Information: Software: Focus
on Science, T.H.E. Journal, Volume 26, Number 9,
April 1999, pp. 40-41.
Ruth Petersen, Educational Coordinator, Learning Technologies
NASA Glenn Research Center
free educational supplement from NASA Glenn's Learning Technologies
Project offers educators a fun tool for engaging the minds of
middle school, junior high, and high school students while conveying
the concept of the scientific process. FoilSim, developed
originally by Tom Benson, an aerodynamicist at the NASA Glenn
Research Center, is an interactive simulation software program
that determines the airflow around various shapes of airfoils
and a baseball.
a graphical user interface that looks more like a computer game,
the program engages students in problem solving activities that
include: Factors That Affect Lift; How Lift Changes; Flow Field
Details; the Lift Coefficient; Baseball Speed; Pressure and the
Curveball; the Screwball; and Baseball and Altitude. By changing
the parameters of each experiment, students can see immediately
the effects of their actions, and in doing so appreciate the process
can download the program
for free. Other free resources available on the Web site include
a Teachers' Resource Manual, additional activities, videoconferencing
workshops, and a Beginner's Guide to Aerodynamics.
1998 R &T, Research & Technology, NASA/TM-1999-208815,
Author: Ruth A. Petersen
Lewis Contact: Kathy Zona
is interactive software that simulates the airflow around various
shapes of airfoils. The graphical user interface, which looks
more like a video game than a learning tool, captures and holds
students’ interest. The software is a product of NASA Lewis Research
Center's Learning Technologies Project, an educational outreach
initiative within the High Performance Computing and Communications
airfoil view panel is a simulated view of a wing being tested
in a wind tunnel. As students create new wing shapes by moving
slider controls that change parameters, the software calculates
their lift. FoilSim also displays plots of pressure or airspeed
above and below the airfoil surface. A satisfied user comments,
"To be able to change the parameters of the experiment with
a click of a button is fantastic, as is the ability to observe
the results instantaneously." An additional feature of the
program is "Play Ball," where students learn more about aerodynamics
through controlling the conditions of a baseball pitch, including
altitude, speed of pitch, and spin of pitch.
lessons that accompany the package prompt students to engage in
problem solving and discovery. Teachers are impressed at how well
the software and lessons inspire students to explore their intellectual
potential. One teacher says, "FoilSim allows student to hypothesize
and provides them with immediate, nonthreatening feedback. They
[students] really seem to begin to appreciate the process of experimenting
rather than just getting the correct answer."
the code was written for college level engineering students. Adjustment
of the code to the high school level resulted in FoilSim, which
was created and tested by a diverse team composed of NASA researchers,
contractors, educators, and students. Lewis' Learning Technologies
Project is part of NASA's agencywide Learning Technologies Project,
which is managed by the NASA Ames Research Center.
out more about the Learning Technologies Project:
Download FoilSim from the
T.H.E. Journal, Volume 26, Number 4, November 1998,
Distance Learning with NASA Glenn Research Center’s Learning Technologies
NASA Glenn Research Center’s Learning Technologies Project (LTP)
has responded to requests from local school district technology
coordinators to provide content for videoconferencing workshops.
Over the past year we have offered three teacher professional
development workshops that showcase NASA Glenn developed educational
products and NASA educational Internet sites.
order to determine the direction of our involvement with distance
learning, the LTP staff conducted a survey of 500 U.S. schools.
We received responses from 72 schools that either currently use
distance learning or will be using distance learning in the 98-99
school year. The results of the survey are summarized in the article.
In addition, the article provides information on distance learners,
distance learning technologies, and the NASA Glenn LTP videoconferencing
LTP staff will continue to offer teacher development workshops
through videoconferencing during the 98-99 school year. We hope
to add workshops on new educational products as they are developed
at NASA Glenn.
Petersen, Coordinator of Educational Programs
Petersen has a masters degree in education and 21 years’ teaching
experience, with over 10 years in computer technology education.
She has taught in public and private institutions, both at the
high school and college levels. Ruth, who is employed by RMS Information
Systems, Inc. (a NASA contractor), has been working as a Coordinator
of Educational Programs with the NASA Glenn LTP for one year.
In addition to coordinating the LTP distance learning program,
she has developed training and resource manuals and implemented
summer professional development workshops for grades 9-12 teachers.
