University Website: Workshop Techniques

For today’s educational institutions, the website plays a vital role in the organization’s mission. It enhances educational activities, supports communication with academic peers, professional colleagues, political decision makers, clients, students, parents and citizens, contributes to the marketing efforts, and fosters accountability and collaboration by enhancing transparency.

The question of how to choose appropriate features and structural patterns for the website can be characterized as a ‘wicked problem’ with no true or false answers. Instead, many parties are equally equipped, interested or entitled to judge the solution. Judgments are likely to differ widely based on personal or group interests and values. Once implemented, any solution will generate waves of consequences over an extended period of time that are difficult to pinpoint and evaluate.

Information design for university websites is a particularly challenging task in terms of process and product. The design process needs to take into account the complex organizational affordances for decision making in an academic environment. The design product needs to measure up to the wide variety of genres, contexts and voices. Typically, the web design challenges are less technological in nature as they are connected to the social aspects of information technology, e.g., the organizations ability to negotiate an overarching shared vision and structure as well as flexibility for each individual’s specific emphasis. This design challenge necessitates focusing on the users’ perspective.

The Carolina MPA program is currently in the process of re-imagining its website. I had the pleasure to facilitate different workshop activities as an instructional designer for the website’s stakeholders and decision-makers.


Red card, green card: Quick, effective feedback

An initial step was to analyze the current features of the website. Here, we used a simple ‘red card, green card’ exercise to gather opinions about what to keep and what to change. This lead to a shared understanding among the participants of the goals in redesigning the website.


Personas shift attention from personal preferences to the website's audience

We followed this by a personas activity. Understanding the diversity in audience, the motives for visiting the website, the user’s various needs, idiosyncrasies, preferences, concepts and backgrounds is one of the core challenges in design. During the workshop, small groups of 2-3 people created personas (fictional user profiles) to represent core audiences. I used the personas template by Xtensio which worked very well for both preparation and documentation.

Lastly, we focused on website structure – the navigation, menu and homepage. To facilitate the discussion, I used a creative method inspired by LEGO Serious Play. We worked in two teams. One group focused on the homepage structure; another group worked on the main navigation menus. Lego plates were used to structure different segments - the main website areas (menu) or the above the fold, below the fold sections of the homepage. Lego bricks, annotated with play-dough and notecards, represented content.


Inspired by LEGO serious play - building the information architecture with bricks.

Further Information

Panke, Stefanie, Georgia Allen, and Dan McAvinchey. "Re-Envisioning the University Website: Participatory Design Case Study." E-Learn: World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher Education. Vol. 2014. No. 1. 2014.

Frick, Elisabetta, Stefano Tardini, and Lorenzo Cantoni.(2013). "LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®." Università della Svizzera italiana, Lugano, Switzerland Lego Serious Play

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Teaching Objectives and Learning Goals

I am currently working on a series of course design workshops and have been thinking about the objectives of teachers and learners. Teaching objectives are both an instructional design tool, that allows creating meaningful assignments, and an instructional design element, that can precede a learning unit, e.g., as part of the syllabus in form of learning goals. It is a way for instructors describe their best intentions for the course (Stanny, Gonzales & McGowan, 2015). Clear objectives produce transparency for learners and instructors – and it does not have to be a one-way street: If the instructor wants to emphasize learner autonomy, students can be encouraged to state their own personal learning goals and to modify or critique the instructor’s teaching objectives.

Teaching Objectives, Knowledge and Skills

Teaching Objectives, Knowledge and Skills

Defining teaching objectives makes the instructor aware of what is to be achieved with a learning module or course. Phrasing teaching objectives as specific as possible helps to achieve clarity. To this end it is helpful to follow a structured approach. In the 1950ies, the psychologist Benjamin Bloom developed gis influential approach to systemize teaching in a taxonomy. In 2001, Anderson and Krathwohl proposed a modified version of Bloom’s Taxonomy that comprises the following steps (ordered from basic to complex): Remembering, Understanding, Applying, Analyzing, Evaluating, Creating.

  • Remembering, e.g., know, define, identify, recall, relate, memorize, list, repeat, record, name, recognize, acquire
  • Understanding, e.g., exemplify, classify, summarize, infer, compare, explain, locate, discuss, report, illustrate, conclude, differentiate
  • Applying, e.g., execute, implement, organize, relate, present, practice, calculate, show, exhibit
  • Analyzing, e.g., compare, probe, inquire, examine, contrast, detect, report, deduce, categorize, survey, inspect, scrutinize
  • Evaluating, e.g., check, critique, recommend, predict, judge, argue, appraise, value, choose, decide
  • Creating, g., generate, plan, reorganize, assemble, arrange, write, construct, modify, plan, invent, formulate
The matrix “Teaching Objectives, Knowledge and Skills” combines objectives with different sets of competencies: Dealing with objects, dealing with other people and dealing with yourself. It offers exemplary verbs to describe each level.

Further Reading and References:

Anderson, L. W.; Krathwohl, D. R. [Eds.] (2001). A Taxonomy For Learning, Teaching, And Assessing: A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. New York: Addison Wesley Longman.

Stanny, C., Gonzalez, M., and McGowan, B., (2015). Assessing the culture of teaching and learning through a syllabus review. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 40 (7), 898-913.

