Mike Horn, Reed Stevens: Energy Project Furthers Science Learning at Home

Mike Horn, Reed Stevens: Energy Project Furthers Science Learning at Home

Mike Horn

Thermostats and other energy control devices play a key role in a new project to study families’ informal science learning. Learning Sciences faculty members Mike Horn and Reed Stevens will be using — and creating — such devices to find out how best to encourage science learning that will help families conserve energy at home.

“We see the use of energy management technology as a rich entry point into the study of informal learning in homes,” Horn and Stevens wrote in their research proposal. For a three-year study on the subject, the learning sciences researchers received a $540,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.

Horn and Stevens will be studying not only whether families can learn to use sustainable practices but also, more broadly, the nature of informal science learning in homes.

They chose energy management devices as their focus because sustainable practices in the 21st century involve core science, engineering, technology, and math skills and are an area where all generations of a family can learn together

A second goal of the research is to contribute to the design of technologies that reinforce informal science learning and family participation in home energy management. Horn and Stevens are designing a mobile tablet application that will help family members control heating, cooling and air circulation in homes. The goal is to encourage inquiry-based learning as a shared family practice.

Reed Stevens
“This research broadens our understanding of how families understand and learn with energy management technology. In turn, this contributes to the effort to bring about meaningful change toward sustainable practices,” say Horn and Stevens.

A special feature is that the project involves both children and adults in making meaningful contributions to managing resources in the home. As the researchers note, the next generation needs to learn to “use energy smarter.”

(above) Learning Sciences assistant professor Michael Horn,
(below) Learning Sciences professor Reed Stevens.

By Marilyn Sherman
Last Modified: 2/16/12