Heather is chairing AERA’s Informal Learning Environments Research group for 2019-2020.

Heather is chairing AERA’s Informal Learning Environments Research group for 2019-2020. The group is dedicated to furthering educational research in informal learning environments and to promote a community practice interested in establishing and maintaining a better understanding of learning in multiple out-of-school time environments. Members are researchers and practitioners focusing on equity, inclusion, and access to learning in libraries, museums, community-based organizations, hobbies, outdoor education, and everyday settings.

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Informal Learning Environments Research
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Our purpose is to further educational research in informal learning environments and to promote a community practice interested in establishing and ma…

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Hiring a full-time Lab Manager

The College of Education at Penn State seeks candidates for the position of Lab Manager/Human Research Technologist with the Augmented and Mobile Learning Research (AMLR) Group. The AMLR group (http://sites.psu.edu/augmentedlearning/about-us/stem-pillars//) conducts video-based research studies in libraries, museums, summer camps, gardens, and nature centers. The successful candidate will work on a 4-year NSF-funded study investigating how rural families and youths can best learn science with mobile computers. The position involves overseeing a dynamic team: organizing the group’s schedule, recruiting research participants, scheduling 30 workshops per year, developing appropriate databases, and managing the daily lab operation (which includes equipment oversight, supply orders, managing project finances, updating websites, updating existing IRB protocols, and similar tasks). Duties also include preparing materials for studies, conducting video-based data collection on weekends and early evenings from spring to fall (~30 evenings/weekend days per year); and completing video digitizing and archiving. Travel to data collection sites in Centre, Blair, and Huntingdon counties is required. This position requires that you operate a motor vehicle as a part of your job duties. A valid driver’s license and successful completion of a motor vehicle records check will be required in addition to standard background checks. Typically requires an Associate’s degree or higher plus two years of related experience, or an equivalent combination of education and experience. A Bachelor’s degree is preferred. The successful candidate will have strong computer skills (Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint) and willingness to learn additional computer skills related to data management, preparation, analysis, and archiving. Applicants should have excellent interpersonal, communication, and organizational skills – with the ability to manage multiple simultaneous projects. Interested applicants should upload a cover letter, a CV/resume, and contact information for three references. This is a fixed-term appointment funded for one year from date of hire with strong possibility of re-funding. 
To review the Annual Security Report which contains information about crime statistics and other safety and security matters and policies, please go to https://police.psu.edu/annual-security-reports, which will also explain how to request a paper copy of the Annual Security Report.
Penn State is an equal opportunity, affirmative action employer, and is committed to providing employment opportunities to all qualified applicants without regard to race, color, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability or protected veteran status.
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Heather and Lucy have new JRST article on informal science learning

New research!

With our partnering site, Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center, our informal learning research project examined how guided participation processes support the use of cultural tools (such as scientific equipment) during a nature walk at one nature center. This new Journal of Research in Science Teaching paper analyzed family interactions outdoors using microethnographic methods. We used an informal learning framework based on guided participation and cultural tools to allow for an in-depth investigation of social facilitation used by a working class family: a grandmother, a mother, and two young sons. We identified three findings related to guided participation strategies that facilitated the use of cultural tools for this family, which are discussed in detail: (1) one guided participation process that emerged was the facilitating physical movements related to cultural tool use; (2) a second guided participation process that emerged was balancing the access to cultural tools to reflect family goals for both social harmony and supporting science interests; and (3) trail-based designed learning settings where outdoor explorations occur are important, but understudied, sites of learning for rural families. Implications of the study included the analytical importance of the constructs of cultural tools, guided participation, and embodied science knowledge for advancing research on family learning related to biology and environmental sciences. The research findings also suggested an expanded view of what counts as an informal science learning institution by including nature trails and related outdoor spaces alongside museums, science centers, and zoos in order to represent the everyday learning activities of rural families.

To download:

The onlinelibrary at wiley.com — academic library subscription required. Email me (heather at psu (dot) edu) for a copy if you cannot access via this link.

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Heather and team publish new findings at Interaction Design and Children 2015

With colleague Susan Land and our research team, I presented new findings in a paper at the Interaction Design and Children  conference in Boston, MA, USA in June 2015.  Through work supporting tablet-mediated science learning during summer camp, we discussed how children’s science talk was supported by our Tree Investigator mobile app.  We found that children’s conceptual talk (claims) had less evidence provided when the children worked in peer-peer groups. When supported by an adult naturalist, children gave more descriptive evidence from their observation of trees to support their conceptual claims.  We interpret this to mean that in tablet-mediated science learning in informal settings, an expert guide can be an important resource when children are learning complex ecological content.

Zimmerman, H. T., Land, S. M., Mohney, M. R., Maggiore, C., Kim, S. H., Choi, G. W., Jung, Y. J. & Dudek, J. (2015). Using augmented reality to support observations about trees during summer camp. Proceedings of the Interaction Design and Children. Pp. 395-398. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2771839.2771925

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Presentations at the NARST 2015 Annual Meeting in Chicago

In April, I have two talks with colleagues at the 2015 NARST Annual Meeting in Chicago.  The first talk is on our school-community partnership to support bringing community’s concerns related to that environmental sciences into school-based high school science curriculum.  The second talk is a presentation about our fourth iteration of a design-based research study of mobile computers to support outdoor science learning.

