April 9-12, 2008
Montréal, Québec, Canada

Demonstrations: Description

Science Now, Science Everywhere: Interact and Learn More Using Your Phone

Denise Bressler, Liberty Science Center, USA
Kate Haley Goldman, Institute for Learning Innovation, USA
Gary Hetzel, Liberty Science Center, USA
Kirk Rahusen, Liberty Science Center, USA

On December 22, 2007, Liberty Science Center (LSC) unveiled texting as a new way to interact with our exhibits. Our intention is to extend the learning experience beyond the walls of the museum by providing URLs for visitors to view after their visit.

How does the system work? Signage displays an instructional prompt like this: Learn more about Gadgetoff! Text "gadget" to 35842. Visitor addresses a text message to the shortcode, a short string of numbers to which text messages can be sent from all participating carriers. Visitor types the word "gadget" into the body of the message and sends the message. The software receives the keyword and sends back the message associated with that keyword. The message would say something like this: Learn more about Gadgetoff at

Providing web links to visitors while in a museum, also known as bookmarking, has been an ongoing challenge in the industry. Museums often depend on kiosks that are located away from the exhibit of interest and require guests to register and login. These barriers to use can be eliminated by using texting on the visitor’s own phone. Text messages are delivered upon request; there is no need to register or remember login information. LSC can also track how many visitors request the text messages and how many use the URLs in website usage reports.

Texting is just another part of the NSF-funded Science Now, Science Everywhere (SNSE) project. SNSE aims to create learning experiences that take advantage of the unique capabilities of the mobile phone. Just like museums have used the web as a tool for online learning, LSC is using the mobile phone as a tool for mobile learning, or m-learning. Visitors are engaging with our exhibits in a totally new way; they are using their mobile phones to interact with exhibits, retrieve extra content and extend the learning experience.

SNSE started as just an audio tour with a few commentaries about our live animal collection. We have expanded the audio tour with more stops and it has a presence in multiple exhibitions. Now, we are experimenting with texting. Over the next few months, we will be unveiling more audio stops and more texting functionalities including voting and subscribing to ongoing content. By the time of the conference in early April, we will also have the beta version of a scavenger hunt that can be conducted using your mobile phone.

Since this project began in January 2005, we’ve gained lots of lessons learned along with qualitative and quantitative research. At our demonstration, we’ll provide details about how we set up the texting and audio systems including the trials and tribulations, successes and challenges. Current usage statistics and formative evaluation results will also be shared. Of course, we’ll also facilitate interactions with our actual system so you can experience all the features of SNSE for yourself.

Demonstration: Demonstrations - 2 [Demonstrations]

Keywords: mobile phones, m-learning, mobile technology, science education, SMS