Informal learning

27/04/2020

We present a novel approach to communicating abstract concepts in cosmology and astrophysics in a more accessible and inclusive manner. We describe an exhibit aiming at creating an immersive, multisensory metaphorical experience of an otherwise imperceptible physical phenomenon — dark matter. Human-Computer Interaction experts and physicists co-created a multisensory journey through dark matter by exploiting the latest advances in haptic and olfactory technology. We present the concept design of a pilot and a second, improved event, both held at the London Science Museum, including the practical setup of the multisensory dark matter experience, the delivery of sensory stimulation and preliminary insights from users' feedback.

20/01/2020

What exactly is “scientific culture”? How does it relate to science communication, non-formal education or artistic interactions with the scientific world? That was the topic of the 14th International Summer School of Mind, Brain and Education (ISMBE), held 1–4 October 2019 at the Ettore Majorana Centre for Scientific Culture in Erice (Sicily), Italy. The ISMBE has a long history of bringing together researchers from diverse fields to catalyze research relating to cognitive science and neuroscience through to education, and the directors of the School, Drs. Kurt Fischer, Antonio Battro and Sebastián Lipina considered that the boundary between these fields and scientific culture was subtle enough to demand a conference on the subject and asked us to organize such a meeting.

14/10/2019

There is a renewed interest amongst science communication practitioners and scholars to explore the potential of storytelling in public communication of science, including to understand how science storytelling functions (or could fail) in different contexts. Drawing from storytelling as the core theme of the 2018 conference of the Public Communication of Science and Technology (PCST) Network, we present a selection of papers, essays and practice insights that offer diverse perspectives. Some contributions focus on the cultural and structural qualities of science stories and its key success factors, while others explore new formats, platforms and collaborators in science storytelling activities.

09/09/2019

Live science events engage publics with science in a social context. This article articulates the aims and ethos of this growing sector within a research context. Semi-structured interviews (N=13) and focus groups (N=77) were conducted with event practitioners (both professional and volunteers) in the U.S.A. and U.K.. Inductive thematic analysis indicated that event producers aim to raise awareness of and professionalism in the sector. In particular, they seek to develop research into long-term impacts of events for both audiences and practitioners.

15/07/2019

Knowing how specific publics understand and experience science is crucial for both researchers and practitioners. As learning and meaning-making develop over time, depending on a combination of factors, creative possibilities to analyze those processes are needed to improve evaluation of science communication practices. We examine how first grade children's drawings expressed their perceptions of the Sun and explore their views of a major astronomical body within their social, cultural and personal worlds. We then examine how the observation of the Sun through a telescope led to changes in graphical representations, and how learning and meaning evolved after several months.

15/04/2019

In this study, we suggest to amending the cognitive mediation model of learning from the news to explain the impact of news coverage on climate change on the recipients' acquisition of knowledge about the consequences of climate change. To test our theoretical assumptions, we combine a content analysis of 29 news media channels with a two-wave panel survey before and after the release of the 5th IPCC report. Results show that the amount of information on the consequences of climate change used in print media and prior knowledge are the strongest predictors of the knowledge in the second panel wave.

08/04/2019

Science museums are missing an opportunity to promote informal education, scientific literacy, public engagement and public visibility of scientists outside of museum walls via Instagram. With an analysis of 1,073 Instagram posts, we show that museums are using Instagram as a promotional broadcasting tool, with a focus on end results of collections and curation work over communication of museum-led discovery and science as a process. We suggest that science museums create more Instagram posts that offer educational information and visibility of exhibit creation and museum researchers' work behind the scenes.

01/04/2019

The making and tinkering movement has become increasingly mainstream over the past decade, pioneered in part through the popularity of magazines like `Make', events such as Maker Faire and DIY websites including `Instructables'. Science centres and museums have been developing their own ideas, notably the Tinkering Studio at the Exploratorium. In this commentary piece, we reflect on why this movement has a strong appeal for the Life Science Centre in Newcastle upon Tyne and why we are in the process of developing a new making and tinkering space to help us enact our centre's vision to `Enrich lives through science'.

28/01/2019

Over the past decade, science festival expos have emerged as popular opportunities for practicing scientists to engage in education outreach with public audiences. In this paper, a partial proportional odds model was used to analyze 5,498 surveys collected from attendees at 14 science expos around the United States. Respondents who report that they interacted with a scientist rated their experiences more positively than those who reported no such interaction on five categories: overall experience, learning, inspiration, fun, and awareness of STEM careers. The results indicate that scientists can positively affect audience perception of their experience at these large-scale public events.

22/01/2019

Young people's decisions to study post-compulsory science are strongly influenced by the attitude of their parents, but many families, especially those from deprived backgrounds, see science as ‘narrow’ and ‘not for us’. We asked whether family attendance at a science festival — a growing but under-studied activity — could shift attitudes. Our mixed-methods study found parents from more deprived areas were disproportionately likely to say attendance had improved their perception of science. Parents from the most deprived areas were significantly more likely to feel increased positivity about their children pursuing science careers. Participants also reported learning about the breadth of careers in science. However we found no evidence that attendance boosted informal science activity in low-SES families.

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