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Stars and Planets – A project in Astronomy

Irina Sokolova
Herzen State Pedagogical University, St. Petersburg (Russia)
Bodil Nilsson
Lerner Hogskolan, Stockholm (Sweden)
Bob Landheer
Educational Faculty Amsterdam (the Netherlands)

During the first few months of 2001 year, students at our teacher training institutes (six in St. Petersburg, ten in Amsterdam, three in Stockholm and one student in Vietnam) have been working together in an international project in Astronomy. At the start of the project, each student received a CD-ROM containing (i) information on the aims and structure of the project, (ii) a general introduction to Astronomy (supported by a limited number of lectures) and (iii) introductory materials on a number of more specialised topics. From these, students then chose their own topic and, for the chosen topics, teams were formed consisting of two students in two different countries. Each team studied its topic and prepared a presentation on it; these presentations were held in both countries involved. They were also intended to be suitable introductions to the topic for either secondary school children or the general public. Students were in contact with each other by e-mail, in English.

In addition, students were expected to become familiar with two computer programmes that can be freely obtained from the internet: HomePlanet and StarCalc.

The more specialised topics chosen by this year’s students were: Stars and constellations (2 teams), the Planets (2 teams), Life in the Universe (2 teams), the Big Bang (1), Supernovae, neutron stars and pulsars (1), Black holes (1) and Solar Activity (1). For each of these topics, the CD-ROM contained hyperlinks to relevant sites on the Internet; these were to be the starting points for the students’ investigations. There were hyperlinks also to sites of a more general nature (e.g. pictures by the Hubble space telescope, NASA, NOAO, etc.) and a reference to a recommended textbook (Comins and Kaufmann, Discovering the Universe). While studying their topics, students in each country had regular contact with their tutor (at least once a week during the ten-week period of the project). Most students used PowerPoint for their presentations, which were held in the final week.

In general, we (the tutors) are pleased with the results of our project. Both during the project period and in the evaluations afterwards, the students showed considerable enthusiasm and, generally, this was reflected in the quality of their presentations. We are keen to repeat the project next year, hopefully with more students taking part, and possibly with a greater number of participating teacher training institutes.

However, as was to be expected when a project runs for the first time, there is also considerable room for improvement. Our main problem has been communication. For a project of this kind, students should be able to communicate directly. This means that: (i) each student must have access to a computer with an Internet link, (ii) each student must have sufficient e-mail space to exchange information with the partner and (iii) each student must be on-line at the same time as his/her team mate in the other country. The first and second conditions mean that we have to provide good technical facilities; the third one means that the timetables in the three countries should be concurrent, so that lessons take place at the same time. We hope to fulfil these conditions when the project runs again during the first few months of 2002. Better still, we will look into the possibility of video conferencing, so that students can see and talk to each other when working on the project, and so that lectures can be shared between the participating institutes.

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Публикации со словами: астрономия - ВУЗ - конференции - курс астрономии - дидактика - дидактический материал
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