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Volume 1, Issue 1
January 1993

Geoffrey Fox,
CRPC Site Director, and Director, Northeast Parallel Architectures Center (NPAC), Syracuse University

As teachers introduce the next generation to the latest computer technologies, researchers from the CRPC and elsewhere prepare the next generation of classroom computer technologies for teachers. The new technologies promise to Close gaps between researchers, teachers, and students, Enhance the delivery of curricula, Offer an interactive environment for exploratory learning, Allow both classroom and distance learning in synchronous and asynchronous modes, Increase the availability of experts, and Expand the audience of computer-savvy learners. CRPC-Developed Classroom Computer Technologies Digital video services over the very High Speed Backbone Network Service (vBNS) will enable teachers to customize their lesson plans, embedding digitized video clips (Video-on-Demand) from providers like Microsoft, Netscape, the Disney Channel, and the Discovery Channel into their lessons. Text-on-Demand and Image-on-Demand capabilities will proliferate, as well. Education will become more entertaining, exciting, and educational as it is tailored to the interests and educational level of each specific class. Teachers will become experts in using these technologies effectively to augment relatively traditional curricula in a high-value manner. Additionally, the technology of video games and entertainment familiar to this generation will be brought into a classroom that fosters exploratory learning in more interactive environments. Web interfaces with Java will be improved, allowing the delivery of animated simulations and models that will permit teachers to show visually appealing, memorable representations of key concepts. For example, Java applets, which capture and show the abstracted essence of a problem, can feature the essence of ocean motion or the flow of blood throughout the body. The applets can even show K-12 students how science uses common ideas across various fields. For example, they can show how the principles of fluid flow apply in the oceanographic and medical examples previously cited. The two-dimensional and three-dimensional Java applets are more dynamic than the static images that now predominate. More dynamic simulations can capture the essence of a problem, showing what is important, memorable, and usable, from a large body of complex computations. The Java applets also improve the representation of evolving systems. Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML) displays of weather prediction, including the Advanced Regional Prediction System, or ARPS, will give users instant access to the prediction of severe weather conditions. These displays will be superimposed on map data, allowing interactive journeys. Classroom teachers will be able to track weather patterns throughout the country as they teach students about meteorology and how physical phenomena like severe storms are modeled. CRPC researchers at Syracuse University have developed these capabilities with another National Science Foundation center, the Center for Analysis and Prediction of Storms, at the University of Oklahoma. For some typical simulations, visit http://www.crpc.rice.edu/CRPC/demos/CAPS/tornado.html . Web-based collaboration technologies will enable teachers and students to query online experts--digital librarians with access to the expertise base the inquirer needs to tap. Thus, CRPC's Director, Ken Kennedy could be electronically available in hundreds of classrooms around the world at the same time, thanks to desktop collaborative technologies. These "expert-on-demand" collaboration technologies will allow virtual talk shows that will make classroom learning more real, more exciting, and more powerful. The Internet-based collaboration technologies described above will help distributed groups of people use shared Problem Solving Environments (PSEs), integrated collections of software tools tailored to specific applications, to solve problems together. PSEs are ideal teaching tools as well as facilitators for collaborative research in both K-12 and undergraduate education. For example, PSEs developed for CRPC's Caltech researchers to demonstrate air pollution modeling in the South Coast Air Basin of California will introduce K-12 students and undergraduates to computational modeling of the environment. They will use parallel computers, so the back end of the PSE can execute on a variety of parallel machines. (See "Spotlight on Teachers," Winter 1997 Parallel Computing Research, page 12.) Thanks to the accessibility of these emerging computer technologies in remote areas and in the home, those who have not always been included in the traditional classroom will find learning handier and easier. Teachers will more easily reach the disabled, those living in remote areas, people working from their homes, and lifelong learners. Teachers can foster the introduction of these new technologies in their classrooms by taking any or all of the following steps: 1) Install databases to deliver text and images relevant to their students, 2) Install video servers and serve videos relevant to their schools, and/or 3) Secure funding to develop 2-D and 3-D Interactive modules, like NPAC's "Visible Human Project," a Java applet that allows students to select and view high-resolution images of 2-D slices of a human body, using image data taken from the National Library of Medicine. As 100 million schools, universities, hospitals, and businesses connect on the National Information Infrastructure (NII), classrooms will become connected, interactive "collaboratories" using multi-media "on-demand" information. In this exciting new setting, teachers and students alike will become producers as well as consumers of information.

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