Michigan Virtual teacher takes class on virtual field trip to Switzerland

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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.

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About Michigan Virtual

Michigan Virtual™ (formally known as Michigan Virtual University®) provides online courses for Michigan students, professional development for educators and is the parent organization of the Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute®. As a nonprofit organization with more than 20 years of experience, Michigan Virtual is Michigan’s leading voice in online education. Visit us at michiganvirtual.org.

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Limited Course Capacity

We’re sorry to inform you that we have reached capacity for several of our Semester 1 and Trimester 1 courses. You’ll notice when attempting to enroll students in our Student Learning Portal that some courses are unavailable. While we are no longer accepting new enrollments for these courses at this time, many courses continue to remain open for enrollment.

With many students across the state 100% remote, demand for our online courses is greater than ever before. Because every course we offer is taught by a Michigan-certified teacher, this high volume of enrollments has created capacity issues for our teachers who provide each and every student with individual feedback.

While the Michigan Virtual team anticipated and planned for significant increases in student enrollments this Fall, the increased demand we’ve experienced has been unprecedented. As a result, we are taking steps to hire even more part-and full-time teachers to support larger numbers of student enrollments for Semester 2 as well as for Trimester 2 and 3. 

For schools that still need online learning options this year, please fill out the form at the bottom of our virtual pathways page to meet with someone to discuss other solutions. While some of our teacher-led courses are full, we may still have the capacity to help you in upcoming terms or can discuss timing to implement a whole-school or collaborative program in which local teachers from your school/district use our online course content to teach students. We also have free course content and resources available for you to use.

We know this is an incredibly stressful time for all, and we’re sorry if the courses you’re looking for are unavailable. We never want to turn away a student who wants to learn from us. Our top concern, however, is student success, and we have a policy to not take on additional enrollments if we cannot guarantee that all students will have a quality online learning experience. 

We appreciate your patience and understanding as we navigate the unusually high volume of enrollments we are receiving.