See Related: Science Informal Learning
  1. Kristina Yu
  2. https://www.exploratorium.edu/about/staff/scientists/kristina-yu
  3. Director-Living Systems
  4. Seeing Scientifically: Scaffolding scientific observation in a museum setting
  5. https://www.exploratorium.edu/cellstoself/projects/seeing-scientifically
  6. Exploratorium
  1. Joyce Ma
  2. https://www.exploratorium.edu/visitor-research/staff/joyce-ma
  3. Senior Researcher
  4. Seeing Scientifically: Scaffolding scientific observation in a museum setting
  5. https://www.exploratorium.edu/cellstoself/projects/seeing-scientifically
  6. Exploratorium
Public Discussion
  • Icon for: Rachael Mady

    Rachael Mady

    Graduate Student
    May 14, 2018 | 12:57 p.m.

    I really enjoyed watching this video and thinking about when I have gone to a museum and what I have liked in exhibit. For me, interactive exhibits have always been my favorite. I really think it is important and am glad you all are pursuing how to best encourage people to think and see in a scientific way. For this project are you hoping to target across age groups or one age group in particular?

  • May 14, 2018 | 03:36 p.m.

    Such a beautifully crafted series of actions to deepen visitors' understandings - and not easy to achieve!! Is the interactive experience functionally decoupled from the live specimens? (ie. the live fish provide context but the interactive experience could be made online). If so, what a great chance to compare impacts. Or is the visitor really navigating their own live specimen? And if so, how does the system know how to read the screen and find the heart, say?

  • Icon for: Joyce Ma

    Joyce Ma

    Co-Presenter
    May 15, 2018 | 12:24 p.m.

    Hi Sue,

    Thank you for taking the time to watch our video and for your questions. 

    Seeing Scientifically does not decouple the interactive scaffolding from the living (and ever changing) specimen visible to visitors at the exhibit.   In fact, it is quite the opposite. The scaffolding we are trying is highly domain specific and dynamic to what is immediately in view. 

    The exhibit is ‘smart’ in the sense that it can derive the age of the specimen based on initial values the biology lab enters at the beginning of the day when they prepare the slide and exhibit.  Based on what the staff inputs and because zebrafish development is so well studied and progresses in a very predictable manner, the computer can somewhat accurately guess what is visible at a certain microscope position and time and, therefore, what is visible to the visitor   --- although occasionally the zebrafish can move to obscure key structures from visitor view, and they can hatch as well!  Areas of special interest, such as the heart, are detected through image processing algorithms, but none of these ‘algorithms’ are 100% accurate.

    One of our challenges is to figure out is how to make the computer’s guess useful to visitors and how to establish the appropriate tone and experience flow that encourages visitors to use their own scientific eyes to observe closely without resorting to a (computer’s or staff’s) voice of authority. 

  • Icon for: Preeti Gupta

    Preeti Gupta

    Facilitator
    May 14, 2018 | 04:53 p.m.

    Really great project and so timely. What would success look like for you? What are the takeaways that audiences should have ideally? 

  • Icon for: Kristina Yu

    Kristina Yu

    Lead Presenter
    May 15, 2018 | 06:53 p.m.

    Hi Priti - Thanks for your comments & watching our presentation.  Since this is a Pathways project, we'd be very pleased if we were able to shed light on some basic practices that would support observation in this particular exhibit that might be extensible to other types of exhibit and even disciplines beyond biology.  In terms of takeaways for the visitor, since we are focused on process, we would like them to feel that they have used an accessible tool to explore something of interest to them and that they became more and more curious the more they looked.

  • Icon for: Jamie Bell

    Jamie Bell

    Facilitator
    May 14, 2018 | 05:30 p.m.

    Thank you for this illustrative video, Kristina. It seems that you have iterated a thoughtfully scaffolded experience through prototyping and formative evaluation that has clearly informed exhibit design decisions. How important to you is it that visitors are aware that they are using the tools that scientists might employ when they carry out their investigations? i.e. the authenticity of that seems key to the experience here?

     

  • Icon for: Joyce Ma

    Joyce Ma

    Co-Presenter
    May 15, 2018 | 12:41 p.m.

