The Institute for the Learning Sciences, Northwestern University
1890 Maple Avenue
Evanston, IL 60202 USA
Education, K12; Education, continuing or distance; Research, academic; Museums, arts
Innovative or improved ways of doing things; More equitable access to technology or electronic information; Technology transfer; Local commitment to network-based activities; Partnerships between public and private sector
Supporting Documentation (contact author for more information):
Video; Software; Slides/photographs; Computer graphic images, such as GIF files
All of the people and organizations described in this story are real except for Bernice. Also, although the situation described is fictional, all of the views attributed to Mohan are his own.
Upon arriving at school, Bernice made a bee-line for the workstation to check her electronic mail. Bernice, a ninth-grader in Earth Science at Evanston Township High School, is hopeful that Mohan Ramamurthy, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign, has received her note and can advise her group on their lake-effect snow project. The reply is’ there! Mohan has lots to say — his research involves the study of storms of the type that frequently dump snow on the Great Lakes region.
“There are lots of unanswered questions in this area,” writes Mohan. “I think that in looking at why it snows five inches in one place and only one inch a half-mile away you have chosen a very fine topic. Perhaps your search will shed some light on the problem.”
Bernice, excited at Mohan’s reply, contacts the other team members — one In her own high school and another at New Trier Township High School. She also schedules a collaboration session with her teammates and Mohan. The next morning, the three students and Mohan “meet” using an audio-video conferencing tool called Cruiser. Cruiser allows the work team, in three different locations around Illinois, to see and talk with each other as if they were in the same room, and negotiate their interpretations of simultaneously viewable and changeable scientific visualizations produced by software under their shared control. Mohan suggests that the students look at air pressure variations over Lake Michigan. Bernice brings an image of air pressure Lake Michigan up on her computer screen. Two hundred miles away, the same image appears on Mohan’s computer. Mohan works with these visualization tools every day, and advises the students on how to interpret the image. Together, the students and the research scientist start to brainstorm a possible research project that the students can conduct. As the “meeting” ends, the three students thank Mohan for his advice. “No, thank you!” says Mohan, “You’ve given me some new thoughts on the lake-effect problem. I look forward to seeing your progress.”
Does this scenario seem futuristic? It’s only as far away as the 1993-94 school year, when these two high schools will participate In the Collaborative Visualization (CoVis) project. CoVis is a nationally significant effort to study the educational implications for the next generation of video, audio, and networking technologies, funded by NSF’s Program in Applications of Advanced Technologies. The Internet lies at the center of CoVis pedagogy. The network allows students, teachers, and researchers to work collaboratively in ways never before possible. With access to the Internet, expertise is no longer lacking in the classroom. If a teacher doesn’t know anything about the effects of weather on earthquakes, help is only as far away as the Usenet news group “sci.geo.geology.” Mohan, and dozens of other researchers like him who are deeply committed to introducing their love of science to high school students’, are ready resources for student projects. Teachers who are struggling to redesign education can communicate with their peers for support and advice. to students looking for project ideas can “travel” via Cruiser to a distant science museum to peruse the exhibits in a “virtual field trip.”
The CoVis project team itself is enabled by the ubiquity of the Internet. Partners in this effort include universities in two states, a science museum on the West Coast, and industrial partners in the Midwest and East. The power of the Internet today makes it possible for these far flung collaborators to work together to design a test-bed for the educational networks of tomorrow.
For additional information contact:
Dr. Roy Pea
John Evans Professor of Education
The Institute for the Learning Sciences
1890 Maple Avenue
Evanston, IL 60202
v: (708) 491-3500
f: (708) 491-5258