The University of Pittsburgh's Center for Learning in Out-of-School Environments, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, and the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University are building an open access cyberlearning infrastructure that employs super high-resolution gigapixel images as a tool to support public understanding, participation, and engagement with science. Networked, gigapixel image technology is an information and communication technology that creates zoomable images that viewers can explore, share, and discuss. The technology presents visual information of scientifically important content in such detail that it can be used to promote both scientific discovery and education.
The purpose of the project is to make gigapixel technology accessible and usable for informal science educators and scientists by developing a robotic imaging device and online services for the creation, storage, and sharing of billion-pixel images of scientifically important content that can be analyzed visually. Project personnel are conducting design activities, user studies, and formative evaluation studies to support the development of a gigapan technology platform for demonstration and further prototyping. The project builds on and leverages existing technologies to provide informal science education organizations use of gigapixel technology for the purpose of facilitating three types of activities that promote participatory learning by the public--Public Understanding of Science activities; Public Participation in Scientific Research activities; and Public Engagement in Science activities.
The long-terms goals of the work are to (1) create an accessible database of gigapixel images that informal science educators can use to facilitate public-scientist interactions and promote participatory science learning, (2) characterize and demonstrate the affordances of networked gigapixel technologies to support socially-mediated, science-focused cyberlearning experiences, (3) generate knowledge about how gigapixel technology can enable three types of learning interactions between scientists and the public around visual data, and (4) disseminate findings that describe the design, implementation, and evaluation of the gigapixel platform to support participatory science learning. The project's long-term strategic impacts include guiding the design of high-resolution images for promoting STEM learning in both informal and formal settings, developing an open educational resource and science communication platform, and informing informal science educators about the use and effectiveness of gigapixel images in promoting participatory science learning by the public.