Center for Education Through eXploration

Transforming learning

from mastery of what is known

to exploration of the unknown.

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 Team

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 Anbar
Dror Ben-Naim
Center Associate Director / Founder, CEO Smart Sparrow
Elizabeth McHugh
Administrative Director
A. Joseph Tamer
Assistant Director
Chris Mead
Research Manager
Steven Semken
Donald Bratton III
Geoffrey Bruce
Senior Exploration Developer
Leon Manfredi
Learning Designer
Diana Hunsley
Project Manager
Jessica Swann
Community Manager
Siobhan Sackey
Learning Designer
Chelsea Goldsmith
Project Manager
Sina Kirk
Education Outreach Coordinator
Sanlyn Buxner
External Evaluator
Sian Proctor
Visiting Faculty Member
Wendy Taylor
Curriculum Developer
David Armijo
MultiMedia Developer Esq.
Thomas Ruberto
Graduate Student
Michael Potter
Web Developer
Christopher Andert
Web User Experience Designer
Melissa Renfrey
Learning Designer
Mia Bodin
Learning Design Associate
Mel Narish
Learning Design Associate

Habworlds Beyond

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:

  • Geology
  • Early Life
  • Biodiversity
  • Impact Craters
  • Photosynthesis
  • Origin of Water
  • Early Civilizations
  • Early Multicellular Organisms
  • Carbon Cycle
  • Bioarchaeology
  • KT (Kpg) Extinction Event
  • Astrobiology
  • Ecology
  • Anthropology
  • Early Life
  • Geologic Time
  • Stratigraphy
  • Tectonics
  • Volcanism
  • Surface Processes
  • The Rise of Oxygen
  • PT Mass Extinctions
  • Rise of Mammals
  • Extinction of Dinosaurs
  • Climate Change


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;


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