Considerations for, and barriers to, implementing astronomy innovations into the K-12 school system
Robotic Telescopes (RTs) for use in education have been in their infancy for the last few decades. Some major teetering and tottering, but successful, steps have been taken with both large and small telescope networks to provide reliable access to astronomical data through robotic telescopes attached to intelligent automated asynchronous schedulers. The dream of the early pioneers in RTs has been for students to directly, and deeply yet accessibly, access telescopes in a meaningful and scalable way in the everyday classroom to boost learning, attitudes and self-efficacy in science.
RTs, and other astronomy innovations, are spruiked as game-changers and field-flatteners in STEM education allowing use – for free – by any interested teacher or student. The reality though is that – without intervention – it is the advantaged schools that are far more likely to be able to benefit from these opportunities than underserved and disadvantaged teachers and students. At the same time, it isn’t a mystery as to why this is the case.
In this talk, I will walk through what we know about barriers to astronomy education from the research literature and what we can potentially do (and what some have tried) to help implement astronomy innovations into an authentic classroom environment …. even those led by a biology teacher! Some school systems around the world these barriers are amplified and, in others, partially overcome.
The findings in this talk are broader than robotic telescopes; a simple moon on a stick with flashlight model can be just as tricky to embed in the classroom as a robotic telescope and they are broader than astronomy: most of the issues are not specific to the content area itself but stem from broader social, political and economic factors as well as the limitations of existing in a 4D universe that includes a finite amount of time within it.
Michael is a Project Astronomer at Las Cumbres Observatory and holds a research fellowship at Deakin University. His research interests encompass STEM education, with a particular focus on astronomy education, as well as pure astronomy research. He has a particular interest in encouraging the use of remotely accessible telescopes to support authentic research and educational activities in the classroom as well as professional learning for high school teachers.