By Judi Fusco
Cyberlearning 2017 was an inspiring event in April. You can see a storify (a record of the tweets during the meeting) that documents many of the topics and technologies presented. In this post, I'm going to share a little about the 4 keynotes and give you the links so you can watch them.
The four keynotes kicked off with a future thinking one about virtual reality (VR) by Jeremy Bailenson. The VR discussed in this keynote isn't ready for the classroom yet, but we'll have new technologies soon that will be classroom ready. The keynote by Jeremy Bailenson describes his work and helps us think about what we need to investigate to understand about learning and VR. Cyberlearning researchers and teachers need to be thinking and planning now for the future. (We'll do a post soon about VR that is in the classroom.)
The second keynote by Mary Helen Immordino Yang focused on the link between emotions and learning and what we know from neuroscience. Most of the good teachers I know intuitively understand how important the emotional connection is in the learning process, but the keynote talk helps us understand reasons why emotion and cognition are so intertwined and has helped me think. I will share more in another post.
The third keynote talk by Eileen Scanlon was on the challenges of creating and sustaining a meaningful program of research. Eileen does research on Citizen Science; you can learn more about it in a CIRCL Primer on Citizen Science.
The final keynote, given by Karthik Ramani, discussed computational fabrication as a way to engage students and help them learn. He is also creating new technologies and interfaces to technologies. He describes his work and lab. His students showed off cardboard robots! In the photo on the right, one of the CIRCL Educators checks out the robots.
I highly recommend watching each of the four keynote videos at some point. Each keynote is one-half hour and if you watch, leave a comment and tell us what you think and if you see any implications for your practice. You can read reflections on the meeting by Jeremy Roschelle, one of the co-chairs of the conference.
By Judi Fusco
Our last post discussed embodied learning and Cyberlearning. Cyberlearning is many different things; on the CIRCL site, we have an overview of Cyberlearning. In this post, we’ll look at another example: a new Cyberlearning project developing technology that may be able to help support teachers and the collaborative learning process.
It can be difficult to understand what is happening during collaborative work in a classroom when there are multiple groups of students and just one teacher. In a previous post we discussed how it’s hard for an administrator to walk into a classroom and figure out what is happening when students are collaborating because it’s hard to walk up to a group and understand instantly what they are doing. It’s also hard for teachers because they can’t be in all of the groups at the same time. Of course, teachers wish they could be a fly on the wall in each group so that they could ensure that each group is staying on-task and learning, but that’s impossible. Or is it?
At the end of that previous post, I asked if cyberlearning researchers could help create tools to better understand collaboration. When I did that, I was kind of setting myself up to introduce you to a Cyberlearning researcher, Cynthia D’Angelo. She has a project that may lead to the creation of a new Cyberlearning tool to address the problem that it is impossible for a teacher to be in more than one place at a time. Watch this 2-minute video about Speech-Based Learning Analytics for Collaboration (SBLAC) and see what you think.
Cynthia’s research is still in early stages, but all the practitioners I’ve told about it find it interesting and want it for their classroom. Here’s a little more about the project:
In this project, work is being done to determine if technology that examines certain aspects of speech -- such as amount of overlapping speech or prosodic features (like pitch or energy) -- can give real-time insights about a group’s collaborative activities. If this could happen, and SBLAC went into classrooms, then teachers could get instant information about certain things occurring in group collaboration even when they weren’t present in that group.
The proposed technology would require a “box” of some sort to sit with each group to analyze the speech features of the group in real time. One research question in the project is, “Are non-content based speech features (such as amount of overlapping speech or vocal pitch) reliable indicators for predicting how well a group is collaborating?” Initial results suggest this is promising. (Note, this technology doesn’t analyze the content of the speech from the students, just features of the speech. Hopefully, this helps to preserve student privacy.)
It’s important to support groups during collaboration because sometimes groups aren’t effective or an individual student gets left behind. This work, while it is still in early stages, could potentially help teachers identify groups having problems during collaboration. A teacher would no longer have to guess how a group was working when s/he wasn’t present and could target the groups having difficulties to help them improve.
