Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Printing Press and Stellarium

This week, two applications caught my eye. The first, Printing Press, is a program that allows students to generate newspapers, flyers, or brochures. The second, Stellarium, is a powerful recreation of the night sky. Each of these is a potentially powerful tool to use in the classroom.

Printing Press is interesting because of its use as a piece of set dressing. In my own memories of history classes, my favorite assignments were those that allowed me to be creative. The first potential creative application that comes to my mind is using this program as a part of an assignment for students to create newspaper articles, brochures, or flyers relating to important events from history (for example, an article on the sinking of the Lusitania or a flyer advertising the Seneca Falls Convention). In this way, students can begin one of the most involved processes in the study of history, and a useful skill in many fields: being able to imagine themselves in another person (or time period)'s shoes. Using this in conjunction with a multimedia site such as Padlet, students would be empowered to present information in a much more visually compelling manner than they would have been able to otherwise.

Stellarium, meanwhile, fills a very different niche. Where Printing Press lets students present their information with more flair, Stellarium changes the way they initially interact with new knowledge. In a science classroom, this tool is invaluable for presenting the wonders of something students will never see during the school day: the night sky. Presenting the sky in its entirety in this fashion allows students a much greater chance to explore and discover some of the wonders of the cosmos themselves, preserving the sense of wonder that comes with such discoveries. In a history class, this is a great tool for discussing great thinkers such as Galileo, Tycho Brahe, and Johannes Kepler. By taking students through the universe bit by bit, it is possible to very effectively discuss the various historical theories of the order of the cosmos, and how those perceptions shaped the course of human history.