Dan Freer

Giving Feedback? Show It on the Big Screen

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Apr 242017
 
Virtual Flex Classroom helps make student “works-in-progress” public

Dr. Matthew Wawrzynski and his students in EAD 889 have been using in-class screen sharing to create a whole new way to make public, and to share feedback on, student group work that is still in progress.

Matthew Wawrzynski is an Assistant Professor in HALE (Higher Adult and Lifelong Education) and focuses on transitional experiences of college students, student access to higher education, retention, and student learning. Matt also teaches EAD 889, a Masters-level overview statistics course that reviews different quantitative research and assessment techniques.

For his course, Matt takes advantage of the affordances of the Virtual Flex Classroom in Rm. 132, Erickson Hall by utilizing in-class screen sharing to provide immediate feedback and modeling for students, and thus to increase the learning for his students. A typical class session goes like this.

Dr. Wawrzynski will give an interactive lecture, with student participation, to teach a particular statistical concept. After the lecture, students split up into groups in the classroom and go to student stations with computers around the room to employ the statistical methods that were just discussed. At that point, the work and discussions in each group normally would only be accessible to the members in a particular group.

But Matt has devised a way to let groups easily make public their work for the rest of the class, sometimes even as the work is taking place. The Virtual Flex classroom features four large monitors that all the students can see. Using the room’s custom Room Control software, Matt can project the screens of individual student station computers onto the large monitors around the room. The students are usually showing work they have done on SPSS, a statistics package that often requires complex decision making and knowledge of its different features.

As Matt puts it, “The beauty of the classroom is that it allows students to engage, then they have conversations about some of decisions they are making about the analysis… we can show it up on the screen and say, okay, let’s talk through how you made some of the decisions you made.”

Matt’s use of the Virtual Flex Classroom technology for in-class activity design is in keeping with current thinking about feedback, collaboration, and student learning. Research has shown that, in general, the more immediate the feedback, the better it is for student learning (Epstein, Lazarus, Calvano, & Matthews, 2002). Courses that deal with complex decision making, such as what analyses to run in SPSS and how to run them, can benefit from this immediate feedback from peers and professors. Traditional statistics classes often have students listen to a lecture then do their homework on their own, only to get feedback on their homework from their professor days or weeks later, and that feedback is generally invisible to each other. Matt uses Flex Classroom technology to significantly reduce the time for feedback and to make that feedback public as a model for others. In his words, “It allows students to see it, hear about it, read about it, do it, and get feedback while doing it”.

Epstein, M. L., Lazarus, A. D., Calvano, T. B., & Matthews, K. A. (2002). Immediate feedback assessment technique promotes learning and corrects inaccurate first responses. The Psychological Record, 52(2), 187.

Robotic Telepresence in the Living Algorithm

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Feb 082017
 

How is using robotic telepresence in the classroom different from videoconferencing? Ken Frank and his students know at least one way – agentive movement – and they recently used it in class as part of a “living algorithm” learning experience.

Dr. Ken Frank is an MSU Foundation Professor of sociometrics and one of the leading experts on social network theory. Ken also teaches CEP 991B – Special Topics in Educational Statistics and Research Design, a course on how to map out social networks to better understand how and why people interact within and between groups. In one lesson of the course, Ken has taught what he calls his “living algorithm” to predict what groups an individual will choose to associate with. In the past, physically participating in the living algorithm activity would have been restricted only to physically present students.  But Ken saw an opportunity to open this to online students using Beam telepresence.

In Dr. Frank’s CEP 991B class he was able to demonstrate his living algorithm using his students that were both face-to-face and online by giving the online students autonomy using Beam robots.  Dr. Frank gave the simple instruction for students to “get into groups” and predict beforehand how the students would split up into groups.  The Beam robots allowed online students to move around the classroom and select the groups they wish to associate with.  Utilizing the presence that Beam robots give students allows for participation in class activities such as these that improve student learning.  The student who used the beam in Dr. Frank’s class stated “I felt as though I was more a part of discussions, the lecture, and the classroom community. My peers noticed me more than if I was on a computer screen”.

 


Information on using Kliquefinder to make this map

Lessons such as this that have an interactive element, that are meant to improve students’ understanding of a complex topic by making the experience more salient, are typically hindered when students are online, but new technologies such as Beam robots allow online students the affordances to participate in interactive elements and improve their learning.  The technologies allow for participant embodiment so students and teachers may collaborate and learn across different contexts.  Dr. Frank stated “Without Beam and Zoom what do I do?  … you take a 2 day intensive course?  With Beam and Zoom you are a member of the class.  He’s doing a project with someone in the class… and it’s seamless”.  This benefits both online and physically present students by allowing them to share in the experience and learn from each other.  The robots and video conferencing bring different affordances to the classroom that knowledgeable teachers can use in different contexts to improve learning for face-to-face and and online students.

Studying the Use of Augmented Reality to Teach Spatial Skills in Engineering

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Oct 242016
 

Design Studio’s SLATE Research Group and MSU’s College of Engineering are collaborating to study how augmented reality tools can help beginning engineering students master spatial reasoning problems. First year engineering students in EGR 291, which is focused on teaching students spatial skills, have recently agreed to participate in a study where they learn these skills using an augmented reality app that can be downloaded on student’s smartphone or tablet. The app was conceived and developed by Dr. John Bell and graduate student members of both the Design Studio and the SLATE Research Group.

The Context

Spatial skills are considered essential for learning and performing engineering. EGR 291 is a class offered to first year engineering students who can benefit more from spatial training, as determined by a spatial assessment given to all incoming engineering students. The class was created to help these students catch up on skills that professors deem necessary for success in the engineering school. This 1 semester course teaches students traditional spatial reasoning using tasks such as mental rotation, which has students mentally rotate objects to solve problems.  In addition, students are trained in paper folding, working with models, and piecing together different complex shapes.

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The App

The app (designed by Design Studio’s John Bell with input from the SLATE Research Group’s Collaboratively Embodied Content (SLATE-CEC) team) features a series of mental rotation tasks using augmented reality.  Students then download the app to their mobile devices (phones, tablets, iPads, etc.) and use the app to perform mental rotation tasks similar to the problems found in their textbooks.

So what is augmented reality?  Augmented reality is when you are viewing the real world through a lens on a phone, tablet, or other computer device and the device overlays another image or information on top of the real world (see GIF below).  The overlay image is interactive in the case of this app, where students manipulate the image to solve mental rotation tasks. What the students see is a 3D geometric figure that they can walk around to see different perspectives of the object, then they are meant to look at the object at the correct angle.

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The Expectation

It is quite possible that augmented reality will open up many new possibilities in engineering education, particularly for those students struggling with early engineering concepts like spatial reasoning. Collaboration between the Design Studio and Dr. Tim Hinds in the school of engineering could open up the possibility of a new and exciting approach to helping students develop their spatial skills. Likewise, the SLATE-CEC group will conduct research studies to understand if and how augmented reality tools can help all students succeed in their engineering courses.