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Session 39 - Astronomy Education.
Display session, Tuesday, June 09
In the never-ending search for more effective pedagogical tools that donít greatly increase already heavy work loads, we have implemented computer generated and graded crossword puzzles as an integral part of our core-level two semester astronomy course. The puzzles are created using a commercially available puzzle generator, Crossword Compiler (written by A.L.), enabling the professor to easily create crossword puzzles from a word list and corresponding clues. For each chapter, a hard copy version of the puzzle is distributed to the students. The students must complete the puzzle and then enter its solution using a standard Internet browser via a Java applet written by us. A Java application, placed on a campus network server, provides the puzzles to the applet and records the student scores. The studentsí work is automatically graded and the name, time of submission, score, etc. is stored in a file on the server for the professorís later retrieval. A Java application, able to run on multiple platforms, is used by the instructor to easily submit new puzzles to the server, set up dates for puzzle availability, and retrieve student scores. The instructor has complete control over when puzzles are available and when they are automatically taken off the server. This keeps the students up to date in their studying of the course material.
The studentsí reactions to the puzzles have been excellent. They actually complain if the puzzles arenít provided! The puzzles force the students to carefully read and study the text and class handout notes. This is the most effective (and enjoyable) tool that we have ever found for making students become familiar with terminology and concepts. The programs will be demonstrated and sample hard-copy puzzles provided. The network-based Java programs will eventually be made available at little or no cost to interested institutions.
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