DISTANCE LEARNING WITH NASA GLENN
RESEARCH CENTER’S LEARNING TECHNOLOGIES PROJECT
learning is a "buzz" word heard today by educators and
students at all levels of learning. Since its beginning in adult
education correspondence classes, distance learning has evolved
with technology into "the ability to teach or communicate
with large or small groups of people, dispersed across a wide
geographical area, through the use of single or multiple telecommunications
services." Distance learning describes the
transfer of information for educational purposes from one location
to another through the use of communication technology. It provides
a means by which information can be disseminated to broader audiences
and audiences in remote areas.
Involvement in Distance Learning
learning has provided a means of achieving NASA’s goals of increased
education and community outreach to a large, diverse audience.
Acknowledging the potential of distance learning as an aid to
meeting NASA’s goals, many projects at NASA Glenn Research Center
in Cleveland, Ohio, have become involved in distance learning
in a variety of ways. One such project is the NASA Glenn Learning
Technologies Project (LTP).
is part of a government-wide initiative known as the High Performance
Computing and Communications Program (HPCCP). The Program’s goal
is to maintain the United States’ competitiveness and leadership
in the global computer technologies market. The NASA Glenn LTP
office works to develop new applications and pilot programs for
K-12 education. Most technology training is conducted as teacher
professional development workshops.
NASA Glenn LTP staff has been involved in distance learning using
the Internet for several years. Student activities and projects,
computer instructional manuals, proficiency tests, links to information
on educational products developed through the Project, and links
to effective, educational sites are available from the LTP Web
page at: http://www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/K-12. As
the staff in the NASA Glenn LTP office considered broadening our
involvement in distance learning, we examined the populations
served by distance learning and the instructional technologies
learners include college and university students, K-12 students
and teachers, and students from the business sector. At the college
and university level, distance learning provides an opportunity
for populations who have traditionally been at a disadvantage
when pursuing college degrees. Those who work during traditional
classroom hours are turning to distance learning to find courses
at convenient times and places, often on their home computers
in the evenings. This means additional learning opportunities
for female single parents who want to stay close to home for various
reasons, physically disabled students who cannot easily travel
to campus, and those who are geographically distant from schools.
federal government recognizes the advantages of distance learning
in higher education, and the U.S. Department of Education may
soon provide additional support to distance learners and schools
that offer courses through distance learning. A proposed reauthorization
of the federal Higher Education Act would remove restrictions
for students who take distance learning courses at degree granting
institutions. This change would remove a financial aid restriction
for students who take distance learning courses from schools that
either (1) offer more than 50% of their courses through distance
learning or (2) have more than 50% of their student enrollment
in distance learning courses. Distance learners would then be
eligible to receive financial aid including an annual living allowance
of $1,500 for room, $2,500 for board, and the cost of educational
equipment for their classes. In addition, the reauthorization
would offer additional support to post-secondary schools that
offer courses through distance learning by providing a $30 million
competitive grant program to fund pilot projects that use distance
learning technologies to enhance the delivery of post-secondary
learning is of great value to K-12 students and teachers because
it provides additional opportunities for learning from outside
sources with minimal or no travel involved. School administrators
can combine students from different school districts into one
class when enrollment numbers or funding are low, or when qualified
teachers are not available. Juniors and seniors can take AP (Advanced
Placement) classes for college credit without leaving their school
buildings. Teachers can use outside speakers for talks to students
or for professional development workshops. And students can take
field trips electronically without being physically transported
to the sites.
business sector is using distance learning for continuing education,
vocational training, and corporate communications. More and more,
business managers are finding that distance learning is a cost-effective
way to inform and educate their employees.
learning instructional technologies use equipment that ranges
from the telephone to highly sophisticated dedicated videoconferencing
systems. Instructors at the K-12 or college levels, as well as
trainers in the business sector, use a variety of methods: instructional
television, E-mail, videoconferences, and the Internet. The Internet
can be used for electronic field trips, Web chats, student projects
or activities, Web "textbooks," instructional manuals,
and desktop video conferences. The technology can be exciting
and innovative and can provide highly satisfactory instructional
not interactive, instructional television can be a very effective
distance learning tool. Web chats are highly interactive and can
even provide face-to-face contact with the speaker when linked
with desktop videoconferencing. Web-based student projects and
activities present an exciting and entertaining way for students
to explore their world while working in a structured group setting.
