Cyberlab Adventures in Brazil (Part I)

Welcoming sun, great food, and warm people came to greet us upon our arrival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. For me, it is always so good to be home, and this time home at the “wonderful City” to learn about the advancements in science communication taking place in Brazil and Latin America in general. Make no assumptions, this was not a “have fun in the sun” trip, although I would have liked to have spent some time at a tropical beach where swimming is the main activity. Instead, as hard workers and, let’s be honest, good museum nerds, we got to visit Museums and work on strategic evaluation and research planning around some exhibits.

Our first activity involved a whole day visit to the “Museu Ciencia e Vida” (Museum of Science and life) to see and discuss an exhibit called “Forest of Senses”. Luisa Massarani, a former Cyberscholar and Director of Red-Pop UNESCO (Network for the popularization of science and technology in Latin America and the Carebean) is a part of the team in charge of evaluation and research on children’s experience in the exhibit. After a 4 hour meeting, we discussed and finalized the whole research plan and stages of analyses. It felt very rewarding to be recognized as researchers with valuable expertise and to contribute to cutting edge learning research in the Brazilian landscape. Forest of Senses is a great exhibit designed to work as a game activity  for younger kids (5-8 years of age) to explore the Brazilian forest habitats and, through using their senses, be provoked and able to explore the ideas around biodiversity, invasive species and wildlife traffic (which is a big problem in Brazil). When we walked through the exhibit to see the initial camera installation and testing through the system package we arranged for them to become a “node” of  Cyberlab, it was like reliving the past when Cyberlab started, amidst tons of duck tape and creative solutions for IT problems. As we move forward in this collaboration, it will be interesting to share the process, findings and cultural clashes in the use of cutting edge technology.

To finalize this part I in the summary of our trip, we spent our last 2 days in Rio participating at the RedPop Event organized by Luisa Massarani, with the goal to discuss the science communication scenario in Latin America, where Brazil holds 260 of the total 490 science museums established. It was a great event, I even got to be interviewed by a science journalist for the first time (way to practice my communicating skills). It seems to me Latin America has come long ways not only in the effort of establishing science museums but in the reflection on evaluation and research practices to attend the cultural use of these places. From this event, we came out with fresh ideas on methods for learning research, with many bridges to collaboration in interdisciplinary projects including touch-tank research in Brazilian aquariums, and with a amazing contact list with the names of great science communication researchers throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. It was also very professionally rewarding to receive recognition for the cutting edge work being developed at Cyberlab and seeing its potential to really materialize and spread. Stay tune for more!

IMG_20140914_130320_257RedPop2014_3

RedPop2014RedPop2014_2


To Tweet or not to Tweet

I have been Tweeted! This summer I spent more time than usual traveling and presenting at conferences, or padding my CV, whichever. It is a good time to focus on this part of my academic career- I am the home stretch- done with classes and able to focus more on my own particular interests, and I still get to register for conferences at the discounted student rate! It is pretty much win-win. As I was traveling to the Chicago area anyway for a family gathering, it seemed like a good idea to submit a proposal to speak at a conference happening there at the same time. At least I will save on airfare, I figured. So, I cobbled together yet another talk on Maker culture and was accepted to present at the first annual EdTech Teacher Summit. After presenting at and attending the ISTE conference in Atlanta earlier in the summer (with about 14,000 other attendees!), this conference was on a much smaller scale, and with only 6 choices per session compared to about a hundred, I didn’t really know what to expect in terms of audience.

The talk was scheduled for a full hour, the longest I have presented while in graduate school. All in all, I do feel like it was one of my more successful presentations. Having more time to delve into the topic and integrate more opportunities for it to be interactive than a more typical 30 minute talk (with time for Q&A!) let me relax and enjoy the experience. I was also able to pull the audience in more during the talk, to contribute their experiences- anything to break up the “sage on the stage” format! However, this is always a bit risky, and there was a man in the audience who made a comment that made it apparent that he had been expecting my talk to cover more advanced territory, while I was focused on “what is Make?” and “how can it be implemented?” Yet, he was pleasant and stayed until the end, so I approached him after the talk and apologized if my title had been misleading. He assured me that he had enjoyed the talk and gotten things out of it, and I would see that from the Tweets he had sent out during the talk.

So, as soon as I was back in the car, I whipped out my smart phone and got on Twitter. Lo and behold- I had been Tweeted about! I am not sure why, but seeing so many comments with my Twitter handle (wyld_peace) attached to them was quite a rush! From the feed, it seems that there were at least four people who were Tweeting out during the talk, posting quotes and even photos of some of the slides. And not only was it an incredible ego boost, it was also great, real-time feedback about what comments and slides had more of an impact on the audience. And, I was able to see not only what mattered to that immediate audience, but then what was favorited and retweeted from the feed. What a great experience in “real” assessment!

