A few months ago ESA's ISS Education Office launched a preliminary in-house study to look into the technological requirements and scope for developing a computer-based 'International Space Station (ISS) 3D Education Tool' designed for use in the classroom by 12-15 year old European students.
The Agency plans to develop the tool in coordination with a production company (to be selected) over the next two years.
The application is intended to provide teachers with a multilingual tool for teaching space-related topics, and as an end goal, to encourage students to study sciences at higher-level education. The application will be a "game-like" tool with several mission scenarios and will include computer-based exercises related to the European curricula. A User Manual and Teacher's Guide with, for example, sample lesson plans will also be published to accompany the Tool.
The didactical content of the tool is being developed together with the Norwegian Space Centre (NSC) and the Norwegian National Centre for Space Related Education (NAROM). As part of this collaboration a feedback group of Norwegian secondary school teachers has been established. On 23-24 May this group were invited by ESA to participate in the first ISS 3D Education Tool workshop at ESTEC (ESA's Research and Technology Centre in Noordwijk, The Netherlands).
In preparation for the workshop, NAROM briefed the teachers about the tool and in coordination with them prepared a preliminary feedback report evaluating ESA's in-house feasibility study according to the Norwegian curriculum and teaching methods.
The workshop sessions were dedicated to defining the teacher/pupil user requirements and configuration settings of the tool as well as developing a draft "storyboard" for two of the proposed scenarios: module design and Experiments inside ESA's Columbus laboratory.
During the workshop the teachers were shown models of the ISS in the high bay of the Erasmus User Centre and were given a guided 3D Virtual Reality Tour of the Space Station. A visit to the local Space Expo centre was also arranged.
The teachers were strongly motivated throughout and as agreed will continue to contribute their pedagogical experience and competence in the development and pilot testing of the Tool over the next two years. Commenting on the workshop, Birgit Strømsholm of the NSC and NAROM mentioned that:
"The proposed tool was viewed by all the teachers as a very exciting development in ICT tools for teaching, and as one which offers a wide range of possibilities for inter-disciplinary teaching."