Review by Jenny Bristol, Common Sense Education | Updated September 2015

WorldWide Telescope

Treasure trove of astronomical imagery and facts

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Grades
7-12 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: Tons of great imagery and information curated from world-class observatories.

Cons: The breadth and depth of content can easily overwhelm a new user.

Bottom Line: A bit like a jazzed-up textbook, the game curates an incredible amount of top-notch content great for learning about the universe.

Connect a computer to a project and turn any classroom into a planetarium. Using the search function, teachers can move quickly from one cosmic highlight to the next. Or, using the effective but unfortunately limited number of included tours, a class can sit back and watch as an expert runs the show. Best of all, any recorded tour can be jumped into and out of. Simply point the telescope somewhere else, do some exploring, and then seamlessly resume the tour. Teachers can also record custom interactive tours complete with audio synced to highlights specific to class content. In addition, more tours can be downloaded from the online community, and the WorldWide Telescope Ambassadors website contains lesson plans, classroom resources, lab experiences, and plenty of guidance.

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Making space exploration accessible to all, WorldWide Telescope is a simple premise on an intergalactic scale: What if students had their own little computer-based planetariums, complete with 3-D models of the solar system and access to telescopic imagery from places such as NASA? They'd end up with a deep and detailed atlas of the stars useful for amateurs and pros alike. With a click of the mouse, students can zoom across the cosmos to take a peek at a nearby pulsar or reach into the depths of space to observe a colorful nebula. Each point in space is filled with the best of the best images collected from telescopes around the world. Students can also sit back, click on a recorded tour, and watch as an expert flies them through highlights in the night sky.

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Students get access to stunning, up-to-date, and globally collected scientific data. With a backyard telescope, students might pick out the craters of the moon or get a glimpse of Mars; with WorldWide Telescope students can soar over the moon's surface or past Saturn's rings and then take a peek at the swirling arms of the Andromeda galaxy. They can traverse the entire Messier catalog of space objects in order, regardless of time of day or year.

Without much instructional support, students might feel lost, as if they've had a dictionary dropped on their desks and been told to learn to read. But used in the right context with plenty of guidance and direction, WorldWide Telescope can be a powerful tool for learning about the universe. More advanced students may want to create their own interactive tours and share them with others in the attached community or use the open-source code and create something really revolutionary.

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Overall Rating
4

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
3

The content is gorgeous and incredibly absorbing, but it's accessed through a less-than-ideal interface that's hard to navigate.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
4

Between tours that walk you through the stars, lots of images, and access to hard data, there’s lots here to learn. Some students could get lost without scaffolding and support.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
3

There's a basic FAQ and an online help guide, a selection of tours to guide exploration, and lesson plans for middle and high school teachers. Still, it takes practice to learn how to use the tool.


Common Sense Reviewer
Jenny Bristol Homeschooling parent

Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Adrienne D. , Early childhood provider
Early childhood provider
4
Visually Stimulating for Preschoolers

My overall opinion about his product as a teaching tool is it serves best as an extension but not as a teaching tool for preschoolers. My students did not learn anything but grew appreciation for the Milky Way and a deeper understanding of how it looks in outer space. I liked that it was a great way to visually stimulate the children and gain their interest in the views of space.

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