Dr. Heather Toomey Zimmerman

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Associate Professor of Education

 

Current Projects that are accepting students:

  • Mobile and digital technologies to support science learning in and out of school
  • Families learning about ecology
  • Learning across science settings

 

Mobile and digital technologies to support science learning in and out of school

 

Project Co-Leads: Drs. Susan Land, Heather Zimmerman

In this project, we are working with a large group of students and faculty to conduct design-based research on how technologies (digital and mobile) can be leveraged by families to learn science in informal spaces (like museums, nature centers, and arboretums) and then how these technologies can be used to support school learning.

We are interested in how youth and families use technologies to perceive the space around them, become scientific observers, develop identities congruent with science, nature, and technology, integrate science with their everyday experiences, and progressively and collaboratively build knowledge.

We are working with students who are interested in designing technologies, integrating technologies, and collecting and analyzing research data. 

Student research roles on this project

Students will collect data in outdoor and museum sites with families. Students will prepare data for analysis and participate in analysis sessions. Opportunities exist for writing conference and journal paper submissions as well as designing technology solutions for learning in various settings.

 

Families learning about ecology

In the families learning about ecology study, we work with Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center and other informal learning sites to study learning about ecology, earth sciences and the environmental sciences. We examine how everyday experiences outside and with nature provide resources for scientific knowledge, practices, and identities.

Student research roles on this project

Students will collect data in outdoor and museum sites with families using video cameras and digital audio recorders. Some data collection work may include interviews or surveys. Students will prepare data for analysis and participate in analysis sessions. Opportunities exist for writing conference and journal paper submissions as well as designing technology solutions for learning in various settings.

 

Learning across science settings

In a study called learning across science settings, the research team works with informal learning institutions and a team of high school biology teachers to understand how everyday technologies can support youth in learning about their local environment. We explore the ways that youth can use digital photography and wikis to integrate what they learning on fieldtrip into the school curriculum.

Student research roles on this project

Students will collect data in outdoor fieldtrip sites and in classrooms with elementary through high school students using video cameras and digital audio recorders. Some data collection work may include interviews or surveys as well as artifact analysis from wikis and youth’s final science projects. Students will prepare data for analysis and participate in analysis sessions. Opportunities exist for writing conference and journal paper submissions as well as designing technology solutions for learning in various settings. 

 

About Dr. Heather Zimmerman

Heather Zimmerman is an Associate Professor of Education at Penn State University. Heather has a Ph.D. in the Learning Sciences from the University of Washington, with degrees in Museum Studies from the University of Washington and Science Communication from Cornell University. In her research, Heather analyzes the social and cognitive practices that people use to learn about science and technology in everyday settings. She studies how multiple learning experiences contribute to the development of scientific knowledge, practices, and affiliations towards (or away) from science. Her interests include parent-child interactions, designing for learning in informal institutions, the role of technology to support learning across settings, and gender issues that intersect with STEM disciplines. Prior to coming to Penn State, Heather worked in museums involved designing and implementing programs for families, youth organizations, and libraries—including an early childhood program called Storybook Science and a community-based program for rural and urban youth. She has published in Science Education, the Journal of Museum Education, and the Proceedings of the International Conference of the Learning Sciences in 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010.