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Learning Science in Informal Environments: People, Places, and Pursuits
These islands begin to form with initial interests and ultimately develop into deep, rich knowledge about a particular domain. Chi and Koeske’s (1983) study of a young dinosaur expert demonstrates how children can develop categorization and recall skills around a domain through repeated readings of books. Crowley and Jacobs build on this by suggesting that islands of expertise can also develop over time with exposure to different media formats and conversations with knowledgeable mentors and peers.
Researchers of learning science in informal environments need to consider the effects of long-term exposure to single, specific media exemplars (e.g., the cumulative effects of watching Bill Nye the Science Guy for a year) as well as multiple media formats presenting the same content in different ways (e.g., books, films, museum exhibits on dinosaurs). These studies are very difficult to envision and carry out. There are methodological obstacles to conducting research on “noncaptive” audiences, whether nature center visitors, television viewers, or web users. Exploring the repeated interaction of multiple media and venues would provide insights into how best to position virtual and physical resources for science learning, including better understanding of the relationship between designed spaces, websites, book, magazines, television, and digital entertainment.
Science-related media are likely to continue to play a major role in the ways that people learn about science informally. The public often cites broadcast, print, and digital media as their major sources of scientific information. Media producers seek large audiences, and they have developed techniques to present scientific content in entertaining and engaging ways. These modes of engagement are aligned with Strand 1, helping learners develop initial interests in science. Studies of science media have also demonstrated effects on people’s perceptions of science and scientists (Strand 4). In the best cases, they can portray science as an interesting practice, scientists as a diverse group of individuals who lead normal lives, and demonstrate the realities of scientific investigation.
Agosto, D. (2002). Bounded rationality and satisficing in young people’s web-based decision making. Journal of the American Society for Information Science andTechnology, 53(1), 16-27.
Aldrich, C. (2005). Learning by doing: A comprehensive guide to simulations, computer games, and pedagogy in e-learning and other educational experiences. San Francisco: Wiley.
American Association for the Advancement of Science. (1990). Science for all Americans: Project 2061. New York: Oxford University Press.