About Laura Good

PhD Student, Science Education Free Choice Learning

This past week has confirmed for me that video coding is an arduous task! Right now I’m continuing to code my video data for my dissertation , and working on my criteria for analysis that will allow me to reduce the data and finish answering my research questions. I’m basically looking at the different modes of how docents interact with visitors (speech, gesture, etc) and suggesting patterns in which they interpret science to the public. I’m cross referencing the themes that emerge from this video analysis with my interview data to come up with some overarching outcomes.

So far the themes seem fairly clear, which is a nice feeling. Plus there seems to be a lot of cross over between the patterns in docent interpretation strategies, and what the literature deems effective interpretation. What is interesting is this group of docents have little to no formal interpretive training. So perhaps good communicative practice emerges on its own when you have constant contact with your audience. Food for thought for professional development activities with informal educators…

What’s interesting about this process is how well I know my data, but how tough it is to get it down on paper. I can talk until I am blue in the face about what my outcomes are coming out as, but it’s like translating an ancient text to get it written up in to structured chapters. Ah, the right of passage that is the final dissertation.

All this video coding has also got me thinking about our development of an automated video analysis process for the lab though. What kind of parameters do we set to have it process the vast landscape of data our camera system can collect, and therefore help reduce the data from the word go? As a researcher, imagining a data set that is already partially reduced puts a smile on my face.

So back to coding. I see coded people….

This week at HMSC we have been working on clearing out Dr. Rowe’s old office to make way for a new research office. This office will become the main working area for the FCL research we conduct in the HMSC visitor center. It will also become the office of the new postdoc we will be hiring for the lab in the future.

With the help of the lovely Maureen and Susan, we cleared out old paperwork and moved furniture to create a more open space for collaborative work and equipment storage. We were very happy with the results!

Hopefully the space will simplify project management for research taking place for the lab!


Harrison enjoys the extra space in the new research office!

Susan makes our mark in magnets in the new office

This past week at HMSC, we have been getting back to my old favorite – exhibit design and prototyping. Katie and I have been planning the prototype of the video booth that will go in to the new wave tank area, which is intended to capture visitor reflections when they test out their wave-resilient lego structures in the large tsunami tank.




The idea behind the booth is visitors will build and test their lego structures in the tank, and then have the chance to review footage of their “crash” via an overhead camera above the tsunami tank. The video booth will encourage visitors to reflect on their footage and video record their response. Eventually, the reflections we capture will be used to research how visitors reflect on design and test activities in an ocean engineering context.

Depending on the application interface that is being designed for us to run the video review and record capabilities, the prototype will start simple with a touchscreen device behind a curtained booth. We are hoping that “curtaining” the booth will give it an element of mystery for visitors, and hence a hook to use the exhibit – inspired by our lab group’s visit to the Science Factory last summer, where we played for a long time in a darkened booth that allowed us to explore photosensitive materials.

With the help of Becca and Susan’s interpretive expertise, myself and Allison are also in the process of working on some signage to help visitors explore how different construction materials will affect their lego structure wave-resilience. Mark had the idea to weaken different color legos to represent different materials resistant to wave impact, an idea which Harrison began experimenting with last spring. In this way, the weakened legos are models of different construction materials and, in essence, are weakened using a drilling tool so they have less “cling” to the base plate their fixed to during tank testing. Some are heavily weakened to represent wood, some only moderately to represent concrete, and some not at all to represent steel. The idea is to encourage visitors to experiment with differing “materials” and to generate hypotheses about material effect on design as they build and test their structures.

I love exhibit prototyping, so these tasks have been very enjoyable for me so far! I’ll post some pictures once these get out on the floor.


My dissertation is slowly rising up from the pile of raw data. After crunching survey data, working on checking transcriptions and of course working some inevitable writing this month, I’m starting the process of coding my video observations of docents interacting with visitors. I’ll be using activity theory and multimodal discourse analysis to unpack those actions, and attempt to decipher the interpretive strategies the docents use to communicate science.

