The Handheld Signing Math & Science Dictionaries for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Museum Visitors Research Project: A Sub-study Conducted with Families at the Harvard Museum of Natural History

August 4th, 2015 | EVALUATION

With this project, TERC and the Museum of Science (MoS) Boston are studying how family and school visitors integrate iPod Touch versions of the Signing Science Pictionary (SSP), Signing Science Dictionary (SSD), and Signing Math Dictionary (SMD) into their museum experience and the impact of dictionary use. This report focuses on a sub-study involving family visitors to the Harvard Museum of Natural History (HMNH). Prior to this sub-study, TERC and the MoS conducted a primary study that examined use of the dictionaries at the MoS. Findings from this study showed the following: (1) Visitors used the signing dictionaries to learn the signs and definitions for terms that were new to them as they visited each of two exhibit areas; (2) Family groups engaged in discussions about the activities they visited. The new signs they learned from using the dictionaries were used to support these discussions; and (3) Family members reported that they used the dictionaries to learn signs and definitions for terms that were new to them more frequently at activities where Word Lists that included key dictionary terms were posted. Additionally, many participants indicated that they would be interested in using the signing dictionaries during another visit to the MoS or to a different informal science setting. This prompted the researchers to identify a museum in close proximity to TERC to continue to examine family use of the dictionaries in museum settings. The HMNH was selected for this ongoing work as it is close to TERC’s location in Cambridge, MA and offers opportunities to investigate the use of the dictionaries in a different type of science museum setting. The exhibits chosen for testing with families at the MoS included several activities that required visitors to actively engage in science inquiry, read instructions, follow steps, and interact with phenomena. These kinds of exhibits are typical of those included in a science museum. Exhibits at the HMNH— which are typical of those at most natural history museums— feature collections of displays of specimens and artifacts. Permanent galleries focus on dinosaurs, fossil invertebrates, reptiles, large mammals, birds, and fish. The wide array of preserved organisms— and few that are live— from around the world, offer visitors opportunities to observe and get a “close up” look at the diversity of life. Many of the exhibits focus on topics that afford opportunities for visitors to use the dictionaries to help them access text information presented in panels, notice particular features, and communicate about their experiences. Therefore, by selecting the HMNH for this sub-study, the researchers were able to further investigate several of the findings from the primary MoS study. This also made it possible to begin to determine how use of the signing dictionaries and outcomes of use compare to the key findings made at the MoS. The attached resource provides details about the sub-study and includes detailed information about: the objectives and goals, methodology, data collection protocols, visitor demographics, results, and findings.



Team Members

TERC Inc, Contributor
Judy Vesel, Principal Investigator, TERC Inc
Bill Nave, Evaluator, TERC Inc
Tara Robillard, Contributor, TERC Inc


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: ISE/AISL
Funding Amount: 967782

Related URLs

The Handheld Signing Math & Science Dictionaries for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Museum Visitors Research Project


Audience: Adults | Evaluators | Families | Museum | ISE Professionals | Parents | Caregivers
Discipline: Education and learning science | General STEM
Resource Type: Interview Protocol | Observation Protocol | Research and Evaluation Instruments | Research Products | Survey
Environment Type: Media and Technology | Websites | Mobile Apps | Online Media