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Using Social Networks for Teaching and Learning: An Interview with Süleyman Nihat ŞAD

Being a member of a social network can create many benefits for learners - an important one is peer feedback. (Image from flickr commons)

Being a member of a social network can create many benefits for learners - an important one is peer feedback. (Image from flickr commons)

For the majority of students, the profile in a social networking community is a natural part of their everyday communication portfolio – just as indispensable as the cell phone, and possibly more important than the e-mail address. Online social networking strengthens informal ties by disseminating a wide mix of personal content, professional journalistic media, blog posts, images, art, educational content, and other types of information among loosely connected people. Many lifelong learners leverage their personal network for work-related tasks. Examples include simplifying workflows (“cutting through the red tape”), passing on strategic information and mentoring network members in their professional development. Should teachers leave the social networking playground to students or should they actively engage in social networking practices to open up a new communication channel?

To discuss this question, I reached out to Dr. Süleyman Nihat Şad, professor of curriculum and instruction at Inonu University, Turkey. With his colleague Yasemin Ersöz, Dr. Şad recently investigated Facebook as a peer assessment tool in art education (Ersöz and Şad, 2015).

Please tell us more about your use of Facebook as a peer assessment tool. How did the idea come up? What was the role of the instructors? How many students were involved?

Actually, this practice of peer assessment of peers’ paintings on facebook was not a formal part of a course, neither initiated by any instructors. This was a practice initiated by students as its own. During her course “Instructional Technologies and Material Design” with students from visual-art education department at İnönü University, my colleague Yasemin realized that some students regularly use facebook to share the photos of their paintings before or after they finish them. Then, we decided to take this opportunity and investigate it as case study.  Ten visual art education students were asked to describe their experiences and feelings about the practice through focus group interview. Also we analyzed the authentic digital documents including photographs and relevant comments on.

What was the motivation to try new ways of conducting peer assessment?

As I mentioned before, using facebook for peer assessment purpose was not either my or the course teachers’ idea. It was a naturally occurring practice among a group of art education students, which has become popular in time. The informal nature of the practice appealed me the most, because for the last few years I have tried to integrate Facebook into my lessons within the context of teacher training. I have attempted to create seamless learning opportunities for the students attending my courses about educational measurement and evaluation, technology use in education, professional development etc. My intention has been to provide a continuity of student learning between formal classroom setting and informal online social media settings. I shared critical cases, caricatures, quotes, or posed questions or ideas to start a discussion on the subject matter they have learnt recently or previously. I have encouraged them to submit their assignments in special groups. However, in most cases the learners’ levels of participation was very low. I have noticed that from time to time students take it for serious only when I direct them to these facebook tasks formally as an assignment to be graded as a part of their achievement scores. Unfortunately, this destroys the underlying learning-based formative intention. When it comes to the case under question, students were not directed by any instructors or given it as an assignment to get better grades.

As for the students’ motivation to use facebook, we understood from our study that generally students think facebook-based  peer assessment is beneficial, since it helps them notice their deficiencies, they are able to look at their work from a different perspective, which helps improve their artistic skills. While these are common to face-to-face peer assessment, innovative part of facebook is the advantage of ubiquity: peer assessment is not restricted to the lesson time or studio, and they enjoy feedback from students from upper grades or from the art departments of other national or international universities without any limitation of time or space.

Did students like or dislike the practice?

We found that the answer to this question is controversial. While most students generally had positive attitudes towards this practice thanks to its advantages mentioned above, there were serious criticisms against the practice. They were mostly critical about the subjective comments biased according to the degree of friendship, and also destructive comments demotivating and discouraging the students from sharing their paintings.  Poor quality of the photos of some paintings was another limitation.

 Overall, based on your experiences, is Facebook an effective peer assessment tool?

I believe it is effective mainly because it is a self-motivated activity. Secondly its ubiquitous nature makes it independent of space and time, thus providing some continuity between formal and informal learning settings. This refers to the new concept of seamless learning. Some of the limitations can be overcome by taking some simple precautions. For example, some clear instructions or principles (regarding objectivity, making constructive assessment not destructive, avoiding humiliation etc.) about criticizing group members’ paintings or works should be announced regularly. Several reliable, objective and popular students should serve as moderators or administrators of the group.

How can social media be a part of formal education? What is your vision of a perfect integration?

In general, an instructor should for sure use students’ real life experiences, genuine interest and authentic materials in teaching. And as a reality of our daily lives, social media tools exactly fit in this definition. Instructors should involve social media smoothly, not invading the students’ territories of freedom. As I have mentioned earlier, in my experience and context, I was not able to integrate social media into formal education. Especially forcing students to use social media for study or assessment purposes may not prove productive. I believe letting the practice be an informal part of the lesson may preserve the formative function of peer-assessment as against its summative function. Therefore the instructor should not get so much involved in the process. Students can be asked to produce project ideas integrating social media into the lesson in line with the curricular objectives.


Süleyman Nihat ŞAD is an associate professor at Curriculum and Instruction department at Inonu University in Malatya, Turkey. His main research interests include curriculum and instruction, technology integration into education, material design, language teaching, measurement and evaluation, qualitative research methods. He has authored several articles, conference papers, and projects on technology integration in education, teacher training, mobile learning, parental involvement, teaching foreign languages.

