Publications

In Press
Udomprasert P, Goodman A, Ladd E, Offner S, Houghton H, Johnson E, Sunbury S, Plummer JD, Wright E, Sadler P, et al. WorldWide Telescope in Education. In: Impey C, Buxner S Astronomy Education - A Practitioner’s Guide to the Research. Bristol, UK: IOP Publishing. ; In Press.
2019
Ladd EF, Nottis K, Udomprasert P, Recine K. Expanding Student Spatial Intuition To Larger Size Scales: A Hybrid Hands-on And Computer Visualization Approach, in Education and New Developments Conference. Porto, Portugal ; 2019.Abstract

Most students have an intuitive understanding of how to gauge the distances to objects in their local environment. Through a combination of binocular vision and visual cues such as the perceived sizes of known objects, students can construct a three-dimensional mental model of their local surroundings, and use it to make sense of their environment.

They do not typically understand, however, that the same geometric principles behind binocular vision and depth perception are also used for quantitative distance determination by triangulation and astronomical parallax. We have built a hybrid exercise combining experiential learning with computer visualization for undergraduate students to explore distance determination in the local terrestrial and astronomical contexts in an effort to help them bridge their intuitive understanding to geometries where distance measurement is not possible visually, but is possible via more precise measurements made with instrumentation.

Students explore distance determination in an outdoor setting where the distances to objects (~50m) are too large for intuitive distance measurement, but can be determined quantitatively through a simple triangulation process. By measuring the direction to a target object from two different positions separated by a known distance, they can determine the distance to the target. This triangulation method is used by moving ships at sea, to determine the distance to, say, a visible lighthouse. It is also the method by whichastronomers measure the distance to nearby stars (In this case, the “moving ship” is the Earth in its orbitabout the Sun.).

The second component of the activity involves using the multi-perspective visualization capability of the WorldWide Telescope (WWT) virtual environment. WWT, originally developed by Microsoft Research, and now managed by the American Astronomical Society, is freely available to the world community. WWT represents real astronomical data in a three-dimensional environment that students can investigate from a variety of physical perspectives. With this software, students can compare the apparent locations of nearby stars from widely separated vantage points (much larger than the size of the Earth’s orbit),making the shifts in star positions due to the parallax effect obvious. They can see how their view of universe changes as they change their observing location, connecting their intuitive understanding of distance measurement, and their experience with terrestrial triangulation, to the astronomical realm.

Assessment data indicate that, after participating in this hybrid activity, students better connect their intuitive understanding of distance determination to the quantitative calculations required for precise measurement of distance.

2019_expanding_student_spatial_intuition.pdf
2018
Rosenfield P, Fay J, Gilchrist R, Cui C, Weigel AD, Robitaille T, Otor J, Goodman A. AAS WorldWide Telescope: A Seamless, Cross-platform Data Visualization Engine for Astronomy Research, Education, and Democratizing Data. The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series [Internet]. 2018;236 (22). Publisher's VersionAbstract

The American Astronomical Society’s WorldWide Telescope (WWT) project enables terabytes of astronomical images, data, and stories to be viewed and shared among researchers, exhibited in science museums, projected into full-dome immersive planetariums and virtual reality headsets, and taught in classrooms, from middle school to college. We review the WWT ecosystem, how WWT has been used in the astronomical community, and comment on future directions.

aas_worldwide_telescope.pdf
Vaishampayan A, Plummer J, Cho K, Udomprasert P, Johnson E, Sunbury S, Houghton H, Wright E, Zhang H, Goodman A. Thinking Spatially: Improving Middle-school Students’ Use of Perspective Taking Through an Astronomy Curriculum, in National Association for Research in Science Teaching Annual Conference. Atlanta, GA ; 2018. 2018_narst_vaishampayan_et_al.pdf
Houghton H. WorldWide Telescope: The Universe in Your Hands. AstroBeat. 2018;(164).Abstract

When teaching science topics in which objects are too large or too small to observe laboratory settings—as is the case for astrophysics—how do you convey complex and intangible relationships in a meaningful way? Studies have shown that interactive visualization models that address common misconceptions can be powerful learning experiences. This article examines how the WorldWide Telescope (WWT) Ambassadors program has utilized the dynamic environment of the WWT platform to build meaningful representations of complex topics, and effectively address these teaching needs.

