Hi, all. My dissertation defense is November 1 at 4:30pm eastern (21:30UT) at Tufts University. It is about an education research study of AAVSO's Citizen Sky  project. Doc  will attempt to broadcast it live via U-Stream. There will be audio, video and you can even ask me questions. Click below for more info.
Hi, all. Most of you already know that I am a graduate student in Math, Science, Technology and Engineering education at Tufts University in Boston. When I wrote the original Citizen Sky NSF proposal, I put in a small education research project for myself. When it was funded, my advisor and I decided to use that as my dissertation data. I am officially defending the dissertation on November 1 at 4:30pm eastern. A friend of mine, Doc Kinne, will attempt to stream the defense video and audio live via U-Stream. You will be able to see it at the URL below:
U-Stream works in most modern browsers without the need to install any special plugins. You do not need to register for an account to just watch the defense. However, if you want to chat with others during the broadcast or ask questions of me, you will need to create an account and login. During the public Q/A period, Doc will monitor the channel and choose a couple of questions to ask me. Don't be shy!
About the research...
Many of you may recall being invited to partake in an optional survey when you registered for the Citizen Sky web site. About 1400 took that survey. Of those that did, they were asked again 6 months later to take the survey again. The quantitative part of the research involves looking for change between those two surveys. The qualitative part of the research involves analyzing the Citizen Sky online forum posts to look for change in the type and quantity of postings over time. I'll be presenting all these results in the defense. There will be jargon, but I'll try to make it as accessible as possible.
I hope you can join us!
Here is the official schedule:
C. Aaron Price's Defense Time & Location:
Time: Mon., Nov. 1, 2010 at 4:30pm
Location: Crane Room, Paige Hall, 12 Upper Campus Road, Medford, MA 02155
4:34-4:40 (6 minutes) Pre-Presentation viewing of planetarium show about the Citizen Sky project 
4:40-5:30 (50 minutes) Presentation
5:30-6:00 (30 minutes) 10 minutes per committee member
6:00-6:20 (20 minutes) Audience questions (incl. U-Stream questions)
6:20-7:00 (40 minutes) Committee closed door meeting (cupcakes and pastries by Erma will be served)
7:00-7:10 Committee decisions announcement and discussions with Aaron
Hee-Sun Lee, Ph.D, chair, Tufts University/University of California, Berkeley
Eric Chaisson, Ph.D., Tufts University
Danilo Marchesini, Ph.D., Tufts University
Timothy Slater, Ph.D. University of Wyoming
Scientific Literacy of Adult Participants in an Online Citizen Science Project
Citizen Science projects offer opportunities for non-scientists to take part in scientific research. Scientific results from these projects have been well documented. However, there is limited research about how these projects affect their volunteer participants. In this study, I investigate how participation in an online, collaborative astronomical citizen science project can be associated with the scientific literacy of its participants. Scientific literacy is measured through three elements: attitude towards science, belief in the nature of science and competencies associated with learning science. The first two elements are measured through a pre-test given to 1,385 participants when they join the project and a post-test given six months later to 125 participants. Attitude towards science was measured using nine Likert-items custom designed for this project and beliefs in the nature of science were measured using a modified version of the Nature of Science Knowledge Scale. Responses were analyzed using the Rasch Rating Scale Model. Competencies are measured through analysis of discourse occurring in online asynchronous discussion forums using the Community of Inquiry framework, which describes three types of presence in the online forums: cognitive, social and teaching. Results show that overall attitudes did not change, p = .225. However, there was significant change towards attitudes about science in the news (positive) and scientific self efficacy (negative), p < .001 and p = .035 respectively. Beliefs in the nature of science exhibited a small, but significant increase, p = .04. Relative positioning of scores on the belief items did not change much, suggesting the increase is mostly due to reinforcement of current beliefs. The cognitive and teaching presence in the online forums did not change, p = .807 and p = .505 respectively. However, the social presence did change, p = .011. Overall, these results suggest that multi-faceted, collaborative citizen science projects can have an impact on some aspects of scientific literacy. Using the Rasch Model allowed us to uncover effects that may have otherwise been hidden. Future projects may want to include social interactivity between participants and also make participants specifically aware of how they are contributing to the entire scientific process.