Further Information

Ersöz, Y. & Şad, S.N. (2015, 13-15 May). Facebook as a Peer Assessment Tool: Does it Work in Visual Art Education. Paper presented at International Congress on Education for the Future: Issues and Challenges (ICEFIC 2015), Ankara University, Turkey.

Grawe, C. & Kourotchkina, A. (2016). Potentials and possibilities of using social media by universities – the case of Facebook used by the University of Hagen. In Proceedings of Global Learn 2016 (pp. 21-27). Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE).

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What Does It Take to Make a Maker? An Interview with Sandra Schön

Widespread enthusiasm behind makerspaces in steadily growing” (Horizon Report, 2014).
Makerspaces are community-oriented workshops that engage learners in problem-solving through hands-on design and construction, oftentimes combining analog material with digital tools. 'Making' comprises artistic creation, engineering and computing. Equipment and components vary and can reach from 3D printing to Lego blocks, from woodworking tools to recycled cardboard, scissors and glue. Students literally grasp new concepts and skills in hands-on activities. As highlighted in the Horizon Report, makerspaces have become a prominent fixture in formal learning settings of higher education and k-12 as well as in informal learning spaces of museums and libraries.

Participants engaged in creative design projects during the 'Maker Days for Kids Workshop'

Participants engaged in creative design projects during the 'Maker Days for Kids Workshop'

What makes a makerspace? Merely offering equipment does not constitute an engaging, collaborative learning environment. Sandra Schoen is an expert on the Maker movement, both as a researcher and an educational activist. In the interview she shares insights from makerspace workshops with children and a making MOOC for educators.

Sandra, you are a seasoned DIY, upcycle and making specialist. When did you get involved in the maker movement? Do you remember what first drew your attention?

To be honest: I cannot remember when I realized that “making” is a synonym for digital DIY. I love DIY: I am a researcher in technology enhanced learning and innovation of business models. I am a mother. It was a natural thing to stumble across making, I guess.

Readers of your blog know that making transcends your personal and professional life. What making projects are you currently engaged in?

We just published a handbook about making with children. Now I hope to find some time for fancy t-shirts with the help of our vinyl cutter. Also, my big girls want to build a doll house for our youngest daughter. And maker education still needs good materials. Also, there are so many interesting aspects to explore from the research angle …

In spring 2015 you organized ‘Maker Days’, a four-day maker camp for children age 10-14. Can you tell us about the planning effort, the event structure and the making activities you selected?

As we have no fablab or open workshop space in our home town, we had to organize and plan quite a bit. As a researcher, I wanted to document as much as possible – this is not easy in an open environment. And of course, our 10 peer tutors and 12 adult trainers had a lot to learn in advance – none of us were able to make 3D print, to code, to make videos, to braze and solder from the get-go. And the structure was also unfamiliar: How do we organize the schedule, the tools, the room? It took two days for all of us organizers just to get introduced into the tools and setting. As there was no sign-up fee and no option or need to register in advance, we were nervous how many children would show up. On the participants’ end it took some time until the children understood that they were invited to freely use whatever tools they wanted to explore, even after they got a tour of the makerspace. Peer tutors and adult trainers gave short introductions of specific tools or methods. In addition, the participants were invited to share their knowledge and to invite others at the central board. We also had daily making challenges that children could participate in. In terms of equipment, we offered 3D printing, vinyl cutters, computers, drilling machines, sewing machines, a comfortable lounge with several maker books, free Wi-Fi, pencils, colors, cutters, paper, card board. Of course, we had the lenses to build VR card board glasses, a flying fish, a drone – and many other gadgets.

Were parents involved in the MakerDays?

Some parents came to watch what we were doing, because their children told weird stories. However, curious adults were not allowed to freely stroll around the makerspace and watch the kids create. In contrary, parents were strictly forbidden – and only allowed for a tour through the rooms with the guides – peer tutors or young visitors. But of course they were invited to our public final presentation.

Let’s talk about the outcomes: How many children did you reach with the program?

We had a total of 170 participants during the four days, as many girls as boys, from various school types and backgrounds. We got a good insight of the things they did, as we gave them personal IDs that we used to reserve tools, document demonstrations and archive photos of their projects. With their IDs they have something like an e-portfolio of their projects from the makerdays on our weblog.

 What were some of the unexpected things kids created?

They did a lot of cool stuff, but nothing that was completely new or unexpected. But of course, they did nothing ordinary! They built LEDs in acrylic paintings and made nice LEDs installations, produced stop motion videos, upcycled a lamp with a shade into a real cool design work. They printed their dream houses and cookie cutters in 3D, they build a real piano with four big letters (MAKE) and the MaKey MaKey kit. They developed games with Scratch. But even if is not unexpected for you: To use a sewing machine or a cutter on their own was exciting for some kids.

Did you run into any problems or challenges?

Well, we had several burns from soldering, which is quite normal. Some 3D prints and LED installations were gone after our final public presentation. This was really hard for the kids!  And our drone landed at the roof of a house near by. But we got it back.

You targeted children aged 10 to 14. From your experience, is this the ideal age range for making or could you just as well organize a toddler maker camp?

Not with our open approach, I guess. At least not with children from ordinary schools, who are not used to such an open setting.

In summer 2015 you decided to scale up the concept of the ‘Maker Days’ in a train-the-trainer approach by organizing a MOOC. Can you take us behind the scenes, and share some of the MOOC curriculum?