As part of the FCL lab’s foray into social media, some of us have taken to Tweeting when we are at conferences or workshops, although I always feel a little self-conscious when I do it. “Really, I am not on Facebook or texting, I am Tweeting your talk”, I want to say. Yet, as a presenter, I did not notice anyone on their phones or tablets or such, in ways that were distracting or felt rude to me.

In short, to all of you on the fence- I say Tweet on! From my own perspective as a presenter, it is flattering and an informative source of feedback, and when I am in the audience, I am paying special attention to find things that would be interesting to Tweet, so I might even be more attentive. This is a great use of social media that can make our learning and sharing more interactive- which is one thing we do know makes learning more effective and impactful! See you in the Twitterverse!


Cyberlab joins Latin America Discussion on Visitor Meaning Making

“Hands-On Science Museums and Their Visitors” is the topic of a two-day conference coming up September in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Cyberlab will represent Hatfield Science Center/Oregon State University and will join other Science communication professionals from  Argentina, Brasil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, United States, Mexico and the United Kingdom to engage in dialogue about visitor meaning making, basically the kind of conversation we are very enthusiastic about engaging in and promoting, especially in such a multicultural setting.

Luisa Massarani, who was a Cyberscholar this Summer and who is the Director of the RedPop, the Network for Science Communication for Latin America and the Caribbean, organized this event to discuss strategies Museums around the world employ not only to investigate learning but also how a diverse public construct meaning from their visits. Although a bit intimidated I will admit, I am supper excited to participate in this event because it strikes me as a place where paradigmatic shifts in learning research are possible and in fact welcome, as a place where we can make room to discuss strategies to capture and analyze meaning making, to look at visitors from their perspectives, to go beyond the traditional measures of learning outcomes in research, to really give our visitors a voice we can dialogue with in the academic written world.

We talk about this need for a new culture of learning in our Free-Choice Lab meetings, Luisa talked about that in her seminar presentation as a Cyberscholar and the need to understand “provocation” and build provocative exhibits. Shawn and I talked about this in an article just published in the NAI Magazine “Legacy”, which led us to an invitation to expand this thinking through a series of articles for the InterpNews Magazine next year. As these kinds of dialogues spread and increase (as it seems to be happening in my opinion), this discussion becomes highly related to current dialogues on learning research methods and applications in the world of practice. I have been recently involved with the new “Methods” Research Interest Group of NARST (National Association for Research in Science Teaching) and the current development of a broad scope dialogue on learning research that seems to be heading in the direction of valuing these paradigmatic discussions and the need to change.

Even though we are all trying to do this kind of more inclusive, learner-based research in our work, we need to see ourselves as important voices in the larger network of discussions, and commit to speak our mind in fruitful and inclusive ways.  Meetings like this really allow us to reflect on how we are trying to do that in the context not just of our own lab and cohort here, but in the larger international context as well. It also gives us a chance to make things real, to move from discussion to actual application invigorated by the good work of others and motivated by our own growth and learning as professionals in the field.

To learn more about RedPop visit the following pages:

http://www.redpop.org/redpopasp/paginas/InfoPrensaDetalle.asp?SitioID=1&InfoPrensaId=90

http://www.redpop.org/redpopasp/paginas/pagina.asp?PaginaID=3


Designing interactive data visualizations for learning (by Katie Stofer and Lisa Anthony)

Last week, Katie Stofer and Lisa Anthony from the University of Florida spent a week in residence at Hatfield Marine Science Center as part of the Cyberscholars program. Here is their account of their week:

We are interested in investigating how people learn science in informal settings such as the science center, in this case, specifically through interactions with visualizations of global ocean data. During the week in residence, we observed users interacting with exhibits on an Ideum multi-touch table, the same multi-touch screen mounted on the wall, and a traditional touch screen kiosk that controls a 3-foot spherical Magic Planet display. We also conducted semistructured interviews with visitors to understand how the exhibits were working for them or falling short and how the exhibits could be improved. Lisa got acquainted with the Cyberlab setup at HMSC, including the camera system and its synchronized audio stream, and Katie got re-acquainted — she actually worked on the installation of the system as a graduate student. Jenny had created a custom view of the eight cameras focusing on the exhibits of interest. In all, we collected roughly 50 visitor observations and around 20 interviews, and we also created workable prototype exhibits to continue collecting data once we leave to supplement and compare with the in-person data we collected.

