TIER-ED Researchers Re-thinking Digital Exhibits in Museum Spaces

Several projects are currently active where TIER-ED faculty and students are re-designing the ways that museums engage their visitors with digital content.

In one project, TIER-ED Director Robb Lindgren is taking his work on embodied learning simulations onto the museum floor such that young science center visitors can use the full movement of their bodies to interact with a game about energy. The game, called energIze uses the Microsoft Kinect to empower children to act out different forms of energy, energy transfer, and to reason about conservation of energy. Dr. Lindgren and his TIER-ED colleague Dr. Mike Tissenbaum are currently working with the Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley, CA, where the energIze exhibit is currently active on the museum floor, to develop a system of connected embodied learning exhibits that build off of each other and facilitate learning transfer.


In another project Dr. Emma Mercier is examining parent-child collaboration in an informal learning context. Along with graduate student Luettamae Lawrence, she is implementing their Food for Thought application onto a large screen surface at a local museum. Food for Thought focuses on using a familiar topic (food) to help students understand more about climate change, and the way small choices can have a global impact. The software was initially designed for use on large multi-touch table, and two iterations were tested with middle school students through the CoLearn Lab

Finally, Dr. H Chad Lane is on the leadership team for a major international collaboration with multiple museums in the U.S. and the U.K. understanding the role of gesture and other kinds of body movement for pre-school children’s science learning in informal environments. The consortium, which also includes TIER-ED Director Lindgren, is called Move2Learn, and it brings together researchers and museum practitioners to study how experiences such as the Rivers of Grass exhibit at the Frost Museum of Science in Miami, FL encourage students to use their bodies when engaging with science ideas. Other digital exhibit research on the Move2Learn project is happening at The Children’s Museum’s Indianapolis where young visitors use their whole bodies to learn critical ideas in crop sciences.

NSF-funded Projects Create New Digital Environments for Learning

TIER-ED community members have been very successful in receiving funding from external agencies such as the National Science Foundation.

One such project is the GRASP simulation platform that was co-designed by UofI College of Education researchers. The goal of GRASP (GestuRe Augmented Simulations for supporting exPlanations) is to understand the role gestures play in reasoning about critical concepts in science, and to create simulations that encourage the use of gestures for creating scientific explanations. GRASP is a NSF-funded collaboration between UofI and Concord Consortium, an educational research and development organization in Massachusetts. Robb Lindgren (PI) and David Brown (Co-PI) are working with graduate students to interview local middle school students to understand how the gesture-augmented simulations affect their science explanations and understanding.  



In a second project, Dr. Bill Cope and Dr. Mary Kalantzis explore ‘complex epistemic performance’ in online learning environments as part of an NSF-funded project to further develop Common Ground Scholar (CGScholar) environment. This aim is to develop a cutting-edge, peer-to-peer “social knowledge” technology, for supporting learning communities. The CGScholar Analytics tool collects information about learning processes in three domains: knowledge, focus and collaboration. Developing this tool is an interdisciplinary effort involving faculty and graduate students from multiple units across campus.

Courses by New TIER-ED Faculty Highlight ‘Learning Spaces’ and Creating Engaging Technologies

Some of the new faculty members hired under the TIER-ED Initiative are already sharing what they know about designing innovative spaces in educational environments with U of I students.

Advanced Educational Technologies for Engagement and Interactive Learning (EPSY/CI/INFO 555)

Dr. Cynthia D'Angelo in this course takes an interdisciplinary approach to examining technologies that seek to promote and sustain engagement in learning, both in formal and informal settings. Topics covered include educational games, artificial intelligence, virtual environments, mobile devices, affective computing, pedagogical agents, narrative learning environments, and more.


Designing Learning Spaces (CI499)

This course by Dr. Mike Tissenbaum introduces students to the current state-of-the-field of learning spaces. This interactive, seminar-style course will focus on how features of the physical environment create and shape learning experiences in both formal and informal learning spaces, such as museums and makerspaces. A large focus of the course will be on methods for observing, collecting data about, and designing learning spaces.