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IVOA Interest Group in Education (EduIG)

Rationale

Astronomy is undergoing major transformations. Perhaps the most significant for the future is the large investment into few cutting edge instruments with extreme technical specifications and performances.

The shift of astronomy toward “big science”, however, also leads to several risks for astronomy. One of these risks is that astronomy may become too remote, far from the curiosity and interest of the public.

We believe that it is of the utmost importance for astronomy to develop strong and extended roots within the society. In this respect, VO can be a most effective resource with its excellent educational tools and knowledge base, deriving directly from professional astronomy.

Education systems vary throughout the world with different requirements on how to present astronomy in the classroom. Some systems may be more flexible accommodating a VO experience in the curriculum, other systems may instead prefer to have VO offered as a special program outside the standard schedule. Some teachers may already be prepared to use VO tools, others may need training, and preferred themes may vary too.

For this reason, IVOA needs to collect different needs and identify resources that may by useful for as many instances as possible. These resources may be directly available, or, possibly, originate reasonable requests on other working groups. In the end, the success of the IVOA effort for education will also critically depend on communication and diffusion, that will require a good strategy and a careful planning.

Thanks to the EuroVO-AIDA and EuroVO-ICE projects we gained direct experience both in the development of VO tools and products for the school, in their diffusion among teachers, and even directly in classrooms. Because of the international nature of our project we have also been exposed to the different needs of different school systems in Europe and, occasionally, in other countries.

On this basis of previous experiences and also on the basis of the successful first time one-day plenary session we organized at the IVOA Interoperability Meeting 2011 in Napoli, we propose a more stable and organized communication channel between the IVOA community and the public of educators and students in the form of an IVOA Interest Group for Education (EduIG).

By creating EduIG, IVOA will play an important role in the society, a role that will extend the benefits of significant investments of public resources to a wider public than the rather limited community of professional astronomers. IVOA will also benefit from the stimuli that EduIG will be able to inject, possibly helping VO to remain a “useful resource” rather than a magnificent but remote intellectual creation. This may as well turn out to be a critical issue in a difficult time when sustainability itself is at stake.

Terms of reference

Long term goal: widest global distribution of VO tools, data and practices in support of astronomy teaching in schools and universities.

Project plan:

  • Identify scientists/educators interested in working within EduIG;
  • Collect information on educational activities that would immediately benefit from VO resources or that are already using them;
  • Compile lists of general educational resources in astronomy that may be useful in the VO environment (either as they are, or as a starting point for possible VO developments);
  • Open communication channels with projects active in astronomy and education worldwide;
  • Evaluate and discuss educational requirements on tools, data, and guides to be submitted to IVOA, providing information for possible actions (e.g. simplification of tools or publication of data). Feedback to the relevant IVOA WG;
  • Provide IVOA endorsement in support of national VO actions aimed at obtaining recognition and funding from high level national government education structures and/or from nation-wide organizations of teachers;
  • Create and maintain an online repository where to store documentation, lists of available resources and projects for educators as well as VO developers and astronomers.
Topic revision: r1 - 2013-01-30 - GiuliaIafrate
 
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