PLANETARIUMS are usually "theatrical": a show begins at a prearranged time (you might have even purchased a ticket), the lights grow dim, a presenter sits at the controls and begins a narrative about ancient knowledge and the constellations, shows a stack of dazzling photos, the lights come back on, and the audience wakes up and shuffles out.
How is the SkyDome different?
We'd like you to imagine it set up in your astronomy classroom semi-permanently. Or at least for several weeks during your "astronomy unit". And it's quick and portable enough to share between classrooms, if that's the way you need to do it. Teacher A has it for 2 weeks, then it goes to teacher B...
In most classrooms, we can suggest ways to hang it / mount it / display it so it's always available, but takes up minimal floor space. And no fan, so it can be completely unobtrusive when not in use. It's very lightweight, so it's easy to manage & lift & hang & install.
It's really simple technology (computer & projector) so your students can learn how to activate it and operate it. Depending on your classroom, you might have your projector permanently positioned, or it might be on a small cart, which your students can learn to move to amrks taped on the floor.
You use it several times a week, for 15 minute sessions to illustrate a particular concept: eclipses, planetary surfaces, the lives of stars.
It's easy to use, just as easy as pivoting a classtime work session to a presentation on the white board for the last 15 minutes. Students can see it from anywhere in the room, and it's also quick to get students to move their chairs close to the SkyDome. And they can still have plenty of space between each other, and if a student needs to leave, they can easily do so without tripping, because the SkyDome doesn't require complete room darkness to be effective.
But we'd like you to imagine taking this to a higher level altogether...
The REAL power of the SkyDome comes from its uptime; its continuous availability.
Your students can CREATE.
Most "planetarium software" available now allows and encourages users to make and share PRESENTATIONS. We're most familiar with WORLDWIDE TELESCOPE (WWT), which allows users to go most anywhere in the universe, and make "tours". We've had great success using WWT with students, helping them to learn the mechanics of making single-subject tours with inserted text, graphics, narration, and background music.
These tours are an example of a superb multifaceted collaborative open-ended project. Research. Reading. Analyzing. Sequencing. Spatial Awareness. Time Scaling. Managing files. Project communication & management. Public speaking. Iterative improvement. Storyboarding.
Students do the bulk of their "tour making" using laptop or desktop computers. They will, of course, eventually present their finished work on the SkyDome. But along the way, they can transfer their tour-in-progress to the SkyDome, and preview it for their teacher and peers.
The REAL power of the SkyDome?
Your students can CREATE.