Andrew Vanden Heuvel, Michigan Virtual for Students online physics teacher and “Glass Explorer” recently became the first teacher to teach a science class from inside the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland.
Vanden Heuvel was invited to visit CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, in Geneva, Switzerland, as a result of his selection as a Glass Explorer, a select group of people who were chosen by Google to test its new product, Google Glass. Google Glass is a wearable computer with a head-mounted display.
With Glass, users can take phone calls, send texts, take photos and video, show maps, and – as Vanden Heuvel demonstrated – take a class of students inside a particle accelerator underground in Switzerland as they sat in a classroom in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
“As a physics teacher, visiting the world’s largest particle accelerator was a dream come true. As an online physics teacher, I knew that Glass could help me turn this into a once-in-a-lifetime learning opportunity for my students,” Vanden Heuvel said.
Vanden Heuvel’s trip to CERN, April 25 to May 4, included a day visiting the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest and highest-energy particle accelerator. The device allows physicists to test their theories of particle and high-energy physics. It lies in a tunnel that’s over 500 feet deep, in a 17-mile loop, which Vanden Heuvel navigated partly by bicycle.
“Access to the tunnel is very restricted and even fewer people get to actually bike in the tunnel. In fact, fewer people have biked in the LHC tunnel than have climbed Mount Everest!” Vanden Heuvel said. “Needless to say, I’m the first person who has ever taught a science class from inside the LHC tunnel. Seeing just a small portion of the whole loop, I was overwhelmed by the size of it all. The fact that I was able to share this experience with students, even answering their questions in real-time, is simply mind-blowing.”
South Christian High School students saw what Vanden Heuvel saw and listened as he told them what he was experiencing, all through Google Glass, a device that very few people have even seen, let alone used as a teaching tool. About 10,000 people around the world – beta testers and winners of the “If I Had a Glass” contest – will have the devices until they are made commercially available sometime later this year.
“We are fortunate to have Andrew on our team to reinvent K-12 education. He has a remarkable curiosity to learn about new tools like the Google Glass which can be used to improve teaching and learning,” said Jamey Fitzpatrick, President and CEO of Michigan Virtual. “He is a true pioneer in the 21st century as he explores new ways to engage students to ensure their academic success. I view Andrew as an ‘education rock star’ and our online students will benefit from his creative passion for making science interesting and fun at the same time.”
“As an online teacher, I frequently say, ‘it’s not about the technology, but what you can do with it.’ We have now reached an inflection point in the evolution of technology where each new advance means we see technology less and can do more with it,” Vanden Heuvel said. “What a tremendously exciting time to be in education!”
Vanden Heuvel has taught physics and mathematics for Michigan Virtual since 2009. He also teaches courses in app development and geographic information systems for teachers through Michigan LearnPort, a division of Michigan Virtual that provides online professional development solutions for members of the K-12 community.
Vanden Heuvel’s also a science education consultant for USA Today Education and a physics and astronomy professor at Calvin College. He’s a NASA Solar System Educator and was recognized as a Hubble Space Telescope Gold Star Educator. In 2010, Vanden Heuvel was named Michigan Online Teacher of the Year and then a finalist for National Online Teacher of the Year.
About Michigan Virtual
Michigan Virtual is a private, nonprofit Michigan corporation established by the State of Michigan in 1998 to serve as a champion for online learning. It is the parent organization of the Michigan Virtual for Students and Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute.