Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Learning Adventure 2

Download and install Celestia - http://www.shatters.net/celestia/

Decide on a question you would like to answer by using the Celestia software and keep track of your learning process.

Day One:
My intial learning is that for some reason Celestia isn't working on my computer. I have downloaded thr program three times and it doesn't seem to want to work. When I open it, I receive a large screen of black and then it reports that it has encoutered an error and needs to close. So, as far as getting some questions answered, I would like to ask Celestia, "Why won;t you work on my computer?" Maybe my students can figure it out :)

Day Two:
So I finally got Celestia to download onto my computer (It is going to be a good day People!) and am going to spend today looking through the tutorials. One thing I notice is that it seems like we can record video of our space adventure (albeit a learning adventure). I am a visual learner and so it will be fun to show my own journey of learning.

The question in my head that I want to explore is if we can explore at different times of history, could we look at the changes in the earth that may be results of global warming? I am going to do this learning adventure at first by myself, but this weekend, I want to spend some time going through this with my own children. Jackson is fascinated by space. His room is the solar system, and I am anxious to see what he wants to learn from the experience as well.

Day Three:
Today I spent a better part of the night goi ng over the manual and demo for Celestia. I really enjoyed the demo. I am a big fan of camping and have always enjoyed looking at the stars and learning constellations so they demo was very intriguing. It also reminded me of taking my kids to the nature and science museum. Emma had an amazing preschool teacher who introduced her to the Wonderful World of Space. After her teacher showed her and her classmates about space, we joined the museum and spent many Sundays roaming through all the exhibits as well as taking in an IMAX show. Jackson is also a fan of space and I previously talked about, has his room decorated like the solar system. I guess the point I am trying to make is that just wandering around in Celestia reminded me of what it was like to be a kid. I loved rotating the plants, zooming from star to star, and recalling the different constellations I have learned over the years. Orion is still my favorite.

On a side note, I was actually trying to answer my question about seeing global climate change today, when I showed Celestia to some of my colleagues. They of course were fascinated and we started talking about my big question. One commented that her husband believes global warming is a natural occurrence that happens just like the darkened spots on the sun ( I was able to see this in the program and confirm that there are dark spots- too cool). I am not sure of what this all means, but it gave me something to think about in my pursuit of my question.
In pursuit of my question, I am trying to figure out how to go back in time with Celestia. Has anyone been able to figure that out yet? I see how to set the time backwards but it doesn’t seem to do anything.

No matter what, this weekend Jackson, Emma and I will be playing in the stars, and I am excited to take them along my learning adventure. I thought about recording the conversation as well are in Celestia to see their questions and reactions to the tool. We’ll see how it goes.

Overall reflection:
Here 's my Celestia learning reflection... Looking back over my previous posts about Celestia as well as remembering my ambivalence and uncertainty with using FinaleNotepad, I had great hopes with exploring the sky. I have been fascinated by space for quite some time. I grew up camping out under the stars, learning constellations from very inspriring teachers like Mr. Gardner in 8th grade, and of course, I was a kid who watched the replays of Christy McAuliffe and the Challenger space disaster. I also remember in 4th or 5th grade going to hear an astronaut speak about how you too can become an astronaut. So, with this learning adventure, I was quite excited to be given the go ahead to reignite this passion. When we were asked to develop a big question, I knew I wanted to look into the fields of global warming but was unsure of where to start and how to find what I was looking for. As with any new tool, I searched around for some tutorials and with assistance of my cadremates and Celestia, I watched the tutorials a few times.

Sadly, I couldn’t get Celestia to do what I wanted. I had envisioned my learning adventure to be something where I would go back in time and look at the Earth in the same position but at various increments of time. Would I see the change that Al Gore speaks so passionately about in An Inconvenient Truth? Would I see polar ice caps melting away? Would I see more deserts? Greater increases in the severity of weather? What changes would I notice for someone who has no “expert” training in these areas?

What I learned from this adventure was more about my reconnecting with something I love and how much my students know about space and global warming. Last year before Christmas, Jeff and I really thought hard about buying a telescope for our kids that we could use in the open space behind our house or that we could take camping. In a way, my exposure to this program makes me regret not going forward with that really expensive purchase. It would have been great to mimic what I am seeing in Celestia with what I could see out in my backyard. Another thing I learned is through my exploration in Celestia that Mars has polar ice caps as well. I spent some time comparing our caps on Earth to those of Mars. I wonder if any scientists are studying those similarities. I also learned that a number of scientists are spending time trying to figure out how to examine the darkened spot on the sun and their connection to our global climate changes. Also, I learned more from my students and colleagues. It has been interesting how captivated my students are with what I am doing in grad school. I think after the music learning adventure, they are intrigued with learning that looks so different. In fact, we ditched our lesson plan on Macbeth one day to just sit and talk about learning, the differences between middle school and high school, and began talking about grades. Then on Friday they were finishing their quiz on Macbeth and SAT words and asked me what I was doing on my computer. I talked to them about this learning adventure. They wanted to hear and see what I was doing. I talked to them about my idea of global warming I wanted to pursue and before you knew it, we all started talking about sun spots, glaciers melting, increases in heat and cold, etc…They knew so much that I wasn’t even aware of. I even had a couple of kids start researching right there and were having a great debate about global warming’s causes. I guess my overall reflection on what I learned about me from this adventure is that usually the tech piece is just a tool to make me think differently or allow for various conversations that might not have happened earlier to now happen. I am so thankful that I opened up my grad school world to my students. I feel like I am learning so much from them as well as feeling the infectiousness of their enthusiasm for doing things differently.

Tomorrow, I am going to spend some time in the program with my own kids. I will post the audio of that conversation tomorrow. I can’t wait till you get to meet Emma and Jackson. Will might chime in as well but trucks are his biggest entertainment at this point. Hopefully, it will all go well.

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