Supporting Science and Engineering Identity Development in Immersive Interactive Technologies
As part of its overall strategy to enhance learning in informal environments, the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program funds innovative research, approaches and resources for use in a variety of settings. This study will capitalize on the increased availability and affordability of immersive interactive technologies, such as Augmented Reality devices and virtual characters, to investigate their potential for benefitting STEM learning in informal museum contexts. This project will combine these technologies to create an Augmented Reality experience that will allow middle-school youth and their families to meet and assist a virtual crew on a historic ship at the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia. The players in this game-like experience will encounter technologies from the turn of the 20th century, including steam power, electricity, and wireless communication. Crew members and technologies will be brought to life aboard the USS Olympia, the largest and fastest ship in the US Navy launched in 1892. The historic context will be positioned in relation to current day technologies in ways that will enable a change in interest towards technology and engineering in middle school-age youth. This will result in a testbed for the feasibility of facilitating short-term science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) identity change with interactive immersive technologies. A successful feasibility demonstration, as well as the insights into design, could open up novel ways of fostering STEM interest and identity in informal learning contexts and of demonstrating the impact of this approach. The potential benefit to society will rest in the expected results on the basic science regarding immersive interactive technologies in informal learning contexts as well as in demonstrating the feasibility of the integrated approach to assessment.
This project will use a living lab methodology to evaluate interactive immersive technologies in terms of their support for STEM identity change in middle-school age youth. The two-year design-based research will iteratively develop and improve the measurement instrument for the argument that identity change is a fundamental to learning. A combination of Augmented Reality and intelligent virtual agents will be used to create an interactive experience--a virtual living lab--in an informal museum learning exhibit that enables change interests towards technology and engineering and provides short-term assessment tools. In collaboration with the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia, the testbed for the approach will be an experience that brings to life the technologies of the early 20th century aboard a historic ship. Through the application of Participatory Action Research techniques, intelligent virtual agents interacting with youth and families will customize STEM information relating to the ship's mission and performance. Topics explored will make connections with current day technologies and scientific understanding. Mixed-methods will be used to analyze interactions, interview and survey data, will form the basis for assessing the impact on youth's STEM interests. The elicitation method specifically includes assessment metrics that are relevant to the concept of learning as identity change. This assessment, through immersive interactive technologies, will target the priority areas of engagement in STEM as well as the measurement of outcomes.
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