Out of Tune: Discord and Learning in a Music Programming Museum Exhibit

Authors: Duri Long, Tom Mcklin, Anna Weisling, William Martin, Steven Blough, Katlyn Voravong, Brian Magerko


Museum visitors often come into the museum space receptive to exploring new ideas, and this may encourage members of visitor groups to be supportive and cooperative when engaging together with exhibits. However, as participant groups explore the concepts of the exhibit, interruptions, conflicts, or disagreements may result. We collectively label this social tension as discord. This paper studies discord among family groups interacting with TuneTable, a museum exhibit designed to promote middle school students’ interest in and learning of basic computing concepts (e.g. loops, conditionals) through music programming. We analyzed video recordings of each participant group and found that discord often appears alongside three markers of high engagement: a) complex physical manipulation of exhibit components; b) conversation demonstrating an in-depth understanding of how the exhibit works; and c) instances of collaboration between group members. Our findings suggest that certain types of discord could potentially be indicators of productive learning experiences at museum exhibits related to computing. In addition, when designing informal learning experiences for computing education, our findings suggest that discord is a potential trigger for deeper engagement that warrants further exploration.

Long, Duri & Mcklin, Tom & Weisling, Anna & Martin, William & Blough, Steven & Voravong, Katlyn & Magerko, Brian. (2020). Out of Tune: Discord and Learning in a Music Programming Museum Exhibit. 10.1145/3392063.3394430.

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