The observation mapper

The SySTEM2020 project has set out to generate an in-depth look at science learning in the non-formal sector, designing a toolkit of frameworks, tools, and practices for the evaluation of non-formal science education programmes. The goal is to enable learners to evaluate their own learning under a number of different metrics including their engagement with a topic, e.g. by formulating or implementing research activities such as data collection.

The observation mapper is a device for exploring ways to make data collection part of reflective sense-making, through learning analytics and data visualisation. The report below is a step-by-step guide explaining the making of an ‘observation mapper’ so that young people and organisations can build their own device and integrate data collection into their workshops. The device shown in the report is one version to get started but can be modified, depending on the available ‘maker skills’ among workshop participants.

Who is it for

The tool is for educators to share with their young learners and communities. It is also for learners who have already mastered the fundamentals of making, who want to put their skills into practice by building a gadget.

As part of SySTEM 2020, two partners (Kersnikova in Ljubljana and Science Gallery at Trinity College Dublin) piloted the gadget in the context of their informal science work-shops and courses. The main idea was to connect what they learned during non-formal learning sessions with observations made outdoors, i.e. things participants could recognise in their surroundings.

Suggested scenario

Due to Covid-19 regulations during the SySTEM 2020 project, it was not possible to organise outdoor observations in small groups as originally planned. However, workshop facilitators could still map observations in their respective cities (Ljubljana and Dublin) and provide these local datasets to workshop participants, who then explored, visualised and analysed the data and the underlying phenomena in online workshops.

Facilitator tips

  1. Defining the workshop objectives prior to starting is key as this helps you determine how long the workshop needs to be, who should and can be involved, as well as whether the facilitators need training beforehand.
  2. Digitally displaying the data on a map is encouraged, as this allows for easy manipulation and adaptation to the map as you go (as shown in more depth in the report.
  3. Make sure you have all materials and tools needed. You will find a complete list of components in the report. In total, you can expect to pay approximately €30 for all components.

Report on the observation mapper and step-by-step guide

The observation mapper


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Christian Voigt


The Centre for Social Innovation


SySTEM 2020



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