Discuss Colloquium Evaluation

Friday, April 1, 2011
Resource Type:
Formative | Evaluation Reports
Environment Type: 
Media and Technology, Films and IMAX, Professional Development, Conferences, and Networks, Professional Development and Workshops, Conferences, Resource Centers and Networks
Museum/ISE Professionals | Evaluators
Education and learning science | General STEM
New Knowledge Organization Ltd., White Oak Institute, Institute for Learning Innovation

The National Science Foundation has provided funding through NSF-ISE# 0946691 to support the DISCUSS Colloquium, a seed initiative to nurture a shared Digital Immersive Giant Screen Specifications (DIGSS) for STEM learning film production at a scale and quality that is sustainable in the informal science education (ISE) community. It is anticipated that when such specifications are adopted and published, equipment manufacturers and show producers will be better able to raise capital based on the scale of the network and their need for replacement equipment and new films. Researchers from ILI conducted three studies in to inform and evaluate the DISCUSS colloquium held in Marblehead, MA June 14th - 16th 2010 and the expanding community collaboration that flowed from those efforts. Prior to the meeting, semi-structured phone interviews were conducted with colloquium participants to determine areas of convergence and divergence, prior to holding the colloquium. Onsite observation and informal interviews to determine the level of engagement and motivation of participants took place during the colloquium, and an analysis of the interaction between participants through the online forum following the meeting assessed the representativeness of opinions, points of concordance and discord within the community, and the ability of this group to reach consensus on behalf of the industry. These studies were conducted to inform the facilitators and participants of DISCUSS as they move towards the creation of Digital Immersive Giant Screen Standards (DIGSS) that represents the needs and unique expectations of the ISE community that has committed to this format. Results A number of issues or themes emerged from the three studies in aggregate. Participants agreed that attending a GS film at a science center is a unique learning experience and inherently different from attending a movie in a traditional "industry" theater. They believed that the value of this experience needs to be highlighted and capitalized by future business models and marketing, and, importantly here, that the unique attributes of the existing analog format needs to be captured in any DIGSS initiative. They agreed that there continues to be demand for quality new science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programming for the giant screen theaters in museums, although they also recognized the need for a better understanding of how GS films uniquely contribute to STEM learning. It was agreed that compliance with the current Digital Cinema Initiative (DCI) standards for standard Hollywood films would be a baseline on which to build. The group also arrived at consensus on definitions, technical issues, and important questions related to the specifications but did not always achieve agreement on specific details. These issues include how to reconcile the differences between the needs of GS flat and dome theaters, how to acknowledge both the limitations of current technical capabilities (e.g., limits of digital projectors) and the need to move the technology forward; the need for higher standards on the film capture side of production, the need for greater development of audio specifications in DIGSS, and how to ensure that operators are appropriately informed about the specifications. Finally, the group made clear that decisions made by the independent IMAX Corporation, a brand of GS theater that is linked in the public mind to perceptions of the format, will have impact on any adoption of specifications. Some members of the group raised concerns that some current technical advancements being pursued by IMAX might impact DIGSS and the success of the venture. Examination of the process revealed that most decisions made through this collaboration took place onsite at the colloquium, with refinements advanced in subsequent phone discussions between one or two participants. In most cases during the colloquium, individual goals were given fair discussion by those with opposing views, and changes were made to accommodate these concerns, with the group moving quickly towards consensus. These behaviors reflected a highly functional process and coherent group working as a community. In reviewing online communication (Study 3), there is little to suggest that a collaborative conversation took place after the meeting or that the specification document was created as an iterative process, as was a goal of the process. Rather, it appears that the initial work developed by the project's Principal Investigator and the technical team received tacit approval from the collaborators, were refined by a one or two experts with knowledge about that section during the online process, and re-distributed for editing by the group and the team of technical and economic experts. However, examination of the online forum revealed that no comments by participants on the shape and direction of the document were recorded. This result suggests that the small community that contributed to the specification were likely to agree with the substance and form of the specification in its current form, perhaps reflecting the groups confidence in the abilities of each expert in their individual area of expertise. An online forum may still be valuable for continuing the conversation with the larger GS industry; however, based on these results and the level of participation by leaders in the GS community in the first phase, a second larger public comment phase may not receive much participation, or may result in some proprietary debates about equipment or facility specifications based on existing conditions falling below the aspirations of these authors rather than any detailed discussion of the primary specification categories and content goals. A separate study (Fraser and Yocco 2010) of the information and education campaign undertaken at the 2010 GSCA annual meeting in Chattanooga, TN, found that the efforts of the DISCUSS team at educating GS professionals on the process and benefits of DIGSS resulted in significant increases in awareness and in positive attitudes of GS professionals towards the need and the creation of DIGSS. This would suggest the GS field as a whole is relatively receptive to the process of creating and testing DIGSS, being carried out through the grant given to conduct DISCUSS, and that trust in the process and its outcomes has been placed by the field in those who are engaged in the process. Additionally, the GSCA Board has discussed DIGSS and has recently assigned their Technical Committee to carry out screen testing to look at the provisional specs. The first round of this happened at a meeting in Galveston, TX with over 100 GS professionals attending comparison screenings of various sorts. Wider collaboration of this type will ensure large scale buy-in of the DIGSS process and outcomes throughout the GS industry.

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Team Members

John FraserEvaluator
Victor YoccoVictor YoccoEvaluator
Sarah GruberSarah GruberEvaluator

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