ASTROBITES IN THE CLASSROOM
Past Uses of Astrobites
Astronomy 20, “Basic Astronomy and the Galaxy”California Institute of Technology, Fall 2012, Professor John JohnsonIn this inquiry-based introductory astronomy course, students were instructed to maintain their own blogs (
Note-4). Students used the blogs to record problem-solving techniques learned in the class, as well as to produce original content including interviews with astronomers and summaries of modern research topics. Astrobites was presented to the students as a model for a blog of this type.
Astronomy 61, “Current Problems in Astronomy and Astrophysics”Swarthmore College, Spring 2012, Professor Eric JensenIn this journal-club-style discussion course for advanced undergraduates, students were responsible for selecting and summarizing research articles for the week’s seminar on a rotating basis. Astrobites was offered to students as a resource for selecting interesting articles and as a source for background information and context.
Suggested Uses of Astrobites
Reading assignments. Students are asked to read Astrobites throughout the semester, to increase immersion in astronomy outside the classroom and to reinforce concepts learned in lectures. Astrobites would therefore be used in a manner similar to web-based multimedia learning modules as prelecture assignments to supplement textbook materials (Stelzer et al. 200912; Sadaghiani 201210). Student participation could be evaluated during in-class discussions of current research or by asking students to formulate follow-up questions based on the reading. These questions could be submitted for class discussion or could be posted directly on the Astrobites website (see point 4).
Written summaries. Students are asked to write their own summaries of research articles in astronomy, modeled on the format of Astrobites. These research summaries could be assigned periodically throughout the semester or as a single term project where the students are asked to review several topical articles. The Astrobites website provides a convenient archive of brief, informative, and accessible summaries of recent research in astrophysics and can therefore serve as a resource to help students identify specific studies or topics that have methodology and results that interest them. This obviates the need for students to become sufficiently expert in the full range of astrophysics research to select a recent article from a general bibliography of publications. If student writing is posted online, in a blog format, it may facilitate peer discussion and encourage students to make high-order connections between scientific topics discussed in the classroom and research methods (Daniels 20104).
In-class presentations. Students are asked to describe a research article in astrophysics to their peers via an in-class presentation. As in point 2, the Astrobites website provides an archive of summaries, which students can use to select interesting articles or topics. Moreover, if students plan to present on a article that was already discussed on Astrobites, their classmates can read the Astrobites summary to rapidly familiarize themselves with the subject matter so that they may come prepared to start a discussion. In this way, students can engage in a collaborative argumentation learning environment where they can debate the merits of the scientific ideas presented in the articles, as well as the assumptions that the ideas rely on (Bell and Linn 20001).
Discussion forum. Students (of any level) are asked to use the commenting feature of the Astrobites website to hold a discussion forum on a given research topic. By holding this discussion on the website rather than in the classroom, students have the opportunity to formulate their responses after doing background research into the topics as necessary and to cite relevant materials. Furthermore, because Astrobites authors and researchers from throughout the world (including, often, the authors of the article in discussion) read Astrobites, the discussion may broaden to include a wide range of perspectives and expertise (