Most of us can remember a time in school when we wished our teachers could walk in our shoes for just one day. The students of 10 Ohio high school and middle school teachers will receive satisfaction in knowing that their teachers are doing just that this summer.
Teachers from across Ohio are trading places with their students this week during the Computational Science Institute (CSI) at the Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC). CSI hopes to open teachers' minds to new technologies that will expand the learning environment they create for their students.
The institute is geared toward increasing Ohio students' interest and competency in science and mathematics. By doing, rather than just listening and watching, students can grasp difficult concepts more easily and learn how to work collaboratively. To accomplish this goal, teachers must become students again themselves.
"This Institute is the first of its kind for Ohio teachers," said Charlie Bender, OSC executive director. "Workshops like CSI show teachers how to use web-based tools, computer software and visualization tools. The end result is helping students to grasp complex subjects in mathematics and the sciences."
Teachers will break up into groups to solve a realistic problem similar to one they would give to their students. For instance, one group might look at the factors influencing the water quality of a nearby stream. They would gather data about the body of water and compare it to other Ohio watersheds using a web-based tool. Then, they would build a model using a software package called Stella to examine how different variables affect the water quality of their particular stream. Some variables might include how increased rainfall or decreased fertilizer on a nearby golf course effects the number of fish and other aquatic life in a stream.
CSI will present only those problems and technologies that teachers can access upon returning to their classrooms. The software packages and web-based tools being presented are either accessible by most schools or free. The key to the Institute's success, however, is building the participants' confidence in the technology.
"The tools available to today's teachers are unlimited," said Steve Gordon, deputy director of OSC and a CSI facilitator. "Yet, if a teacher does not feel comfortable using these tools, they won't -- and our children's education will suffer. We hope to help teachers see what's available and learn how to use it to enhance their skills as an instructor."
CSI is modeled after the Alabama Supercomputer Authority's renown ASPIRE program. Gina Sullivan, a long-time ASPIRE traininer, is the lead facilitor of this year's Institute. The institute is funded through a grant from the National Science Foundation awarded to EOT-PACI. EOT-PACI is a joint education, outreach and training endeavor of the two national alliances of supercomputer centers, research universities and industry. Both OSC and ASPIRE are EOT-PACI partners.
The Ohio Supercomputer Center is a state-supported resource located in Columbus. High performance computing, networking and education converge at OSC to help position Ohio as a research and information state. With more than a decade of experience in computing and networking, OSC has an obvious edge in presenting emerging information and education technologies to the state.