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Education Newswire: March/April 1998

Sailing the Waves of the Internet

Eratosthenes could not measure the size of the Earth by staying home. He and other early sky observers were the first scientific globe trotters, making their science truly international. After all, what meaning is there in national boundaries when one studies the unbounded depths of space? But communication takes time and, quite often, money. Then came the Internet and the World Wide Web. Astronomers were first in line, demanding to be “wired.”

But some think we’ve gone too far. In a report on a recent information technology conference at Columbia University (Chronicle of Higher Education, 16 January 1998, p. A25), questions are raised with respect to the efficacy of computers in the classroom. Dr. Alan C. Kay, a vice-president for research and development at the Walt Disney Company and former Fellow at Apple Computer, argued at the conference that “advanced technologies can make it easier for students to visualize and learn difficult concepts.” This statement was followed, however, by his comment: “On close examination, kids are doing nothing of real importance on computers, and they’d be much better off doing something else.”

Certainly the computer has come close to completely replacing the typewriter and adding machine. And linked through networks, it is now targeting the telephone, television, postal carrier, and shopping mall – icons of late 20th-century living. Like us, our students need access to this new technology, and such access and the requisite equipment have been targeted for funding at all levels of government. But when should computers be introduced into the curriculum? Because the number of instructional days in a school year is not changing, what will computer instruction replace in the current curriculum? For teachers the Internet brings up-to-date information, resources, curricula, and even opportunities for research. Yet while “Education Newswire” will continue to inform you of information and sites that may be of use, we, the teachers, will have to grapple with the larger questions of computer utilization in our classrooms.

40 Years Of Students Tracking Asteroids

The Summer Science Program is once again being held at The Thacher School in Ojai, California. Now in its 40th consecutive year, this program is like joining an extended family of nearly 1300 members who have attended the program in the past. Designed for entering 11th and 12th graders, 36 girls and boys are selected from across the country to participate in an integrated curriculum of observational astronomy, mathematics, physics, and computer science. Classroom instruction is linked to a hands-on cooperative research problem: the determination of the orbits of minor planets (asteroids). No academic credit is given for the Thacher Summer Science Program, nor are grades awarded. This is purely an enrichment program. The Program especially encourages applications from young women and minority students. Applicants must have had three years of mathematics (including at least Algebra II, geometry, and trigonometry) and a laboratory science. Cost of the Program is $2000 for room, board, and tuition; need-based financial aid is available, as are travel grants. Each year about 40% of the students receive some sort of financial aid. Consideration of applications will begin on 18 April. After that date admission will be granted on a rolling basis. Contact Roger Klausler, Administrative Director, at The Thacher School, 5025 Thacher Road, Ojai, CA 93023, at 805.646.4377, or at

Mount Wilson Summer Program For Undergraduates

The Consortium for Undergraduate Research and Education in Astronomy announces the Mount Wilson Summer Program for Undergraduates, August 12-25, 1998. Undergraduate physics and astronomy majors with at least junior standing are invited to apply for acceptance into this combined short-course and hands-on astronomy/astrophysics program at the Mount Wilson Observatory. Students and staff live on-site at the Observatory in the San Gabriel Mountains overlooking Los Angeles while learning about solar and stellar physics and using various telescopes for solar and celestial observation. Students will gain hands-on experience in spectroscopy, celestial photography, and darkroom work. There will also be field trips to the California Institute of Technology, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Mt. Palomar Observatory, as well as special lectures and tours of the Mount Wilson facilities. Tuition for the Summer Program is $1,550 and will cover all expenses except travel to Burbank, CA. The application deadline is 15 April 1998. For more information, contact Joseph Snider at

Prospecting With Major Tom

Moonlink is an innovative, Internet-based, education program connected with NASA’s Lunar Prospector, a spacecraft on a one-year mapping mission of the Moon. The program provides learning and research opportunities for students by making available to them data coming from the five science instruments onboard the Prospector spacecraft. The program also includes a standards-based, NSTA curriculum and a live mission simulation with a mission controller from the Moonlink office, all via the Internet. For more information, visit or contact Tina Bossenbroek at

Funding For Research and Education Integration

The National Science Foundation is holding a special competition to recognize baccalaureate-granting institutions for their past accomplishments and future plans for integrating research and education on their campuses. NSF intends to make 10-20 awards not to exceed $500,000 each. The solicitation for this activity will not be published in hard copy and will be found only on the NSF home page located at

LEO P. CONNOLLY is a professor in the Department of Physics at California State University in San Bernardino. He attended the Project ASTRO workshop in June 1996 and started a partnership last September. His email address is