This is the really interesting part for me here because I finally get the chance to break down the interpretive practice I’ve been expecting to see. However, what I’m still trying to work out at the moment is how micro-level I should go when it comes to unpacking the discourse and action I’ve observed. For example, in addition to analyzing what is said in each interaction, how much do I need to break down about how it’s said? For potential interpretative activities, where does that activity begin and end? There’s a lot of decisions to be made here, to which I need to go back to my original research questions for. I’m also in the process of recruiting a couple of additional researchers to code a sample of the data for inter-rater reliability of my analysis.

I’ve also been starting the ball rolling for some potential member check workshops with similar docent communities. The idea is to gather some feedback on my findings with these communities in a couple of months or so. I’ve been looking in to docent communities at varying aquariums in both Oregon and California.

So far so good!

With all the new wave exhibit work, visitor center maintenance, server changes and audio testing that has been going on in the last few months, Mark, Katie and I realized that the Milestone system that runs the cameras and stores the video data is in need of a little TLC.

Next week we will be relabeling cameras, tidying up the camera “views” (customized display of the different camera views), and checking the servers. We’ve also been having a few problems with exporting video using a codec that allows the video to be played on other media players outside the Milestone client, so we’re going to attempt to solve that issue too. Basically we have a bit of camera housekeeping to attend to – but a good tidy up and reorganize is always a positive way to start the new year me thinks!

Before the holidays, Mark had also asked me to try out the newly released Axis network covert camera – which although video only, is much smaller and discreet than our dome counterparts, and may be more useful for establishment angles, i.e. camera views that establish a wider view of an area (such as a birds eye view), and don’t necessarily require audio. With the updated wave tanks going in, I temporarily installed one on one of the wave kiosks to test view and video quality. During the camera housekeeping, I’m going to take a closer look at its performance to determine whether we will obtain and install more. They may end up replacing some of the dome cameras so we can free those up for views that require closer angles and more detailed views/audio.

Source: axis.com via Free-Choice on Pinterest


Happy new year everyone!

After all the fun and frivolities of the holiday season, I am left with not only the feeling that I probably shouldn’t have munched all those cookies and candies, but also the grave realization that crunch time for my dissertation has commenced. I’d like to have it completed by Spring and, just like Katie, I’ve hit the analysis phase of my research and am desperately trying not to fall into the pit of never-ending data. All those current and former graduate students out there, I’m sure you can relate to this – all those wonderful hours, weeks and months I have to look forward to of frantically trying to make sense of the vast pool of data I have spent the last year planning for and collecting.


But fear not! ’tis qualitative data sir! And seeing as I have really enjoyed working with my participants and collecting data so far, I am going to attempt to enjoy discovering the outcomes of all my hard work. To me, the beauty of working with qualitative data is developing the pictures of the answers to the questions that initiated the research in the first place. It’s a jigsaw puzzle with only knowing a rough idea of what the image might look like at the end – you slowly keep adding the pieces until that image comes clear. I’m looking forward to seeing that image.

So what do I have to analyze? Well, namely ~20 interviews with docents, ~75 docent observations, ~100 visitor surveys and 2 focus groups (which will hopefully take place in the next couple of weeks).  I will be using the  research analysis tool, Nvivo, which will aid me in cross-analyzing the different forms of data using a thematic coding approach – analyzing for reoccuring themes within each data set. What I’m particularly psyched about is getting into the video analysis of the participant observations, whereby I’m finally going to get the chance to unpack some of that docent practice I’ve been harping on about for the last two years. Here, I’ll be taking a little multimodal discourse analysis and a little activity theory to break down docent-visitor interaction and interpretative strategies observed.

Right now, the enthusiasm is high! Let’s see how long I can keep it up 🙂 It’s Kilimanjaro, but there’s no turning back now.