Last month I wrote about Literacy in the 21st Century and the wonderful new project evaluation I’m working on, Project SEAL. I first want to share a blog post that the Model Classroom team wrote about their time with the Project SEAL teachers during the professional development in February. It has a wonderful synopsis of the two days as well as some teacher reflections.

Since the February professional development, I have turned my attention to the family literacy nights. I have never attended a family literacy night. They were not part of my K-12 experience and I have never heard of or seen them as a researcher/evaluator. The Project SEAL team told me that literacy nights can differ greatly and they did not have standards for the schools to follow for these events. This presented some troubles with me as an evaluator. How can you standardize an evaluation tool for something that looks different each time?

After having some conversations with the Project SEAL team, we decided on a short and sweet survey. Something parents would be willing to fill out throughout the night and something that would focus on literacy, ocean science resource use, as well as structure of the event. We hope that these literacy nights 1) lead to families checking out ocean-related books (purchased for the libraries through the grant), 2) give parents an opportunity to see technology that is being incorporated into literacy (the grant also bought a classroom set of iPad mini’s for each school), and 3) give teachers and students time to present on learning experiences they’ve had with the iPads and new reading material available in the library. Here are the questions on the Family Literacy Night survey.

1) What was your (or your child’s) favorite part of this Family Literacy Night?

2) What went well during this Family Literacy Night?

3) What suggestions for improvement do you have for future Family Literacy Nights?

4)What did you hope to take away from tonight’s Family Literacy Night?  (check all that apply)

More activities and games to do at home

Information on what is being done in my child’s classroom

Information on assessment in reading and writing

Information about how children learn to read and write

Information on how to work with the school and my child’s teacher

New resources available in the library

Ways to use technology with my child at home

How my child’s class has been using library resources

5)You or your child have checked out ocean science resources to read together at home.

6) Your child presented or talked about a class project at this Family Literacy Night.

7) You learned what you wanted to learn tonight.      Agree / Neutral / Disagree

8)Tonight I gained new information about ocean science resources available to my child through his/her school library.     Agree / Neutral / Disagree

Hopefully the data can be useful in proving the effectiveness of this project but also give the schools some ideas for future family literacy nights.

Part of my thesis project involves semi-structured phone interviews with COASST citizen science volunteers.  I’m patiently awaiting IRB approval for my project, and in the meantime I’ve completed 4 practice interviews with COASST undergraduate interns.  I ended up using the ZOOM H2 recorder, which has a lead with an earpiece microphone.  It worked great!  If anyone needs to do phone interviews, I recommend this audio recorder.  A friend also told me he used the Olympus digital voice recorder (VN 8100PC) for his interviews, which was sometimes tucked into his shirt pocket around a campfire… and he said he could hear everything perfectly!  Just thought I’d share.

Now that I have 4 transcriptions from my practice interviews, I’m getting more familiar with what the heck I’m supposed to do with my interview data once I actually collect it!  I re-read the book Qualitative Data: An Introduction to Coding and Analysis by Auerbach and Silverstein, and organized the practice transcripts into relevant text, repeating ideas, and themes.  I first did this in a Word document, but it seemed a little clunky.  I learned some people use Excel for this too.  Now I’ve downloaded NVivo and am learning my way around that program.  There’s a little bit of a learning curve for me, but I think I’ll really like it once I get the hang of it.  It’s been fun, and admittedly a little intimidating, to work through the mechanics of coding text for the first time.  Luckily for me, I have some great mentors and am getting great advice.  I’m excited to see what I’m able to make of the interview data, and looking forward to using NVivo for other projects I’m working on too!

Every week we have two lab meetings, and during both we need to use online conferencing software. We’ve been at this for over a year, and in all that time we’ve only managed to find a free software that is marginally acceptable (Google Hangouts). I know that part of our problem is the limited bandwidth on the OSU campus, because when classes are out our problems are fewer, but even with adequate bandwidth we still can’t seem to get it to work well. Feedback, frozen video, plugins that stop working.  It’s frustrating, and every meeting we lose at least 15 minutes to technical issues.

Someone in the lab commented one day that we always seem to be about a year ahead of software development in our need. Online meetings, exhibit set ups, survey software. Every time we need something, we end up cobbling something together. I’ve decided to take these opportunities as character building and a testament to our skills and talent. Still, it’d be nice to spend time on something else once in a while.


If you google “record phone call” or “digital audio recorder+phone,” you may end up watching spy videos.  Thanks for the entertaining spy videos Google, but I’m just trying to do my thesis.  I’m trying to figure out how to record my phone interviews, and this won’t be done secretly.

The OSU Student Media Services desk at the library is extremely helpful, and they have a ton of equipment to check out.   They have a device that connects to the Zoom H2 digital audio recorder, and plugs into your ear.  Both me and the person on the phone will be recorded.  Unfortunately, it’s broken!  They said they will try to order another device soon, along with some other types of leads (things that plug into my phone and the recorder).

I’ve heard it’s good to have 2 recorders working, just to be safe, so  I’m also looking into apps that record calls.  I’ve seen a few for iPhones, but I have an Android.  Free Android apps include Record My Call, Call Recorder, and Auto Call Recorder.  One question… What are the privacy rules with these apps?  Will any outside party be able to access the recording?

If anyone has suggestions for recording phone interviews, PLEASE (!) let me know!  Thanks 🙂

Our climate change “exhibit” is rapidly losing its primacy as an exhibit on which we do research to instead becoming a  research platform that we set up as an exhibit. The original plan was to design an exhibit on a multitouch table around climate change and research, among other things, how users interact and what stories they choose to tell as related to their “6 Americas” identity about climate change.

After Mark attended the ASTC conference, in talking with Ideum folks and others, we’ve decided what we really need to build is a research platform on the table, with exhibit content just as the vehicle for doing that research. That means instead of designing content and asking research questions about it, we’re taking the approach of proposing the research questions, then finding content to put on that allows us to investigate those questions. The good news is that a lot of content already exists.

So, with that in mind, we’re taking the tack now of identifying the research questions we’re interested in in order to build the appropriate tools for answering those questions. For example,

-How do people respond to the table, and what kinds of tools do we need to build so that they will respond, especially by creating their own narratives about the content?

-How can we extend the museum’s reach beyond the building itself, for example, by integrating the multitouch exhibit and handheld tools? What is the shelf life of interactions in the museum?

-What are the differences between the ways groups and individuals use the table, or the differences between the horizontal interactions of the table-based exhibit vs. the more traditional “vertical” interactions provided by other exhibits (did you play Ms. Pac Man differently when it was in the table version vs. the stand-up kiosk?)

-How can we help facilitate visualization understanding through simulations on the table where visitors can build comparisons and manipulate factors in the data to create their own images and animations?

What other questions with the multitouch table should we build research tools to answer?