We have finally completed the iterative prototyping on the table-top interface and are now starting data collection! The project is coming along well, and an excitement is stirring within the entire team. As a newcomer, it has been thrilling to get to see individuals interact with the table-top and instantly see how these interactions are promoting learning about our Earth’s ocean basins. My name is Brittani Kirkland and I am a first-year Master’s student in Agricultural Education and Communication at UF. I am excited to join this team and provide my knowledge and experience with non-formal (aka informal or free-choice) learning. I have four years of experience in Extension education within the state of Florida’s Animal Science Department at the University of Florida. While animals are a bit different than the work this project is focusing on, my knowledge from the development of non-formal education programs for the 4-H Horse programs will help me aid in the development of this mode of learning we are researching. I hope that my different background will add a new, creative perspective on this research team.
When I first learned of this project in January, it was difficult to wrap my head around. Not only was the concept foreign to me, but also the idea of how these interactions were facilitating learning was hard to define and digest. revamping the prototype after interactive prototyping from the previous semester had revealed a need for some alterations. Getting introduced in the middle of this project made it difficult for me to provide input, or even understand, team discussion. However, within the last month I feel I have been able to grasp what it is we are researching and how these interactions are fostering scientific learning; allowing people to develop scientific skills through interactions that will transfer to future contact with science exhibits. Conducting prototyping sessions last month was exciting, and I have seen how people interact and learn from our project. Annie’s poster at the University of Florida Undergraduate Research Symposium has an overview of the prototypes made throughout our iterative prototyping.
Going forward, we still have barriers to overcome. It is difficult to design something that allows for discovery without prompting. We live in a world of instant gratification, which creates a difficult barrier for us as researchers to retain the user’s attention while trying to investigate raw interaction. While observing, we must allow the user to be, and remain, engaged without providing positive or negative reinforcements that inhibit exploration. This has provided a great challenge for our team because we want the user to learn scientific skills, and as science educators, we must learn to take a step back and allow them to process and explore on their own in order to develop these skills. I am interested to see how we will continue to combat this challenge and what our observations will tell us about human interaction with touch-enabled screens. I cannot wait to investigate the link between these interactions and learning and to see how users discover more about our world and changing temperatures in Earth’s ocean basins through the interaction with this table-top interface as we begin our lab study sessions!