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Lynne Elkins's picture

Meeting Summary

Anne Dalke summarized the discussion we had on Oct. 19, highlighting questions that came up regarding the science of teaching vs. the science of learning, and how we teach and see our teaching. Ongoing discussion in the online forum noted that we are not limited to past trends.

Our topic for discussion this time was Steve Lindell's paper, which led us to move from discussing the history of science education and teaching to current research on technology in education, including the topics of "digital ink," persistence, collaboration, and deixis.

*What does "communication" mean: the transfer of information, or is it bidirectional (between students and teacher, or students and each other)?

*Was this a scientific experiment? Asked for more details about the results, student anecdotes.

*Are we facing similar challenges ourselves, and could we design a new experiment or direction from this study?

*Steve confirmed that this was a preliminary, qualitative experiment, and that he was interested in considering teaching as collaborative and communication to be two-way. For example, the study looked at lag problems and how they impacted communication. Steve clarified that students in the experiment were located in the same classroom on two computers, and mentioned an upcoming talk at Villanova on this topic.

*On remote learning: Steve's research found that deixis is particularly important, especially for very visually-oriented science teaching. He made the example of a recorded presentation in math where he could not see the speaker pointing to things.

*Is it necessary to for collaborative work and learning to be synchronous/simultaneous? The number of interactions is important for learning, which is why learning/teaching by email instead of in person during office hours is more challenging. Instant messaging could be a remote solution for this, but there is no deixis, even in software with digital ink.

*It is possible to design a talk consciously so it doesn't require real-time ink, but this is completely one-way with no collaboration. It is a lot like the Scientific American figures with call-outs. Non-linearity of teaching and thinking can make linear presentations confusing, especially because there can be no questions from the audience. Don pointed out that there is a new technology that allows for zooming in and out of different parts of a presentation to expand in a non-linear way.

*The idea of pointing/deixis does draw from traditional teaching methods. It is similar to architects and how they collaborate.

*What is the role of students in evaluating software effectiveness? WHat kind of information was gathered? Steve found the students to be very excited about the new technology, and they loved working with college students and doing puzzles. They evaluated paper vs. the computer software. They commented on software problems, being in the same room, the fact that paper allows for movable pieces of information, the advantages of being able to record collaborative thought processes, that the software was quick and allowed for remote access, and the advantages of searchability. The students much preferred working next to each other than remotely.

*Another paper from Temple (name?) looked at recording and presistence, and noted that going back to your own notes could be seen as collaboration with your past self.

*But collaboration needs feedback, and nonverbal signals (e.g. facial expressions) are important for collaborative learning. The biggest limitation on remote office hours is the inability to see student reactions. With video conferencing, it is possible to see people, but it is not as easy to read body language as in person. Technology will never perfectly replicate in-person interaction, but is that necessary?

*More important than using technology to mirror face-to-face interaction is rooting the technology in the teaching and collaborative goals. For example, the traditional teaching model of asking directed questions with right/wrong answers, with teacher as knowledge-holder, is not necessarily really collaborative. Learning is about the process of changing, and feedback is important to education and learning. If the goal is synthesis of and ability to apply information, and developing something new instead of "transferance," the technology should be developed with that goal in mind.

*Learning is active and occurs in the space "between" people; technology like clickers tends to be more cognitive and less useful for group learning. Interactive technology is more focused on group learning.

*It's not necessarily about group- vs. individual learning. It is important to consider the process of construction of learning, whether it occurs internally or as a group. A next step is to ensure that that construction is both useful and usable by the people learning.

*Research can be learner-focused or culturally/socially focused. This is related to how fields have tried to become more scientific by focusing on the group average to reduce noise and variations, but that variability is important and needs to be considered.


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