    Hi Jamie,

    We have not specifically looked at the role authenticity has in visitors’ engagement with our prototypes. At this point, our primary challenge has been to help visitors make close observations.  We have not worked as hard at building an awareness that they are doing so with tools and skills scientists use. Instead, we are depending on past evaluations that show that visitors are aware that they are manipulating a ‘scientific-looking’ microscope in the lab behind the glass partition.   

  • Icon for: Jamie Bell

    Jamie Bell

    Facilitator
    May 15, 2018 | 09:24 p.m.

    Thanks Joyce, that focus makes sense and indeed I realize can be challenging enough in itself. Kudos for working thoughtfully to support this important skill. I wonder if you have considered the exhibit surrounds or adjacencies with regard to enhancing an environment that fosters close observation. I'm thinking of something like the Experiment Benches as the Science Museum of Minnesota or the "half walls" at Explora in Albuquerque.

  • Icon for: Joyce Ma

    Joyce Ma

    Co-Presenter
    May 18, 2018 | 02:15 p.m.

    Hi Jamie, 

    Yes, we have been thinking about the larger exhibit environment.  Sadly, we cannot do very much when it comes to the location (along a corridor not conducive to close observation); the exhibit kiosk needs to be right next to the microscope that is in the larger lab that flanks that hallway.  We are, however, thinking about making the kiosk more comfortable for small groups to encourage visitors to stop and spend time looking.  Cushy love seats may be in its future. 

  • May 14, 2018 | 08:11 p.m.

    Hi Kristina, 

    i really like how this exhibit project is focused on science skills and the process of science more than science facts (although I am guessing that visitors are also learning about fish embryo hearts). Do you have any way to tell if the scientific observation skills are being applied by visitors to other exhibits or experiences?

  • Icon for: Kristina Yu

    Kristina Yu

    Lead Presenter
    May 15, 2018 | 06:55 p.m.

    Hi Vicki - Thanks for your interest in our project.  And you're right - although we are focusing on process, we do provide a fair amount of content to set context and pique interest in the sample.  The scope of the project is such that we are only evaluating the visitor's experience at this particular prototype, so no, we haven't looked at skill transfer to other exhibits.  That said, we are looking at how visitors apply their newly learned skills to other zebrafish embryos in the exhibit after they have spent time on their first sample.

  • Icon for: Anna Hurst

    Anna Hurst

    Informal Educator
    May 14, 2018 | 08:36 p.m.

    How do you define "scientific observation"? What are the key elements of this type of observation?

     

    I am very interested in your work and look forward to hearing about the results. I can see possible applications to astronomy, another field that relies heavily on visual information to expose another type of hidden world! 

     

    Do you have thoughts on how your work can be applied to other fields?

  • Icon for: Kristina Yu

    Kristina Yu

    Lead Presenter
    May 15, 2018 | 06:58 p.m.

    Hi Anna -

    When we embarked on this project, we defined the ability to observe scientifically in biology as:

    Moving fluidly between what is seen and knowledge of the biological process and system being observed, having an understanding of the underlying principles and the research question being studied, having an awareness of the limitation of the technology used to make observation, and partaking in systematic recording of one's observation.

    Since then, we have been thinking about how scientific observation can really manifest on the museum floor.  For example, can we really expect visitors, during their short time an exhibit, to formulate and own a research question and to then systematically record data?

    Currently, our working definition for visitors seeing scientifically are that: (1) they ask productive questions (i.e., answerable with visual inspection of the specimen) and  (2) they interpret what they see (i.e., what features are salient and why, how systems and structures change over time).

    We hope that we can come to a more refined understanding for what makes for scientific observation on the museum floor by the end of this grant as well as how to better support close observation.  Although the biology content area has been our focus, we also hope that we can shed light on some strategies that would be applicable to other fields that are based in careful observation of detailed, changing images such as astronomy.  We should definitely talk more to think through: what is extensible? --- and how, across disciplines?

     
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    Anna Hurst
  • Icon for: Anna Hurst

    Anna Hurst

    Informal Educator
    May 15, 2018 | 10:16 p.m.

    These are all very intriguing questions! Thank you, Kristina.

    If you ever want to get together with some astronomers to ponder how your techniques and findings might apply to our similar-but-different field, the ASP is your neighbor in San Francisco!

  • Icon for: Julia Plummer

    Julia Plummer

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 17, 2018 | 12:41 p.m.

