I’ve been very skeptical about educational uses of Twitter, but I have to admit that a little lander on Mars has changed my mind. This fall I’m teaching a course for non-science majors that centers around exploring the physics, chemistry, and geology surrounding a manned space mission to Mars. When I found out the Mars Phoenix Lander was providing mission updates via Twitter, I decided to take the plunge.
The lander (through a ghost writer) sends out tweets, sometimes several times a day, with mission updates which I follow through Twitterific (screen shot below).
One of the objectives for the course is for students to get a real sense of the scale, terrain, and environment of Mars. That’s not something that gets accomplished through a single lesson. Having the students subscribe via Twitterific or text message updates (I haven’t sprung for the extra $ to get into that) seems like a great, subversive way, to weave Mars into the daily lives of students. Phoenix “tweets” have often led me on a curious quest for more info, and I’m hoping it will do the same for students.
I was psyched to learn that the mission had been extended (through a tweet, of course) to the end of September, so I can use this for at least part of the upcoming semester. Here’s just one example (of many) of a great pointer from Phoenix, which can be used to address common misconceptions about the cause of the seasons.
Clipped from JPL site. See http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/phoenix/images.php?fileID=15091 for full story.
Oh yeah, here’s a link to the famous Private Universe video showing interviews with Harvard grads that demonstrates just how tenacious this misconception can be.
If Twitter can help, I’m in!