OK… I owe you all an update from my very productive Brazilian trip and conference presentations. All in all things went really well. All of my 4 presentations were  very well attended and people were not just amazed by the research potential of the Cyberlab but also excited about the possibilities of my research in Brazil. I spent just as much time answering questions as I spent actually presenting, which I think is a good indicator (and yes I answered lots of questions about “IRB” related stuff although not actually called RIB in Brazil).

I was extremely impressed with the level of research being done there. While doing literature reviews here I had a very hard time finding stuff online and having access to citations I knew existed. There is a serious problem of visibility for Brazilian publications not only outside the country’s realm but also within the national research groups doing this kind of research. Therefore, I had a very erroneous idea about the status of museum learning research in Brazilian settings. I really thought they were further behind than they really are. This first international workshop of research in museum education in Sao Paulo was not only crucial for me to be able to network and get involved with the group of museum learning researchers in Brazil but, more importantly,  it gave me a clear understanding of the historical development of museum studies in Brazil, their advancements, challenges and needs for future research (which will immensely influence decisions on my research questions).

Overall,  the status of current museum learning debate is very similar to what we experience here in the US. The same kinds of challenges were put into perspective during the event. There were robust discussions about the definition of learning, the learning theories influencing frameworks for research, where many people referred to the contextual model of learning and YES our  well debated “Vygotsky” came to surface in one of the sessions I participated – THANKS SHAWN for theory meetings! The role of the museum as a “non-formal” setting (as they called instead of informal) and the role of its educators was also largely debated. It was brought up the need for more partnerships between formal and “non-formal” institutions, form more research to identify Brazilian museum common and uncommon audiences and develop strategies to bring scarce audiences such as general family groups to the museum floor.

They also want to shy away from research that only incorporate cognitive aspects of learning to also include affective, aesthetic and other important aspects of cultural and social upbringing, which lead to conversations about the need for more studies on mediation processes and tools, reflecting on practice and inclusion research. I would say “inclusion” is the hot topic at the moment and I may even infer that they have done much more in terms of inclusion research and action than the US has. I was very impressed with the level of knowledge  and experience coming from all participating groups which composed a very diverse audience by the way. Participants included college professors and researchers, graduate students, museum administrators, staff and educators, school teachers, journalists involved with science communication, social inclusion related professionals and so on.

It was an incredibly rich and eye-opening experience for me, putting interdisciplinary initiatives into perspective and raising the issue to everyone participating that more conferences, workshops, and other events as such are in great need for the museum learning research community in Brazil, in order for them to develop better ways of communicating, exchanging efforts and making research results and methodologies available and visible to all community.

I was able to meet my co-advisor and network with many other international and national professionals and graduate students in the field, some who are excited to cooperate with my research and work as mediators when I am not physically there. I am now part of the “GEENF”  – the translation of the acronym stands for “Non-Formal Education and Science Divulgation Research Group”. It was created in 2002 and it is associated with the Science and Math Education Department at the University  of Sao Paulo (USP), partnering with many museums and research institutions, National and International. Here is a link for more information in you wish to adventure into portuguese – http://www.geenf.fe.usp.br/v2/.

It was just great for me to realize I can have a job back home when I graduate, specially when they need many more trained, knowledgable and experienced professionals in the field doing research, partnering with international institutions for cross-cultural research and replication of methodologies applied elsewhere and use of state-of- the-art technology.  Creating a partnership between Hatfield and my research site (as off now the Ubatuba Aquarium in Sao Paulo) is not too far in the horizon for me anymore and, if it gets out of paper successfully,  it has the potential to bring great benefits to both sides involved. I will be applying for some grants here soon, wish me luck!


I have spent 4½ days listening and learning from other environmental educators.  I am at the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) conference in Oakland, CA with two colleagues, Dan Calvert and Jen Wyld.  We have definitely taken the “divide and conquer” idea at this conference so we could experience and share as much as possible.

A few things from this week have really stood out.  While there is not a large informal education presence, this conference has offered a lot of talks that I (and hopefully some of you) have an interest in and I think a lot of them apply to informal learning.

During the Research Symposium, the presenters had us divide into groups and go out into an urban green space.  They challenged us to answer questions that were originally posed by Aldo Leopold to his students: What is happening here?  What has happened here? What should happen here?  We used these questions to think about the more-than-human world.

The actual conference opened Wednesday night with an amazing keynote by Annie Leonard, who talked about “The Story of Stuff” (www.storyofstuff.org/).  Annie was an enthusiastic presenter with so many zingers that I can’t possibly type them all out here!

On Thursday morning, Jen & I (and about 40 other conference attendees) went on an urban hike with Oakland Native American youth.  We learned about their program and the importance of outdoor experiences to their identity and sense of place.


Hector (…and if you are reading this Hector and I misspelled your name, leave a comment or email me for a correction!) was our guide and has been involved with the program for 8 years.  He took us up to Inspiration Point in Joaquin Miller Park.  We spent some time taking in the view of Oakland and then Hector shared that he comes up to this point when he feels stressed, even if it’s at midnight.  He also shared, so eloquently, that “We have to remind ourselves that we all started somewhere.  We all came from the woods.”

On Thursday we heard about how environmental education can integrate equity, inclusion, and diversity.  We also heard from three inspirational women about effective social media (maybe a discussion for another day).

Today is my last day here.  This morning I went to a panel about eating local food and partnering with farmers for education.  This was nicely followed by a visit to the Oakland Farmer’s Market!

Free-Choice Learning Lab Research and cutting-edge technology used will be disseminated Internationally! Brazil here we go to Rio!

