical science, biology, and environmental science, to middle school and high school students. She also taught undergraduate college students as an adjunct instructor for 2 years. In addition to teaching, Diana has experience as a curriculum developer and project manager. She led the development of online science courses for a commercial company and created and reviewed lessons, projects, labs, and activities for those courses. She holds a B.S. in Meteorology from the State University of New York College at Brockport and a M.S. in Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education from St. John Fisher College.
Sheri is the Director of Strategic Partnerships for ASU’s NASA Exploration Connection grant. She is an educator with over 20 years of experience running national education programs for NASA – from K-College. She has been a member of the Mars, Lunar mission teams, works with NASA Astrobiology Institute, and is currently involved in Human Spaceflight initiatives. She directed NASA’s largest internship program – NASA’s Undergraduate Student Research Program which placed hundreds of college students in NASA projects annually at all 10 NASA’s Centers. Sheri is passionate about creating authentic research experiences for students that connect students with real-world projects and challenges. She helps to create partnerships across stakeholders to initiate inquiry-based learning, develops award-winning curriculum, and provides professional development across the U.S.
Jessica is a learning designer and community coordinator for ETX through the NASA Exploration Connection grant. Jessica spent 10 years as a science educator teaching high school earth and space sciences, biology and introductory science courses. Additionally, she taught geology through an online university. She has been working under NASA education programming since 2010 and designing curriculum since 2002. Her passion is developing science literacy through her focus on bringing high-quality, relevant, engaging, NGSS-related curriculum and training to formal and informal educators. Jessica earned her B.S. in Science Education at Wright State University and M. Ed in Educational Technology at Grand Canyon University.
Sanlyn is an assistant research professor in science education at the University of Arizona as well as an education specialist and research scientist at the Planetary Science Institute. She specializes in assessment in science education with special interest in science literacy, quantitative literacy, and faculty development.
Josef is our Game Design Lead at ETX. He has over ten years of professional game development experience, having developed console tools, designed MMO game systems, taught the craft of video games at the undergraduate level and more. Josef also holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Software Engineering from the University of Advancing Technology as well as a Master’s of Business Administration from South University. Here at ETX Josef’s unique skillset helps us weld technology, education, and interactivity into compelling end experiences.
Wendy is a Faculty Research Associate in the School of Earth and Space Exploration and a Curriculum Developer for the Immersive Virtual Field Trips (iVFT) project at ETX. She has been employed at ASU since 2006, where she served as an Instructional Specialist for NASA missions to the Moon and Mars and as the Education and Public Outreach Lead for ASU’s Astrobiology Program and the Center for Meteorite Studies. She also worked as the Education and Public Outreach Coordinator for the EarthScope National Office at ASU. Wendy began her career in research and collections at several major natural history institutions including the Paleontological Research Institution, The Field Museum and the University of Chicago. Today she lives in Cape Town, South Africa and is part of two international research groups studying the evolution of early life across the Ediacaran-Cambrian boundary in northern Norway and Southern Africa.
Bianca is a learning designer associate at the ETX center and is affiliated with SmartSparrow through the Inspark project, which seeks to develop and deliver high-quality next-generation courseware for introductory courses in the sciences. Bianca earned both her B.S in Biological Sciences and M.S in Biology from Arizona State University with a concentration in History and Philosophy of Science. She has experience in scientific writing and teaching biology at the college level. She takes a social perspective to science and believes that contextualizing science and revealing its social and cultural situatedness is essential in engaging science learners. When she’s not thinking of how to teach science better, Bianca spends her time running culinary “experiments”, painting, and rescuing animals.
Thomas is currently working on a M.S. Degree in Earth and Space Exploration – Geological Sciences at Arizona State University, where he earned a B.S. in Geology. Interested in developing effective online geoscience education tools, his research studies the efficacy of Immersive Virtual Field Trips (iVFT) as a learning modality. Prior to his studies at ASU, Tom founded his own content development and marketing firm, which combines technical expertise and advertising acumen to deliver cost-effective, targeted, content-rich information to the web. A lifelong technologist, Thomas specializes in content acquisition and development including web design, user interfaces, photography, videography, gigapans, virtual and augmented reality, and 360 3D stereoscopic photos and videos.
