Taking the Museum Experience Mobile

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Visiting a museum is a great way to expand our knowledge, see things we can’t ordinarily see, and learn in an informal setting. Whether for field trips, Saturday morning tours, or special events, museums reflect the importance we place on knowledge and learning. They are valuable resources to us all.

But that doesn't mean we can't improve the museum experience. The SAS Curriculum Pathways development team has done just that with the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, the largest institution of its type in the Southeast and the most visited attraction in North Carolina. More specifically, the team has created an app that provides a wealth of targeted information and unprecedented accessibility. NC NatSci was funded by an IMLS Sparks grant and is available for free download on any Apple device.

Convenience

Picture a typical visit to a museum. You enter the main doors, grab a map, and follow the suggested path. You view the exhibits and read the accompanying information; maybe you rent an audio wand to get a virtual tour.

With an app like NC NatSci, however, a more tailored approach is possible. Say you want to see all of the dinosaur-related items. With the new app, you can filter the content by topic and plan your trip to see exactly what you want. You can listen to the information while viewing the exhibit and thus focus on the dinosaurs rather than text about dinosaurs. After all, as with art galleries, we don't visit museums simply to read. To keep you on track, you can access maps at any time. All in all, this app makes your visit more informative, enjoyable, and efficient.

app_NRC-first-floor

Accessibility

The overall goal of the app is to improve the museum experience for all visitors, so accessibility is crucial. Being available as an iOS app guarantees a high level of "baked-in" accessibility as a result of Apple's rigorous approval process. Apple products also have powerful accessibility features; that's why they are preferred as assistive technology devices. Our developers have coded NC NatSci to work with Apple's accessibility features (e.g., tap-to-zoom, color inversion, and VoiceOver). Though many iOS apps are highly accessible, small glitches can cause huge accessibility problems. The SAS team worked diligently to eliminate such problems.

Access Anywhere

Whether you want to determine in advance which exhibits to visit (something especially valuable for teachers planning field trips!) or learn about the exhibits remotely, NC NatSci offers a wealth of  information that's accessible anytime, anywhere.

The museum is a free community resource whose mission is to increase a visitor's knowledge of ecological interconnectedness. Improved access to and increased understanding of the museum’s resources are thus huge steps toward fulfilling that mission.

Check it out, and let us know what you think! As always, we rely on your input to help improve our apps.

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About Author

Scott McQuiggan

Scott McQuiggan leads SAS® Curriculum Pathways®, an interdisciplinary team focused on the development of no-cost educational software in the core disciplines at SAS. He received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from North Carolina State University in 2009, where his research focused on affective reasoning in intelligent game-based learning environments. His research has been published in more than 30 journal articles and refereed conference proceedings, and been recognized through several best paper nominations including Best Student Paper Award at the International Conference on Affective Computing and Intelligent Interaction.

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