Our collaboration combines the traditions of informal science learning with human-computer interaction to investigate the whole exhibit experience from the touch interaction to the resulting meaning-making. After returning home to Florida, we will continue remote observations of the exhibits to analyze more patterns of use by a broader cross-section of users. Ultimately we may design new programs for these exhibits to harness the power of touch interaction to invite users to deeply investigate the patterns in these visualizations, while presenting the visualizations in forms that we know best facilitate meaning-making by many users.

Lisa is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer & Information Science & Engineering (CISE) at UF, and works on human-computer interaction questions of natural input modalities (e.,g., touch, gesture, and speech) for kids and learning. She is interested in designing for exhibits at HMSC because interfaces in public settings need to be very robust and intelligent to be able to handle the diverse visitors who may be using them. Information seeking, navigation, and understanding can be either enabled or challenged depending on the efficacy of the interaction. Lisa earned her PhD from Carnegie Mellon in Human Computer Interaction in 2008.

Katie is now Research Assistant Professor of STEM Education and Outreach at the University of Florida in the Department of Agricultural Education and Communication, after earning her PhD as part of the Free-Choice Learning Lab at Oregon State University in 2013. She wants to help publics gather, make sense of, and use the results of current research for decision-making at personal, societal, and global levels through public engagement with science. In particular, visualizations of data can harness the powerful human visual system if designed to make use of, rather than compete with, perceptual and cultural systems. Katie is also interested in agriculture as a context for engaging with many contemporary science and engineering issues.


More on Make from the land of technology education

ISTE2014 has ended, and I am back home and reflecting on what this experience meant to me. This was by far the largest conference I have attended- at over 16,000, it is probably four times bigger than what I usually consider a crowd! Getting to guest blog for the conference was a great boost to my ego, and I was tweeting out regularly from talks and other events I attended- and I think I might have doubled the number of followers I have on Twitter! Just seeing the email that was sent out to tens of thousands of ISTE members before the conference, with the list of guest bloggers, with my name on it, was a rush! One of the highlights of the event was getting to chat with Dale Doughtery, one of the co-founders of Make, and the main face of MakerFaire and MakerEd. I have introduced myself to him before, but this time I could talk to him about my research and thoughts on this movement with a lot more confidence. I even broke down and did the fan-girl thing and took a Picsie/Pixie (Susan, Michelle, and I are still figuring out the spelling- it is our word for a selfie with multiple people in it) with him. I am including the link for the second blog I wrote for ISTE since the topic is relevant here too! Enjoy!

http://blog.iste.org/making-mobile-learning-playground



Rapid Prototype + Digital Models = Cyberlab 3D Heaven

by Susan Roberta O Brien

“Rapid prototyping” or “additive manufacturing” are both terms associated with the process of 3D printing (using digital models to fabricate tree-dimensional objects, printed one layer at a time). This piece of technology proved to be the solution for one of the most difficult cyberlab’s challenges: finding perfect mounts and housing for cameras installed on the exhibit floor that can be practical, durable, flexible and aesthetically pleasing.

We struggled with somewhat problematic alternatives for quite sometime, being saved by 3D technology as an effective and cheaper alternative than contracting with big exhibit development companies to create prototypes and models to customize mounts and housings for cameras to be placed throughout the visitor center. After a few attempts to find 3D printing contractors in Oregon that could do the job at a reasonable price and fast pace (believe me! that was quite an interesting task), we found Donald Heer at the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at OSU. Donald has been superb in working with us to make “our dreams” come true in time for a very busy summer, packed with ongoing research projects and scheduled cyberscholars who will be collecting data through the camera system.

Below are photos of the camera mount and housing prototype for the octopus tank. While the final product will be painted and look polished, the photos show how the 3D model works. It is really quite amazing to be able to have a customized product that fills all needs for the assigned exhibit.

Cyberlab was created under the premises of effective technology use to improve research on learning. It could not be any different that most of the solutions for our challenges are found within cutting edge technologies as well, and that we learn along the way. Sometimes it feels surreal we can do all of this, and that within the course of a very short time we can transform ideas into real products that work.

In her last blog post, Jen Wyld encouraged us to find our voices. If I have learned something working at Cyberlab is to find my voice, trust and try new ideas. Knowing the great job you all do within the Free-Choice Learning Program, I encourage you to trust your ideas even if they seem surreal, give them a voice and roll with them, because they are most likely doomed to succeed, especially when you find the right team players.

