Specific Applications Tools

Eye Tracking

Eye tracking is good for providing unique data on how participants are using visual space during a task. It can complement cognitive science studies to provide additional information on task performance. Ancillary data (e.g., pupil size) also can provide measures that can be used to estimate cognitive load. Eye tracking is most often used to understand user experience with visual tasks. It produces information on how long users dwell on certain areas of interest, the order in which their gaze moves across an image, and more. Proprietary software is designed specifically to analyze and display these kinds of data.

Recommended Vendor: Tobii Studio (http://www.tobiipro.com/) is a software tool for collecting and analyzing eye-tracking data collected with Tobii hardware. We used Tobii Studio to present our stimuli and capture our data, and it worked well for that. It can sometimes be difficult to calibrate however, andt he software is expensive (~$25000). Experience with filtering time-series data can be important for some usage. The data analysis tools offer basic set of data visualizations (heat maps, bar graphs, and gaze-tracks) which are fun to play with and give you a quick and dirty view of what you've got. However, we eventually found that we had to download our data and analyze it outside of Tobii studio to get the particular comparisons and views we wanted.


Kastens, K. A., Shipley, T. F., Boone, A., & Straccia, F. (2016). What geoscience experts and novices look at, and what they see, when viewing data visualizations. Journal of Astronomy & Earth Science Education, 3(1), 27-58. Open access at: http://www.cluteinstitute.com/ojs/index.php/JAESE/article/view/9689

Bojko, A. (2013). Eye Tracking the User Experience: A Practice Guide to Research. Brooklyn, NY: Rosenfeld Media.

Holmqvist, K., Nyström, M., Andersson, R., Dewhurst, R., Jarodzka, H., & van de Weijer, J. (2011). Eye Tracking: A comprehensive guide to methods and measures. Oxford, UK: Oxford UP.

Managing and Analyzing Geospatial Data

Geospatial data is a common and important type of data in the geosciences. Geoscience education research can also focus on geospatial data; for example, it is important to study the differences in how novices and experts map a field area if we are to improve the teaching and learning of field mapping. Therefore GER on this topic may benefit from geospatial data analysis tools. ArcGIS is a data management, display, and analysis software widely used in geospatial studies, and has the potential to be used in GER.

ArcGIS Vendor: ERSI (http://www.esri.com/)


Kastens, K. A., and Liben, L. S., (2007). Eliciting self-explanations improves children's performance on a field-based map skills task: Cognition & Instruction, 25(1), 45-74.

Petcovic, H.L., Libarkin, J.C., and Baker, K.M., (2008). An Empirical Methodology for Investigating Geocognition in the Field. Journal of Geoscience Education, 57(4), 316-328.

Other Data Visualization Tools

Sometimes, you want to make plots of your data that another program can't provide. The following are programs designed specifically for making data visualizations, in some cases with limited analysis capability.

  • MATLAB provides tools to acquire, analyze, visualize data, and develop models and simulations. It is widely used in the geosciences (e.g., geophysics), and incorporated into the undergraduate geoscience instruction. Therefore, there may be potential for experimentation in student learning involving this tool.
  • Surfer/Strater/Grapher by Golden Software is a powerful graphical display tools for geophysics, stratigraphy, etc. There may be potential for experimentation in student learning involving these fields.
  • Generic Mapping Tools (GMT) is an open source collection of command-line tools for manipulating geographic datasets and producing PostScript illustrations ranging from simple x–y plots via contour maps to artificially illuminated surfaces and 3D perspective views.
  • Numbers for Mac is a spreadsheet and page layout too with Apple's sleek "look". Numbers for Mac is user friendly and does everything Excel does. It is inexpensive (~$10) and works on iOS. However, It does not work on non-Apple platforms.

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