Mark Rast

Astrophysical & Planetary Sciences


I would like to start by thanking the organizers, presenters, fellow participants, and those behind the scenes whose contributions I am unaware of for the very rewarding experience.  I particularly appreciate that the focus on technology was consistently embedded within broader pedagogical aims.


My original interest in the FTEP course was in the context of an Introductory Astronomy class that I often teach.  I currently teach that class in a clicker facilitated lecture format, and was looking for technological hooks to increase the engagement of moderately motivated students.  In particular, I was hoping to learn about incremental augmentations rather than a complete course makeover.


As a consequence of the Summer Institute experience, I plan to make the following changes to how I teach ASTR1200 and ASTR1040:

1.    I will create and maintain my course homepage as a website using Google Sites and the use it as my homepage in D2L.  As a side benefit, the skills I acquired using Google Sites will enable me to make and maintain a professional web page.

2.    I will restructure the class syllabus in terms of course goals.  To meet these goals the students will have to integrate knowledge from different sections of the course, and so I will link to these goals to relevant items in a sequential list of topics, readings, and resources.  This will give the students both the traditional linear view of the syllabus and a more integrated view in light of course goals.

3.    I will adopt the idea of creating class midterm and final review sheets as shared editable documents on Google Drive so that the students can work together toward collaborative answers in preparation for exams.


Beyond these very particular and immediate goals, the course suggested other unanticipated possibilities.  I would like to use the Google+ social networking environment to engage students in discussion of Astronomy images before class.  The images would be relevant to the upcoming class and engage the students in the material ahead of time.  Farther afield, I am considering the possibility of asking graduate students in Fluid Dynamics class to complete a film project.   The aim would be human scale engagement in fluid dynamical phenomena physically analogous to those studied in  more remote astrophysical settings, in order to facilitate intuition.


Overall, the FTEP Summer Institute program was engaging, challenging, and very worthwhile. Thank you for the opportunity.




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