Shawn and I have been confirmed to participate at the First International Workshop  on Museum Learning Research, which will take place in Brazil this coming December. We will be participating in round tables about visitor learning research, discussing methodologies and presenting our various research tracks, especially in regards to Hatfield Marine Science Center. We will have the opportunity to share the Cyber lab activities with museum researchers around the world and a bigger population of  Brazilian researchers. This will be a great opportunity to get ourselves known within international scope and to jumpstart my research in Brazil, as well as our partnership with my co-adviser’s “Life Museum”, as a place for professional development exchange and cross-cultural comparison of methodologies used.

We will present the work you have been doing with Shawn (giving the credit you deserve) and the ideas for my research project on family learning in Brazilian Museums. This will be a great opportunity for me to network and narrow down the focus of my research as to what is actually doable within the Brazilian context and with the partners I will be able to get involved with. Generally, we will focus on new methodologies available with the Cyber Lab technological tools and, this way, create opportunities for methodologies to be replicated cross-culturally. They are very interested in what we do, and if we are successful in creating such partnerships, your work at the lab will contribute to the developing field of visitor-focused research in Brazil.

We will keep you updated of what goes on. In addition to post the experience here upon our return. We will probably post and live twit while there to share our immediate impressions and issues raised.

That is it for now. I am so happy to go back home (and I have never been in Rio). I am even happier to go back for this purpose, as I truly want to contribute to this research field in Brazil. Hope I will!


Sorry I missed posting on Friday; I’ve been frantically trying to get ready for my two upcoming conferences, as well as collecting some data last-minute (yay) with some subjects that let’s just say treated scheduling a bit flexibly. My schedule of deadlines in this last week has been:

Aug 14 Geological Society of America abstract deadline – they have a session on eyetracking in the geoscience education section. Digital posters, which means we can show real eyetracking data. Good folks for me to meet in particular.

Aug 15 NARST 2013 proposal – I ended up skipping this; it will just be too much too close to when I’m trying to defend, plus I didn’t have a great proposal to go along with this year’s theme of inequality. Puerto Rico would have been awesome, though. I did get a proposal in in July for AERA instead, which is much closer to home in San Francisco, though even closer to my defense time!

Aug 15 final paper due for the International Science Communication Conference (JHC) – involved getting some friends to translate my abstract and keywords into French, of which I speak about 6 words, none of them “eyetracking.” Presentation was due in July.

Work on a presentation with Shawn and Laura for 6-ICOM; we have an hour and a half between us, but don’t know the audience very well, so we’re hoping our idea of about 45 minutes of presentation and 45 minutes of interactive discussion goes over with them. We’re apparently about the only research group looking at multimodal discourse in learning in museums, and science learning in particular, so we’re not sure how familiar the others will be with why we’re studying what we are, for one thing. However, we should be able to have a good discussion about methods and analysis. We’ll be using Prezi which will allow us to make a record of the discussion and then share it after the conference. Plus we edited it together, which went well except for a couple minor mishaps.

Collect two interviews, one with a subject that contacted me Thursday after having been away and I managed to squeeze the interview in on Friday, and the other with a subject that missed the first appointment.

Aug 20 (tomorrow) leave for Europe for three weeks for two conferences – 6-ICOM and JHC (plus a week of vacation in between in which I try to swing by a museum research group in Germany that’s using mobile eyetracking).

So it’s been a little crazy. I’ve been lining up more of our lab folks to post more regularly as well, so you’ll be hearing more about the variety of projects we’ve got going on.

However, stay tuned to our twitter feed @freechoicelab, as I/we will be doing my best to live tweet from both conferences. Live being 8 or 9 hours ahead of the U.S. West Coast, so maybe you won’t be awake when we are, but still.

Note: This will be my last post as a regular blogger, though most of you will have observed that Katie has taken over as Your Friend and Humble Narrator in recent weeks. You’ll still hear from me. I have much work to do on my project—work that will warrant intermittent updates within the physical context I am studying. Otherwise, I will be working with the animals again due to my appointment as Visitor Center aquarist.

“Who the f*** knows and who the f*** cares?”

The words were on a pin. The pin was on a boonie hat, among many other pins endorsing various causes. The boonie hat was on an old man—an Alaska Native, by my reckoning—riding the Number 3 bus through downtown Anchorage.

“Who the f*** knows and who the f*** cares?”

I thought about that pin for several minutes before I realized why. Those two questions, though glib in intent, inform much of our work. If you ask them of yourself, sincerely and urgently, you might detect some familiarity in them.

Along with several of my colleagues, I spent last week in Anchorage at the National Marine Educators Association conference. We mingled with fellow educators (formal and informal), remembered Bill Hastie (whom I never had the good fortune to meet), explored the city’s FCL facilities and shared research.

The sharing is really it, isn’t it? I think the reasons for exchanging knowledge freely and graciously are more immediate than we tend to recognize. I hear a lot of talk about protecting resources for the future and making the world a better place than it was. I think it’s simpler than that.

Our world has also faced problems. Problems and their solutions change over time. Creation and destruction are not discrete chronological points. They are continuous, ever-present processes. When we exert ourselves toward the preservation of the things that matter—to us or to someone or something else—we save the world. We’re not saving it from the past or for the future, but right in that place at that moment—not a step toward a final goal, but a valuable act in itself. That’s the way it’s done. It’s the way people have always done it, and we’ll never be finished.

“Who the f*** knows and who the f*** cares?”

Let’s find out. Go save the world today.