Online Journal of Space Communication

Article Title

Satellites and the Internet as a "Passport to Knowledge", a New Model of Teaching and Learning



While business and government research agencies have begun to take full advantage of the Information Age, many secondary schools (at least in the United States) continue to operate on a "19th century model" of teaching and learning. Science education often relies on textbooks and "lab." (hands-on) projects that are implemented without real world context. From 1995-1998 PASSPORT TO KNOWLEDGE (P2K) worked with NASA's ACTS satellite project on 3 interactive learning adventures and effectively demonstrated that a new model of science education is practical and effective.

Project evaluation by a nationally-recognized education research group provided convincing evidence of increased mastery by students of factual content, improved attitudes towards science and high technology, and useful practice in the research skills needed in the world of 21st century work beyond school. Examples of video and other content, together with a review of statistically-meaningful results, are provided from all 3 P2K Modules that used ACTS: LIVE FROM THE STRATOSPHERE (1995), LIVE FROM ANTARCTICA 2 (1997) and LIVE FROM THE RAINFOREST (1998.) Each project relied on a technical "first" only possible at that time through the use of ACTS. These included the first live video from a plane in flight at 41,000 feet (NASA's Kuiper Airborne Observatory carrying an infrared telescope); the first-ever video interaction from America's Palmer Station off the Antarctic Peninsula; and the first interactive video broadcast from the heart of the Amazon rainforest.

The results, however, were much more than purely technical achievements: P2K, utilizing the full duplex communications possibilities enabled by ACTS, was able to structure educationally meaningful interactions and experiences involving not just satellite television, but also Internet based opportunities. ACTS also provided invaluable project coordination between home base and the remote sites. P2K has continued with LIVE FROM THE SUN and LIVE FROM THE STORM, incorporating the lessons of the earlier projects, while utilizing new technologies such as streaming video as they emerge.

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