Webcasts bring Titanic explorer to classroom

Dr. Robert Ballard was about three kilometres under the ocean when he thought to himself, This is too good not to share. This was 1986, and at the time was looking out a porthole at the RMS Titanic.

Jump to today and he’s sharing his discovery travels with school children around the world

thanks to the Jason Project. Named after the Greek explorer who sought the Golden Fleece, the project is a collaboration between the private and public sectors to bring Ballard’s expeditions to classrooms. In the past he has visited Belize, Hawaii and in May 1990 the Jason team examined two War of 1812 schooners on the bottom of Lake Ontario.

EDS has one of the major sponsors of the initiative from Day 1, according to Brad Rucker, executive director of EDS bluesphere, the firm’s interactive design agency.

“”We’re Dr. Ballard’s IT partner, so we take care of data communications, IT, interactive course ware, Web sites, etc.””

This year EDS and Ballard have set up shop in Alaska to study climate change. On Monday it began broadcasting live, hour-long Webcasts about the team’s work. There is also a Quick Time, 360 degree tour available on the EDS Web site.

“”You get to go through and touch certain points inside that tunnel. For instance, you get to see a 14,000-year-old bison jaw bone,”” says Rucker. “”You get to see a silted up stream bed that died 12,000 year ago, you get to see lakes that froze 30,000 years ago.””

Jason, however, offers more than passive teaching tools.

“”There are representatives from different schools that get to participate hands-on. Through the broadcasts — through that telepresence — some selected students at participating schools get to drive robot explorers looking at the ice, different parts of that particular environment, how plants and animals survive and thrive in the cold,”” Rucker says.

Tannis Wengel, project manager for Jason Project, is responsible for working with teachers, schools and ministries to get the curriculum into Canadian classrooms. “”The potential is huge, and right now we’re working with three different provinces,”” she says. And this isn’t the only Canadian content.

“”We have some Canadian scientists working with the Jason Project right now in the Arctic providing Canadian content to the curriculum,”” Wengel says. “”We actually have Canadian scientists lined up working with the Jason Project in the Channel Islands.””

One of the goals, Rucker says, is to continue the time-honoured tradition of having children know more about technology than their parents.

“”We teach kids to be modern explorers, and there’s two key technologies we teach them about: one is GPS (global positioning system) and the other one is GIS, geographic information systems. Is a seven-year-old going to interested in GPS and GIS? Absolutely.””

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