If you are interested in learning more about 3D printing or even try to print some projects of your own, enter the library 3D printer website and have fun testing your ideas!  http://guides.library.oregonstate.edu/3dprinting


Cyberlab field trip to Minnesota

This past week I had a chance to attend NOAA’s Science on a Sphere workshop in St. Paul, Minnesota.  The workshop was held at the Science Museum of Minnesota (SMM) which is located along the shores of the Mississippi River.  It was great to see a new science museum and learn about data visualizations presented via 3-D spherical displays.  The network of institutions meets annually to discuss use of (now) 100 installations of the sphere around the world and learn from each other.  The setup for this display includes up to four projectors placed around a six-foot sphere at 90-degree angles.  Images wrap around the sphere based on the alignment of the projectors and represent data on various Earth system processes, such as atmospheric storms, sea surface temperature, seafloor mapping, as well as processes occurring on other planets in the solar system.  An app on the iPad helps to “drive” the exhibit, so facilitators can select a playlist of what they want to run on the sphere.  I had never seen this display before so it is amazing to see all that has been created for public viewing.  There are some videos online of it in action!

museumsphere

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The theme of the workshop was “Welcome to the Anthropocene,” or the informal term used to designate the period on our planet where human activity can have a global impact on system functions.  Approximately 95 participants were in attendance discussing methods of presenting datasets to different audiences, maximizing use of available content, and showcasing custom content used at their respective sites.  NOAA staff also described new features that could be incorporated to the exhibit.   The three-day experience was full of working groups, plenary sessions, and inspiring keynote speakers.  FCL lab alum Katie Stoferwas in attendance and presented some of her research and recommendations on the use of color related to data visualizations on the sphere.  Celeste (Science Education PhD student) and I represented the Cyberlab, sharing information about current work in the lab and the potential for Cyber Scholars to collaborate and access the tools we are installing in an effort to study informal science learning.  We showed the video produced for Oregon Sea Grant that explained the technology we are using and how that will connect to visitor research.  I fielded several questions throughout the rest of the workshop with regards to the projects we are working on.  Many participants expressed fascination with the setup and proposed use for research and some of them may pursue the opportunity to be a Cyber Scholar.

In addition to discussions about the sphere, there was a focus on communicating climate change to various audiences and what to keep in mind with regards to cognitive reception and emotion.  We discussed the power of cultural models, framing, and connecting with values instead of a “doomsday” message that can so quickly turn people off.  One strategy I found interesting was that instead of using the concept promoting individual action, was instead to discuss collective community action starting with people directly connected to you.  What can family, friends, and neighbors do to promote change and choices that can have a more measurable impact?  There was also the discussion on use of common symbols and metaphors to explain the abstract concepts of climate change.  Julie Sweetland of the FrameWorks Institute showed research on use of a metaphor that described climate as a system, similar to the human circulation system.  The ocean acted like the heart within the system, pumping or transferring heat around the world.  Just like a human cannot live without a healthy heart, the Earth cannot live without a healthy ocean as it has an influence on the rest of the system.  Julie showed footage of focus groups that had participants explaining the metaphor to other group members…meaning-making in action!

We did have some time to explore the museum on our own, which I was very excited about.  SMM has several incredible exhibits, some permanent, and others that are on display for a limited period of time.  The temporary exhibition is Ultimate Dinosaurs, and there were many reconstructions of the beasts on display.  There is an interactive Cell Lab, where visitors don lab coats and goggles and can look at their own cheek cells under the microscope and explore the properties of blood.  There was also space to tinker with electronics, build and create objects that would fly in a wind tunnel, and a “Collectors’ Corner” where naturalists can earn points to trade for artifacts like agates and small fossils.  It seemed as if the museum was always busy with families and school groups.  An outdoor exhibit known as the Big Back Yard was a combination of watershed education and a mini-golf putting course.  Obstacles included river deltas, mountain ranges, and other natural elements to symbolize the many aspects of the watershed.  Signage and information surrounded the holes describing the value of rain gardens and how impervious surfaces affect water runoff.  I felt like a kid again as I moved about the museum — it was a lot of fun.

lights     dino     tinkering

 

As I was traveling back to Oregon, I reflected on the concepts I keep encountering in the world of informal learning research. So often the topic of communication, cultural tools such as language, interpretation, and meaning-making come up again and again.  There are challenges in conveying complex data on a sphere and trying to understand how it might be interpreted by the viewer.  What impact does it have on a personal level as well as a social level?  So many research questions can extend out of this.  As researchers we are also trying to make meaning and interpret the data we collect, then we communicate or share that with others.  Ah, the meta level…

In mid-July I will be representing the Cyberlab again at the National Marine Educators annual meeting.  Hooray for field trips!