    Exciting work.  This is a step in the right direction to help the field understand how to support scientific observation.  I hope your findings are broadly disseminated to the museum and research communities.  I think you pose a good question about how much we can learn from a given project that can be extended to other disciplines or other settings.

    We have been thinking about scientific observation as one of the science practices preschool-age children engage with in the My Sky Tonight project.  My research team has been analyzing video of programs (mostly in museums/science centers) to look at how we are supporting their use of scientific observations in ways that move them towards sense making about astronomical phenomena (I wouldn't say observations are our focus, but they are a key practice used in the programs). 

  • Icon for: Kristina Yu

    Kristina Yu

    Lead Presenter
    May 15, 2018 | 10:12 a.m.

    Hi Rachel - thanks for your comments. For this project, we're focusing on museum visitors 10 years old and up.

  • Icon for: Kalie Sacco

    Kalie Sacco

    Facilitator
    May 15, 2018 | 06:16 p.m.

    Hi Kristina and team, thanks for sharing your project! At my science center, we are definitely thinking of new ways for our visitors to engage with technology and data visualizations. Interactive technology can be such a fun, engaging, powerful tool for learning, but many of the coolest things we've tried have only engaged one visitor at a time (VR headsets, for example). So, I'm always looking for ways to employ technology to support learning in family or small group settings I am curious to know if visitors tend to interact with the microscope individually, or in small groups. Also, do you have any data on the amount of time that visitors spend at the microscope, and if that changes depending on the group size? 

  • Icon for: Joyce Ma

    Joyce Ma

    Co-Presenter
    May 15, 2018 | 07:34 p.m.

    Hi Kalie,

    We designed the interactive kiosk for Seeing Scientifically to comfortably accommodate 2-3 visitors at a time.  Typically, one visitor controls the microscope, but the touchscreen is large enough for multiple folks to look at the specimen, to clearly see how the microscope is being controlled, and to talk with each other about what they notice about the organism.  We think this all helps in establishing common ground for the users. In fact, very early on, we experimented with different layouts and found, through evaluation, that a horizontal (vs a vertical) layout of the screen and controls encouraged more groups to stop and use the microscope exhibit.  So, we went with that physical design.

    We also have a large screen over the kiosk so visitors standing a little bit a ways from the kiosk can still see the specimen under the scope, although, of course, this is a very different experience from being at the kiosk and controlling the scope and interacting with the scaffolding and tools.

    From our naturalistic observations, we have found that more visitors stop at the exhibit in small groups versus as individuals.  And, those who stop in groups do stay longer regardless of the prototype version.  We suspect, though we have not done this kind of analysis, that visitors in small groups are helping each other see.  (Perhaps, 2-3 pairs of eyes are better than one?)

  • Icon for: Steve Cox

    Steve Cox

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 15, 2018 | 11:56 p.m.

    Compelling work. Any chance you can help visitors quantify their understanding? Can they estimate say ratio of heart volume to body volume or pulse rate or ... and contrast these with other organisms, or perhaps use these to identify irregularities?

  • Icon for: Kristina Yu

    Kristina Yu

    Lead Presenter
    May 17, 2018 | 12:50 a.m.

    Hi Steve,

    Yes!  We have been very interested in offering tools built into the exhibit that enable visitors to take measurements or record what they see.   One of the tools we are experimenting with is in fact a pulse counter, so that visitors can take their own pulse and compare it to the zebrafish’s or compare pulse rates between samples.  We also have capabilities that will let us offer an annotation/drawing tool and let visitors record video & photos. Designing an interface so that we can offer these tools in the right context and make them meaningful in a stand-alone exhibit has been an interesting challenge.

  • Icon for: Preeti Gupta

    Preeti Gupta

    Facilitator
    May 16, 2018 | 08:17 p.m.

    Have you added the element of the human facilitator yet or are you strictly keeping them away from the exhibit to see if the exhibit as a stand-alone can get visitors to the goals you have set forth for them? Another idea I am thinking of ....a lot of times..the learning or the impact is not immediate. When they experience the exhibit there are so many things going on in their head. However, a few days later, how are they thinking about what they got at the exhibit? Could follow-up interviews be part of your study?

  • Icon for: Joyce Ma

    Joyce Ma

    Co-Presenter
    May 17, 2018 | 02:43 p.m.

