British Council Science Education Newsletter Publications
Ruth Petersen | Eric
Technology Connects Science Students to the "Real World"
The British Council Science Education Newsletter 153,
In 1998, Eric Albone, Clifton Scientific Trust, published an article
called Science Education for the Real World: A Challenge to be
Addressed. According to Albone, the challenge includes concerns
that 20th Century school science did not sufficiently engage the imagination
and enthusiasm of young people. Students often lack motivation because
they see no connection between their schoolwork and real life. Many
times students view their assignments as "busy work," never
evaluated, never used, never seen by anyone other than the classroom
The Glenn LTP team believes that the use of technology--videoconferencing
and the Internet--and interactions with experts can help motivate science
students by providing learning experiences that are similar to the contexts
in which the results of learning will be applied. Students can gather
resources from the Web, communicate with team members and experts through
e-mail as they work on problem-solving activities, and begin to understand
the thought processes of experts in the research community through videoconferencing
connections. Students admit that knowing that experts might see their
work is a great motivator!
During the 2000-2001 school year, the Glenn LTP team has begun participation
in several efforts to connect students working on problem-solving activities
to NASA scientists through the use of technology. We are honored to
be working with Holy Cross School again in July 2001 on one such initiative.
In Ohio, NASA scientists observe an experiment
in progress (top), while in the U.K., a student conducts the experiment.
Glenn Research Center has been asked to participate in an aeronautical
engineering project in the Japan 2001 Science, Creativity and the Young
Mind Workshop organized by the Clifton Scientific Trust and hosted by
the University of Bristol. During the July event, 60 young people from
the UK and Japan will work together in small groups on genuine science/engineering
related projects. Specialists in such fields as archeology, chemistry,
and environmental science will guide the student teams. One team will
be led by NASA researchers and assisted by students in a sister school
in Cleveland, Ohio. Specifically,
· Before the workshop, a pre-conference activity posted from
the Glenn LTP web site will present a quest for background information
that will be used to solve a problem in aeronautical engineering.
The NASA Glenn Beginner's Guide to Aeronautics (http://www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/K-12/airplane/index.html)
will provide much of the background data.
· On the first day of the workshop, a videoconference between
the students and NASA aeronautics specialists will clarify the problem
to be solved.
· During the week, the students will correspond with their
teammates and the NASA scientists and sister school in Ohio through
· At the end of the week, the students will present a solution
to the problem to their fellow students and the NASA scientists in
More details can be found in an on-line paper by Lawrence Williams
of Holy Cross School: www.mirandanet.ac.uk/pubs/williams.htm.
Real World Connections in Ohio
Two similar projects have been proposed to the Glenn LTP team by Ohio
educators and are currently being developed:
1. The Center of Science and Industry (COSI) in Toledo has asked NASA
Glenn and three other US research facilities to partner with them in
bringing problem-based learning experiences to Ohio students. The proposed
experiences will include videoconferencing connections with real world
experts, an interactive Web site, and a curriculum companion for teachers.
The NASA event will be based on research currently being conducted at
Glenn to define and develop propulsion, space electrical power, or communications
technologies for NASA aerospace missions.
2. In Fairfield, teachers of math and science to the middle grades
have submitted a proposal to support for a yearlong project in which
students learn about jet propulsion. They will use the Beginner's Guide
to Propulsion (http://www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/K-12/airplane/bgp.html),
and technology (e-mail and videoconferencing) to connect the students
to real-world experts at NASA Glenn and a local engine manufacturer.
The project will conclude with the development of a model jet engine
by each student.
One of Glenn LTP goals for this fiscal year is to provide videoconferencing
through H.323 IP desktop videoconferencing technology. The new technology
promises to be the wave of the future, allowing distance connections
to be established over the Internet at a reduced cost from current technology.
In January 2001 we made our first IP connection to students at the Challenger
Learning Center in Kenia, Alaska. The interactive session on Exploring
Mars was team-taught by a NASA researcher and the Challenger Learning
Center Flight Director. Using the IP desktop technology allowed a first
videoconference with students in Alaska, where videoconferencing transmission
Other UK Connections
The Glenn LTP team has been approached about other UK connections.
On March 14, 2001, a panel of NASA aerospace researchers will videoconference
with Standish Community High School and up to three other schools in
the UK in celebration of Britain's National Science Week. Information
on each panel member is available online from the description of Meet
a NASA Employee Involved in Aerospace Research, which is linked from
the Glenn LTP distance learning home page (http://www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/K-12/CoE/Coemain.html).
Another proposed collaboration with the science teachers at Holy Cross
School involves support of a module on space flight. Holy Cross has
furnished their space flight curriculum materials to a NASA Glenn researcher,
who has made several suggestions for student projects in support of
that curriculum. Holy Cross science teachers and students will decide
on the student project to be used. NASA Internet sites and connections
with NASA researchers through e-mail and videoconferences (if funding
is available) will provide the information needed to complete the project.
Science is the driving force of modern culture. In today's world of
high tech, high-speed communications, it is more critical than ever
before that we hook and hold students' interest in science, mathematics,
and technology. Science education must begin to provide employers with
sufficient recruits having appropriate skills. Unless changes are made,
the problem will only continue to grow and worsen.
NASA is deeply committed to spreading the unique knowledge that flows
from its aeronautics and space research. The Glenn LTP will continue
to support this commitment by arranging for NASA scientists to answer
students' questions and by giving students glimpses into the world of
NASA researchers. We must work to ensure that the division between school
and real life does not characterize 21st Century education. Our future
depends upon it!
For additional information on Glenn LTP's distance learning program
and its first videoconferences with the UK, see the September 2000 Science
Education Newsletter and "Real World" Connections Through
Videoconferencing-We're Closer Than You Think! in the November 2000
edition of TechTrends (the magazine of the Association for Educational
Communications and Technology).
For additional information on the Clifton Scientific Trust, visit www.clifton-scientific.org.
The Teacher-Scientist Partnership Network they are developing in Bristol
serves as a vehicle for their new vision of science education in the
Ruth Petersen, Educational Coordinator
NASA Glenn Research Center
Learning Technologies Project