Microsoft Research Blog

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WorldWide Telescope Revolutionizes Astronomy 101

April 1, 2011 | Posted by Microsoft Research Blog

Recently, when I delivered my presentation, The Revolution in Astronomy Curricula Introduced by WorldWide Telescope (WWT), at INTED2011, I heard frequent comments from the audience that the variety of potential educational uses for WWT is “fascinating.” The presentation was made possible by a collaboration between the Microsoft Research Connections’ WorldWide Telescope group, the National Astronomical Observatories of Chinese Academy of Sciences (NAOC), and the Central China Normal University (CCNU). The successful reception of WWT at INTED2011 reminded me of all the wonderful things that WWT has enabled in China and throughout the world.

To develop and grow a user community successfully, it is important to start by training the trainers. Focused on creating science educators for universities and high schools, CCNU is one of the most influential universities in education and pedagogy research in China. For more than two years, Microsoft Research Connections’ WWT group and NAOC have been working with CCNU to integrate WWT into the astronomy research and education curriculum at CCNU. The development and outcome are reported in the papers, “Science Data Based Astronomy Education” and “The Revolution in Astronomy Curricula Introduced by WorldWide Telescope (WWT)” (upcoming at INTD2011 Publications).

Educators from more than 40 institutes in China attended the first WWT Teachers’ Training Workshop, August 1–3, 2010, Beijing, China.

Educators from more than 40 institutes in China attended the first WWT Teachers’ Training Workshop, August 1–3, 2010, Beijing, China.

In addition to the efforts at CCNU, the WWT Teachers’ Training Workshop 2010 was conducted jointly by CCNU, NAOC, and Microsoft Research in August 2010. Due to popular demand, we will jointly host the WWT Teachers’ Training Workshop 2011 in China from July 21 to 24, 2011. The strategy to “train the trainers” has made the WWT user community grow exponentially in China.

The success at CCNU is just one example of how the WorldWide Telescope program helps Microsoft Research Connections engage with enthusiastic scientists worldwide. This particular long-term collaboration is succeeding beyond our original expectations for everyone involved in the project.

For example:

  • Due to her innovative work with WWT, Dr. Cuilan Qiao (our principle investigator at CCNU), received her tenured position last year and is changing the education paradigm by integrating digital information technologies with the science curricula.
  • As a result of the contributions he has made to science outreach by using WWT during the last three years, Dr. Chenzhou Cui at NAOC has been assigned by the NAOC to be in charge of developing the Science Outreach Plan for the observatory’s twelfth Five-Year Plan. This is an extraordinary honor for a young Chinese scientist.
  • I have been invited by to become an honorary professor at CCNU, and I will accept this honor on behalf of all of us at Microsoft Research.

Next month, I will be in Moscow to co-host the workshop, WWT for Gagarin Celebration and Beyond, with Microsoft Russia and Moscow State University. I’m looking forward to another experience of using WWT to help empower the research and academic communities in the advancement of science and education.

Note: It would be an omission to overlook the substantial impression that WWT has made in the astronomy and science education communities in the United States as well. Look for a future blog in which my team members and I commemorate the three-year anniversary of the WorldWide Telescope.

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 —Yan Xu, Senior Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research Connections