Together with Martin Ebner and a lot of makers I have done an open online course about making with kids. The MOOC has had more than 600 participants by now. It is in German language and still available and openly licensed at, it is an open educational resource (OER). It is a course for beginners – it was about coding, 3D printing, photos and videos with smartphones and so on. Each unit consists of a video, a short test and two to three descriptions of making activities with children in educational settings, for example in schools or youth centers. And of course, the participants have a lot to make, for example to code something with Scratch. Participants who send us a stamped envelope will get a pair of lenses for cardboard glasses.

If a reader who is inspired by this interview wants to get started with making, what are some good tools and resources for beginners?

If you have a fablab in town or a Maker Faire go for a visit. And search for “DIY” and your interest. As a teacher, it is not as easy. Typically, you are not only interested in a tutorial, but a smart concept how to work with children. But the MAKE-Ed scene grows - is a good start.

What is the future of making? Do you foresee making become a part of the K-12 curriculum?

Making as a self organized, creative activity in an open environment does not fit very well into school curricula and school settings. But there are several reasons why making could play a bigger part at schools soon: It is a trend with media attention, but not expensive – compared with a new computer room.  Create, build and make something can boost learning. Making is easy to adapt in STEM, but also in Arts and other school subjects. It is about technologies and innovation. I guess it not hard to convince policy makers or enterprises, the crucial issue might be the teachers.

How do you feel about the current activities on many campuses of creating maker spaces? Will maker spaces become the new computer lab?

Makerspaces are already a hot topic in education and will get more and more attention. However, merely setting up a 3D printer in the campus library is no maker space. For me, it’s not just a modern version of a computer lab or copy shop. A makerspace combines the possibilities that stem from using technologies you do not have at home with the opportunity to share ideas, meet friends, etc. Makerspaces are more like community centers and not only about technologies.

What are ingredients of a good maker space? If you were to create and equip a new maker space for a school or library, how would your ideal solution look like?

I would start by asking the children what they wanted to do in a maker space and how to get started. Ideally, we would travel to fablabs and a maker faire and visit other schools with maker spaces. As a teacher, I would collect and sort all kinds of stuff – waste, tools and random free. Add in free Wi-Fi and some computers, wood and a power screwdriver, and you are off to a good start. And of course I would share ideas with people from the MakerEd scene. I would build a lot myself and also let the children build parts of the environment. In the end, that’s what making is all about!

About Dr. Schön

sandra_schoen_quadratSandra Schön holds a PhD in Educational science and works as a researcher at Salzburg Research (Austria). She is a volunteer project leader for children projects at the non-profit association BIMS (Germany). More about her (sometimes in English, but mostly in German):

Further Information

Would you like to delve deeper into the maker movement? Explore these resources from LearnTechLib and beyond:

Schön, Sandra; Ebner, Martin & Kumar, Swapna (2014). The Maker Movement. Implications of new digital gadgets, fabrication tools and spaces for creative learning and teaching. In: eLearning Papers, 39, July 2014, pp.14-25.

Smith, S., Tillman, D., Mishra, P., Slykhuis, D., Alexander, C., Henriksen, D., Church, R. & Goodman, A. (2014). Building Multidisciplinary Connections: Intersections of Content, Creativity, and Digital Fabrication Technologies. In M. Searson & M. Ochoa (Eds.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2014 (pp. 2506-2510). Chesapeake, VA: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE).

Kayler, M., Owens, T. & Meadows, G. (2013). Inspiring Maker Culture through Collaboration, Persistence, and Failure. In R. McBride & M. Searson (Eds.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2013 (pp. 1179-1184). Chesapeake, VA: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE).

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Learning through Play: The Augmented Reality Sandbox

“Augmented reality can also help students learn by placing course content in rich contextual settings that more closely mirror real-world situations in which new knowledge can be applied” (Horizon Report, 2016).
Augmented reality (AR) offers a new way of seeing and interacting with the learner's natural environment. Augmented reality describes the addition of a computer assisted contextual layer of information to the physical world, thereby creating an enhanced experience. One common application is the visualization of large datasets. Instead of exploring and manipulating the data via a computer interface, learners can control and interact in a real space, by moving material with their finger, hand, arm, or body.

Augmented reality used to require specialized equipment, none of which was widely accessible or easily portable. Today’s applications and mobile devices allow digital information to be overlaid anywhere, anytime, at low cost. This opens the door for creative educational scenarios. While most augmented reality applications target older students and adult learners, informal learning spaces such as museums have broadened the audience to various age groups, including younger children, even in the pre-K sphere.

It is my pleasure to talk to the implementors of such an application: NC State Researchers Dr. Robert Reed and Josh Mathis from the Center for Applied Aquatic Ecology constructed an Augmented Reality Sandbox with funding from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund. Oliver Kreylos, a computer scientist studying 3D scientific visualizations and computational geosciences at UC Davis designed and programmed the AR Sandbox software, supported by a National Science Foundation grant. The Augmented Reality Sandbox allows learners to ‘move mountains’ in the sandbox and with the wave of a hand create rainfall and see how these interventions affect the resulting water flow, thereby fostering the understanding of watersheds and subsequently, our role in protecting water quality.


AR Sandbox on Display at KIDZU Children’s Museum, Chapel Hill, January 2016

Please tell us a little about the concept behind the AR sandbox. How does it technically work?

