Science Learning in the Internet Era




Original Article 

By Jon D. Miller

Jon D. Miller ( is the John A. Hannah Professor of Integrative Studies and director of the International Center for the Advancement of Scientific Literacy, Michigan State University
Abstract This article outlines a different view of the changing nature of adult learning in the Internet era. The old model of learning—the warehouse—is being replaced by a ‘‘just-in-time’’ system of information acquisition. The NRC report focuses too heavily on finding missions for existing institutions and pays too little attention to the pervasive changes in information acquisition and adult learning in all areas. An analysis of existing data demonstrates the relative impact of formal and informal learning and points to opportunities for enhanced adult science learning in the future. In a just-in-time world, museums and similar informal learning institutions will need to be less dependent on their physical setting and more focused on learning as the end product. It will also be necessary to find a viable revenue model to support this emerging mission.


Interactives and Visitor Learning

Original Article 

By John H. Falk, Carol Scott, Lynn Dierking, Leonie Rennie and Mika Cohen Jones


Abstract  Interactives—computers and other multimedia components, physical manipulatives (including whole-body and tabletop activities), and simulations—occur in all types of museums. There is considerable interest in the nature of the learning that happens when visitors use interactives. Museum professionals have enlisted constructivist theory to support the notion that interactive elements are invaluable components of any exhibition experience, and are effective learning tools that
enable active visitor engagement. Interactives are also seen as vital to sustaining institutional image and expanding institutional popularity.

Despite the increasing use of interactives in exhibitions and the substantial investments being made in their design and maintenance, there is a paucity of research as to whether these constructivist assumptions are supported. There is little work exploring visitors’ perceptions of specific types of interactives, or the role of interactivity in the visitor experience generally. Museum staff thus have a limited ability to make informed decisions about the level and type of interactivity that might enhance exhibition experiences.

This paper describes a collaborative effort in 2001 by researchers at the Powerhouse Museum (PHM), Sydney; the Institute for Learning Innovation (the Institute), Annapolis, Maryland; and Curtin University of Technology (Curtin) and Scitech Discovery Centre (Scitech), both in Perth, Western Australia. This study investigated two aspects of interactivity: 1) visitor perceptions of interactivity in two different contexts, a museum and a science center; and 2) the types of short- and long-term learning that resulted from use of interactives in these two institutions.


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