Designing mobile support technology for zoo interpreters

Paper
Brian Slattery, University of Illinois at Chicago, USA, Leilah Lyons, University of Illinois at Chicago; New York Hall of Science, USA, Priscilla Jimenez Pazmino, University of Illinois at Chicago, USA

Published paper: Designing mobile support technology for zoo interpreters

This paper reports on the Climate Literacy Zoo Education Network's (CLiZEN) work to design mobile technology to support interpreters (a.k.a. docents, explainers). Interpreters are tasked with supporting guest engagement and collaborative meaning making, and can benefit from tools that help them build on their existing interactions with guests around exhibit content. These tools are especially critical in interactive, technology-centered exhibits. However, introducing additional, complex tools is challenging, as interpreters already are busy maintaining conversations with guests. These tools need to have the appropriate functionality, content, and scaffolding so that they can support and improve interpreters' facilitation without hampering interpreters' existing strategies and goals.

The CLiZEN team followed a user-centered design approach by working with adult and teen interpreters at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, Illinois, to develop a tablet support tool that aligned with interpreters' needs. The tool is designed to provide alternate representations of the core interaction of "A Mile in My Paws" for visitor audiences, through dynamic data representations (e.g., graphs, maps) and additional static media. These representations can also be used by interpreters to support and structure their presentations. Our work focused on three core areas of interpreters' use of the tablet support tool: content mastery, pedagogical content knowledge, and reflection. We found that the tool can support interpreters' existing strengths of appraising visitor interest and knowledge, and adapting exhibit content based on these appraisals. It also can complement interpreters' interactions with visitors by providing additional functionality around exhibit multimedia and supporting interpreters' professional development by facilitating reflection on past performance.

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