TIER-ED Researchers Re-thinking Digital Exhibits in Museum Spaces

Several projects are currently active where TIER-ED faculty and students are re-designing the ways that museums engage their visitors with digital content.

In one project, TIER-ED Director Robb Lindgren is taking his work on embodied learning simulations onto the museum floor such that young science center visitors can use the full movement of their bodies to interact with a game about energy. The game, called energIze uses the Microsoft Kinect to empower children to act out different forms of energy, energy transfer, and to reason about conservation of energy. Dr. Lindgren and his TIER-ED colleague Dr. Mike Tissenbaum are currently working with the Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley, CA, where the energIze exhibit is currently active on the museum floor, to develop a system of connected embodied learning exhibits that build off of each other and facilitate learning transfer.


In another project Dr. Emma Mercier is examining parent-child collaboration in an informal learning context. Along with graduate student LuEttaMae Lawrence, she is implementing their Food for Thought application onto a large screen surface at a local museum. Food for Thought focuses on using a familiar topic (food) to help students understand more about climate change, and the way small choices can have a global impact. The software was initially designed for use on large multi-touch table, and two iterations were tested with middle school students through the CoLearn Lab

Finally, Dr. H Chad Lane is on the leadership team for a major international collaboration with multiple museums in the U.S. and the U.K. understanding the role of gesture and other kinds of body movement for pre-school children’s science learning in informal environments. The consortium, which also includes TIER-ED Director Lindgren, is called Move2Learn, and it brings together researchers and museum practitioners to study how experiences such as the Rivers of Grass exhibit at the Frost Museum of Science in Miami, FL encourage students to use their bodies when engaging with science ideas. Other digital exhibit research on the Move2Learn project is happening at The Children’s Museum’s Indianapolis where young visitors use their whole bodies to learn critical ideas in crop sciences.

NSF-funded Projects Create New Digital Environments for Learning

TIER-ED community members have been very successful in receiving funding from external agencies such as the National Science Foundation.

One such project is the GRASP simulation platform that was co-designed by UofI College of Education researchers. The goal of GRASP (GestuRe Augmented Simulations for supporting exPlanations) is to understand the role gestures play in reasoning about critical concepts in science, and to create simulations that encourage the use of gestures for creating scientific explanations. GRASP is a NSF-funded collaboration between UofI and Concord Consortium, an educational research and development organization in Massachusetts. Robb Lindgren (PI) and David Brown (Co-PI) are working with graduate students to interview local middle school students to understand how the gesture-augmented simulations affect their science explanations and understanding.  



In a second project, Dr. Bill Cope and Dr. Mary Kalantzis explore ‘complex epistemic performance’ in online learning environments as part of an NSF-funded project to further develop Common Ground Scholar (CGScholar) environment. They have launched Scholar’s new Analytics area, created by their research team at the University of Illinois. Analytics is a learning visualization tool, wherein any unit of work a student can see their progress towards mastery, and a teacher can see the comparative progress towards mastery of all members of the class, identifying which students may require more time or special attention to achieve mastery. The CGScholar Analytics tool collects information about learning processes in three domains: knowledge, focus, and collaboration. Developing this tool is an interdisciplinary effort involving faculty and graduate students from multiple units across campus.

IMPRESS: Awarded Pilot Project for 2019-2020

IMPRESS (Immersive Modelling to Promote Reflection and Exploration in Science Sensemaking) is beginning to investigate the affordances of body-scale virtual reality (VR) drawing to model complex science ideas in support of student sensemaking. Targeted at secondary-level learners, IMPRESS leverages the medium of VR and couples it with interviews and structured modelling tasks to enhance student learning as they engage with science concepts requiring them to explore representations of scale and perspective in their drawn models.