    Hi Preeti, 

    Seeing Scientifically is experimenting with scaffolding observation at a standalone exhibit --- no human facilitators for now. We have conducted interviews with microscopists while they guided novices in visually examining living specimens, and that has been helpful in informing our work with the exhibit scaffolding.  But, beyond that, we have not experimented with translating strategies used by human facilitators to the standalone exhibit, nor we have looked at how humans can become better at supporting observations at the microscope.

    We have, also, been solely focused on the immediate experience and have not thought about gauging the residual learning after their visit. Seeing Scientifically, is a pathways; so, perhaps the next project?  We are curious --- what would you be interested in knowing in a follow-up interview with visitors?

  • Icon for: Jamie Bell

    Jamie Bell

    Facilitator
    May 17, 2018 | 01:42 p.m.

    As a former explainer, I would love the challenge of hovering near this exhibit and practicing vigilance and attentiveness to potential entry points for asking a question or making a suggestion. Yet, as Preeti implies, there is also period during prototyping in which as designers of experiences we want to see how far an exhibit can go on its own. This balance and tension has always fascinated me and perhaps at some point it might be interesting to explore what further facilitation would generate (or not) here.

  • Icon for: H Chad Lane

    H Chad Lane

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 17, 2018 | 05:08 p.m.

    I love the approach, and thought the video does a great job communicating your work. It reminded me of the times I've been to the doctor and when they show me my x-rays or other scans - it's like they have an entirely different sensory system!  I can't even begin to see the things they do. It's a cool idea to challenge people to understand this sort of observational skill (to see as a scientist does) takes practice, but is something within all of us.  Thanks!

  • Icon for: Charles Carlson

    Charles Carlson

    May 17, 2018 | 06:11 p.m.

    I love this project.  I think the video does a great job of communicating the process of exhibit development.  Every informal science exhibit involves scaffolding concepts into a clear conceptualization for the visitor. A beating heart always seems to grab a visitors attention, and probably harkens to the very dawn of humans. Sometimes visitor involvement begins with accepted misconceptions. Here it's great to see the integration of technology in a thoughtful application to common problems associated with microscope use. 

    One of the real driving questions in all of this becomes it's overall usefulness. Do people come to use microscopes with more ease? Do they see more and feel more confident with their observations?  Do they need to?  Here I think the answers are less clear.  In any case, I think informal exhibits and exhibitions are really about inspiration and encouragement, and a feeling that things are understandable.  It's really great to see an application of sophisticated optical instruments, some of the most recent advances in specimen definition (through the use of green fluorescent markers), and technology at the very cutting edges of what is possible in a museum setting.

  • Icon for: Helen Teague

    Helen Teague

    Researcher
    May 17, 2018 | 11:04 p.m.

    This research is a such an interactive way to celebrate and learn about the intricacies of science all around us. Do you see an appreciation building for science as a result of your project? 

    Thank you for sharing your research!

    Helen Teague

  • Icon for: Joyce Ma

    Joyce Ma

    Co-Presenter
    May 18, 2018 | 08:27 p.m.

    Thank you, Helen.

    We hope that visitors do gain a deeper appreciation of the intricacies of science as they explore with the Seeing Scientifically exhibit (as well as with the other exhibits in the museum).  We think that that type of awareness is likely hard to effect with one experience, but instead accumulates with varied and repeated interactions with science. So, we haven’t done anything to specifically look at that, but hope that we are contributing to that appreciation, nonetheless.

  • Icon for: Janessa Doucette

    Janessa Doucette

    K-12 Administrator
    May 18, 2018 | 01:01 p.m.

    As always, the Exploratorium is doing amazing things! How do you think we might use this kind of approach in a K-12 classroom? Thanks!

  • Icon for: Kristina Yu

    Kristina Yu

    Lead Presenter
    May 18, 2018 | 07:03 p.m.

    Thanks for the kind words and question.  As a proof-of-concept project, we’ve primarily been focused on the stand-alone, unmediated exhibit experience.  We suspect that some of what we learn might apply to the classroom, but we’ve not sat down and done that mapping yet.  Our best guess, at this point, is that some of the design guidelines we’ve been honing (e.g., focus on what is immediately visible, give learners practice with observation tools which can be applied to seeing many different things, supporting comparisons to build visual literacy) can find some resonance to observation in the classroom context.

  • Further posting is closed as the showcase has ended.