Sickle Cell has proven to be a popular exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. We were told that it's difficult to get museum-goers to spend even 2 minutes with an exhibit. We've found that some children stay for 30 minutes with Sickle Cell and that patrons often find themselves waiting in line to use it. By using the idea of goal-directed learning, we made what was an initially passive idea (to get information about sickle cell disease into the minds of the general public) into an active experience and, as we had hoped, people like it.
We have also done some formal testing of Sickle Cell and found the results encouraging (Bell, Bareiss, & Beckwith, 1993). The most obvious result of using Sickle Cell was, simply put, the users felt they knew more after using the system. They could answer more questions about the condition and they had fewer misconceptions.
Learning begins with a goal, even in a science museum. Rather than teach a set of decontextualized facts about genetics, Sickle Cell Counselor gives people a compelling reason to explore the underlying knowledge. The context to the user, counseling, is used as a framework from which users can hang newly acquired concepts. This framework serves as a point of integration. All of the coaching and instruction the user is given is in service of the counseling task. Because users are eager to help their "clients," they want to learn what they can to give better advice. To teach counseling per se was not our primary aim. But, we constructed a program where completing the counseling task meant acquiring the skills we wanted people to learn. This is the principle behind goal-directed learning. The users' goals serve to organize their experience.
The Challenge in Sickle Cell
Where am I in the content of the book?