The LEAD education and outreach initiative is aimed at bringing new capabilities into classroom from the middle school level to graduate education and beyond. One of the principal goals of LEAD is to democratize the availability of advanced weather technologies for research and education. The degree of democratization is tied to the growth of student knowledge and skills, and is correlated with education level (though not for every student in the same way). The average high school student may experience LEAD through an environment that is more controlled by the instructor than an undergraduate student. This is necessary to accommodate not only differences in knowledge and skills, but to assure that the “teachable moment” is not lost.
Undergraduates will have the opportunity to query observation data and model output, explore and discover relationships through concept mapping using an ontology service, select domains of interest based on current weather, and employ an experiment builder within the LEAD portal as an interface to configure, launch the WRF model, monitor the workflow, and visualize results using Unidata's Integrated Data Viewer (IDV), whether it be on a local server or across the TeraGrid. Such a robust and comprehensive suite of tools and services can create new paradigms for embedding students in an authentic, contextualized environment where the knowledge domain is an extension, yet integral supplement, to the classroom experience.
This presentation describes two different approaches for the use of LEAD in undergraduate education: 1) a use-case for integrating LEAD technology into undergraduate subject material; and 2) making LEAD capability available to a select group of students participating in the National Collegiate Forecasting Contest (NCFC). The use-case (1) is designed to have students explore a particular weather phenomenon (e.g., a frontal boundary, jet streak, or lake effect snow event) through self-guided inquiry, and is intended as a supplement to classroom instruction. Students will use interactive, Web-based, LEAD-to-Learn modules created specifically to build conceptual knowledge of the phenomenon, adjoin germane terminology, explore relationships between concepts and similar phenomena using the LEAD ontology, and guide them through the experiment builder and workflow orchestration process in order to establish a high-resolution WRF run over a region that exhibits the characteristics of the phenomenon they wish to study. The results of the experiment will be stored in the student's MyLEAD workspace from which it can be retrieved, visualized and analyzed for atmospheric signatures characteristic of the phenomenon. The learning process is authentic in that students will be exposed to the same process of investigation, and will have available many of the same tools, as researchers. The modules serve to build content knowledge, guide discovery, and provide assessment while the LEAD portal opens the gateway to real-time observations, model accessibility, and a variety of tools, services, and resources.
Toward the goal of democratization and putting new tools and services into the hands of many would-be users, efforts are underway to bring LEAD to a broader community via the NCFC, which is coordinated by the University of Oklahoma. A plan is being implemented in spring 2007 that will provide LEAD accessibility to a limited number of participating institutions with the specific goal of quantifying the value added to both the forecasts and the decision making process. The design includes a social science component to address the sociology of decision making under pressure. In addition to the plethora of existing forecasting resources, select institutions will have available the suite of tools and services developed by LEAD to produce high-resolution mesoscale forecasts over the station of interest and determine whether these capabilities result in better forecast scores and in more effective forecast decision trees.