NASA Gives Boost to Virtual Learning Magnet Project

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The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) is engaged in a proof of concept for a virtual learning magnet (VLM) for space science and mathematics with support from space agency NASA. The project will bring together teachers and subject matter experts with students to support learning in targeted interests.

The first effort, which will run through the end of May 2009, will engage about 40 students nationwide on the study of introductory physics through the lens of space science and aeronautics research. Students will also have the opportunity to participate in an interdisciplinary independent study in cooperation with actual NASA missions. The course will focus on physics concepts normally taught in school; however, the lessons will be taught through aviation, rockets, and space science. Participants will earn one high school elective credit for successfully completing the course.

"Learning online is part of the world of today's students. Students communicate with each other electronically and they can also learn electronically, as long as they are afforded time for collaboration," said James Scanlon, superintendent of the Brandywine School District in Delaware, one of the participating districts. "With the technology that exists today along with collaboration across state lines, we can reach out and find an expert to deliver a course such as this to benefit our students."

"This is a very unique pilot program in which the student's performance will help provide valuable feedback on the course," said Michael Stetter, director of curriculum development at the Department of Education. "Their participation will help us determine strengths or weaknesses in this virtual course and help determine the future of online science courses."

Based on what is learned during the proof of concept and the response of the states, CCSSO plans to expand the VLM for space science and mathematics, enabling students to earn several credits toward a high school diploma.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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