Education Week - May 6, 2015 - (Page 12)

DIGITAL DIRECTIONS > Tracking news and ideas in educational technology New Research Probes Frontiers Of Tech Learning By Benjamin Herold Chicago Academic researchers have begun formally examining the latest frontiers in educational technology use. Their focus: studying how emerging technologies that facilitate new types of hands-on student learning impact teaching, learning, and classroom engagement. They're also looking at tech-enabled instructional practices that provide new windows in children's mental problem-solving processes. "We are exploring new territory," said Michael Tscholl, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He recently helped conduct a study of MEteor, a "whole-body, mixed-reality immersive simulation" funded by the National Science Foundation in the hope of improving students' grasp of commonly misunderstood concepts in planetary physics. Other research presented recently at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, held here April 16-20, examined "connected gardening," the use of digital-tablet screen-casting technology to plumb students' often-invisible strategies for solving math problems, and the push to get children creating their own digital learning games. What follows are descriptions of four different researchers' explorations of such new uses of ed tech, as presented at the aera gathering. A student uses a simulation game called MEteor at a science center in Orlando, Fla. The game uses the principles of "embodied cognition" to teach planetary physics. Merging Physical Movement and Virtual Understanding Most students harbor fundamental misA superior strategy, some researchers beunderstandings about how forces such as gravity and acceleration operate in outer space, said Michael Tscholl, the University of Wisconsin researcher. That's because their beliefs about physics tend to be based on their experiences in their own bodies, he said. A 7th grader living on earth, for example, needs energy and force in order to move. But the opposite is true for an object in space, which, once launched, will continue moving forever, until a countervailing force provides the energy to stop it. For decades, Mr. Tscholl said, teachers have tried to overcome their students' misunderstandings around such concepts by having them manipulate symbols on paper, or on computer screens. But now, he said, that approach is often regarded as ineffective. lieve, would encourage educators to embrace "embodied cognition," in which students are provided with opportunities for physical activities specifically designed to get them moving in ways that will help them to learn new ideas-and to unlearn some of what they already (incorrectly) believe. For example: MEteor, a room-size "simulation environment" that calls to mind a space-age version of the popular arcade video game Dance Dance Revolution. In MEteor, planets and other space objects are projected on the floor and walls. The students must predict the trajectory of an object moving through space by physically moving along the path they think a meteor (projected on the floor) will travel. Laser-scanning technology tracks their movements, offering real-time feedback on whether their predictions are correct. Based on that feedback, students adapt their beliefs about scientific principles, then adjust their movements to reflect what they are learning. In an experimental study involving 113 middle schoolers, the students who used the simulator (as opposed to a desktop-computer version of the same task) demonstrated greater gains in their understanding of physics concepts such as gravitational acceleration. They also were significantly more engaged, concentrated better on the task at hand, and reported a greater sense of feeling like a scientist themselves. And they had more fun. "What is quite clear is that students are scared of symbolic representations," Mr. Tscholl said. "We are trying to achieve something really big." The study is currently under review for publication. n Designing a Novel Way to Peek Inside Students' Mathematical Thinking Many teachers already use screen-casting technology to capture the work displayed on digital devices and create lectures and tutorials for their students. But researchers at San Diego State University and the University of California, Davis, believe formative assessment could be an even more powerful use of such technology. One potential use: getting students to create a multilayered record of their thinking while attempting to solve math problems. Such an approach could help teachers "go beyond determining whether students correctly solved the problem, to understand why students solved the problem the way they did," wrote Melissa M. Soto and Rebecca Ambrose in an asyet unpublished paper, presented at the research conference. To test these beliefs, Ms. Soto and Ms. Ambrose are conducting an ongoing study. During an early experiment, 10 students in grades 3-6 in California and Florida were asked to solve several multiplication, division, and fraction problems using an app called Explain Everything. The children generated screencasts of their problemsolving processes. They also recorded themselves as they verbally explained their work. The researchers observed and interviewed the students, then analyzed the resulting data and the student screencasts using an original rubric. Their focus was on determining whether the students' verbal explanations of their thinking reflected the problem-solving strategies they actually used, and whether those strategies led to a correct solution. Particularly noteworthy, Ms. Soto and Ms. Ambrose wrote, were those instances when "students' thinking went astray, or when their verbalizations and notations did not align." Researchers at San Diego State University and the University of California, Davis, are conducting an ongoing study of how educators can use "screen-casting" to capture multilayered records of students' thinking while they are attempting to solve math problems. One student, for example, incorrectly solved a word problem that required division. By reviewing the screencast of the student's work in conjunction with her audio-recorded narration, the researchers were able to ascertain that the student had used a sound problem-solving strategy, but made an arithmetic error caused in part by her haste to finish quickly (and thus demonstrate that she was "good at math"). Without the screencast, the authors wrote, "it would have been difficult to pinpoint where exactly the mismatch took place, and it could have been incorrectly concluded that [the student] did not understand the problem from the start." Expanded use of screen-casting for formative assessment, Ms. Soto and Ms. Ambrose concluded, has "the potential to transform the learning environment by allowing teachers to gain more insight into their students' mathematical thinking." They hope to submit their study for publication later this year. n San Diego State University University of Illinois-Chicago/University of Wisconsin

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - May 6, 2015

Education Week - May 6, 2015
Some Balk as Testing Rolls Ahead
Nevada Exams Hit Tech Trouble
Science Standards Pop Up in Districts
Undocumented Students Strive to Adapt
State Takeover Gives Mass. District a Fresh Start
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Chicago Schools Probe Prompts AASA to End Alliance With Firm
Researchers Target Ways to Design Better Mathematics Text Materials
GED Revisions Spur Bumpy Year for Equivalency Exams
After Baltimore Unrest, Students and Educators Seek Understanding
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: New Research Probes Frontiers of Tech Learning
Blogs of the Week
Efforts to Change Federal Aid Formulas Prove Tricky
New Research Emerges On LGBT Parents
Advocates for Special Ed., Gifted Weigh Details in ESEA Rewrite Bill
Blogs of the Week
Marriage Issue Gets Full Airing at High Court
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace

Education Week - May 6, 2015