Overview. This 3-year project will implement a cost-effective, easily modifiable handheld computerized assistant docent app for mobile devices to educate and engage museum visitors. The app will be deployed at two science museums in the Phoenix area. The computerized assistant docent, Dr. U, will enhance museum visitor learning in space science and related STEM disciplines by answering visitors questions on these topics and engaging them in scientific inquiry-based quests, while meeting a pressing need to support museum educators engaged in evaluation by mining large datasets produced by logs of visitor interactions with the mobile app. Through a data portal web site that enables customizable analysis of user logs, the system will provide continuous, accessible evaluative data to museum staff to aid in adjusting and amending resources and materials as current events or visitors needs and interests change, while concurrently enabling research into informal science learning. Intellectual merit. This project seeks to build evaluation capacity among informal educators, advance the fields of visitor studies, situated inquiry instruction, instructional design, technology-based embedded assessment, and informal science learning, and to contribute to the development of novel evaluation techniques in informal learning settings and the analysis, interpretation, and use of big data. Broader impacts. The museum partners in the study serve over 500,000 visitors annually. The visitors are diverse in terms of economics, race, and language, reflecting the future of the American population (Merritt, 2008) and enabling the development of a system that will be robust and relevant for museums across the country. The Dr. U mobile app and its editable server database and analysis tools, will be documented and disseminated through multiple outlets and made freely available to any informal education venue that wishes to use or adapt it to their context and content. This will build capacity for evaluation among museum educators and provide them with a cost-effective, manageable way to collect critical evaluation data that may be unattainable otherwise. By enhancing the visitor experience as well as improving museum access to data for evaluation and data-driven decision making, Dr. U will have both a direct and indirect impact on museum visitors of all types. Investigation of log file analysis may lead to new techniques to identify mobile user locations within an environment, with applications beyond education to social networks and counterterrorism. Findings on this research question will be documented and disseminated to wide audiences. The work will also help to train the next generation of STEM and education innovators. The proposed project will provide important near-term opportunities to engage several undergraduate students over the life of the grant.
|Effective start/end date||9/1/14 → 8/31/18|
- National Science Foundation (NSF): $797,972.00