Emerging Technologies for Learning Science: a time of Rapid Advances

Download 27.06 Kb.
Size27.06 Kb.
Emerging Technologies for Learning Science: A Time of Rapid Advances
Chris Dede (Harvard University) and Sasha Barab (Indiana University)
In February, 2007, we co-edited a special issue (Vol. 16, No. 1) that focused on technologies for learning science that are inquiry-based, leverage multiple media, and integrate game-design principles and scenarios to establish rich inquiry-based contexts for engaging scientific issues. Since that time, we have prepared a second special issue on emerging technologies, this time with a somewhat broader focus on new technology-based methods of learning science. As a field, we are in an era of very rapid advances in interactive media, and the seven articles in this issue span pedagogies based on Web 2.0 tools, immersive interfaces, and games.
The term Web 2.0 reflects a shift in leading-edge applications on the World Wide Web from the presentation of material by website providers to the active co-construction of resources by communities of contributors (Dede, 2008a). Whereas the twentieth-century web centered on developer-created material (e.g., informational websites) generated primarily by a small fraction of the Internet’s users, Web 2.0 tools (e.g., Wikipedia) help large numbers of people build online communities for creativity, collaboration, and sharing.
As part of a graduate course this past fall on emerging educational technologies, Dede’s students studied 10 forms of Web 2.0 tools in terms of their potential to enhance learning by promoting creativity, collaboration, and sharing. Retrospectively, he categorized these media into three groups: sharing (e.g., communal bookmarking, photo/video sharing, social networking, writer’s workshops, fanfiction), thinking (blogs, podcasts, online discussion forums), and co-creating (Wikis, collaborative file creation, mashups/collective media creation, collaborative social change communities. Like all category systems, the number of groups is somewhat arbitrary; and, depending on how they are used, particular media can blur from one category into another (e.g., writers’ workshop/fanfiction can approach co-creation rather than sharing if authors routinely and extensively revise based on iterative feedback from other community members). That said, this grouping seems useful both in distinguishing the utility of various tools and in suggesting a progression in which collaborative social change communities could use a suite of increasingly encompassing tools to accomplish ever more sophisticated goals.
As discussed in our introduction to the first special issue, immersive interfaces are another strand of emerging educational technologies that focus less on tools than on learning experiences. Immersion is the subjective impression that one is participating in a comprehensive, realistic experience (Dede, 2009). Interactive media now enable various degrees of digital immersion. The more a virtual immersive experience is based on design strategies that combine actional, symbolic, and sensory factors, the greater the participant’s suspension of disbelief that she or he is “inside” a digitally enhanced setting. Studies have shown that immersion in a digital environment can enhance education in at least three ways: by allowing multiple perspectives, situated learning, and transfer; examples of these in science education were presented in our first special issue.
Barab et al (2007, 2009) and Squire and Jan (2007) further elaborated on immersive technologies that incorporate aspects of videogames to heighten the learning and engagement. For example, Squire and Jan (2007) discussed the importance of role playing and establishing a contested space. Barab et al (2007, 2009) delineated the importance of playing as part of a fantastical storyline that is useful for bounding the player, as opposed to simply the concepts, in the contextual frame. Unlike a typical simulation in which one is playing out concepts, in a well-designed educational game one is playing out self, but through a decision-making process than involves the productive enlistment of concepts. A core challenge highlighted in the first special issue and continued in this second set of articles is how to ensure that the core concepts and skills, while situated within one storyline whether fictional or real, are developed such that the learner appreciates their relevance to other subsequent situations—the importance of transfer.
This second issue continues our presentation of research findings on two immersive interfaces: augmented realities, and multi-user virtual environments. In augmented reality, users are immersed in mixture of real and virtual settings. Participants in these immersive simulations use location-aware handheld computers, which allow users to physically move throughout a real-world location while collecting place-dependent simulated field data, interviewing virtual characters, and collaboratively investigating simulated scenarios (Klopfer, 2008). Today, augmented reality relies on coupling a handheld computing device to a GPS receiver; however, in the near future, sophisticated cellular phones will provide a ubiquitous infrastructure for this type of immersive learning.
Via a different immersive interface, multi-user virtual environments (MUVEs), multiple simultaneous participants can access virtual contexts (such as graphically represented buildings), interact with digital artifacts and tools (such as digitized images and virtual microscopes), represent themselves through “avatars” (graphical representations of participants), communicate with other participants and with “agents” (personalities simulated by a computer), and enact collaborative learning activities of various types. This special issue presents further studies of science learning in two multi-user virtual environments featured in the first special issue and also adds a study of learning in a commercial multi-player game (Steinkuehler & Duncan, 2008).
Web 2.0 tools, immersive interfaces, and gaming environments are emerging in the context of a larger initiative: the U.S. government’s development of cyberinfrastructure (Dede, 2008b). In recent years, the NSF has championed a vision of the future of research that centers on cyberinfrastructure: the integration of computing, data and networks, digitally enabled sensors, observatories and experimental facilities, and an interoperable suite of software and middleware services and tools (National Science Foundation, 2007). Gains in computational speed, high-bandwidth networking, software development, databases, visualization tools, and collaboration platforms are reshaping the practices of scholarship and beginning to transform teaching.
In this vision, scientific and educational resources can pervade a wide variety of settings, rather than being accessible only in limited, specialized locations (Computing Research Association, 2005). Real-time data collection can enable assessing students’ educational gains on a formative basis, providing insights into the microgenetics of learning the complex knowledge and skills characteristic of higher education. Students can customize personal learning environments to a degree never before possible. Extensive online earning can complement conventional face-to-face education, and ubiquitous, pervasive computing can infuse smart-sensors and computational access throughout the physical and social environment.
