Leveraging Free Online Resources to Expand Awareness of Informal Learning Programs

October 13th, 2012 - Posted in Annual Conference, Resources by Christine Ruffo

How can science centers effectively use online resources to increase awareness about their programs? Where can informal science educators search for vetted programs and opportunities specific to their needs? During an ASTC 2012 session, Leveraging Free Online Resources to Expand Awareness of Informal Learning Programs, Carol Tang, director of the Coalition for Science After School (CSAS), Tara DeGeorges, online content manager for Time Warner Cable, and Kalie Sacco, program manager for the Center for Advancement of Informal Science Education (CAISE), touched on these issues.

Time Warner Cable’s Connect a Million Minds “Connectory” is powered by CSAS’ National After School Science Directory. This searchable database is designed to increase access to high-quality science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education beyond the classroom for youth and families across the nation. The directory houses thousands of STEM opportunities, submitted by science centers, museums, schools, and other youth-serving organizations. Click here to submit your organization’s programs to the directory.

CAISE is also offering two new online resources for the informal science community. The Informal Science Education Evidence Wiki, iseevidencewiki.org, supports a public discussion of the case for informal science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. The goal is to provide easy to read summaries of evidence that characterize the benefits and outcomes of ISE experiences. The Informal Commons is designed to help ISE professionals find resources quickly with one search engine accessing materials from many websites serving informal learning professionals.

Museum giant-screen theaters now have standards

September 23rd, 2011 - Posted in Resources by Christine Ruffo

After an extensive peer and expert review, the Digital Immersive Giant Screen Specifications (DIGSS 1.0) are now fully available, along with many other findings and reports relevant to museum giant screen theaters and those who support them. An independent evaluation conducted by the Institute for Learning Innovation found after the 2010 Giant Screen Cinema Association Conference that participants agree that there is a need for institutional giant-screen (GS) theaters to have DIGSS; and they disagree that they should conform to conventional screen shapes.

The results of the National Science Foundation- (NSF-) funded project are available as free downloads below and, in addition to DIGSS 1.0, include: an economic snapshot of the museum GS market; a literature review of immersive learning in GS theaters; a useful glossary of terms; descriptions of the field; a logic rationale for production; a bibliography; and the colloquium proceedings. DIGSS are museum-quality specifications for a 4:3 aspect ratio to fill giant domes and flat screens.

White Oak Institute Bulletin #1: The Global Network of Giant Screen Theaters Needs Attention (PDF, 1.1 MB)

DIGSS 1.0 (PDF, 1.1 MB)

DISCUSS Colloquium Proceedings (PDF, 2.6 MB)

Giant-screen theater industry leaders and a team of experts met over three days in Marblehead, Massachusetts, June 14–16, 2010, where they reached consensus on the first draft of specifications for digital giant-screen theaters in the international museum market. The White Oak Institute and its team, including the Giant Screen Cinema Association, the Institute for Learning Innovation, the LF Examiner, and the MacGillivray Freeman Films Educational Foundation convened technical experts, museum leaders, theater managers, film producers, distributors, and an evaluator to resolve the field’s critical questions. The project’s objective was a digital GS theater format that suits the educational needs of the museum community and creates a sustainable business model with a supply of quality educational shows similar to the experiences in IMAX® and other film-based GS theaters now in place in museums and science centers. Such shared protocols will set the stage for transformations and innovations in museum-quality equipment and productions in the digital age.

DIGSS 1.0 addresses: aspect ratio, resolution, brightness, bit rate, theater geometry, screen size minimums, and other factors affecting the quality of the audience’s learning experience in flat and dome screens and in 2D and 3D. DIGSS builds on the research and standards developed by the Digital Cinema Initiative (DCI). As with the DCI specs, DIGSS permits projection of alternative content from a variety of innovative new sources, paving the way for experimentation, innovation, and a connection to the growing community of fulldome theaters, many of which were formerly planetariums.