The AR Sandbox uses a computer projector and a motion sensing input device (a Kinect 3D Camera) mounted above a box of sand.  As a visitor interacts with the sand in the box, the Kinect detects the distance to the sand below, and a visualization of an elevation model with contour lines and a color map assigned by elevation is cast from an overhead projector onto the surface of the sand.  As visitors move the sand, the Kinect perceives changes in the distance to the sand surface, and the projected colors and contour lines change accordingly.

Rainfall occurs when an object like a hand is sensed at a particular height above the surface of the sand.  The virtual rain appears as a blue, shimmering visualization on the surface below.  The water appears to flow down the slopes to the lower surfaces.  Real models of fluid dynamics have been used to base the depiction of water flow.

This design is based on ‘tangible computing’ which is using objects in the physical world that can be manipulated to alter or operate a computer program, in this case, a visualization of a landscape.  The camera in the bonnet of the exhibit is a Microsoft Kinect camera, the same camera used in video games.  It uses an infrared projector, camera and special microchip to track the movement of objects in 3D.

Are watersheds a particularly fitting topic for an augmented reality environment?

NC State University’s Center for Applied Aquatic Ecology is committed to reaching out to the community to increase awareness of water quality as well as empowering members to help care for water resources.  Understanding the watershed you live in is an integral part of this.  We have a Floating Classroom Program aboard a research/education ship, RV Humphries located on the Neuse River in New Bern, NC, which has provided hands-on education to students and their teachers about the importance of protecting the quality of the Neuse River watershed.

We also conduct summer camps teaching the many aspects of water quality and other scientific topics thanks to the generous funding of the Burroughs Welcome Fund.  We have found that the more hands on and engaged we can keep our audience, the more learning is accomplished.  Once we found the idea of the Augmented Reality Sandbox, we knew it would be instrumental in communicating the important aspects of watershed protection.  By displaying an infinite number of landscape scenarios as dynamic as nature itself, the AR Sandbox engages all who dig their hands in the sand to fully appreciate the rain, water flow, creation and destruction of landforms and the interaction between them.

Was the sandbox always intended as a learning space or do you apply the sandbox in your research lab?

The AR Sandbox has only been used as an education outreach tool at this point.  The research at our Center is primarily analytical as we focus on monitoring many reservoirs and estuaries for specific water quality parameters.  We are using the AR Sandbox as a tool to communicate the importance of safeguarding these water resources.

How do different age groups vary in their interaction with the AR sand box?

The AR sandbox’s strongest appeal is the fact that it entices young and old to get involved.  While the concepts and scenarios are kept simple for the younger kids, one can still discuss contour lines, mountains, piedmonts, valleys, damns, watersheds and basic water flow.  When you are engaging older students or adults, the scenarios and the concepts can become more complex.  The learning experience can now include discussions of landforms, elevation, and best land management practices such as retention ponds and swales.  Processes such as erosion, tectonics, and glaciation can even be visualized.  These elements are all principles of geomorphology, hydrology, earth science and environmental studies.

Were you surprised by the reception of the exhibit by children and adults at the children's museum?

We were very pleased to see the reaction by both the adults and children.  An interesting observation was the interaction between parent and child while playing in the sandbox together.  Both were having fun and communicating between one another what they were doing and what was happening.   There was a definite connection between them while exploring the different attributes of the sandbox.

We must say that we expected a strong interest and were not disappointed.  Our favorite quote that a Kidzu employee shared with us was the child, with hand on hip, telling his father who was deep in play,  that he had to “leave the sandbox as they were already late for lunch.”

How does the learning experience compare to a more traditional presentation of the material?

As mentioned earlier, we have noticed in all of our education outreach adventures, the more engaged and hands-on your activity is the higher level of learning occurs with any audience.  This is regardless of whether the audience is a group of preschoolers or college level hydrology students.  This is just one more tool to engage them in that learning process.

Based on your experiences, is the development effort justified by learning gains?

Most definitely, yes!  Even though our researchers, Dr. Robert Reed and Josh Mathis were working off of recommendations from UC Davis, there were still many aspects to our specific design that needed to be engineered.  We knew we needed it to be easily transported and that set-up and break down should be accomplished in a relatively short amount of time.  Josh Mathis was able to come up with an excellent version of the sandbox that is working very well for our goals.  It took the better part of a 3 month venture for the finished product but we are certain that many will benefit from the educational experience that the AR sandbox will bring for many years to come.

What are next steps for your organization? Are you planning on developing more AR learning tools? What is the future of the sand box?

We are committed to continuing our education outreach on many levels.  Even though we are not planning on developing any more AR learning tools at this point, we do want to expand our overall outreach efforts as well as the AR sandbox at local museums, area schools, and NC State Classes.  We will be featuring it at the Water Resources Research Institute of the UNC System (WRRI) Annual Conference on March 17-18, 2016.  This two day conference features oral presentations, poster presentations, themed panel discussions, ample networking opportunities, and hands-on interactive sessions for in-depth discussions and problem solving related to North Carolina’s water resources.


