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A Selected List of Web Sites for Instructors of Introductory Astronomy Courses


7. Applets, Shareware, and Other Web-based Exercises

Astronomy Freeware and Software
High school teacher Bill Drennon reviews and shows where to download astronomy programs, such as an H-R Diagram Calculator; has links to other astronomy shareware.

Astronomy Workshop
Includes "calculation exercises" (e.g. calculating results of an impact by a comet or asteroids and getting a feel for cosmic distances), viewers, orbit exercises and more, by Douglas Hamilton & Mike Asbury at the U. of Maryland.

Blackbody Radiation
Karen Strom (U. of Massachusetts) has written a guide to the characteristics of blackbody radiation, which includes several interactive VRML and Java exercises.

Electronic Universe
Greg Bothun and his colleagues at the U. of Oregon offer a range of java aplets, hypertext guides, and other innovative materials, but they are often left unfinished as new projects or ideas claim the developers' attention.

Interactive Excel Spreadsheets for Physics and Astronomy
Excel exercises and demonstrations from a collection kept at Northwestern University: blackbody curves, Kepler’s Laws, Bohr Model, period of Io, etc.

Java Applets for Courses at Amherst
George Greenstein and Amy Lovell have a number of nice aplets for their special topics classes.

Java Applets for Teaching Astrophysics
Somewhat more advanced applets and simulations, particularly involving orbits and spectral lines, by Joachim Koppen.

Sky Image Processor
Web-based astronomical image processing program by John Simonetti of Virginia Tech.

Nebraska Astronomy Education Pages
Kevin Lee and his colleagues at the U. of Nebraska are developing a number of modules with simulations or explorations of astrophysical phenomena – applets and collaborative, interactive classroom materials.

A series of applets from Wolfgang Christian & others at Davidson on basic physics topics, including a number that are relevant to astronomy. Now available as a book and CD as well.

Project LITE
The Light Inquiry through Experiment project from Ken Brecher and co-workers at Boston University includes a range of applets to encourage study and experimentation with light, electromagnetic waves in general, and spectra.

Real-Time Science Data Access Page
A set of useful links by Tim Slater (Montana State) to current astronomical data on the web, displayed in visual terms that students can use. Includes solar activity, weather on the planets, etc.

University of Colorado Applets
Dick McCray and others have assembled some simulations and visualizations of the Drake equation, extra-solar planet finding, radiative transfer, etc.

Web Simulations in Astronomy
Four stellar aplets by Terry Herter of Cornell, including evolution on the H-R diagram.

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8. Interdisciplinary Approaches to Astronomy Teaching

Astrobiology College Courses
David Morrison moderates this resource guide and discussion group for those teaching courses with life in the universe as a theme.

Astronomical Pseudo-science: A Skeptic's Resource List
An annotated list of written and web resources for dealing with astrology, UFO's, the Face on Mars, ancient astronauts, and many similar fringe topics.

Bill Hartmann's Paintings and Astronomy Projects at Planetary Science Institute
A gallery of astronomer/artist Hartmann's superb (and accurate) paintings, with some examples of how they can be used to illuminate and explain current research in planetary science.

Poetry and Astronomy
A short guide to collections of astronomical poetry.

Science Fiction Stories with Good Astronomy and Physics
A listing of novels and stories organized by topic in astronomy, with a brief descriptions of each.

Music and Astronomy
On the uses of astronomically inspired music in education, with many examples.

The Astronomy of Many Cultures
A resource guide for teaching about the astronomy of diverse civilizations.

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9. Organizations that Offer Resources for Instructors

American Association of Physics Teachers
Professional society for those who teach physics in college and high school. Has a catalog of slides and films strips (with only a few about astronomy); publishes journals and sponsors conferences; has an active committee on astronomy education, which organizes astronomy sessions at their meetings.

American Astronomical Society
The professional organization for astronomers in the U.S. Has an education office, an education advisory committee, a useful web site, and programs in education at their meetings (including "Astronomy 101: A Continuing Dialogue). See their web site for the current list of activities and coordinators.

Astronomical Society of the Pacific
Despite its name, the A.S.P. is a national and international organization, and has a special dedication to education at all levels. It has a web-based catalog of slide sets, books, and other materials for teaching astronomy. It also sponsors a series of "Cosmos in the Classroom" conferences on teaching introductory astronomy; and has a variety of other educational programs. Its web site offers a wide range of useful resource materials on astronomy education.

