Over the course of the past seven years, astronomy education has advanced enormously. Mainly it concerns broadening of the available approaches and tools. With proliferating virtual learning environments, open online courses, and blended learning, it is harder to adjust formal education to all the scopes of information, which has recently appeared online. Teachers and university professors must follow recent trends, news, research methods to prepare high professional specialists of tomorrow. Delivering abstract and complex concepts to students is essential. Modern astronomy initiatives, which exist only in local level, tend to be poorly distributed and highly fragmented. It is worth mentioning that astronomy is an important field in STEAM education (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics).
Planetaria and museums
Modern astronomer education is concentrated on how to bring informal methods to formal education. Visualization is an essential part for students, who memorize and analyze information more efficiently when able to create associations. It means that young astronomers should be able to observe the real or recorded phenomena, know how to process calculations, why is it important to be precise, how to find needed celestial bodies, and use modern equipment. That is the reason why schools and universities organize museum and planetaria visits. It not only helps to visualize the theory but also brings the balance between formal and informal education.
Informal education methods
Today, with the variety of alternative educative methods available, it is impossible to ignore the informal approach to education. Astronomy trends include all of them. This field needs special attention regarding visualization, representation of information and its application. Informal education includes many activities that develop critical and analytical thinking as well as creativity. There are three main approaches.
Blended learning is a blend of traditional learning with digital media. It combines online resources with in-person instructions. As a result, education has a more personalized learning environment. During blended learning, students have access to all the study materials at home and receive work assignments in class that they traditionally perform as homework. It’s called the flipped model. Blended learning includes project-based models in class as well. If there is no online class in your university, Khan Academy offers four courses on astronomy.
Visual learning environment and visual reality
Visual learning environment provides teachers and learners with information, recourses, and tools through the integrated web-based application. It is a perfect introduction to astronomy for beginners. VLE involves plenty of platforms, which gives an opportunity to proceed with content management, mapping, and planning, collaboration and communication. Visual learning was created for people who better conceive and learn information visually. Virtual Reality technology is the best for astronomy learners. Excellent mobile applications are NASA for exploring the latest images, Sky Guide, and other. Google Earth is another way to explore the cosmos, and all it contains.
Open online courses
Open online courses offered by various platforms can become a significant addition to traditional education. Today there is a wide variety of astronomy courses online. Even if it represents the same course, it gives students a chance to see the same information from two different perspectives. That gives an opportunity not only to repeat the material but also make sure that nothing is missed and that there can be different points of view. Tutors can also recommend some of the courses to research a particular topic. If there is anything that needs special attention and more in-depth research, online courses are the best option for informal education. coursera.org offers many courses explaining different aspects of modern astronomy.
International Astronomic Union (IAU) and its symposium
During the last decade, tutors and educators all over the world began acknowledging that there is a significant lack of international communication in astronomy today. It was the main reason for the creation of the IAU and its symposium where astronomy education is discussed by various institutions from all over the world. The next meeting will take place in June 2019 in Chile where many educational topics will be discussed. These include:
- New trends in education
- Education for responsible citizenship
- Experimentation and its results
- Virtual and augmented reality
- Open education
- State-of-the-art technology
The educational system is developing fast, bringing new trends and novelties every year. For astronomy, there are many opportunities represented by virtual reality, online courses, and blended education. Informal education establishes a healthy and creative environment for students going through the process in a personalized and acknowledging fashion. Tutors realize the danger of applying old methods in education. Therefore, the International Astronomic Union organizes symposiums where universities from all over the world share their achievements and discuss the latest educational methods driven in practice.