 


Being a scholar at Cyberlab: views from a Brazilian (By Luisa Massarani)

Luisa Massarani is our guest blogger today. She was one of our cyberscholars, visiting Hatfield and Cyberlab from June 29th through July 4th, to learn our tools and resources in order to collaborate with us from the Brazilian Institution she works for, the Museum of Life (Museu da Vida), FIOCRUZ Foundation. Luisa is also the director of RedPOP-Unesco, the Network for Popularizing Science and Technology for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Luisa Massrani and Shawn Rowe
Luisa Massrani and Shawn Rowe

Over the last decade, Brazil has been systematically investing in public engagement in science and technology (S&T), both in pratical activity and in research. As someone who works in the field, I don’t need to be persuaded how much it is important to invest in it. In fact, other countries around the globe have been much more aware of the importance of supporting public engagement in S&T.

However, less effort has been put into understading the meaning different publics make of the public engagement in S&T actitivies – a challenge faced not only in Brazil but also around the globe. In my view, understanding the audiences is, in fact, the main question mark we face in science communication.

This was the main motivation that made our research group at the Museum of Life – a hands on science center in Rio de Janeiro, linked to the research institution Oswaldo Cruz Foundation – focus our attention to audience studies. Latin America has good scientific production in audience studies – mainly in soap operas. Very little, however, has been produced in science communication.

Luisa, Shawn and Jenny
Luisa, Shawn and Jenny

In 2009, we succeed in having a grant for designing a study on audiences and science coverage in TV news as result of a collaboration among 10 countries in “Ibero America” (Latin America plus Portugal and Spain). Since then, we began applying the methodologies we used for that study in the context of a science exhibition. In particular, we were very excited to understand further science exhibitions and 5-8 years old kids – which is a wonderful age for engagement in science due to their natural curiosity about the world around them. Furthermore, there is a substantial gap of literature focusing on this issue.

We feel that further methodologies are necessary for understanding in fact the meaning the kids make of the exhibitions.Thus, since the very begining, the connection with Cyberlab has been very exciting, due to the opportunity for opening new intellectual doors for us. Visiting Cyberlab in person during the week of June 30th was not only very useful and important from the point of view of developing new and more robust methodologies but extremely inspiring for new research and collaboration ideas.

I go back home prepared to start phase 1 of collecting data of the exhibition entitled Forest of Senses, which aims to foster curiosity of kids toward the Brazilian biodiversity. We will implement the methodology we designed together with the Cyberlab team, including installing the equipment that will allow us to transmit to Newport in real time what we will be observing in Brazil. We hope to, very soon, have results to share with all of you!


So as I was reading – SQUIRREL! (Is there motivation in distraction?)

As a social scientist with ADHD, or the creative mind as I like to call it, I am often captivated by the idea of distraction.  You may even say that I get distracted by thinking of distraction.  How are others distracted?  Are they distracted as often as me?  Are they distracted by things that are interesting to them or by whatever is in front of them?  These questions puzzle me because I wonder how much motivation can be seen in distraction.

As an educator of students with ADHD, I find that they are often distracted by many things.  But if they find something they are interested in, then they can focus for an unending period of time.  (I have seen non-ADHD people capable of the same thing, but somehow they are not pulled away as often from uninteresting tasks as those of us with creative minds.)  This focus can bring amazing results.  For example, I once created a diorama of a prehistoric swamp with 13 clay dinosaurs and an assortment of plants in two days.  For reference, this project was done before the creation of the internet with just encyclopedias.  Another example, a friend of mine recreated the coding for the electronic video game Pong in just three hours.  This was all done by people with creative minds.

So my question, when we get distracted, do we get distracted by something that is motivating us to learn, or by things that are just – well, distractions?  Could we use distractions as motivators to learn or they just wastes of time?

An article by Judy Lombardi (2011)* on six motivation resources noted some external factors that could be viewed as distractions.  For example, Lombardi noted that one of Lavoie’s motivational forces found in his book The Motivation Breakthroughis external recognition.  The need for this external force to help motivate the learner can be seen in all of the six motivational styles and could also be labeled as a type of distraction.

Technology has helped us all, creative minds or not, to have distracted minds.  One Carnegie Mellon research project says that distractions costs us 25 minutes to return to our original task (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/05/opinion/sunday/a-focus-on-distraction.html).  And with constant distractions from electronic gadgets, who knows how much work we are really getting done.  So what say you – do your distractions serve as a motivator or are they truly distractions from getting more productive work done?

*Lombardi, J.  ISSN: 8756-7555 print / 1930-8299 online

DOI: 10.1080/87567555.2011.591455

Got Motivation? Six Great Resources for Instructors at Every Level