Teachers, who often do not have the time to develop or look for
Web-based materials, benefit from groups like the NASA Glenn LTP
that provide links to effective, educational Web sites.
a dedicated videoconferencing system requires special equipment
and room setup for best results. It also involves additional preparation
time to train on the equipment, plan for interactive presentations,
and practice to become accustomed to the medium. The systems of
the sites involved may not be compatible; a test conducted in
advance is recommended. Connections over telephone lines are sometimes
unpredictable, but can usually be corrected by simply ending the
connection and trying again. The audio difficulties caused by
echo feedback can be improved with muted microphones or microphones
suspended from the ceiling. Live video and audio capability (broadcast
quality) and the two-way interaction between presenter and audience
make videoconferencing an innovative, effective means of reaching
a target audience.
using videoconferencing technology, not only must the cost of
the equipment and surroundings be considered, but the cost of
the conference to the presenter’s organization, as well as to
the audience, must be examined. With point-to-point conferences,
there are long distance charges, which vary depending on the provider.
For multi-point conferences, in addition to the long distance
charges, the gateway provider may charge fees of $45 - $108 per
hour per site. However, relief in the form of E-rate is available
to schools and libraries. To take advantage of the 20 - 90% savings
offered by this special education long distance rate, an application
must be processed. For answers to questions or to apply for the
E-rate, access the following Web site: http://www.eratehotline.org/index.html.
of Distance Learning
is distance learning becoming so widespread? Several advantages
are listed below:
learning offers courses at a time and place convenient for the
learning removes geographical boundaries—students in remote
sites can take advantage of educational opportunities without
traveling long distances.
learning forces schools to rethink the quality and uniqueness
of their offerings.
learners can benefit as much from their courses as those who
sit in a traditional classroom.
learners can take part in structured, worthwhile group work.
learning is cost effective; travel costs are saved and new students
learning offers a larger choice of courses to students, courses
that may have been canceled because of low enrollments, inadequate
supply of qualified teachers, or insufficient funding.
Glenn LTP and Distance Learning
summer two things happened that resulted in consideration
of videoconferencing as a means of teacher professional development
instruction by the NASA Glenn LTP staff. First, NASA upgraded
their videoconferencing systems to allow conferences to be
scheduled with sites outside NASA. And second, local school
districts began researching and purchasing videoconferencing
equipment. As they set up their systems and began to prepare
for the 1997-98 school year, local administrators began to
seek content providers for student and teacher workshops.
The NASA Glenn LTP office responded by offering the following
teacher professional development workshops:
to Aerodynamics demonstrates how grades 8-12 math and
physics teachers can use basic aerodynamics theories incorporated
into interactive lessons to enhance classroom instruction.
It includes understanding the forces that affect an aircraft.
The slides used in the presentation are available for downloading
at Beginner’s Guide to Aerodynamics on the LTP Web
site. One version of each slide contains a scientific explanation
of the contents; the other version shows the slide alone
in a different orientation for printing. Tom Benson, NASA
aerodynamicist, teaches the workshop.
to FoilSim presents an interactive educational software
package developed at NASA Glenn. The workshop teaches grades
8-12 math and physics teachers the basic classroom uses
of FoilSim, a simulation that determines the airflow around
various shapes of airfoils and baseballs. As students change
the parameters of airspeed, altitude, angle of attack, thickness
and curvature of the airfoil, and size of the wing area,
the software calculates the lift and gives immediate graphical
feedback, allowing students to learn the factors that influence
lift. Macintosh and MS-Windows 3.x, 95, or NT versions of
the package, including airfoil and baseball lessons, is
provided at no charge on disk or it can be downloaded from
the LTP Web site. Tom Benson, NASA aerodynamicist and creator
of FoilSim, teaches the workshop.
NASA Educational Internet Sites in the Science Classroom
shows teachers of grades 3-8 and 9-12 how to use NASA educational
Internet sites to enhance their curriculum. The Internet
tour of NASA sites leads teachers to a variety of resources
to help them: (1) access or develop lesson plans using the
Web in a classroom with one computer for the entire class,
one computer for a small group of students, or one computer
for each student, (2) give demonstrations using the Internet,
or (3) guide their students through interactive Web sites.
The workshop can be tailored to a certain grade level and
scheduled to last from one to two hours. A computer with
live access to the Internet is recommended for interactive
participation, and teachers should have previous experience
with a Web browser. Carol Galica, NASA Glenn LTP Webmaster,
teaches the workshop.
an effort to determine the direction of its distance learning
project, the NASA Glenn LTP staff conducted a survey of 500 U.S.
