This is a 3D solar system simulation application, which gives you the approximate location of the planets in the solar system at different times, and some information about each one of them. This application uses HTML5 and WebGL.
Type of Material:
In any setting but best used individually so that each learner has the opportunity to manipulate the solar system components as it pertains to their personal progression of understanding. The material can be used to supplement instruction on astronomy and the solar system.
Used in IE, Edge, Chrome, Firefox, and Safari without problems. The application uses HTML5 and Web GL
Identify Major Learning Goals:
The purpose of this site is for learners to view the solar system (true to scale) and understand the order of the planets and their orbits, as well as technical information about the planet and its existing satellites, if any.
Target Student Population:
Middle Grades, High School Grades, and College Level.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
Ability to use keyboard shortcuts (as mentioned in the site's tutorial) and a mouse to change viewing perspective of the system.
The visual appearance of the simulation is of high quality. The models of the planets are true to scale instead of being displayed in exaggeration relative to their orbits as seen in some earlier models. The aesthetic appeal of this simulation is excellent because the colors and elevations are true to each planet.
The information provided for each planet and satellite covers the physical characteristics on the left of the planet and specific geological characteristics on the right. The amount and type information is above average for this simulation.
It would be helpful to have a metric conversion of temperatures listed in the facts for each planet and satellite. Everything is in Celsius or Kelvin without mention of Fahrenheit. Of course, an online metric converter could be accessed by the learner to obtain that information quickly.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
Learners will be able to visualize planet size and position in relation to the each other and the Sun after spending an extended amount of time with this simulation. Additionally, they can visualize and understand how planets are aligned during a particular day of the year. Dates can be provided by the instructors and students can plug those dates in and explain what is happening (e.g. Earth's solar eclipse, lunar eclipse, planet alignment, Earth's relationship to moon as it rotates, and so on).
This simulation can be used at any stage of the learning process, but would probably have the most impact to introduce a lesson on the Solar System to show how planets are positioned in relation to the Sun. It should be used throughout a lesson for maximum impact.
This material can be easily integrated into the learning curriculum where the Solar System is usually always discussed in the Earth sciences. Any learning standards regarding the Solar System will fit easily into this simulation as a teaching and learning tool.
Additional features include News and an Atlas Rain addon for Chrome. The News feature allows learners to see up to date news about our solar system from NASA. The Atlas Rain addon for Chrome allows students to view historical events that have occurred on Earth in a 3D format. Both of these features would allow for excellent cross disciplinary lessons with humanities courses like history and current events.
Although specific learning objectives are not stated, this does not detract from the tool's potential effectiveness as a teaching tool.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
The interface is highly intuitive and uncluttered. The creator of the simulation regularly updates the site and keeps it running smoothly. These updates are available for review. All menus and information is consistent within the same view at all times even during navigation of the Solar System, so learners cannot become lost of lose their starting points. The single level menu is at the top of the screen with 7 options that do not disappear, change, or branch into sub-menus.
Manipulation of the viewing experience is key in this simulation and 3D Solar System Web is an excellent model for navigation. The navigation is simple and intuitive because only a mouse is needed for the entire experience; however, keyboard shortcuts in concert with the mouse afford faster navigation to the learner's specific area of interest.
The tutorial is very helpful and comes up immediately for the learner for each visit. The video is short (less than 2 minutes) and primarily covers the navigation process.
The tutorial has a computer-generated voice of very good quality. This speech can be turned off easily in the menu.
This simulation is highly appealing in appearance without too much reading, yet relays all of the important information needed for most lessons. Basically, the Solar System takes center stage, as expected.
Only two languages are supported for this simulation, English and Portuguese. It would be a simple fix to include other languages since this is a universal concept for learning.
Other Issues and Comments:
This site is updated frequently by the creator of the simulation, as evidenced by the update logs. Reviewers were more engaged with the content than the actual simulation properties which is a good indication of high level learner immersion. This simulation would be an excellent addition to any curriculum at the secondary and post-secondary education levels.
One major part of this simulation that affords great flexibility is that the instructor can create their own tour thereby personalizing the experience for that group of learners.
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