|Volume 7, Issue 1 -
TEACHERS REAP BENEFITS OF PARALLEL COMPUTING IN CLASSROOMCRPC researchers at Syracuse University are using high-speed networks to help provide visualization and multimedia educational tools to K-12 schools. The pilot project, called the "Living Textbook," will allow a team of educators, computational scientists, and telecommunications providers to give K-12 teachers the educational and technical support that will allow them to take advantage of the National Information Infrastructure (NII) in their own classroom. The project will be demonstrated in six secondary schools in New York State.
Geoffrey Fox, director of the Northeast Parallel Architectures Center and a CRPC researcher leading the project, sees high-speed networks as the needed component to deliver interactive real-time animation from remote sites to schools. "If cable and phone companies have the networking infrastructure to deliver movies, we can use this infrastructure to deliver science and other educational animation on demand," he said. The project is a good example of how the CRPC can use its own work and that of other research institutions to benefit educators--by using real scientific visualizations, teachers can show their students what science is really about.
The Living Textbook has several projects grouped under two initiatives. One of these is "The Interactive Journey," a three- dimensional geographic information system providing real-time navigation of New York State terrain. This system will allow students to tour various places and see "sights" such as video footage of historical and geographical significance, simulations, and other computer-based edutainment products. Initially, the Adirondack and Hudson Valley regions of the state will be target areas. An IBM SP2 will be used to provide real- time, three- dimensional terrain rendering and access to large databases. The terrain data comes from the U.S. Geological Survey and other sources. The application will present multimedia data much in the same way that Mosaic presents information to World Wide Web users.
Grand Challenge science applications such as a tornado forecast model or a simulation of a black hole in space will be also be used in educational software to provide realistic visual illustrations of science lessons. Like The Interactive Journey, a remote parallel machine will provide the simulations over a network and allow interactive tours of the simulation by students and teachers. Other educational software will be delivered over high-speed networks to provide access to resources that are physically unavailable locally to schools.
The network used for the project is NYNET, an ATM network (running at currently 300 megabits per second) that will be linked to the six schools this fall. The network has been in operation since October 1993 and was used to demonstrate health care applications to First Lady Hillary Rodham-Clinton this April (see the July 1994 issue of Parallel Computing Research). Further development will continue to integrate existing technologies in high-performance computing and networking.
The project is supported by the State of New York and NYNEX. Others groups involved include the Northeastern Parallel Architectures Center (CRPC's Syracuse site), Syracuse University's School of Education, Columbia University's Teachers College, three secondary schools in New York City, and three secondary schools in upstate New York. Two small companies from the CRPC's InfoMall consortium are also involved in development of the geographic information systems and graphics rendering.
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