Left to Right: Dr. Robert Reed, Researcher-Oceanography; Joshua Mathis, Research Specialist; Linda MacKenzie, Research Assistant; Zachary Thomas, Research Assistant

Further Information

“Shaping Watersheds” Augmented Reality Sandbox Facilitator’s Guide, lead author Dr. Sarah Reed, science and technology educator at the Lawrence Hall of Science, University of California, Berkeley.
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Remembering Erik Duval

9708duvalAfter a long battle with lymphoma, Erik Duval passed away this month. Those who knew him online, offline, peripherally or closely connected, will remember a genuinely kind person, an inquisitive mind and an open spirit. His personality, his research and his teaching have left pearls in the educational technology community that we will treasure and carry into the future.

Erik Duval was a professor at the computer science department of the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium. He was involved with AACE and ED-MEDIA since the very start of the conference series and served as Chair of the Steering Committee, a presenter, keynote and invited speaker. He authored numerous papers in AACE publications and edited several special issues of AACE journals. In 2005, AACE recognized the outstanding accomplishments of Erik Duval with an AACE Fellowship Award.

Erik was excited about the potential of Web 2.0 and social networks to create personal learning environments: “In the same way that all snowflakes in a snowstorm are unique, each user has her specific characteristics, restrictions and interests” (Duval, 2008). In the area of the open educational resources, he worked on open metadata and standards, and co-founded the not-for-profit ARIADNE Foundation that promotes the sharing and reuse of learning material. Always passionate about the power of information visualization, lately, his research focused on Learning Analytics.

Many in the AACE community have met Erik at conferences, attended his keynote talks or served with him on committees. I particularly remember attending his keynote talk ‘The importance of being open’ at the 2011 EdMedia conference in Lisbon, Portugal. Our hearts go out to his friends and family. To honor Erik, contemplate the importance of being open to ideas and learning activities, sharing, and more - as researchers, developers, teachers, learners and as people. Thank you, Erik.

Posted in AACE, EdITLib Digital Library

EdITLib Is Changing Its Name to LearnTechLib — The Learning & Technology Library

EdITLib, the digital library sponsored by AACE, is changing its name and its domain. The new website,, will provide the identical content with a new name to reflect changes in the field of learning, education & technology:
To reflect the change to a broader recognition of the intersection between learning and technology, EdITLib, the Education and Information Technology Library, is being renamed to LearnTechLib, The Learning & Technology Library. The new domain for the LearnTechLib website is It is our hope that this name change will encourage and inspire researchers, teachers, and students to explore new and effective learning methods and technologies inside and outside the classroom.
The domain change will not affect current or future subscribers and links pointing to will continue to work indefinitely. For further information, please email
Posted in AACE

Review of the Horizon Report 2016 Higher Ed Edition

Horizon Report 2015 and 2016 Editions at a Glance: Similarities and Differences The New Media Consortium (NMC) recently unveiled the latest Horizon Report 2016 Higher Ed Edition.  A copy is posted here in the LearnTechLib Digital Library along with copies of previous Horizon reports.

Horizon 2016 In A Nutshell

Each year, a group of over 50 international experts prepares the report following a modified Delphi approach. 2016 expert panelists come from the US, Canada, Columbia, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, India, Japan, Turkey, Greece, Spain, Germany, Denmark and UK. Their collaborative online workspace is available for review as the Horizon Report Wiki.

The 2016 Horizon report identifies 18 topics likely to impact planning and decision-making in the educational technology sector: Six key trends accelerating technology adoption, six significant challenges for technology adoption, and six important technological developments.

Horizon Report 2015 and 2016 Editions at a Glance: Similarities and Differences

Readers of the 2015 edition will recognize familiar themes – 11 out of the 18 topics were presented in the same or similar form in the previous year. In other words, this year’s issue is comprised to 60% of last year’s predictions, which creates a strong sense of déjà vu that is not usually expected in a trend report. I actually double-checked that I was reading the correct version. Once you delve deeper into the topics, however, there are many, subtle changes to the way trends are framed and depicted, that reflect how technologies progressed or transformed over the past year.

With so much congruency between editions, it is worth noting which topics no longer made the list:

  • ‘Teaching Complex Thinking’ and ‘Rewards for Teaching’ are no longer depicted as challenges.
  • ‘Proliferation of Open Educational Resources’ and ‘Cross-Institutional Collaboration’ vanished from the trend timeline.
  • ‘Flipped Classroom’, ‘Wearable Technology’ and ‘the Internet of Things’ dropped off the technology radar.

