Saturday, July 2, 2016

NASA Visualization Explorer

NASA (a partner in STEM) is the mecca of all astronomy science knowledge. They created an app that is a visual collection of all their space research – from the moon landings to the outer edges of the Kuiper Belt. One of the app reviews enthusiastically states that this STEM education app is “Without a doubt, one of the best apps ever…Reminded me why I was so interested in space exploration!” As a teacher, this is a really helpful tool for talking about the solar system, space exploration, and global climate shift.

This app is free, well designed, and easy to use. It's great for grades 2-college aged. It's as close as one can get in the classroom to travelling the far reaches of our solar system and beyond. I could easily have kids use the app to travel around the galaxy in their own spaceship, share content with other classmates, use a captain's log to chart their explorations, and learn about what makes each planet unique.
This app provides information and stories about a variety of remote sensing and space-based research right at your fingertips. You can choose from a variety of different stories including Comet hunters, total lunar eclipse, wildfires, hurricanes, earth’s rising seas and more. Some of the stories include narrated videos and others just include still imagery (or even videos with just music). Some of the videos are slow to render, which would be important to consider if using with students in a classroom. The stories are not overly detailed but the text provided is pretty easy to read and understand.
It could also become a place where students can explore a topic of study they may want to research. It would really only be a starting point for an investigation, but having students explore the information provided in the app could allow them to self direct their own curiosities. (Great for TAG students!) Having an activity designed in order to give students a purpose for exploring the site would be best. I can see where a student who has an interest in science would probably love to explore this on their own informally. 
Unless the teacher has designed an activity in which you are utilizing an app to collaborate with others – these apps are mostly just providing and disseminating information. This app is certainly engaging but the 2-way interaction and co-creation and working collaboratively with others through the app – that just doesn’t seem to be part of the app’s design.

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