Mobile interpretive apps as educational mediating tools in science education: participant-based digital design in natural history and science museums




Hammond-Todd, Michael Andrew

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The use of mobile and social learning media for K-12 students continues to rapidly increase in both formal and informal learning environments. While many educational apps have been developed for adult visitors to museums and science and technology centres (STCs), very few programs exist that are specifically designed to meet the unique learning and interpretive needs of elementary students in these learning environments. This dissertation explores the inclusion and development of children’s ideas and digitally mediated interpretive activities for peers within the exhibits of the natural history gallery at the Royal British Columbia Museum (RBCM) in Victoria, British Columbia. In this triangulated case study, thirteen Grade 4 and 5 students, five museum interpreters, and six elementary teachers worked in teams to design educational apps for their peers using experimental software specifically designed for this project. Five design teams composed of 2-3 students, one teacher, and a museum educator designed a wide variety of science activities for the natural history gallery at the RBCM. The results of analytic triangulation indicate that mobile interpretive apps acted as imperfect but important educational mediating tools for the participants in this study. The analysis revealed that, despite initial preconceptions and frustrations students and educators had about mobile design and technologies, Grade 4 and 5 elementary students were capable and highly interested creating mobile science apps for the natural history galleries at RBCM. Students and educators designed content and activities that extended participant-based learning opportunities beyond the existing science programs and curriculum currently available at the RBCM. The dissertation concludes with an examination of how informal science institutions can move beyond educational interactivity to more participatory frameworks that include the ideas and voices of young people within mobile learning and educational app development at natural history museums and STCs in the future.



science education, mobile learning, curriculum design, participant-based, elementary students, museum education, triangulated case study, thematic network analysis, narrative research