Zimmerman, H. T., & Weible, J. L. (2015, April) Integrating digital photography in field-based environmental sciences to support understandings of watershed health in the symposium, “Reorganizing Contexts of Practice for Equitable Science Learning”. National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST) 2015 Annual Meeting Chicago, IL.

Zimmerman, H. T. & Land, S. M. (2015, April). Participation in an outdoor mobile learning environments with digital photography in the paper set “Science Needs a Marketing Make-Over: Playful Learning in Formal and Informal Science Education”. National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST) 2015 Annual Meeting Chicago, IL.

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Heather & Lucy presenting at PAEE on mobile computing outdoors

On March 13, 2015, Lucy & Heather are presenting at the Pennsylvania Association for Environmental Education on a talk called,  Engaging with the Outdoors through Mobile Devices.  They will create a conversation with outdoor educators, naturalist, park rangers and others about the role that computer tablets and smart phones can play in supporting people’s engagement and enjoyment with nature.


Two learners using a mobile computers outdoors!

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Heather & Chris presenting at Open Badges in Education workshop

On Monday, March 26, 2015, Chris & Heather are presenting on  an digital badges with their paper An Online Badging System Supporting Educators’ STEM Learning at Workshop on Open Badges in Education in Poughkeepsie, New York, USA.  Download the paper here: Gamrat_Zimmerman_2015_OBIE_Workshop_Long_Paper [pdf].

In our paper, we investigate how a digital badging system was used as part of an informal, not-for-credit professional development project. Teacher Learning Journeys was designed for personalized science learning for educators in K-12 schools, museums, universities, and teaching colleges through employing two levels of micro-credentials: lower achievement digital stamps and higher achievement digital badges. We conducted a qualitative collective case study centered on 36 teachers; the primary data were records from learners’ interactions within the digital badge system; secondary data came from a survey at the end of the experience and two interviews with 11 focal teachers. Our findings suggest the following design principles: (a) two levels of assessment can support personalized learning, (b) mastery of learning can be demonstrated and assessed through reflective logs, (c) collaboration during and after badging activities can provide value to the learners, and (d) establishment of relevance of badging experiences can support the application of content outside the badging system.

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Heather is presented research findings on mobile computing

Heather Zimmerman is presented emerging research findings from our team’s COIL grant at the 2nd Annual COIL Research Symposium on Thursday, October 16.

The Augmented and Mobile Learning Research Group‘s  COIL grant is a 12-month research project on how mobile computers can support engagement with the life sciences in people’s communities. Project Co-Directors Heather Zimmerman and Susan Land began this project to compare forms of technologically enhanced facilitation in regard to supporting learners to think scientifically at the Arboretum at Penn State and Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center. The technologically enhanced facilitation supports observing to encourage deliberate noticing that will lead to the development of scientific concepts as learners coordinate information contained on the mobile computer with the specimens on-site.

Prior to this funded project, the AR and Mobile Computing team conducted two small scale qualitative studies (see my Publications Page or our team’s Augmented  & Mobile Learning website).  Now with the COIL grant funds, we engaged in a more rigorous series of qualitative and multi-condition, design-based research studies in summer 2014 that examined various aspects of mobile computing pedagogy. Publications on this new work are forthcoming in 2015 and 2016.

In addition to Heather and Susan, members of the COIL project team include: Brian J. Seely, Michael R. Mohney, Gi Woong Choi, Jaclyn Dudek, Yong Ju Jung, and Lucy R. McClain.

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Two new articles related to mobile computing to support informal learning.

With my colleague Susan Land, I have two new publications out in the journal TechTrends.  Both articles are in a special issue that we co-edited on mobile and augmented computing.  Here’s details on the issue:

TechTrends Jan/Feb 2014 special issue on AR and Mobile Computing

January 24, 2014 at 9:30am

Tech Trends

http://link.springer.com/journal/11528/58/1/page/1 January/February 2014 (Vol. 58, Issue 1) 

  • Synthesizing Perspectives on Augmented Reality and Mobile Learning by Susan M. Land, Heather T. Zimmerman
  • Design Principles for Augmented Reality Learning by Matt Dunleavy
  • Participatory Scaling Through Augmented Reality Learning Through Local Games by John Martin, Seann Dikkers, Kurt Squire, David Gagnon
  • The Local Games Lab ABQ: Homegrown Augmented Reality by Christopher Holden
  • Making the Invisible Visible in Science Museums Through Augmented Reality Devices by Susan A. Yoon, Joyce Wang
  • Empowering Digital Interactions with Real World Conversation by Michael Tscholl, Robb Lindgren
  • Mathematics and Mobile Learning by Tobin White, Lee Martin
  • Bodystorming Mobile Learning Experiences by Brian K Smith
  • Facilitating Place-Based Learning in Outdoor Informal Environments with Mobile Computers by Heather Toomey Zimmerman, Susan M. Land

Check out our team’s website http://sites.psu.edu/augmentedlearning/ for more details.

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