SEDL to Evaluate MyMoon Web Portal

June 25, 2009
Austin, Texas

Contact:
Laura Shankland
Communications Associate
Phone: 512-391-6556
Email: laura.shankland@sedl.org

SEDL has received an $80,000, 4-year grant to evaluate the development of an educational Web portal called MyMoon: Virtual New Media Environments for Lunar Space Exploration. The evaluation is funded by the Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences-2008 (ROSES-2008) program, part of the Education & Public Outreach for Earth & Space Science division of the National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA).

The Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI) is developing the MyMoon portal to engage 18- to 35-year-olds in lunar science and research. The site, which is set to launch in July 2009, will provide facts about the moon and space, lunar research and mission data, and information about NASA’s future plans for lunar exploration and habitation. The interactive site will also include media exhibits, downloadable images, news, events, and opportunities for the public to interact with lunar scientists and educators.

Over the course of the 4-year grant, SEDL will provide a formative external evaluation to help LPI and NASA better understand their target audiences and how they are using the MyMoon Web site. SEDL researchers will (a) design and administer online surveys of target audiences for the site; (b) design and conduct usability studies of the test site; (c) conduct focus groups of potential and actual users; and (d) analyze the data and present recommendations for improving the site and for developing similar portals in the future.

The evaluation and development of the MyMoon site will take advantage of Web 2.0 applications and social networking. For example, survey participants will be invited to provide feedback through video invitations on YouTube, microblog invitations via Twitter, and invitations to randomly selected contacts in Facebook and other online social networking venues.

“We are very excited to partner with SEDL on this project,” said Stephanie Shipp, manager of education and public outreach at LPI and principal investigator of the MyMoon Project. “It has been 40 years since humans first walked on the Moon, and NASA is planning our return in the next few decades. We are interested in identifying paths to engage a new generation—a generation that is interacting across social media platforms—in lunar science and exploration.” Christine Shupla, project lead at LPI, stated, “MyMoon will invite young adults to be part of NASA’s lunar and space exploration. SEDL will help us determine which social media tools best resonate with this audience.”

SEDL’s Research and Evaluation (R&E) group is equally excited to partner with LPI on the MyMoon project. “It’s a nice change of pace to work with a project targeted to young adults and to examine the community-building process in a social networking environment from the ground up,” said Dr. Cheryl Harris, a SEDL R&E program associate. “Finding ways to do research with a virtual audience and finding out what online features foster good interactions will also be a great learning experience for us.”

SEDL’s R&E department maintains a portfolio of rigorous research assessing the degree to which education policies, programs, and practices improve student learning. For more information about SEDL’s research and evaluation work, please visit the SEDL Web site at www.sedl.org/re.


About SEDL

SEDL (formerly Southwest Educational Development Laboratory) is a nonprofit corporation based in Austin, Texas. SEDL is dedicated to solving significant education problems and improving teaching and learning through research, research-based resources, and professional development. For more information about SEDL, visit http://www.sedl.org/about/.

About the Lunar and Planetary Institute

The Lunar and Planetary Institute, a division of the Universities Space Research Association, conducts scientific research that furthers our understanding of the formation and evolution of the solar system. The Institute provides support and services to NASA and the planetary science community, and shares planetary science findings with the public through its education and public outreach programs. For more information about the Lunar and Planetary Institute, visit www.lpi.usra.edu.