Transforming Science Education

June 10th, 2009 - Posted in Featured, Member News, Resources by Christine Ruffo

On June 10, the Carnegie Corporation of New York—Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) Commission on Mathematics and Science Education kicked-off a national mobilization to achieve much higher levels of math and science learning with the release of its report, The Opportunity Equation: Transforming Mathematics and Science Education for Citizenship and the Global Economy. The report identifies where change is needed to transform math and science education and recommends concrete actions to a range of organizations from nonprofits and businesses to federal and state government, colleges and universities, and donors who must coalesce to “do school differently” to transform math and science education.

As part of the initiative, the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), New York, published Emboldened Capacity: Science Education and the Infrastructure of Science-Rich Cultural Institutions, summarizing the outcomes of two meetings convened by AMNH in December 2008 in association with the Carnegie-IAS Commission: a “national summit on science education” and a follow-up meeting with leading museum directors and scientists. The paper also explores the role of museums in successful school partnerships and describes promising models at AMNH; Brooklyn Botanic Garden; the California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco; COSI, Columbus, Ohio; Museum of Science, Boston; North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Raleigh; and Pacific Science Center, Seattle.

About the image: As a partner in New York City’s Urban Advantage Middle School Science Initiative, the American Museum of Natural History showcased 650 students’ research projects on June 6. Photo courtesy AMNH

Science centers as news centers

May 1st, 2009 - Posted in Featured, Member News, Resources by Christine Ruffo

Science centers regularly provide their communities with science news and promote dialogue on current science issues. As concerns over the H1N1 virus continue to grow, ASTC members are serving as places where visitors can learn more about the virus and share information with others, both on-site and online.

Adventure Science Center, Nashville, Tennessee, and the Exploratorium, San Francisco, are hosting on-site public programs on May 1 and May 3, respectively, where microbiologists will present information and answer questions about the “swine flu.”

Science Buzz, the website of the Science Museum of Minnesota’s “current science” initiative, focuses on science in the news, emerging research, and seasonal science. The web site is designed to be a source of science information, but also encourages users to respond to the stories they find and even contribute their own.

ScienceNetwork WA, a web site developed and hosted by Scitech, Perth,  in partnership with the Government of Western Australia, is a source for science news, as well as information about events and career opportunities in the region.

About the image: Users have contributed information about the H1N1 virus, including links to official disease control web sites, on the Science Buzz blog. Image courtesy Science Museum of Minnesota

Museums boost science learning, new report finds

January 14th, 2009 - Posted in Featured, Resources by Wendy Pollock

Flip It, Fold It, Figure It Out: Playing with Math, an exhibition funded by NSFToday, the (U.S.) National Research Council (NRC) released a highly anticipated report on learning in informal settings. According to the NRC, “tens of millions of Americans, young and old, choose to learn about science in informal ways – by visiting museums and aquariums, attending after-school programs, pursuing personal hobbies, and watching TV documentaries, for example. There is abundant evidence that these programs and settings, and even everyday experiences such as a walk in the park, contribute to people’s knowledge and interest in science.”

Philip Bell, co-chair of the committee that wrote the report and associate professor of learning sciences at the University of Washington, Seattle, stated that “Learning is broader than schooling, and informal science environments and experiences play a crucial role. These experiences can kick-start and sustain long-term interests that involve sophisticated learning. Think of the child who sees dinosaur skeletons for the first time on a family trip to a natural history museum, and then goes on to buy dinosaur models and books, do Web searches about dinosaurs, write school reports on the subject, and on and on.”

In addition to finding that informal learning experiences can significantly improve outcomes for individuals from groups that are historically underrepresented in science, the report notes that there is strong evidence that educational television can help people learn about science. The report also points to evidence that participation in informal science learning (like volunteering in the collection of scientific data) can promote informed civic engagement on science-related issues such as local environmental concerns.

Learning Science in Informal Environments: People Places, and Pursuits was sponsored by the National Science Foundation. The report can be read in its entirety here.

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