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Shannon Schmoll - Michigan State University. East Lansing, MI, US

Shannon Schmoll

Director, Abrams Planetarium | Michigan State University


Shannon Schmoll is an expert on basic astronomy, naked-eye astronomy, eclipses, constellations and the night sky.






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Spartans on Star Wars: Shannon Schmoll Dr. Shannon Schmoll on Possible Life on Venus



Shannon Schmoll is the director of the Abrams Planetarium at Michigan State University. She has worked on expanding our audience and finding new ways if utilizing our immersive planetarium theater. She has a PhD in astronomy and science education. Her dissertation was titled "Toward a Framework for Integrating Planetarium and Classroom Learning" and was aimed at better understanding how planetarium field trips can effectively fit into formal astronomy curriculum. She also has completed a certificate in Museum Studies which included a 3-month internship at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago where she worked on exhibit content development, exhibit design, and creating materials for educators. She is currently guiding the planetarium in the development of engaging and interactive astronomy programming including full dome shows and exhibits and building partnerships with various groups on the MSU campus and the greater Lansing and Michigan communities.

Industry Expertise (3)

Writing and Editing



Areas of Expertise (7)

Night Sky


Basic Astronomy


Science Education

Naked-Eye Astronomy


Education (3)

University of Michigan: Ph.D., Astronomy and Science Education 2013

University of Michigan: M.S., Astronomy and Astrophysics 2009

University of Washington: B.S., Astronomy and Astrophysics 2007

Affiliations (1)

  • Great Lakes Planetarium Association

News (2)

Telescope sales and stargazers are both looking up these days

The Christian Science Monitor Daily  online


The pandemic makes astronomy a fitting hobby. People can do it alone in their backyard. But it also offers ways to connect with others virtually, as people post their astrophotography on social media and share celestial experiences at a time when they can't be physically together. Furthermore, the night sky itself can be a unifying view, says Shannon Schmoll, director of the Abrams Planetarium at Michigan State University. “Right now, we're all separated. We don't get to see our families right now. We don't get to see our friends. We don't get to see other people. But all over the world, everyone sees the same stars,” she says. “And so we have that shared experience by going outside to look up … and that is something that can connect us.”

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MSU Today  online


“The display will feature meteorites found from around the world but will put front and center the Michigan meteorites in our collection, a little piece of our state’s own ‘space heritage’ so to speak,” said Abrams Planetarium Director Shannon Schmoll...

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Journal Articles (5)

A Guide to Conducting Educational Research in the Planetarium


2015 For the past several decades, researchers have conducted studies on the planetarium as an educational venue. A major goal of this research has been to measure student conceptual learning (e.g. Brazell & Espinoza, 2009), while other studies have compared learning outcomes in the planetarium to learning in other settings (e.g. Zimmerman, Spillane, Reiff, & Sumners, 2014).

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Toward a Framework for Integrating Planetarium and Classroom Learning

Deep Blue

2013 Field trips are a ubiquitous part of modern school programs and can offer exciting, engaging, and authentic experience for students to learn science. There has been extensive research on how to best integrate field trips with classroom instruction so they can reach their full potential. Planetaria are often ignored in this literature, which is unfortunate as they are more didactic and structured environments than other informal spaces such as museums, but can still offer positive affect and learning gains to students outside of the classroom.

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Mobile learning in museums: how mobile supports for learning influence student behavior

Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on Interaction Design and Children

2011 Nomadic scientific inquiry -- technology-supported authentic inquiry done on-the-go, across settings -- has the potential to engage students in learning new concepts and practicing essential science skills. We developed the Zydeco system to support nomadic inquiry in part through enabling the collection and annotation of multimodal data (photographs and audio notes). The system was designed to bridge school and museum contexts through project-based science inquiry. In this study, we explore how Zydeco influences student behavior and sensemaking in the museum.

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How students find, evaluate and utilize peer-collected annotated multimedia data in science inquiry with zydeco

Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems

2010 Scientific inquiry can be more authentic and meaningful to students when using personal and peer-collected data. The challenges of organizing and evaluating a potentially large amount of data can be overcome through the use of annotations (title, tags, and audio notes). We created Zydeco, a multi-component system that students use to collect annotated multimedia data from a museum (using a smartphone app), and then create a scientific explanation with their personal and peers' data (using a tablet app). We ran a classroom study with 54 students (ages 11-13) investigating how students searched for, evaluated, and used annotated data to construct a scientific explanation. We found that tags supported data interpretation, while title searching and panning through the unfiltered data set supported finding and using data.

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Using tags to encourage reflection and annotation on data during nomadic inquiry

Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems

2010 Nomadic inquiry may benefit from tagging when used for educational purposes to support reflection and annotation during data collection. To that end we created Zydeco, a mobile system to scaffold learners through the science inquiry process in and out of the classroom, and tested it in a museum with 42 middle school students. Students report that tags encouraged reflection and annotation during data collection, suggesting that tagging can be used to support nomadic inquiry. From this work we present some emerging design recommendations for constructing similar systems.

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