Astronomy Education Review
This is an on-line journal and magazine for papers and articles relating to astronomy education. Its back issues (see the other appendices) are starting to be a fine library of serious information about teaching astronomy.

Astronomy Magazine
Astronomy is the largest circulation popular astronomy magazine; it also has a line of astronomy books for amateurs and student observers; and sells posters and observing aids by mail.

Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP)
An organization of scientists, educators, magicians, and other skeptics that seeks to inform the public about the rational perspective on such pseudo-sciences as astrology, UFO's, crop circles, ancient astronauts, etc. Publishes The Skeptical Inquirer magazine, full of great debunking articles, and holds meetings and workshops around the country. A related publishing house, Prometheus Books, issues outstanding skeptical books.

CLEA (Contemporary Laboratory Experiences in Astronomy)
A project developing excellent computer-based college-level astronomy lab exercises for both Mac and Windows platforms.

Commercial company that produces and distributes videotapes and slide sets on space related subjects; some in cooperation with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Space Telescope Science Institute. Their caption materials are usually too brief to be especially helpful to beginners, but their prices are quite reasonable.

International Dark Sky Association
Small non-profit organization devoted to fighting light pollution and educating politicians, lighting engineers, and the public about the importance of not spilling light where it will interfere with astronomical observations. They have excellent information sheets for teachers, students, and activists.

International Planetarium Society
If your college has a planetarium, you may be interested in this organization of planetarium educators, which has many subgroups and meetings in different parts of the world. Their journal, The Planetarian, has its own website, full of useful educational articles:

Learning Technologies
This small company, started by Harvard's Phil Sadler, distributes the StarLab portable planetarium, a terrific solar viewer, and some inexpensive hands-on astronomy education kits.

Lunar and Planetary Institute
This research institute produces sets of very nice slide sets on solar system phenomena with good caption booklets, as well as technical conference proceedings for their planetary conferences.

NASA Office of Space Science Education Office
This branch of NASA has a large and complex initiative requiring an educational component to many missions and programs. While most of the educational programs are aimed at K-12, a good number of their materials and activities can fruitfully be adapted to introductory college teaching. The web site above is a good entry point into the many sites and projects. See also: (which is a rudimentary database that is aiming to evaluate and organize the many materials OSS projects are creating).

National Science Teachers' Association
While this organization is mostly for teachers in grades K-12, it does have a subgroup and a journal for college teaching. Their catalog has a number of elementary astronomy education materials that can sometimes be adapted for college level.

The Planetary Society
Large national membership organization founded by Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray, and others; lobbies for more planetary exploration and SETI; publishes a colorful magazine and has a modest catalog of reasonably priced slides, videos, & gift items.

Sky Publishing
This company publishes Sky & Telescope, the premier magazine for serious amateur astronomers, and has an excellent catalog of atlases, sky observing software, and other observing aids, as well as some teaching aids. Their web site is one of the most useful on the Web, with excellent observing information, a database of amateur groups around the country, news items, links, and much more.

Small publisher dedicated to producing specialized books and software for astronomical observers.

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10. Miscellaneous Sites of Interest

This network of resource materials for physics and astronomy teaching is a joint project of several physics and astronomy organizations. An Astronomy 101 resource database is in the works.

Digital Diploma Mills
An eloquent indictment of the rush to put courses on the web, and the commercial/political interests behind it, by an iconoclastic scholar.

Edu-Tools Comparison of Course Management Systems
This site gives comparisons of features, costs, and efficacy of course management software, including commercial and free packages.

Electronic Voting Systems for Class Use: An Overview
A nice introduction to personalized response or student voting systems by Steve Draper of Glasgow University..

How People Learn
Although printing it out is not convenient, here is the text of a widely praised book called How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School, published by the National Academies Press. It reviews the implications of the latest research on learning for how we can best teach science and math.

This is an open database of resources for teaching or enhancing college courses in many fields. The astronomy database had 141 entries as of October 2004. A much larger database for all sciences can be found at the National Science Digital Library:

Survey of College Astronomy Instructors
The Astronomical Society of the Pacific is actively conducting a survey of instructors who teach astronomy at the non-research oriented institutions, including state colleges, liberal arts colleges, community colleges, adult and extension schools, etc. The form can be printed out. Results from the survey can be found at:

Teaching a University Course Site
These web pages from the U. of Texas Center for Teaching Effectiveness include articles, guidelines, and web links for those just starting to teach or those who want to improve.

Teaching Physics: Figuring Out What Works
An article from Physics Today summarizing what research into teaching and learning in physics has been showing our colleagues in that discipline.

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