(note: the ‘7 Things’ format was inspired by a similarly-styled format used by educause.edu to evaluate technology tools)
Professor Steinohls teaches geoscience and thinks that hands-on field work and exploration is an essential element in the learning process for her students. However, because of either time, weather or financial reasons, field trips are excessively difficult to organize. As a result, her students do not have much experience with hands-on work practices.
On the other hand, geoscience teacher, Professor Copper, who faces the same fieldtrip restrictions as Professor Steinohls, utilizes GigaPan technology. Using GigaPans enables Professor Copper’s students to explore landscapes, outcrops and microscopic details of rocks and minerals. Using the images, the students can interact, act questions and virtually explore with particular geology sites and images, they gain a visual perception and more full understanding of their classroom lectures.
What is it?
GigaPans, or gigapixel panoramas, are “digital images with billions of pixels… [and] fascinating detail…captured in the context of a single brilliant photo,” hosted on the GigaPan® website. GigaPan’s series of ‘EPIC’ products are “robotic camera mounts [that] capture photos using almost any digital camera.”# The EPIC camera mount can then be attached to a tripod for stable, mobile photography (“Contact Us – Gigapan.” 2011. 19 Jun. 2012 ).
Once the photography series is captured, it is ‘stitched’ together using a stitching program, such as GigaPan’s preferred software, GigaPan Stitch. From these programs, the completed panoramas can be uploaded, described, tagged and geolocated.
Once online, the high resolution panorama can be viewed by the public community (or not, if preferred), visually explored, and the public can then comment or ‘snapshot’ within the panorama. As such, the panorama can become a forum for discussion and communication education of a landscape.
Who is doing it?
Anyone can make GigaPans. The user-base is diverse and global. Artists, scientists, humanitarians, students and educators are among the most prevalent GigaPan-ers.
Document timeline (time machine) — cosmology and the beginning of the universe
How does it work?
First, the series of slightly-overlapping pictures are taken with the camera mounted on the motorized gigapan stand, rightly named ‘EPIC.’
Once the pictures are programmed and taken with the camera, the pictures are loaded onto a computer and uploaded into the Gigapan software interface, called GigaPan Stitch. The stitching tool then organizes and merges the photos into a single, high-quality panorama. At this point, the image can be adjusted for contrast, brightness, etc. for optimal viewing. Then, once the picture is viewing-ready, a title, description and tags can all be added and then directly uploaded onto the user’s respective page. At the user page, ‘snapshots’ can be taken of interesting images with the panorama, comments can be added, and the individual panorama can also be added to user galleries of a collective of gigapan panoramas.
This enables the user to embed, share and create dialogues around the gigapaned scenery.
Why is it significant?
GigaPan technology broadens the horizon (literally) for learning– in and out of the classroom. The ability to capture a scene in such high resolution enables viewers to virtually explore and learn about landscapes that might not otherwise be accessible to them, whether due to weather, financial limitations, geographics, handicap, etc. Gigapans allow for exploration to overcome physical barriers, while contributing to detailed historical records all the while. The value of the opening the doors for international communication regarding an equally-accessible virtual landscape, can also work to foster understanding of landscapes beyond those that are locally accessible. Gigapans can create a better understanding of foreign lands and cultures.
What are the downsides?
There are valid concerns about technology replacing real-time experiences. True, there is no replacing the experience of going ‘into the field’ and exploring a landscape through physically hands-on processes. Sometimes this is not available however. Sometimes physical exploration is not possible and sometimes the ability to travel to a landscape is limited in other ways.
Where is it going?
The limits of Gigapans are always being stretched. Some of the most interesting and new utilizations of Gigapan technology are in macro-scale observations (Ron Schott’s example) and underwater studies (Jason Buchheim in the Galapagos waters).
What are the implications for teaching and learning?
There has been some research done on Gigapan in education. For instance, in Schoen, Jerry, and RD Stevenson’s “Uses of Gigapan Technology In Formal And Informal Environmental Education” (Schoen, Jerry, and RD Stevenson. “Uses of Gigapan Technology In Formal And Informal Environmental Education” (2010)). This study emphasized the use of Gigapans as a communication tool between schools and youth in very different environments, at opposite sides of the world. The students were able to discuss classroom techniques in field studies in their respective environments, and as such, were able to learn about each other’s’ landscape and natural world.
At Skidmore College, we took Gigapans at geologic sites for the college’s Geoscience 101 class (viewable here). We also took Gigapans of scenes relating to Saratoga Spring’s three-pillar foundation ‘Health, History and Horses.’ Both gigapan galleries can be used as historical tools, education pieces and tools for teaching.