Six Trends Accelerating Technology Adoption

The Horizon report identifies six key trends that are likely to drive technology planning and decision-making: Long-term trends will influence the educational technology sector over the next five years and beyond, mid-term trends will be influential for the next 3-5 years, and short-term trends are likely to become commonplace or fade away in 1-2 years.
  1. Increasing Use of Blended Learning: In terms of trends in the short-term, the report foresees a rising amount of online and blended learning offerings that complement traditional classroom activities on campus. As the report notes, this can take many forms, from virtual laboratories to flipped classrooms.
  2. Growing Focus on Measuring Learning: Measuring learning through data-driven practice and assessment has moved from the mid-term horizon, and is now seen as a short-term trend. As institutions are facing pressure from accreditation bodies and governing agencies to document student achievement and learning outcomes, this process may be facilitated by learning analytics. Goals of measurement are “to build better pedagogies, empower students to take an active part in their learning, target at-risk student populations, and assess factors affecting completion and student success”.
  3. Redesigning Learning Spaces: This former short-term trend is now placed on the mid-term horizon. It describes the effort of reconfiguring learning spaces to better support collaborative forms of teaching and learning and increase learner engagement. Interestingly, this trend offers the possibility to transcend face-to-face and classroom environments by creating infrastructures for polysynchronous learning. “Polysynchronous learning refers to a mix of face-to-face, asynchronous, and synchronous channels of online communication; participation by students in diverse locations is cited as a key benefit. It requires physical classrooms to be designed to enable students to seamlessly communicate with others face-to-face and virtually”.
  4. Shift to Deeper Learning Approaches: Pedagogies that foster deep learning instead of surface learning strategies are seen as a mid-term trend. Deeper learning approaches favor hands-on and student-centered experiences, giving students more freedom to be creative without rigid guidelines.
  5. Advancing Cultures of Change and Innovation: As a long-term trend, the report predicts a cultural shift in institutional leadership and curricular structures towards agile start-up models that foster flexibility, creativity and entrepreneurial thinking: “It will require visionary leadership to build higher education environments that are equipped to quickly change processes and strategies as start-ups do. If these organizational models are designed well, universities can experience more efficient implementation of new practices and pedagogies”.
  6. Cross-Institutional Collaboration: The report foresees a process of complete institutional overhaul as another long-term trend. Signs that higher education is undergoing a long-term transformation are internationalization, global competitiveness, focus on employability, advances in interdisciplinary programs and emerging business models. “An interesting take on this trend has been described as adopting the “Education-as-a-Service” (EaaS) model, a delivery system that unbundles the components of higher education, giving students the option to pay for only the courses they want and need”.

Six Significant Challenges for Technology Adoption

The report lists six challenges that are not charted on a timeline, but categorized as solvable, difficult and wicked, depending on how well we understand the scope of the problem and its potential solutions.
  1. Blending Formal and Informal Learning: As one can learn something about almost anything at the palm of one’s hand, self-directed learning, led by curiosity or serendipitous discovery, has the potential to enrich formal learning in higher education. As the report states: “an overarching goal is to cultivate the pursuit of lifelong learning in all students and faculty”. However, teachers and learners need guidance on how to incorporate and validate informal learning experiences, i.e., through social media and open badges.
  2. Improving Digital Literacy Skills: As the traditional view of literacy as the ability to read and write has expanded to encompass fluency in using digital tools and online information with aptitude and creativity. In order to improve digital literacy, both students and faculty need support and training.
  3. Personalizing Learning: Universities struggle to design and offer educational experiences that address the individual student’s specific learning needs, interests, aspirations and cultural background. While data-driven approaches to effectively facilitate individual learning pathways exist, teachers, institutions and learners lack experience with leveraging these tools and redefining their role.
  4. Competing Models of Education: As more and more free and low-cost content becomes accessible via the Internet and, at the same time, students face rising costs of tuition, new models of education (i.e., MOOCs, competency-based degree programs) are bringing unprecedented competition to the traditional four-year campus experience: “There is a growing need to frankly evaluate the models and determine how to best support collaboration, interaction and assessment at scale”.
  5. Balancing Our Connected and Unconnected Lives: Balancing learners’ connected and unconnected lives is a wicked challenge. Higher education institutions must help learners understand how to balance their usage of social and mobile technology with other developmental needs. How to navigate the ‘abundant sea of digital tools’ is an open question: “While there are plenty of studies and articles discussing healthy amounts of screen time for children, there are no agreed-upon models for adults when it comes to learning”.
  6. Keeping Education Relevant: The formal four-year degree is still the hallmark of employability, but does not guarantee employment –a wicked problem, in the report’s terminology. As employers feel recent graduates lack the skills needed to be successful in the workplace, increasing vocational education and training (VET) may provide a better match of employer needs and educational goals, especially when blending it with traditional college experiences.

Six Important Developments in Educational Technology

In its final section, the report discusses emerging educational technologies that have the potential to foster changes in education within the next five years – for example through the development of progressive pedagogies and learning strategies, the organization of teachers’ work or the delivery of content. Educational technologies are broadly defined as tools and resources used to improve teaching, learning, and creative inquiry.
  1. Bring Your Own Device: The report states that a growing number of best practice approaches are paving the way for Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) to enter mainstream with an adoption timeframe of one year or less. BYOD is a digital strategy that refers to people bringing their own laptops, tablets, smartphones, etc. to their learning or work environment, thus enabling students and educators to leverage the tools that they find most efficient.
  2. Learning Analytics and Adaptive Learning: Within the past year, this technology trend moved from an adoption timeframe of 4-5 years to the short-term horizon. A growing number of learning applications adjust over time to user data, thus customizing learning experiences for individual needs on a large scale. This can happen by adapting instructional material according to individual user data, or by aggregating data across a large sample of users to optimize curricula.
  3. Makerspaces: Makerspaces, community-oriented workshops that engage learners in problem-solving through hands-on design and construction, are still projected as a mid-term trend. A growing number of universities are creating informal learning spaces that support the maker movement, offering 3D printers, laser cutters, Legos, sewing machines and other tools.
  4. Augmented and Virtual Reality: Augmented reality incorporates of digital information into real-world spaces, allowing users to interact with both physical and digital objects. Both augmented and virtual reality have become simple and available on the mobile devices we already own. Virtual Reality enables users to step into an immersive, computer-simulated alternate world. As a low-cost solution, Google Cardboard has facilitated the spread of virtual reality in education. Augmented reality experiences can be delivered via mobile apps using GPS data on smartphones or tablets. Interestingly, augmented reality was first mentioned in the 2005 Horizon Report on the far-term horizon. Now it is still characterized as a mid-term trend, indicating that it will reach mainstream within 2-3 years.
  5. Affective Computing: The ability of computers to simulate emotional behavior and to recognize patterns of facial expressions or voice modulation that signify emotional states is characterized as having potential to impact the education sector as a long-term trend. Potential is seen for learning programs that recognize boredom or frustration and respond accordingly. “The ultimate goal of affective computing is to improve and apply these technologies to create context-aware, emotionally responsive machines that cater to even the most subtly communicated needs”.
  6. Robotics: Robotics are not a new technology: There is a long history of machines built for engineering as well as for assistive purposes, and the field is continuously advancing. Contemporary robots are increasingly sophisticated and can perform a compelling array of simple, useful, and complex tasks. Their use as educational tools is still sparse, but promising enough to be characterized as poised on the far-term horizon.New outreach programs are promoting robotics and programming as multi-disciplinary STEM skills that can make students better problem solvers”.