2018_AstroBeat_Houghton.pdf
2017
Vaishampayan A, Plummer J, Cho K, Udomprasert P, Johnson E, Sunbury S, Houghton H, Wright E, Zhang H, Goodman A. The Role of Perspective Taking in How Middle School Students Explain Lunar Phases, in National Association for Research in Science Teaching Annual Conference. San Antonio, TX ; 2017. 2017_narst_thinkspace.paper.pdf
2016
Ladd EF, Udomprasert P, Nottis K, Goodman AA. Building a Three-Dimensional Universe from the Classroom: Multiperspective Visualization for Non-Science Undergraduates, in Education and New Developments Conference. Ljubljana, Slovenia ; 2016.Abstract

We develop three-dimensional mental models of our physical environs from two dimensional imagery we collect with our eyes. This is possible only because we move through that environment, viewing it from multiple perspectives, and construct a model consistent with a collection of two-dimensional views. The technique works well for structures whose sizes are comparable to the magnitude of our movements, such as rooms, buildings, and even cities; but for much larger structures, we are effectively limited to a single perspective, and therefore must create mental models from indirect measures.

The astronomical realm is almost always in this latter category, and student understanding of the structure of the universe is limited by their inability to use multi-perspective techniques to generate an accurate mental image of astronomical structure. Without an accurate model, students tend to underestimate the distances to and between astronomical objects, leading to inaccurate assumptions regarding the overall size of the universe, the interactions between celestial objects, and our location within and among these structures.

To improve student understanding of the size, scale, and structure of our universe, we have developed hybrid laboratory activities based on a mix of hands-on discovery with physical models and multi- perspective visualization using the WorldWide Telescope (WWT) virtual environment. WWT, developed by Microsoft Research, managed and supported by the American Astronomical Society, and freely available to the world community, represents real astronomical data in a three-dimensional environment that students can investigate from a variety of physical perspectives. They can virtually “fly through”astronomical structures and thus use the same techniques they use in their local everyday environment to develop an accurate mental model on an astronomical scale.

These new lab activities connect indirect measurements of distance and structure (based on real astronomical data) to visualizations of those same structures, so that students understand the techniques by which structure is measured, and create accurate mental models of those structures. This not only improves their understanding of their astronomical environs, but also improves their understanding of the physical processes that occur in our universe.

We will present examples of these activities, and assessment data measuring the improvement in student understanding of astronomical size, scale, and structure, as a result of their interactions with these materials.

2016_building_a_3d_universe.pdf
2015
Gingrich E, Ladd E, Nottis KEK, Udomprasert P, Goodman AA. The Size, Scale, and Structure Concept Inventory (S3CI) for Astronomy. Astronomical Society of the Pacific. 2015;500 :269.Abstract

We present a concept inventory to evaluate student understanding of size, scale, and structure concepts in the astronomical context. Students harbor miscon- ceptions regarding these concepts, and these misconceptions often persist even after instruction. Evaluation of these concepts prior to as well as after instruction can ensure misconceptions are addressed. Currently, no concept inventories focus exclusively on these geometrical ideas, so we have developed the Size, Scale and Structure Concept Inventory (S3CI). In fall 2013, we piloted a 24-item version of the S3CI in an introduc- tory astronomy course at a small private university. We performed an item analysis and estimated the internal consistency reliability for the instrument. Based on these anal- yses, problematic questions were revised for a second version. We discuss the results from the pilot phase and preview our updated test in this work.

A valid and reliable concept inventory has the potential to accurately evaluate undergraduates’ understanding of size, scale, and structure concepts in the astronomical context, as well as assess conceptual change after targeted instruction. Lessons learned in the evaluation of the initial version of the S3CI can guide future development of this and other astronomical concept inventories. Instructors interested in participating in the ongoing development of the S3CI should contact the authors.

