The World Wide Web has long been considered a powerful instrument for sharing information, providing individuals and organizations with a way of distributing large amounts of information to a diverse and often widely dispersed group of people. But web sites have often lacked the interactivity that many required–that is until now.
Wolfram Research has recently developed webMathematica, a new technology that enables Mathematica functionality over the web and is quickly becoming instrumental to those interested in creating interactive web sites. Using webMathematica, researchers, scientists, and artists can use web documents to showcase their work; companies can easily deploy calculators, algorithms, and problem solvers over the web or their intranet; and schools, universities, and other educational establishments can deliver sophisticated courses over the web, including highly interactive courseware.
The Danish Ministry of Education is one of the first organizations to use webMathematica technology for education, establishing a new pilot program in Denmark that may change the way future generations of high school students are educated throughout the world. In an effort to investigate new ways to utilize advanced math programs in teaching and learning at the high school level, the Danish Ministry of Education has developed a program in which 24 participating schools will implement Mathematica-based courses that will be accessible via a specially designed intranet utilizing webMathematica technology.
The project is being spearheaded by UNI-C, the Danish Ministry’s information technology branch, with support from Wolfram Research. Wolfram Research is working with UNI-C to provide training on the development of a webMathematica-enabled site and to equip each school with a 30-process Network Mathematica license. Network servers have also been donated by Wolfram Research to make Mathematica available to students and staff both at school and at home.
The courseware the schools will be using is “specifically designed to be used in conjunction with Mathematica…[and] covers major parts of the curriculum,” explains Kurt Bøge, a Chief Consultant at UNI-C and the appointed project leader for this study. Lessons in historical mathematics, calculus, vector calculus, mathematical modeling, number theory, mathematics and the economy, and 3D analytic geometry are being developed and distributed as Mathematica notebooks that can be accessed along with other materials and student projects via a specially designed web site. The courseware is being integrated with webMathematica, allowing students to complete each interactive lesson online and submit their homework electronically upon completion.
To facilitate communication and interaction between those involved in the study, an intranet has been created to link the 24 schools together. Students and teachers will be provided with access to electronic discussion forums in which they can offer support and share ideas.
Denmark has one of the leading educational systems in the world, with an extensive information technology infrastructure already in place. “Our main objective is to raise the quality of high school education to a higher level,” says Bøge. Should the pilot program prove successful, the Danish Ministry of Education plans to implement it throughout the entire educational system so that every high school–approximately 350 in all–will use webMathematica and Mathematica as an interactive learning tool.