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Supporting citizen inquiry: an investigation of moon rock

Citizen inquiry is an innovative way for non-professionals to engage in practical scientific activities, in which they take the role of self-regulated scientists in informal learning contexts. This type of activity has similarities to inquiry-based learning and to citizen science, but also important differences. To understand the challenges of supporting citizen inquiry, a prototype system and activity has been developed: the Moon Rock Explorer. Based on the nQuire Toolkit, this offers people without geology expertise an open investigation into authentic specimens of Moon rock, using a Virtual Microscope. The Moon Rock Explorer inquiry has been evaluated in an informal learning context with PhD students from the Open University. Results of the evaluation raise issues related to motivation and interaction between inquiry participants. They also provide evidence that the integration of scientific tools was successful and that the nQuire Toolkit is suitable to deploy and enact citizen inquiries.

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