2015_S3CI.pdf
Nottis K, Ladd E, Goodman AA, Udomprasert P. Initial development of a concept inventory to assess size, scale, and structure in introductory astronomy. US-China Education Review B. 2015;5 (11) :689-700.Abstract

Research has shown that undergraduates have problems understanding astronomical concepts, especially size, scale, and structure. One way to evaluate understanding is to use concept inventories. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to begin the development of the Size, Scale, and Structure Concept Inventory (S3CI) to assess understanding of these concepts in introductory undergraduate astronomy courses for majors and non-majors. A secondary purpose was to determine the impact of a newly developed WorldWide Telescope (WWT) enhanced lab on parallax, part of a suite of WWT enriched labs for introductory astronomy courses currently under development. We present in this paper preliminary results from the first WWT-enhanced lab on parallax. In Fall 2013, a beta version of the S3CI was piloted in an introductory astronomy course at a small private university. An item analysis was done and estimates of internal consistency reliability were determined using the Kuder-Richardson Formula #20 (KR20). The impact of the newly developed lab was also evaluated using a sub-test of six questions from the S3CI.

2015_initial_development_s3ci.pdf
Udomprasert P, Goodman A, Sadler P, Johnson E, Lotridge E, Jackson J, Constantin A-M, Zhang ZH, Sunbury S, Wang Q, et al. Optimal Model-Order for a Moon Phases Lab with Virtual and Physical Components, in American Educational Research Association. Chicago, IL ; 2015.Abstract

We designed a middle school lab experience to help students understand the cause of the Moon’s phases, using a combination of physical models (styrofoam balls and lamps) and computer models (WorldWide Telescope, WWT). We tested how model order (Foam then WWT, vs. WWT then Foam) would impact student learning.

2015_wwt_moon_phases_aera_symposium.pdf 2015_wwt_moon_aera.pdf
2014
Ladd E, Udomprasert P, Gingrich E, Nottis K, Goodman AA. Combining Real World Experience and WorldWide Telescope Visualization to Build a Better Parallax Lab. Astronomical Society of the Pacific. 2014;500 :191-194.Abstract

We present a lab activity designed to help students understand the concept of parallax in both astronomical and non-astronomical contexts. In an outdoor setting, students learn the methodology of distance determination via parallax. They identify a distant landmark to establish a reference of direction, and then measure the change in apparent direction for more nearby objects as they change position in a 2 meter radius “orbit” around the “Sun.” This hands-on activity involves large, visually-discernable angles so that students can internalize the concept of parallax from everyday experi- ence. However, students often have difficulty transferring this experience to the astro- nomical realm, so we pair this hands-on activity with a more explicitly astronomically- based activity using the WorldWide Telescope visualization environment. Students ap- ply the same methodology in this environment and learn how the apparent motion of stars is related to their distance from Earth. The combination of hands-on activity and computer-aided visualization is designed to produce a deeper understanding of paral- lax in the astronomical environment, and an improved understanding of the inherently three-dimensional distribution of objects in our universe. More formal assessment is underway.

2015_combining_real_world_experience_and_wwt.pdf
Udomprasert P, Goodman AA, Sunbury S, Zhang Z, Sadler PM, Dussault ME, Lotridge E, Jackson J, Constantin A. Visualizing Moon Phases in the Classroom with WorldWide Telescope, in American Astronomical Society, AAS Meeting #223. Washington, DC: American Astronomical Society ; 2014. Publisher's VersionAbstract