Siobhan is a learning designer at the ETX center. She enjoys creating interactive and adaptive learning experiences that ignite curiosity in students. While she has over 20 years of experience teaching students from pre-K to college in both formal and informal settings, most of that time was spent teaching high school physical science, physics, and earth and space sciences, as well as college physics and astronomy. In addition to teaching, Siobhan has research experience in both astronomy and the effectiveness of physics teaching methods. She holds a B.S. in Physics and Astronomy and an M.A.T. in Physical Science, both from Northern Arizona University.
David is our Multimedia Designer at ETX. He has more than a decade of experience in visual storytelling, working across several industries including broadcast television, corporate training, and e-learning. He has experience in all aspects of multimedia including graphic design, videography, visual effects, and 3D animation and loves bringing his co-workers ideas to life. He also enjoys more traditional art forms and can often be found sculpting and drawing in his home studio, where his artwork reflects his Southwest upbringing. David has a Bachelor’s of Arts in Visual Effects and Motion Graphics from the Art Institute of Phoenix.
Habitable Worlds (HabWorlds) is an online science course designed for non-scientists that explores the formation of stars, planets, Earth, life, intelligence, technological civilizations and, ultimately, is a quest of exploration as we attempt to answer one of the most profound questions: are we alone in the universe?
HabWorlds is different from traditional Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, in that it:
Emphasizes learning by doing
Gives faculty control to create a continuous cycle of improvement for their course
Uses adaptive technology to help students through individual learning pathways
HabWorlds is currently deployed through multiple networks:
HabWorlds @ ASU has been taken by more than 1800 undergraduate students to date and includes HabWorlds Beyond, which features additional courses.
HabWorlds @ Inspark is utilized by multiple partner institutions of higher education and community college networks nationally, and is actively seeking new partners to join the deployment community.
Immersive Virtual Field Trips
iVFTs are topic based educationally rich experiences that are captured during real expeditions with scientists doing current research. These iVFTs are being used in high school and college classrooms to supplement topics such as early life, microorganisms, biodiversity, and ancient civilizations.
19 iVFTs currently exist including the following locations:
Educational topics covered include:
Origin of Water
Early Multicellular Organisms
KT (Kpg) Extinction Event
The Rise of Oxygen
PT Mass Extinctions
Rise of Mammals
Extinction of Dinosaurs
1300+ videos available on YouTube
+ videos available on YouTube
19600+ total views
+ total views
180000+ minutes watched
+ minutes watched
220location based sphericals
location based sphericals
48location based gigapans
location based gigapans
3000+ ASU students have completed labs associated with several of the iVFTs
+ ASU students have completed labs associated with several of the iVFTs
34current active ASU Online iVFTs incorporated into class labs
current active ASU Online iVFTs incorporated into class labs
The Inspark Science Network is a teaching network built for teachers around the globe. Inspark is a bold partnership among world-leading universities, community colleges, an education technology company, scientists, and education experts. Inspark is led by a partnership between Smart Sparrow and Arizona State University, with founding partners including Achieving The Dream, E*mersion, and the University of Texas at Arlington.
Educators across the K-20+ pipeline work with other leaders in science education, influence science teachers in the field, and get access to innovative technology to create, adapt and trial next-generation science courseware. Inspark is actively recruiting teachers to join the network to utilize and modify the tools of ETX in unique, small- and large-scale learning environments.
Created by ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration and NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Infiniscope makes the vastness of space and space exploration inviting, accessible, and interactive for educators and learners of all ages. Infiniscope provides a virtual space to connect users with cutting edge space exploration experiences that inspire curiosity, excitement, engagement, and confidence.
Not just another internet portal, it’s part of an innovative new teaching network – the Inspark Science Network – a digital platform that empowers a global community of educators to collaborate, create, customize, and share these next-generation exploratory activities.
A searchable and sortable virtual home for engaging, next-generation exploratory activities open to everyone;
Exploratory activities are infused with the philosophy of education through exploration – a form of active, minds-on learning that can be engaged online and motivated by the rational exploration of big questions.
Exploratory activities specifically designed to use NASA data and subject matter experts;
Every exploratory activity is designed using an edtech platform built by Smart Sparrow, Inc. This means that each activity contains adaptive feedback and pathways that meet the needs of individual learners;