If you want to learn more about the project, watch Cynthia’s 3-minute video shared at the NSF 2016 Video showcase: Advancing STEM Learning for All. Or you can read the NSF award abstract. Stay tuned, as we’ll have more about this project from two teachers who are working with Cynthia on SBLAC this summer.
SBLAC really requires teachers and researchers to work together on this hard problem about collaboration as it tries to create new tools to help in the classroom. What do you think of the idea? What do you think is hard or important about collaboration? What kind of feedback would you want on the groups in your classroom. Could SBLAC help administrators understand collaboration? Going forward, we’ll talk more about collaboration and collaborative learning, so feel free to leave questions or comments about collaboration, too.
By Mary Patterson
In June, I had the privilege of attending the International Computer Supported Collaborative Learning 2015 conference in Gothenburg, Sweden.
For four days, I was immersed in the latest research surrounding CSCL and surrounded by experts from 31 countries and 6 continents.
According to the preface to the proceedings, “The CSCL conference has an explicit focus on how and why computer support can enhance learning processes and outcomes. The CSCL field brings together researchers from cognitive science, educational research, psychology, computer science, artificial intelligence, information sciences, anthropology, sociology, neurosciences, and other fields to study learning in a wide variety of formal and informal contexts.”
As the sole, practicing K-12 educator of the group, it was quite interesting to be granted a look behind the curtain and hear the candid comments of researchers as they talked about educators in general.
While most researchers seemed genuinely appreciative of the teachers they collaborated with, there were a few who didn’t quite get the intricacies that teaching entails. One researcher expressed their frustration with a teacher who just didn’t see the importance of a treatment and non-treatment group. The teacher insisted that all students needed the treatment! Of course! Teachers have a duty and responsibility to provide the best education for their students. It would be extremely difficult for any teacher to see a positive effect and then deny it to other students. Perhaps the researcher could avoid this difficult situation by agreeing to flip groups at some point so that all students have an opportunity to experience the treatment. Teachers are held accountable today, more than ever, for the success of their students and researchers need to understand that.
In contrast to typical teacher conferences, where teachers attend in order gain new ideas and strategies that work in the classroom, this academic conference was an opportunity for researchers to share their success and failures, get ideas about further research and network with future collaborators. I was surprised at how easily methods and results were questioned, debated and evaluated. Researchers readily admitted when they didn’t have an answer and suggested further research questions to others. I would love to see more of this at a teacher’s conference. The international and interdisciplinary aspect of the conference also contributed to the collaborative atmosphere. Many teacher conferences are subject and even grade-level specific. Often, there are limited funds to support teacher attendance at conferences and therefore many teachers attend only local and regional conferences. I’d love to see what new ideas would come out of an interdisciplinary education conference! It was also interesting to note that the CSCL conference touted a new, interactive format. Instead of a typical paper presentation, participants listened to a quick synopsis of a paper, then sat in small groups to have discussions with the presenters while a moderator kept time and then had the groups rotate. Teacher conferences tend to be either “sit + get” or hands-on workshops where products are created. It would be interesting to see this interactive format at a teacher conference. I think there could be potential for some very rich conversations.
One area of the conference that I think could use the expertise of an educator is the Poster Session. Seriously! If any of my students put that much stuff on a poster that couldn’t be read from more than a foot away, we’d be having a serious discussion about design elements and graphic displays. While the posters were informative, I personally think that researchers could adopt the practice of, “Less is more!” Poster sessions at a teacher’s conference are usually on actual poster-boards, (not glossy, foam-core mounted displays) and there’s usually a take-away for the teacher; a bookmark or a handout that gives the teacher information they can use later.
Academic conferences are a great way to give people a quick look at what is hot in the field. Current research poses additional questions and this leads to new collaborations and discussions. Teacher conferences are a great way for teachers to share what works in their classrooms. Teachers leave a conference with new strategies and ideas that they can easily implement immediately. I would personally love to see more researchers attend a teacher’s conference and pitch their latest research proposal to teachers, shark tank style, in order to get valuable feedback about how best to implement their plan. Let’s work together to find the best solutions to our education challenges and questions.
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