MODELLING THE SOLAR SYSTEM: INNOVATIVE RESOURCES IN A DIGITAL ERA
Instituto Politécnico de Tomar (PORTUGAL)
About this paper:
Conference name: 12th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 6-7 July, 2020
Location: Online Conference
Abstract:Several international reports argue the need to motivate students to learn about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) to lead them to gain knowledge and skills in these areas to correspond to increasing challenges of the 21st century. The STEM acronym is gaining prominence in the last decade and is being included in the school curricula in several countries because it promotes critical thinking and creativity amongst other competences that are considered crucial to face a fast-changing world. In this regard, current STEM education is focused in curriculum integration of the subject matters included in the acronym. Moreover, advances in technology have the potential to enhance the implementation of integrative approaches related to STEM.
In this paper, we intend to present an integrated approach of STEM education provided by a web application that may be an innovative resource to be used in schools (primary to secondary level) to provide learning in the context of the Solar System. This feature allows an interactive way to model the Solar System on a map in a web environment with georeferenced data. The web application is included on a broader information system intitled PlanetarySystemGO that comprises an augmented reality game application (app) that runs on mobile devices and communicates with a platform server. The app is a didactic game that is played in an outdoor space, in which players start at a fixed point (representing the Sun) and search for celestial objects (e.g., orbits and planets) that appear on the screen of the mobile device, while they walk on the real world. The real environment captured by the smartphone camera is the place where the player is moving when playing the game and the virtual objects are orbits and planets, amongst other celestial bodies. When the celestial bodies are found, a set of multiple choice questions needs to be answered and for this reason the app serves to evaluate the contents learned through the web application.
The web application allows to model the Solar System on a map and to visualize several contents in an interactive way. In addition, it is possible to simulate the movement of the planets around the Sun, including satellites and asteroids, amongst other celestial bodies. Furthermore, the map may represent the local community where the school is inserted. So, the teacher can teach contents of the Solar System based on previous knowledge of their students related to their local community. For example, the Sun may be placed on the school and the planets may circulate around the Sun overlaid on the map. Thus, the teacher may discuss with the students where the orbits of each planets are placed on the map according to a chosen scale. Moreover, it is possible to explore different relative scales, distances and sizes in the context of our Solar System and relating them with their position on the map. In addition, other school curricula contents may be explored such as velocities of the planets or understanding the different seasons in the northern and southern hemispheres, why we have days and nights and eclipses, Kepler’s laws, amongst many other concepts. Furthermore, the zoom application may be used to better visualize satellites or details of certain celestial bodies. We argue that the web application provides a new resource that may be used by teachers to promote learning about the Solar System in an interdisciplinary way by integrating subject matters related to STEM.
Keywords: STEM education, Solar System, web application, georeferenced information.