Earth and the Universe
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Space rescue: Planet Thor - (TLF L390 v2.0.0)

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I found this resource using scootle.edu.au and chose it as a representative of ICT games on that encompass space concepts. Most games on this topic were rather poor in terms of imparting any information or higher learning. Typically games were styled in such a way that you were in a space ship and would view through a window objects found in space. In reality these games are substitutes for a picture presentation, nothing more.

 

In many respects Planet Thor is very poor if when considering scientific concepts. What it does well – and this is a vast improvement over its competitors on the web – is that it tests literacy. The student has to either listen to or read instructions and then answer a cloze test, which they must answer correctly before proceeding. The content is directed toward literacy and not science as few questions are asked of science directly, either in concept or through the use of scientific terminology. I can see the reason behind this, to de-emphasise scientific vocabulary, as a means to making science learning more accessible to students.

 

Planet Thor would not appeal to more advanced students, as the representations are too simplistic. But for students at Stage 3 where literacy issues are still a challenge an activity that used this game may be useful.

 

The challenge with interactive games on the topic of Earth and Space is to incorporate literacy, numeracy and science. I was unable to find a game that satisfied all three criteria. In particular numeracy, which is so important as a student must gain an appreciation of scale and distance as outlined in the syllabus. There’s lots of scope for someone to develop good resources on this topic!

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The Scale of the Universe 2

Zoom from the edge of the universe to the quantum foam of spacetime and learn about everything in between.
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This is a brilliant web resource that allows students to gain a perspective on their relationship to the universe.  This theme is commonly explored on YouTube as a zooming out from our planet to the sun and then to other stars with the end statement along the lines that your problems are insignificant when compared to the size of the universe. Although fun for adults I would not call YouTube resources of this type strictly educational (for example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HEheh1BH34Q).

 

In contrast ‘Scale of the Universe 2’ is an excellent educational web resource as it allows for student interaction via the use of a scroll bar where the student can either zoom out to the universe or zoom in to explore the atomic world. In addition, the zooming action is related to a scale bar, to the factor of ten, which allows students to build a concept of a metric scale and relate it to the world they know. The music that accompanies the resource is also very soothing which may assist in creating a collegial classroom environment.

 

The resource is very visual. This can be viewed as either an advantage or a disadvantage depending on one’s point of view. The advantage is that it allows the student to assemble their understanding of objects in space in a pictorial manner. Explanations of celestial objects are provided when the viewer clicks on an image, however, in terms of scientific definitions and astronomical concepts the content is lacking.

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The Dynamic Earth @ National Museum of Natural History

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This web resource provided by the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History is valuable as it builds on the concept of the Earth from a geological perspective and then places the planet in the context of the solar system. The ‘Big Picture’ tab leads to four subsections that are relevant to the syllabus outcomes.  ‘Birth of the Solar System’ and ‘Planetary Tour’ subsections have nice videos that explain concepts using simple language. Accompanying text also provides added assistance to students with special needs. The ‘Impacts’ section is interactive as it allows students to simulate a meteorite impact on Earth. It’s fun but also at the same time imparts scientific ideas and principles. Another good feature of this resource is that it is very user friendly. By clicking on icons or images many explanations and definitions are provided.

 

Disadvantages of the resource include that it can be viewed as quite technical. It is information heavy which some students may find challenging. Complex terminology is used but in most cases it used to describe rock types that are not the primary focus of the syllabus outcomes. Nonetheless some students would be distracted by such words. Another problem is entry to the website. You have to click a few lead in pages before you reach the section of this site that is relevant to the Earth and its place in the universe. Finally, the active part of the website is small in size when compared to the webpage which may challenge students with vision difficulties.

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Is There Gravity In Space?

If you've seen footage from the International Space Station or any of the space shuttle missions, you know that astronauts float around as they orbit the Ear...
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This YouTube clip was one of the best resources I found on the web! It challenges a misconception that astronauts in space are floating, and uses it as a way to describe the basic idea of how gravity works in space.  The language used is simple for students and there is a reference to Australia – to gain an appreciation of scale the distance between Sydney and Canberra was quoted – which helps students conceptualise distances in space so that it is relevant to them. The underlying physics is also linked to a satellite which is again adventitious as it can be used as a scaffold to gradually build up the complexity of gravity from our nearest objects to those that are more distant. Finally, funny animations are included that would appeal to school students.

 

The disadvantage is that it only serves as an introduction activity. The teacher would have to augment its use with an activity sheet or discussion in order to bed down the concept. For more advanced students this activity could be coupled with more complex websites that explain the physics behind the observation, for instance the idea of circular motion, a good example being http://www.physicsclassroom.com/mmedia/vectors/sat.cfm which includes some animations as well. Hence this YouTube clip cannot be used as a resource in its own right. The teacher must use it as an entry point to facilitate learning on the concept of gravity.

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Solar System Exploration: : Planets

Solar System Exploration: : Planets | Earth and the Universe | Scoop.it
We are NASA's Planetary Science Division. Our hardworking robots explore the planets and more on the wild frontiers of our solar system.
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The website provided by NASA is an informative resource which relates key facts about the solar system. The ‘Compare the Planets’ section has been copied on several websites. This section allows for direct size comparisons and also relevant data which would be of tremendous value to students, especially as a resource site for projects or assignments. A 3-D ‘Eyes on the Solar System program located just above the size comparison section can be easily downloaded and would assist as a visual aid when learning about the planets and their features. Students familiar with ICT would really enjoy the 3-D feature.

 

In terms of disadvantages it is quite apparent that scientists have add a hand in designing the website. Conceptually the content is heavy, with the text written in a style that is very factual and to the point. In addition, when using the multimedia tab a viewer is directed to NASA scientists talking about concepts and ideas.  This may appeal to scientists with a strong interest or aptitude in science but may alienate students with a passing interest in the subject. From my point of view this further reinforces my opinion that this website is of value as a reference source rather than for it to be used in the classroom as a teaching aid.

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Scootle - Login

Scootle - Login | Earth and the Universe | Scoop.it
Paul Sintic's insight:

This educational aid is a little simplistic, however, it is well suited for stage 3 as it provides an interactive platform to understand the character of the Earth's rotation and how that relates to the night sky.

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