Overall Impression

The Horizon Report provides substantive input for strategic discussions around educational technology, curricular planning, and organizational development in higher education on a global scale. Last year’s edition was translated into Chinese, German, Japanese, Korean, Russian and Spanish.

Of particular interest in the 2016 edition are the potential tensions between different trends and visions the reports puts forth:

  • ‘Focus on Measuring Learning’ vs. ‘Shift to Deeper Learning’: On the hand, the report urges learning organizations to consider the potential of data-driven decision making, and assessment that feeds back into computer-assisted personalization of learning content. On the other hand, it asks educators to think about ways to promote deeper learning through PBL, which the report equates with project based learning. While assessment and data-driven approaches not necessarily equate with root memorization and multiple choice quizzes, open-ended, problem-oriented learning environments usually tend to align better with qualitative feedback and are less likely to produce streamlined data trails.
  • Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), Learning Analytics and Personalized Learning vs. Balancing Our Connected and Unconnected Lives: The report emphasizes the merits of learning analytics, personalized learning and ubiquitous access to learning materials and assignments through personal mobile devices – in and out of the classroom. However, it also cautions that learners find it difficult to disconnect from social media and engage in deep, meaningful classroom discussions while being connected to their mobile, social media profiles.

In some sections, in particular around competence-oriented curricula, employability and workforce orientation, the depiction of trends appeared to lack balance: While overall the Horizon report offers an open research tableau for educational technology, it also pushes agendas. The scenarios are often tailored towards one specific perspective or vision of the future – i.e., start-up culture, entrepreneurship, ‘unbundling’ of university services. The report is strongest when it brings up a new question or framework ‘on the horizon’ for further investigation by the community, without advocating for a particular solution.

Further Resources

Want to delve into a specific technology? Below are selected papers from the LearnTechLib Digital Library that allow you to further your understanding of trends and their applications.

Yuen, T., Stone, J., Davis, D., Gomez, A., Guillen, A., Price Tiger, E. & Boecking, M. (2015). A model of how children construct knowledge and understanding of engineering design within robotics focused contexts. International Journal of Research Studies in Educational Technology, 5(1),. Consortia Academia Publishing.

Smith, S., Tillman, D., Mishra, P., Slykhuis, D., Alexander, C., Henriksen, D., Church, R. & Goodman, A. (2014). Building Multidisciplinary Connections: Intersections of Content, Creativity, and Digital Fabrication Technologies. In M. Searson & M. Ochoa (Eds.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2014 (pp. 2506-2510). Chesapeake, VA: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE).

Almoosa, A. (2015). The Era of BYOD: Augmented Reality Apps in Higher Education. In Proceedings of E-Learn: World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher Education 2015 (pp. 1684-1689). Chesapeake, VA: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE).

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Innovating Pedagogy: Which Trends Will Influence Tomorrow’s Teaching and Learning Environments?

In November 2015, the Open University released the latest edition of its 'Innovating Pedagogyreport, the fourth rendition of an annual educational technology and teaching techniques forecast. While the timelines and publishing interval may remind you of the Horizon Report, the methodology for gathering the trends is different. The NMC Horizon Team uses a modified Delphi survey approach with a panel of experts, the 'Innovating Pedagogy' report is authored by a team of OU researchers. The 2015 edition was compiled in collaboration with SRI International. As in previous years, the report discusses ten innovations that are on the brink of having a profound influence on education. Read more ›
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On the same page: AACE 2015 Facebook Insights

“The nature and popularity of Facebook itself challenges the idea of what an educational application should look like. Facebook puts the social community first, with content—including, but not limited to, educational content—being the medium of exchange between them.” Stephen Downes, 2007
AACE’s Facebook page is a public space that serves as a marketplace for ideas, starting point for discussions and entryway for inquiries. We use Facebook insights data to understand how people are engaging with AACE:
  • AACE’s Facebook page has over 4,800 fans.
  • During 2015, AACE gained more than 300 new followers.
  • With over 100 messages, this was by far the busiest year for AACE on Facebook.
  • Between 300 and 9,000 people are reached per week.
Read more ›
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