LEARNING THROUGH COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS
A Journey in Knowledge Exploration and Understanding

The learning model deals with comparative examination of topical relationships. In this case, Columbus's first voyage of exploration and Apollo 17's last voyage to the Moon's surface. The study modus operandi features the related end points of a 1492 ocean voyage and a 1972 space mission. Obvious common themes relate the endeavors: exploration, adventure, a vast distance, transporting vessels, crews, cost, and navigation comprise a short list. The exercise delves into comparing each topic from a 15th and 20th century perspective.

Why does such a comparison contribute to knowledge and learning? In order to assess likenesses and differences of the ventures, facts must be collected via research of credible sources of information. As an example, no consideration of how Santa Maria is like NASA's America is possible without knowing the design and construction of each vessel. History is served in the acquisition of these facts. Certainly, one would expect to compare the oceans of space with the oceans of Earth, the solitude of the mariner with the isolation of an astronaut, or the wood stave construction of a caravel with the form fitted aluminum skeleton of a lunar landing vehicle.

The myriad characteristics of these voyages is so great that virtually any educational discipline is served by the exercise. The mathematics of navigation each voyage employed would benefit those seeking an understanding of geometry. The provisions stowed to sustain the life of respective crews would address the biological needs of mankind in the end point eras. In each case, the entire historic development of the topic would emerge as the student deals with the comparison.

Lastly, the approach of learning through comparative analysis deals with the analytic thought process. It is useful to record rote facts relating Columbus and lunar missions. Yet, a study of how 15th century explorers dealt with their needs, without benefit of 20th century technology, is most fascinating. Witty inventions made their ventures successful. Similar "at the moment of need" innovations led to a lunar landing five hundred years in the future.

Spinoff learning from the comparative analysis genre would include the examination of the development process connecting the historic end point charactereistics. For example, a useful corollary study would be the evolution of navigational aids beginning with Columbus and ending with Apollo 17. This might deave into the transition from "dead reckoning" navigation through the invention of the chronometer for determining longitude, and finally, the use of Global Positioning System (GPS) technology in the 20th century.

Still, a more impressive case can be made for such an investigation. Despite the primitive or advanced technology of an era, the creative ability of men and women is a testament why people make better explorers than robots. How the crew of Apollo 13 dealt with too few carbon dioxide filters using duct tape, and how Columbus used his knowledge of an eclipse to obtain his freedom from New World captivity stand tall. Pursuit of learning through the means of comparative analysis will cause students to put forth similar innovations.

Here is the process:

1. Select the historic end points. (In this case voyages of exploration 500 years apart.)

2. List major categories which apply to each of the end points.

3. Research for each end point facts relating to each major category.

4. Analyze (discuss) likenesses and contrasts of the gathered facts.

5. Examine through additional research the process which led to the characteristic of the modern end point.

For additional learning:

6. For a category, substitute a modern characteristic into the environment of the past venture. Discuss how the mission would have differed.

7. Likewise, subtract a modern characteristic from the environment of the recent venture. Again, analyze how the mission would have differed.

8. Analyze innovative solutions discovered by participants in each era which were independent of the technological state of the art.

Suggested Resources:

1. Admiral of the Ocean Sea by Samuel Eliot Morison. This comprehensive text deals with virtually all facets suggested by Comparative Analysis for Learning. It is widely available at modest cost for student or instructor reference.

2. Space Educators' Handbook CDROM or website (http://vesuvius.jsc.nasa.gov/er/seh ) The comprehensive content of this resource covers all areas suggested by Comparative Analysis for Learning and was often used to develop this work. The CDROM is available at no cost to those sending a blank CD-R to: Jerry Woodfill, NASA JSC (ER7), Houston, TX 77058 with a letter requesting the CDROM.

3. All We Did Was Fly To The Moon by Dick Lattimer. This is an excellent inexpensive soft paper text of the history of manned space flight. Numerous photos, sketches, and diagrams grace the book. Highly recommended for the space portion of Comparative Analysis for Learning.

4. Apollo Expeditions to the Moon, Editor Edgar M. Cortright. NASA's most thorough history of the manned lunar program with regard to text, photos and diagrams. Designated SP-350 the text is available from the U.S. Government Printing Office in Washington, D.C. The entire text with photos, diagrams, and sketches is available on the Internet at the NASA Headquarters web site (http://www.nasa.gov) among the historical content pages.


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