Getting Inside Of (Or On Top Of) Your Head

When you think of GoPro cameras, you might think of backcountry snowboarding expeditions, or underwater cave diving. But GoPro cameras have also become a tool for researchers to learn about how people make their decisions when they visit zoos and aquariums (Z/As). Thanks to these small recorders, researchers can get more details, more perspective, and just plain more data to help them understand visitors.

WZAM3 researchers are studying the role of Z/As in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) learning in the US. But before we can determine the role of Z/As in STEM learning, we need to figure out what visitors even do at Z/As. And more importantly, what makes them do it? Usually, researchers collect this kind of data by tracking individuals and groups during their visits. Martin Storksdieck, Kelly Riedinger, and their team from the Center for Research on Lifelong STEM Learning at Oregon State University have updated and enhanced this methodology by equipping visitors at six Z/As across the US with GoPro cameras that record every aspect of their visit.

The OSU team asked visitors to wear a camera mounted on a hat during their visit, which would record everything they did, including their conversations. Researchers also interviewed visitors before and after their visit. The videos helped the researchers understand visitors’ behaviors: how groups made decisions about where to go and what to do during their visit, and how they made meaning of the experience. For instance, in groups with young children, do parents primarily make the decisions or children? If there are multiple children in the group, is it primarily the younger child or the older child driving decision-making in the group? The OSU team is also asking questions about where learning and meaning-making happen during the visit. For example, do visitors talk about what they learned only at exhibits or do they engage in conversations even as they are walking throughout the Z/A or when they stop to eat lunch? Or in another way?

The information helps determine how entry characteristics influence behaviors and the extent to which visitors’ agendas align with those of the Z/As they’re visiting. Plus, who doesn’t love an excuse to strap a GoPro to their noggin?

Stay tuned for the results of the GoPro camera study — we’ll talk about the highlights here on the blog soon.

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