Museums, aquariums, and technology centers are informal learning environments that facilitate the understanding of scientific phenomena while supporting self-​motivated learning. Families are a social group that frequently visits these sites. There are multiple opportunities for adults and children to engage in independent sense-​making and collective discussion about their experiences with exhibits. In recent years, touch surface technology has been scaled from handheld phones to larger tables and walls. These technologies are being adopted by museums and aquariums to showcase content beyond static signage. As this technology carries an element of awe and attraction, what are the engagement levels between adults and children as they use a multi-touch table together? Twenty-five family groups were filmed interacting with a 55” Ideum Pro multi-touch table exhibit through unobtrusive video and audio recording at Hatfield Marine Science Center Visitor Center in Newport, Oregon. Groups were interviewed following use of the exhibit regarding their motivations and experience using the multi-touch table. A rubric was used to analyze the video and code for the presence of verbal and non-verbal behaviors expressed by the family group on the following dimensions: responsive engagement, learning strategies and opportunities, and directive engagement. Levels within the rubric ranged from very low, low, moderate, high, and very high. While families varied in engagement levels, the highest frequency of families rated moderate for responsive engagement, moderate for learning strategies and opportunities, and low for directive engagement. The results of this study provides evidence for the social learning strategies that adults and children use while interacting with multi-touch technology and making sense of science content in this context. Exhibit and content developers can incorporate this information in the design of digital interactives that are installed in the museum and science center environment.

East, Jennifer L.
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Marine Resource Management, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon
Master of Science