Michael Tissenbaum is an assistant professor in Curriculum & Instruction and Educational Psychology with expertise in the research, design, and implementation of technology-supported collaborative learning spaces. He has an interest in exploratory, immersive, and interactive learning environments and is currently collaborating with local high schools to explore the implementation of a participatory interdependent ecological city simulation in the classroom. Laura Shackelford is an associate professor in Anthropology and the anatomy director for the Carle Illinois College of Medicine. Dr. Shackelford's research focuses on the interplay between human evolution and current human diversity, and she is currently leading an NSF-funded grant designing room-scale VR field archaeology exercises for undergraduate students. James Planey is a third-year PhD student in the DELTA program in Curriculum & Instruction and is interested in how immersive technologies such as VR and AR can be meaningfully integrated into science classroom instruction. His research interests are shaped by his previous experience as a high school science teacher and NGSS curriculum designer. Dennis Migut is the co-chair of the science department at Urbana High School and has been teaching chemical and physical science at the high school level for 23 years. He teaches a variety of students from sophomore introductory chem/phys classes to advanced placement chemistry courses.

TIER-ED Graduate Fellow for 2019-2020

Roberto Rojas-Alfaro is a third-year doctoral student in Curriculum and Instruction, a Fulbright scholar and an Universidad de Costa Rica’s faculty member. He co-authored a recently published textbook titled ‘Evergreen: A task-based handbook for students of ecological tourism.’ He is an active member of TESOL International Association and the current coordinator of International Education’s flagship program, Global Leaders Blue and Orange Engagement (GLOBE), at the Asian American Cultural Center. His current research focuses on English for specific purposes (ESP) and mobile-assisted language learning. This research project seeks the design and evaluation of a mobile learning app prototype that will contribute to bridging adult second language (L2) learners’ gap in English for occupational purposes (EOP) instruction, bringing together theories from L2 learning and design of mobile learning environments, and developing design-based instructional guidelines to EOP teaching and informal learning of adult L2 learners in mobile environments. After graduation, he intends to return to Universidad de Costa Rica to lead the development of new undergraduate and graduate programs around ESP.

Graduate Research Awards 2019-2020

Hannah Valdiviejas Cohn is a doctoral student in the Cognitive Science of Teaching and Learning Division in the Department of Educational Psychology. Her research interests are related to understanding the educational experience of underrepresented students in STEM in to enhance academic outcomes. Her current project deals with Metacognition, a valuable tool for learning, due to its close relation to self-regulation. This project describes an algorithm for automatic detection of written metacognitive language.   Text was analyzed from an online forum, in an introductory university-level science course.  The algorithm exhibited a reliable, fast method for automatically annotating text corpora too large for  manual annotation, which was applied to analyze relationships between students’ metacognitive language and their academic performance. Later, patterns amongst demographic groups were analyzed, in hopes of understanding the academic behaviors of underrepresented students in online STEM courses.
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LuEttaMae Lawrence is a doctoral candidate in the DELTA program at the University of Illinois; her background as a graphic designer inspired her interest in the design of educational environments. Lu’s research focuses on the affordances of educational technology in formal and informal spaces and how people use the design process and human-centered design to facilitate and scaffold interdisciplinary work. Lu’s dissertation is drawn from an NSF grant called CSTEPS (Collaborative Support Tools for Engineering Problem Solving). Focused on the fourth iteration of a design-based research project, her dissertation studies the connection between the design process and classroom implementation. She will analyze how an interdisciplinary team made up of engineers, designers, educators, and computer scientists, designed a teacher dashboard for engineering teaching assistants, and how the design decisions the team made during the design process were implemented and used by teaching assistants in the classroom.
Ahu Yolaç is a designer, an educator and a gamer. She is a PhD Student in Art Education at the School of Art and Design. She has a BFA in Interior Architecture and Environmental Design and a MS in Industrial Design. She is interested in game studies, gaming subculture, virtual environments, critical play, art and technology in education, virtual spaces and video games as pedagogical tools. Her project aims to teach social and thinking skills through a multidisciplinary approach towards pedagogy and video games. The core of this research is to further explore the potential of game environments in teaching computational and design thinking through collaborative learning processes. A series of assessment and design methods towards successful game design with pedagogical aims of implementing design and computational thinking will be suggested through designing and testing a co-op video game using design studio curriculum, existing work, curriculum development methods and established education theories. Its success will be measured using studio and STEM evaluation methods together. 
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