As federal development of cyberinfrastructure continues, this initiative will subsume Web 2.0 tools and immersive interfaces for science learning into a broader platform reflective of how 21st century scientific research is conducted. Importantly, designing these interfaces for experts might require different strategies than when they are designed for novices (Guzdial et al, 1995). How to design these tools in such a manner as to be illuminative and engaging for learners is a core challenge that the science education community must engage in the coming years. While situating the tools as part of immersive worlds or even in gaming environments may be part of the solution, an acknowledgement of the power of Web 2.0 offers further insight. The power of co-construction and critical sharing of each other’s insights is clearly a way of participating that the science education community must embrace if we are to prepare children for scientific participation in the 21st Century.
These contexts represent a fundamental change from education, shifting from passive acquisition of someone else’s ideas to active learning experiences that empower people to inquire, critique, create, collaborate, problem solve, and create understanding. This change could be considered emancipatory in that it places power in each one of our hands. At the same time, partly because of the focus on agency, many more degrees of freedom could lead the learner to end up with an understanding that is inconsistent with evidence-based, scientific views of, for example, what is a reasonable level of CO2 in the atmosphere in terms of global climate change. These misconceptions could prove counter-productive to scientific advancement and societal wellbeing.
Each of the seven articles in this second special issue struggles with issues of how to use Web 2.0, immersive platforms, or game-based environments to ensure productive learning. A key challenge is how to balance agency of the learner with accountability in the learning environment, such that only productive insights and knowledge result. For example, in a game-based space, Hickey et al (2009) demonstrated the power of feedback on constraining learning towards those aspects of understanding that are consistent with scientific claims. They have been working over multiple years to iterate a game-based learning environment so that sixth graders would be engaged through narrative in a particular experience, yet encounter more formal scientific representations that were not contextually bound. In this study, feedback allows the teacher or system to provide specific conceptual direction within the experiential, evidence-based context of the immersive world.
Barab et al. (2009) researched a similar multi-user, game-based platform in the context of a laboratory study and with undergraduates. Moving beyond a simulation environment where users are able to manipulate parameters to understand concepts, this study advances the idea of transformational play in which the player takes on a fictional identity who develops and applies conceptual understandings to transform a problematic scientific narrative. They were able to show the learning benefits of placing students within an immersive context; these benefits upheld, compared to those assigned an expository, text-based condition, even on items that were directly stated in the latter condition. Implicit experience outweighed being directly told about a particular idea when it came to testing. Interestingly, especially in terms of the Web 2.0 focus on negotiation of ideas, students working in dyads did better than when working alone.
In contrast to game-based MUVEs, Dunleavy et al (2008) studied how teachers and students describe and comprehend the ways in which participating in an augmented reality (AR) simulation aids or hinders teaching and learning. Teachers and students reported that the technology-mediated narrative and the interactive, situated, collaborative problem solving affordances of the AR simulation were highly engaging, especially among students who had previously presented behavioral and academic challenges for the teachers. However, while the AR simulation provided potentially transformative added value, it simultaneously presented unique technological, managerial, and cognitive challenges to teaching and learning. This immersive interface thus illustrates both considerable potential and complex challenges to implementation.
Steinkuehler and Duncan (2008) examined commercial game discussion forums to look at the socially-negotiated scientific meaning making around World of Warcraft. Without an explicit formal accountability target, players nonetheless voluntarily engaged in many of the scientific negotiation practices that we struggle to get children to elicit in school contexts. Further, over time these game-based conversations proved productive in that the claims of productive practice became more insightful and more useful in terms of directing game play. How to leverage complex game spaces to foster meaningful dialogue in which the community evolves their knowledge through complex scientific discourse is an untapped potential resource for science education research.
In a study that illustrates a promising approach to this discourse challenge, Clark et al (2009) studied how collaboration scripts can facilitate argumentation in online settings by grouping students with other students who have expressed differing perspectives on a discussion topic. They compared a personally-seeded script with a variant augmented-preset script to determine the relative contributions of components of the scripts in terms of (1) increasing personal engagement of the students versus optimizing of the starting seed-comments and (2) grouping students using the conflict schema approach versus random assignment of students to groups. The results suggest that engaging students in the exploration of a diverse set of preset discussion seed-comments coupled with a “conflict” schema approach leads to the highest gains in learning. These findings can generalize to designs across a wide range of science education learning experiences.
Chase et al (2009) studied another important theme that underlies many promising approaches to science education: using sophisticated technologies to enhance students’ engagement in learning. In Betty’s Brain, a computer-based learning environment, students instruct a character called a Teachable Agent (TA), which can reason based on how it is taught. They described two studies that demonstrate the protégé effect: Students make greater effort towards learning for their TAs than they do for themselves. Having a TA may invoke a sense of responsibility that motivates learning, provides an environment in which knowledge can be improved through revision, and protects students’ egos from the psychological ramifications of failure. This is another dimension of the “personal agency” issues discussed earlier.
Finally, Clarke and Dede (2009) delineated the crucial issue of scaling up promising innovations to widespread usage across a spectrum of educational settings. They described and documented the application of a five-dimensional framework for designing educational innovations for scalability through enhancing their adaptability for effective usage in a wide variety of contexts. None of the many exciting strategies for improving science education delineated above can have a comprehensive impact on the field unless better approaches are developed for reaching scale. This research suggests that such an objective must inform the project’s initial design and every step of its subsequent evolution.
In conclusion, Web 2.0 tools, immersive interfaces, and games offer promising vistas for improving science education. Emerging technologies address core issues of students’ engagement, mastery of sophisticated knowledge and skills, transfer of learning, and attaining scale. All these themes present complex challenges for design and research, and successes in meeting these challenges can greatly aid the overarching objectives of federal cyberinfrastructure initiatives. We view these various contributions and the two special issues as an important start to an ongoing dialogue in the Journal of Science Education and Technology in particular and within science education writ large.

