This is the first official page of the Worldwide Telescope case study
Hi, I'm Curtis Wong, Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and one of the creators of the WorldWide Telescope. We're really happy to have our work featured in NSF's Media & Informal Science Learning website, and hope this discussion will lead to useful feedback for us on Worldwide Telescope, as well as to new potential collaborations/partnerships for us as we continue to expand the use of WorldWide Telescope for education and science. We would love to hear from you about how to enable more people to utilize this free resource to inspire kids of all ages to explore and learn about the Universe. Feel free to email me with your ideas. Thanks!
greetings from Toby McElheny, Media Producer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). Does WWT have an interface to let the user ask a question eg "What is the closest galaxy to the Milky Way," and then have a path through stored images to answer that question?
I have seen great results of students asking questions through documentation of a telescope interactive curriculum in an after school program from CfA/MIT "Youth Astronomy Apprenticeship (YAA)." YAA allows students to take their own images with MicroObservatory, a network of robotic telescopes.
The great thing about this program is that is similar to novices learning to taking photos with a 35mm film camera. You make mistakes, but learn a lot from them.
One of the great YAA examples is a student who overexposed her image of Jupiter, but found "dots" around the planet. After a few more images with the same exposure she concluded that these dots were moons (a Galilean re-discovery!).
Hi Curtis--this is a spectacular project--thanks so much for sharing it with our group. I'm finding myself particularly fascinated by the concept of tours. I could probably figure out the answer to my questions about them myself, but am guessing you can answer better and faster than I can. Beyond baseline stuff like the number of tours users have created and whether you're finding users like to take each other's tours, I'm wondering if there have there been any patterns you've been able to identify in what kinds of tours users are creating--the number and kinds of objects they include, the kinds of their own content they include, the overall style, themes, etc. Particularly tours created by kids, like that wonderful 6 year old I ran across. Also, are you starting to see users share their tours on Facebook and the like?
Curtis, your project brings to mind a project we've been working to get off the ground for a while that maybe we could collaborate on. A little backstory: in most of our surveys, we typically include a battery of 'new concepts' to test our audiences' appetite for innovation. In 2002, we tested interest in "an online telescope that lets [you] look all over the world through a network of webcams," and found it got high interest from 52% of all kids 9-17 and 72% of "extreme influencers" (kids who disproportionately tell others where to go online). Armed with this data, we've talked to the National Park Service, which seemed like a natural partner to set up a network of webcams with (hopefully leading parks and others around the world to join us), and it seemed to mesh with their own thinking. The challenge for us, and our friends at NPS, has been resources to actually execute the vision. Looking at what you've done with WWT, I wonder if there isn't an opportunity for us to work together to build this concept out as an extension of your Earth module. We originally envisioned our telescope would have a Keyhole-like interface (which you've obviously substantially advanced beyond) from which the kids could zoom in onto individual webcam locations, which would themselves have a variety of tools and features to ensure an engaging experience and allow for user-generated content. Adding a partner like Microsoft to the effort could help push the concept forward into reality. Is this something potentially worth discussing further?
Response to Toby McElheny at CfA
That is a good question and we don't have that right now. We only have object name search. We do have an open applications program interface which allows you to connect WorldWide Telescope to show your results in context in the sky with a version of WWT in a Web browser. If you take a look at the flickr website and look for the Astrometry.net group you will see lots of astronomy images posted and "solved" for them automatically via Astrometry.nets servers that embed WMS coordinates in the image. This way students could see not just their imagery but their imagery of an object in context with the sky and other imagery to cross fade and compare. Alyssa Goodman at CfA is very knowledgeable about these and other uses of WWT as an educational resource. She is working on developing an educational program with WGBH which you should talk to her about.
Response to NHermes
Thanks for your comments. I could talk for a long time about the tours as they were the central motivating feature that I felt was missing from so many simulations of the sky and just having video clips is not the same thing. Tours in WWT are interactive in that you can pause the tour at any time and explore, compare and contrast deeper multispectral imagery/data about that object, or you can jump off that tour to another tour. Video can't do that.
We have an idea of the kinds of tours people like but we don't track any user behavior other than aggregate volume of traffic so as to keep their experience very private. We are a microscopic sized team so we dont have the resources to do what you are describing although I do think it would be very worthwhile. I haven't seen specific patterns but Benjamin's tour is one of the most popular tours on WWT>
Response to Grunwald.
I'm not totally clear on the concept that you are promoting. Webcams usually have relatively inexpensive sensors and optics and I'm not sure how good they would be for just pointing at the night sky. People have used web cames for inexpensive digital imaging for their telescopes but that is really dependent on the telescope and you would need to remove the optics in the webcame to better leverage the sensor with the optics of the telescope.
It sounds like you are looking for funding and we can't help you with that.
We do have significant partnerships with several not for profits organizations and educational entities.
Hi Curtis, thanks for your response. Just to clarify -- our thinking was that we could potentially piggyback on the work you've already done (we were NOT looking for additional funding from you). Our thinking was that we could 'zoom in' from the locations you've already got imagery available for on earth to go to specific webcam locations. I can send you a PPT with a proposed interface for how this would work, if interested. Basically, we want to explore leveraging the extent to which you've already created the interface to get the Park Service (or Park Service partners) to take the concept the last mile needed to complete it. Let us know what you think...
Toby--as Curtis said, I'm happy to chat more about your ideas for using WWT in education. We're just starting up a "WWT Ambassadors" program based at CfA/WGBH to recruit and train retired scientists & also educators to give presentations & make tours. I'd be happy to tell you and others more about that... and I'm sure Pat Udomprasert (who's leading the startup of the Ambassadors Program) or I will post more information here as well. Thanks.
I would love to hear more about WWT. Will you be giving any talks at CfA?
If you would like to hear more about the experience of Youth from the CfA/MIT Youth Astronomy Apprenticeship I would be glad to tell you what I have observed.
Toby: I gave a talk about WWT at the CfA earlier this year, with video at:
http://www.cfa.harvard.edu/dvlwrap/special/pubaff/20090115.ram, and slides on my web site, at http://www.cfa.harvard.edu/~agoodman/newweb/presentations.html, where there are also many other WWT-related presentations.
Also, Pat Udomprasert (WWT Ambassador Program Manager) will give a talk about the WWT Ambassadors program at the CfA next Thursday evening in Cambridge, at the monthly meeting of the Amateur Telescope Makers of Boston.
If you'd like to set up a f2f meeting, please do contact me directly (off of this site) by email.
Yesterday at the American Astronomical Meeting, we announced the "WorldWide Telescope Ambassadors" program, launching it officially with a new Tour in honor of the 400th Anniversary of Galileo's first telescopic observations of Jupiter. To see the "Galileo's New Order" WWT Tour, or the video, visit http://www.cfa.harvard.edu/WWTAmbassadors/ and be sure to try the Tour itself, rather than just the video, if you can! Note that at its end, the Tour links to several other online resources about Galileo, including WGBH NOVA video.