K-12 schools in March 1998. Of the 72 schools that responded,
78% are currently involved in distance learning, 22% have plans
to become involved in distance learning, and 28% are part of a
distance learning network of schools/organizations. Chart 1 summarizes
participation in distance learning by the respondents.
survey also asked for information on the schools’ videoconferencing
facilities. Table 1 gives respondents’ specifics on their computer
and videoconferencing equipment and setup, as well as on technical
with Internet Connection
with Internet Connection
68% of the respondents have a support person on staff
to help with technical difficulties.)
feedback from open microphones
of picture and delays in transmission
majority of the respondents’ distance learning funding is from
grants awarded to the local or state school system. Sixty-seven
percent of the respondents have applied for E-rate. Long distance
charges range from $.30 - $1.00 per minute. Provider’s gateway
fees range from $40 - $150 per hour. And the average expense
per videoconference, including workshop cost, line charges,
and service, is approximately $19 per hour. Charts 2 and 3 depict
the respondents’ willingness to pay professional development
(with 51% responding) and student (with 28% responding) content
provider fees per workshop.
these charts we can conclude that 40% to 50% of the respondents
are willing to pay a content provider fee up to $500 per workshop.
suggested that videoconferencing workshops:
be as interactive as possible.
include a pre-packet of materials and a list of supplies needed.
help meet the National content standards.
allow for free movement of the presenter (with a clip-on microphone).
asked for K-12 student workshops on the planets, the weather,
moon probes, Mars, the space station, the space shuttle, Houston
control center, microgravity, and for interviews with astronauts
and other NASA personnel. Electronic field trips to NASA facilities
and related sites were also requested.
survey asked for feedback on the professional development workshops
offered by NASA Glenn LTP during the 97-98 school year. Of the
respondents, 33% were interested in our workshop on Basic Aerodynamics,
32% were interested in our workshop on FoilSim, and 56% were
interested in our workshop on NASA Internet sites. Future NASA
Glenn LTP distance learning plans include videoconferencing
teacher workshops on EngineSim, a simulation package that allows
students to interactive design, wind tunnel test, and flight
test turbojet and turbofan engines. Forty percent of the respondents
were interested in the proposed workshop on EngineSim. The survey
results are being used to help shape the NASA Glenn LTP distance
Learning through Videoconferencing Workshops
schedule of videoconferencing workshops for the 1998-99 school
year is available from the LTP Web site. Web chats with workshop
presenters are scheduled upon request. The NASA Glenn LTP videoconferencing
workshops can be broadcast to teachers and pre-service teacher
groups across the country. We have the capability to connect
to most videoconferencing systems, as well as CUSeeMe desktop
conferencing technology. To add a videoconference to the schedule,
three weeks’ advanced written or E-mailed notice is preferred.
conferences are limited to 4 sites. To register for a scheduled
video conference, two weeks’ advanced notice is required. A
test connection should be scheduled for first-time participating
sites. The LTP Web site gives information on the registration
process and who to contact for details of fees or charges. Although
NASA Glenn does not charge a content provider’s fee at this
time, long distance and provider gateway charges may be applied.
Participants are asked to complete an evaluation form at the
close of each videoconference.
NASA Glenn LTP is filling a local and national need for content
providers for videoconferencing professional development workshops
for math and science teachers in grades 3-12. By doing so, the
NASA Glenn LTP continues to offer support to math and science
educators who work to expand students’ knowledge of, and interest
in, math, science, technology, and engineering. Through this
medium, the LTP staff introduces and demonstrates NASA Glenn
educational products that can be used to tie real-world applications
to math and science.
is distance learning?" (1998), in Distance Learning Network
[database on line] (State College, Pennsylvania - [cited 2
September 1998]), available from http://www.dlnetwork.com.
Takes Distance Learning Courses and Why?" (1998), in
Distance Education Info [database on line] (Instructional
Telecommunications Council, Washington, D.C. - [cited 27 May
1998]), available from http://www.sinclair.edu/communit/itc/disted.htm.
John P. Jr (1998), "U.S. Looks to Help Distance Ed Students,"
Inside Technology Training, May 1998, p. 8.
Greg (1998), "Distance Education Goes Mainstream,"
Technology Horizons in Education Journal, 25(10), pp.
Glenn Research Center Learning Technologies Project: http://www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/K-12
Austin, Texas, Fax: 512-437-2514, http://www.vtel.com