Computing Research Association (2005). Cyberinfrastructure for education and learning for the future: A vision and research agenda. Washington, DC: Computing Research Association.

Dede, C. (2009). Immersive interfaces for engagement and learning. Science, 323(5910), 66-69.

Dede, C. (2008a). A seismic shift in epistemology. EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 43, no. 3, 80-81 (May/June 2008)

Dede, C. (2008b). Cyberinfrastructure and the evolution of higher education. Educause Center for Applied Research Research Bulletin, Issue 18. Boulder, CO: ECAR.

Guzdial, M., Kafai, Y. B., Carroll, J. M., Fischer, G., Schank, R., Soloway, E. & Shneiderman, B. (1995): Learner-centered system design: HCI perspective for the future. Proceedings of DIS95: Designing Interactive Systems: Processes, Practices, Methods, & Techniques, pp. 143-147. New York: ACM Press.

Klopfer, E. (2008). Augmented reality: Research and design of mobile educational games. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

National Science Foundation Cyberinfrastructure Council. (2007). NSF’s cyberinfrastructure vision for 21st century discovery. Washington, DC: National Science Foundation.
Directory: bitstream
bitstream -> How to organise your body 101: postfeminism and the (re)construction of the female body through How to Look Good Naked
bitstream -> College day annual report
bitstream -> A mathematical theory of communication
bitstream -> Images of Fairfax in Modern Literature and Film Andrew Hopper
bitstream -> Amphitheater High School’s Outdoor Classroom: a study in the Application of Design
bitstream -> Ethics of Climate Change: Adopting an Empirical Approach to Moral Concern
bitstream -> The Age of Revolution in the Indian Ocean, Bay of Bengal and South China Sea: a maritime Perspective
bitstream -> Methodism and Culture
bitstream -> Review of coastal ecosystem management to improve the health and resilience of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area
bitstream -> Present state of the area

Download 27.06 Kb.

Share with your friends:

The database is protected by copyright ©ininet.org 2023
send message

    Main page