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Purdue University Adopts Slooh for Undergraduate Astronomy

Over the past year, the Purdue University Astronomy Department has been evaluating Slooh for its undergraduate courses and secondary school outreach programs. A large public university in Indiana, Purdue has a strong focus and distinguished reputation in math, science, and technology research. Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, received a degree in aeronautical engineering from Purdue in 1955. More specifically, Purdue’s Department of Physics and Astronomy has a rich tradition of observing, analyzing, and stargazing since the late 1800s.

Purdue's Evaluation of Slooh

Slooh has had the privilege of connecting and working with numerous Purdue professors who are passionate about giving their students this new outlet to explore space and make their Astronomy curriculums as autonomous and experiential for students as possible. One professor, David Sederberg, who is head of Purdue Physics and Astronomy Outreach, was kind enough to reflect on his use of Slooh thus far. He was the first professor at Purdue to fully investigate Slooh and see how it could be an asset to their department. In his experimentation, he used Slooh in a program for younger students in the surrounding area. His experience follows in this brief Q&A:

Dr. Sederberg, would you describe your use of Slooh so far (age group, class size, class structure..etc)?

“I have used Slooh with middle and high school age groups for my monthly remote course, Saturday Morning Astrophysics at Purdue (SMAP). In the first of two sessions we introduced the platform and illustrated options in creating missions and the variety of Quests available. In the next month’s follow up session students shared their results, with discussion about what they learned.

In addition to SMAP, I used Slooh this semester with a high school physics class in a high needs inner city school to supplement a unit in astronomy. The students independently requested missions for objects of their particular interest.”

What about Slooh have you found the most helpful to you as a professor and the most beneficial to your students?

“The enthusiasm of Slooh staff is contagious. They have a passion for their work and for making astronomy accessible to all grade levels and abilities. For me, the variety of the Quests in levels of ability, time and content gives educators limitless options in pedagogy.”

What about Slooh do you think needs further development?

“One thing that I think would be beneficial is for educators to be able to download high res PDFs of their students’ completed quest posters, in addition to individual images. These would be useful not only for record, but as examples for students of what others have done, facilitating classroom discussion and recruitment for future events.”

Consistent feedback and suggestions for improving our product has been one of the most beneficial aspects of this partnership. It is through this kind of trial and relationship building that Slooh grows stronger and best enhances the student and educator experience. Our team has been working diligently to take all input received to create a more successful output. We always want our partnerships to be a part of the conversation for how Slooh can develop.

What are you most looking forward to exploring with Slooh in the future? And how do you plan to use it?

“I am most excited to be able to use Slooh in my K-12 Outreach programs at Purdue. We do some events remotely, or on some occasions, short term in a teacher’s classroom. Having the ability to finish one group, archive those students and work with others has enabled me to reach and engage a broader range of students.

For continuing programs, like my Saturday Morning Astro class, introducing Slooh, allowing students to learn the ropes, and then being able to return again in later lessons and build on what students learned previously provides a well-grounded pedagogy, and allows students the ability to focus their learning to their own particular interests.”

Do you have anything to add about how Slooh could really add to the future of education technology and experiential learning?

“The Slooh platform provided educators and their students the opportunity to, in essence, conduct their own research. The structure of the Quests holds students accountable to specific learning goals and standards. Students have a very limited idea of what astronomy really is, outside the photos they see in media and on the web, and think that astronomers probably look through telescopes. Using Slooh allows them to in essence be astronomers themselves, using the same tools and methods of authentic research.”

If you have any additional thoughts or quotes from students, don’t hesitate to share!

From Alejandro Roldan, whose students participate in Saturday Morning Astrophysics at Purdue,

“Thanks a lot for introducing Slooh in SMAP, you are doing an amazing job sharing with all of us opportunities and increasing the passion for the sciences.”

From Tricia van Slyke, a mother whose student is in SMAP,

“Thank you so much! [Matthew] is very excited about putting his Quest posters in frames and hanging them on his bedroom wall. As you noticed, Matthew is addicted to Slooh and he would like to get his own subscription to Slooh (and he is even willing to pay half of the annual cost himself!)”

What’s next for Slooh & Purdue

We are grateful to Dr. Sederberg not only for his enthusiasm about Slooh and his feedback, but also for his use of it across numerous age groups and classrooms, as this truly gave him a well rounded idea of the platform and how it will benefit all his students moving forward. It is passionate professors that really help bring Slooh to life.

Follow up

After Dr. Sederberg’s SMAP program concluded, Purdue’s Astronomy department as a whole committed to using Slooh for the coming school year at the college level. We are looking forward to witnessing Slooh’s role in Purdue’s upcoming fall Astronomy lectures with professors Robert Austin and Boshra Afra, and can’t wait to hear the feedback to come. As one professor at Purdue has already pointed out:

“Slooh means we will not be using any of the products we have used in the past. The cost to each student would be $30 (to get access to Slooh) which is less than our previous textbook (~$70).”

This is just one example of the impact Slooh can have in enhancing astronomy programs at universities, and how it is a significantly more affordable alternative to textbooks for students.

Slooh both provides a full curriculum that can replace any textbook as well as allows students to take their learning into their own hands, but Slooh is also an aid, as it is the educators that inspire and kickstart the journeys with Slooh. This is why strong partnerships between Slooh and professors, as seen above, are so important to us and our integration in universities moving forward. We are thankful to Purdue and can’t wait to see Slooh continue to spread to Astronomy lectures across the globe!


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