I have been absent from blog posting as of late due to the whirlwind of grad school, but that also means there is quite a bit to share related to work in the lab and research!  My last post described the experience at ASTC in North Carolina – a great opportunity to see work at other science and technology centers, and to meet professionals in the field that are doing incredible things at these locations.  Since then I have been ramping up on my personal research, but also balancing coursework.

I am really excited to be enrolled in Oregon State University’s Free Choice Learning (FCL) series this year.  Everything I was learning “in the field” is now gaining context through courses in personal, sociocultural, and physical dimensions of learning.  I have the opportunity to practice evaluation methods through assignments and read papers related to my research on family group interactions in the museum.  I am thankful that I get to take these classes from Dr. John Falk and Dr. Lynn Dierking, two researchers that have studied FCL for many years!

In the visitor center, we are focused on getting our facial recognition cameras consistently working and capturing data.  We have been collecting images, but getting 11 cameras to stream a lot of data at the same time is challenging as both the hardware and software have to sync.  This has been a great learning opportunity in trial and error, but also learning the “language” of a field I am not familiar with.  As I have to troubleshoot with engineers and software developers, I have been learning vocabulary related not only to the camera system, but also the usability of configuring the cameras and the software.  Beyond the task of setting this up, it is an experience that I will reflect on with future projects that require me to learn the language of another industry, embrace trial and error, and patience in the process.

In addition to Cyberlab duties, I am busy coding video of families using the multi-touch table collected in August 2014.  Over the past twenty years, research on family learning has shown us how exhibits are often used (much of this research was done by Falk, Dierking, Borun, Ellenbogen, among others).  I am curious about the quality of interactions occurring at the touch table between adults and children.  I developed a rubric based on three different dimensions of behaviors – responsive engagement, learning strategies and opportunities, and directive engagement, and whether they are observed at low, moderate, or high levels.  These categories are modified from the types of behavior outlined by Piscitelli and Weier (2002) in relation to adult-child interactions surrounding art.  From their work, they found that a distribution of behaviors from these categories support the value of the interactions (Piscitelli & Weier, 2002).  Each category looks at how the adult(s) and child(ren) interact with each other while manipulating the touch table.  I also modeled the rubric after what is used in the classroom to assess teacher and student interactions around tasks.

An example of a high level of responsive engagement would be that the adults and children are in close proximity to each other while using the exhibit, their hands are on the touch surface for a majority of the time, the adults are using encouraging words and acknowledging the child’s statements or questions, and there similar levels of emotional affect expressed between them.  Learning strategies focuses more on the verbalization of the content of the exhibit and the integration of information, such as connecting the content to prior knowledge or experiences external to exhibit use.  Finally, directive engagement looks at whether the adult is providing guidance or facilitating use of exhibit by directing a task to be performed, showing a child how to accomplish the activity.  From this data, I hope to understand more at depth how the table is used and the ways adults and children interact while using it.  This may give us some idea as to how to support software and content design for these forms of digital interactives, which are becoming more popular in the museum environment.

My goal is to have videos coded by the end of the month, so back to work I go!

Piscitelli, B., & Weier, K. (2002). Learning With, Through, and About Art: The Role of Social Interactions. In S. G. Paris (Ed.), Perspectives on Object-Centered Learning in Museums (pp. 121–151). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.


I started “18th” grade this past week, also known as the second year of my two year program at OSU.  The beginning of a new academic year is a great time to reflect and I’ve been thinking about my evolution as a graduate student and on the work we have accomplished in the Cyberlab thus far.  Since my first posts from last year, much of what I wrote about being patient in the process still rings true.  Iteration and refinement help to direct the course.  As I have made progress in my own research study, I still have to be patient as the project unfolds as some unique results may appear that I might otherwise miss.  Looking forward to where I might be next September is exciting too.  It is unknown at this time, but thinking about all of the potential opportunities…who knows!

I am proud to say that I have transitioned into the analysis phase of my Master’s research.  I have some results from my interviews of the families that used the touch table, but more will be following as I start to review the videos.  One challenge has been to develop a strategy for analyzing the video of families using the table.  This is something I have not done before.  There are some resources for analyzing video in non-school settings, so I am referencing that heavily.  One book that has been particularly helpful is Video Research in the Learning Sciences (Goldman, Pea, Barron, and Derry, 2007).  This is the most comprehensive source with theoretical and methodological guidance I have seen, especially with connections to filming observations in an informal science setting.  As family behavior and interactions in a museum setting has been studied (Falk, Dierking, Ash, to name a few), we have a better idea of the types of behaviors that take place in this environment.  I am interested in the degree to which they are occurring around the touch table.  We know parents may read content on signage aloud, point, question, recall past events…but to what extent is this happening with technology that is not commonly seen (at least scaled to a table on a daily basis)?  I’m going to approach this on a spectrum or scale of low to high levels of the presence of behaviors.  Using a rubric as a way to score the interactions, something done to assess teacher facilitation in the classroom, I believe this is a way to put a “measure” on the adult and child interactions.  From the results, we may have a better idea of what the quality of interaction with touch tables looks like in a science center, allowing us to point to specific areas to improve content that affords these behaviors on a deeper level.

This quarter I also started taking the free-choice learning series through the College of Education.  It is perfect timing as I work through my research project.  I am gaining knowledge and a better understanding of what learning is and the context to which it takes place, and how we do not learn in isolation.  Our perspectives and experiences can be shaped by those around us, one reason for my interest in family learning behaviors.  The first course is “Personal Dimensions of Learning” and I appreciate the new resources to read about motivations and identity as related to self-driven learning.  As this is an Ecampus course, there are students from around the country doing incredible science education projects both in and outside of a formal classroom setting.  I am looking forward to getting to know them better as the quarter progresses.

Next post will recount my first experience at the annual meeting of the Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC).  I will be tweeting from Raleigh next week – follow me @East_JennyL.