We report results from an NSF-funded project to build, test, and research the impact of a WorldWide Telescope Visualization Lab (WWT Vizlab), meant to offer learners a deeper physical understanding of the causes of the Moon’s phases and eclipses. The Moon Phases VizLab is designed to promote accurate visualization of the complex, 3-dimensional Earth-Sun-Moon relationships required to understand the Moon’s phases, while also providing opportunities for middle school students to practice critical science skills, like using models, making predictions and observations, and linking them in evidence-based explanations. In the Moon Phases VizLab, students use both computer-based models and lamp + ball physical models. The VizLab emphasizes the use of different scales in models, why some models are to scale and some are not, and how choices we make in a model can sometimes inadvertently lead to misconceptions. For example, textbook images almost always depict the Earth and Moon as being vastly too close together, and this contributes to the common misconception that the Moon’s phases are caused by the Earth’s shadow. We tested the Moon Phases VizLab in two separate phases. In Phase 1 (fall 2012), we compared learning gains from the WorldWide Telescope (WWT) VizLab with a traditional 2-dimensional Moon phases simulator. Students in this study who used WWT had overall higher learning gains than students who used the traditional 2D simulator, and demonstrated greater enthusiasm for using the virtual model than students who used the 2D simulator. In Phase 2 (spring 2013), all students in the study used WWT for the virtual model, but we experimented with different sequencing of physical and virtual models in the classroom. We found that students who began the unit with higher prior knowledge of Moon phases (based on the pre-unit assessment) had overall higher learning gains when they used the virtual model first, followed by the physical model, while students who had lower prior knowledge benefited from using the physical model first, then the virtual model.

2014_udomprasert_aas_dc.pdf
Udomprasert P, Goodman A, Sunbury S, Zhang ZH, Sadler P, Dussault M, Block S, Lotridge E, Jackson J, Constantin A. Visualizing Moon Phases with WorldWide Telescope, in Cosmos in the Classroom, 125th Annual Meeting. San Jose, CA: Astronomical Society of the Pacific ; 2014.Abstract

We report preliminary results from an NSF-funded project to build, test, and research the impact of a WorldWide Telescope Visualization Lab (WWT Vizlab), meant to oer learners a deeper physical understanding of the causes of the Moon’s phases. The Moon Phases VizLab is designed to promote accurate visualization of the complex, 3-dimensional Earth-Sun-Moon relationships required to understand the Moon’s phases, while also providing opportunities for middle school students to practice critical science skills, like using models, making predictions and observations, and linking them in evidence-based explanations. In the VizLab, students use both computer-based models and lamp + ball physical models.    

We present findings from the first two phases of the study - one where we compared learning gains from the WWT VizLab with a traditional 2-dimensional Moon phases simulator; and another where we experimented with different ways of blending physical and virtual models in the classroom.

Presented July 20-24, 2013.

2014_udomprasert_et_al_moon_phases_asp.pdf
Udomprasert P, Goodman A, Sunbury, S., Zhang ZH, Sadler P, Dussault M, Lotridge, E., Jackson J, Constantin A. Visualizing Three-Dimensional Spatial Relationships in Virtual and Physical Astronomy Environments, in International Conference of the Learning Sciences. Boulder, CO ; 2014.Abstract

We give a brief overview of some key features of WorldWide Telescope and its Ambassadors Program, and we describe two goals for expanding the program in the coming year: scaling up training efforts; and developing “plug and play” Visualization Lab modules that teach key Earth and Space Science concepts to students while emphasizing important scientific processes and skills. We discuss several different ways that members of the astronomy education and outreach community can incorporate WWT-based materials into their work.

2014_icls_wwt_moon.pdf
2013
Sanders NE, Faesi C, Goodman AA. A New Approach to Developing Interactive Software Modules through Graduate Education. arXiv.org. 2013.Abstract
We discuss a set of fifteen new interactive, educational, online software modules developed by Harvard University graduate students to demonstrate various concepts related to astronomy and physics. Their achievement demonstrates that online software tools for education and outreach on specialized topics can be produced while simultaneously fulfilling project-based learning objectives. We describe a set of technologies suitable for module development and present in detail four examples of modules developed by the students. We offer recommendations for incorporating educational software development within a graduate curriculum and conclude by discussing the relevance of this novel approach to new online learning environments like edX.
Udomprasert PS, Goodman AA, Wong C. WorldWide Telescope Ambassadors: A Year 3 Update, in Communicating Science: A National Conference on Science Education and Public Outreach. Vol 473. Tuscon, AZ: Astronomical Society of the Pacific ; 2013 :137-140. Publisher's VersionAbstract

We give a brief overview of some key features of WorldWide Telescope and its Ambassadors Program, and we describe two goals for expanding the program in the coming year: scaling up training efforts; and developing “plug and play” Visualization Lab modules that teach key Earth and Space Science concepts to students while emphasizing important scientific processes and skills. We discuss several different ways that members of the astronomy education and outreach community can incorporate WWT-based materials into their work.

2013-wwta-asp.pdf
2012
Goodman A, Fay J, Muench A, Pepe A, Udomprasert P, Wong C. WorldWide Telescope in Research and Education. In: Egret D, Gabriel C ADASS XXI. San Francisco: Astronomical Society of the Pacific ; 2012. pp. tba. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The WorldWide Telescope computer program, released to researchers
and the public as a free resource in 2008 by Microsoft Research, has changed the way
the ever-growing Universe of online astronomical data is viewed and understood. The
WWT program can be thought of as a scriptable, interactive, richly visual browser of
the multi-wavelength Sky as we see it from Earth, and of the Universe as we would
travel within it. In its web API format, WWT is being used as a service to display professional
research data. In its desktop format, WWT works in concert (thanks to SAMP
and other IVOA standards) with more traditional research applications such as ds9, Aladin
and TOPCAT. The WWT Ambassadors Program (founded in 2009) recruits and
trains astrophysically-literate volunteers (including retirees) who use WWT as a teaching
tool in online, classroom, and informal educational settings. Early quantitative
studies of WWTA indicate that student experiences with WWT enhance science learning
dramatically. Thanks to the wealth of data it can access, and the growing number
of services to which it connects, WWT is now a key linking technology in the Seamless
Astronomy environment we seek to oer researchers, teachers, and students alike.

Udomprasert P, Goodman A, Wong C. WWT Ambassadors: WorldWide Telescope for Interactive Learning, in Astronomical Society of the Pacific. San Fransisco, CA: Connecting People to Science ; 2012.Abstract

The WorldWide Telescope Ambassadors Program (WWTA) is new outreach initiative run by researchers at Harvard University, WGBH, and Microsoft Research. WWT Ambassadors are astrophysically-literate volunteers who are trained to be experts in using WWT as teaching tool. Ambassadors and learners alike use WWT to create dynamic, interactive Tours of the Universe, which are shared in schools, public venues, and online. Ambassador-created Tours are being made freely available and will ultimately form a comprehensive learning resource for Astronomy and Astrophysics.
In this short talk, we will describe the results of a Pilot Study where volunteer Ambassadors helped sixth-graders use WWT during their six-week Astronomy unit. The results of the study compare learning outcomes for 80 students who participated in WWTA and 80 students who only used traditional learning materials. In the comparison, we find that, after the six-week unit: twice as many "WWT” as "non-WWT” students understand complex three dimensional orbital relationships; and tremendous gains are seen in student interest in science overall, astronomy in particular, and even in using "real” telescopes.

Plans for WWTA include expansion to five US sites within the coming year, and ultimately to an International Program. Online materials will ultimately be available through several sites (at WGBH, Harvard and Microsoft), and will be integrated with existing online curriculum programs such as WGBH’s Teachers’ Domain and Microsoft’s Partners in Learning. More inormation is presently available at www.cfa.harvard.edu/WWTAmbassadors/.

2012_udomprasert_goodman_wong-asp.pdf
2011
Goodman AA, Udomprasert PS, Kent B, Sathiapal H, Smareglia R. Astronomy Visualization for Education and Outreach, in Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Vol 442. Boston, MA: ASP Conference Series ; 2011 :659-662. Publisher's VersionAbstract

About 50 participants came to a discussion on the benefits and potential obstacles of using astronomy visualization tools for education and public outreach (EPO). Representatives of five different EPO organizations shared information on their project goals and outcomes. Public users need support to learn how to use these programs effectively for education, but the efforts are worthwhile because the thrill that comes from working with real data and the natural beauty of astronomical imagery are great attractors for new science enthusiasts.

2011_goodman_udomprasert_et_al_adass.pdf
Goodman AA, Strom SE, Udomprasert P, Valva A, Wong C. WWT Ambassadors: Worldwide Telescope For Interactive Learning, in American Astronomical Society Meeting Abstracts 217. Vol 43. ; 2011. Publisher's Version