week 8 Readings

Mabry & Snow

I found the Mabry & Snow article interesting because they worked with ESL learners  and underperforming students. The use of laptops in any classroom on any kind of regular basis is still hotly debated. For the Cooltown project, the use of laptops gave these students a differing environment in which to learn. At one point, a student who is disorganized suddenly becomes organized through the use of a laptop computer. This was amazing and I wanted to know more of the details about what made the computer a better organizing tool. Alas, the study does not specifically tell us what changed for this student. Was it a certain program, different kind of access, or something like the physical use of a keyboard?

In ED256 we have discussed what might happen when the novelty of using technology in a classroom wanes. What I liked about this project was that it occurred over a period of a couple of years. The Cooltown classrooms appear to remain consistently stimulating.

Finally, the results of using peer reviewers was also encouraging. This seems to me to be a great way to engage students in a collaborative dialogue. The most difficult issue this article highlights as being a challenge to solve, and one that all of us as educators need to constantly address, is how to commingle classroom standards and personalization. If students are stimulated by concepts that teach to each and every student (individual work), then standards are going to have to accommodate us as individuals.

Blumenfeld, et al.

Blumenfeld et al have a study that attempts to theorize on the feasibility of implementing new learning ideas into education systems that are generally resistant to change. Regarding instructional interventions, the authors note: “If such an intervention departs from conventional practice, particularly if it has ambitious goals for student understanding and complex thinking, it is more likely to engender other problems regarding policies, practices, and cultural conditions that support its enactment” (152).

The authors then provide an in-depth approach to explain how to implement new innovative educational tools into an entire education system. Quite a task!

The cultural aspect of change seems to me to be one of the most difficult to crack: “The third axis, culture, describes the extent to which an innovation adheres to or diverges from the existing norms, beliefs, values, and expectations for practice at different levels of the system or organization” (154). The level of infiltration for change is enormous: “Plans for enactment must be developed at all levels of the system with mechanisms aimed at integration and coordination so that everyone sees the innovation as part of district rather than outside efforts and strives to make it work” (160). The authors also note they believe it is not wise to implement these innovations in a smaller number of schools within a district. I think a smaller scale implementation might be better than having no change occur at all. If a few schools note progress with innovations, why could they not influence other schools within their own district?

The most encouraging and important part of this study by Blumenfeld et al. is this: “The field can continue to search for the Holy Grail of the best method, or we can learn from our collective experiences and begin to create a new approach to research knowledge” (162). I applaud these authors for tackling an issue that will never change, unless – like the work we are trying to do in the classroom through collaboration – all of us are invested in improving the health of our students.

Even Yahoo believes this is a better way to work. They recently announced that they were doing away with their work-from-home policy. The backlash on this change of policy will linger for a while, but apparently face-to-face interaction is valued over telecommuting when it comes to this business.


week 6 – UCSB’s Four Eyes Lab

This week our ED 256 class visited UCSB’s Four Eyes Lab. The lab is a part of the university’s Computer Science Program and the Media Arts and Technology Program. The “four eyes (I’s)” – Imaging, Interaction, and Interactive Interfaces – are literally brought to life through the work of faculty and graduate students. This class also visited the surround-view, three-story Allosphere – a multimedia, 3D, audio and visual panorama science experience. But that’s all I have to say about the Allosphere since I had a class to run to toward the end of our class time when the visit was made. I will have to see it another time.

Professor Matthew Turk highlighted some of the important design work being done through the Four Eyes Lab. These innovative designs and programs speak volumes to how they may be applicable to the educational challenges we have been developing as a class over the last few weeks. What is most fascinating about this research is that it is moves beyond conventional desktop computing. The ideas presented by Professor Turk at this session do not involve computer keyboards, but rather, they are apparatuses that act more like extensions of your body.

Thus, Mobile Augmented Reality overlays computer generated information on top of the physical world. Turk explained the “imaginary” scrimmage line that now accompanies professional NFL football games as an example of augmented reality. What this might mean for education is really staggering. If images and sound can be overlaid onto physical objects then there is no limit to the amount of content that can be added to enhance that learning. I just imagine a computer image of one human hand, and one human foot, demonstrating a drum groove that can be imitated at home. What that means is that students do not have to remember the exact details of building such a groove. An augmented reality sequence would enhance both their memory and motor skills.

Another wonderful design that I found fascinating was the idea of computational photography. Professor Turk described the use of multiflash imaging to highlight hidden or shadowed areas of images.  I believe the use of multiflash imaging already appears to be a reality for some professions, for instance, the medial world. The idea that you can light the contours of images, revealing the shadows, allows for clearer exploring of all sorts of objects, or in the medical world, a clearer look into the far reaches of the human body. For educational purposes, this technology could be harnessed as a tool that requires students to build projects based on multiple images. For example, by creating an array of images of one object, how many different perspectives or conclusions can be reached about that object?

There were other ideas presented by graduate students of the lab that were awesome. I found the “Gibber” project very cool. Building electronic grooves and tunes, musically speaking, is right up my alley. Learning the java script language to program “Gibber” already has potential for students. I cannot think of a more engaging and fun way to learn a computer language. Of course, since I am a musician, that’s sort of a no-brainer for me.

Four Eyes Lab and the Allosphere are the future, and it’s really nice to see it as a part of our university!

week 5.2 – Cognition, Multimedia, and Saving the World

This week in ED 256 we read two articles concerning the propensity for human cognition (Burleson, 2005: Moreno and Mayer, 1999), and a TED talk by Jane McGonigal: Gaming Can Make a Better World.

Winslow Burleson’s article brings together contemporary research related to ideas about “creativity, motivation, and self-actualization” in a somewhat abstract and broad overview. There are many terms and concepts that are culled from psychology, engineering, education, and computer science that Burleson brings into this article. I occasionally found it difficult to follow Burleson’s use of these terms because I do not have a background in those disciplines. But since Burleson is highlighting the work of others, a few research topics and ideas garnered my attention. Ultimately, I realized that this article reminded me of what it is like to learn play a musical instrument.

Burleson begins his article with a literature review of leading contributors who have discussed “creativity, motivation, and self-actualization” (437). I immediately connected with Edgar Faure’s work because it reminded me of how I learned to play music. Faure contends that people should be encouraged to develop their “individual gifts, aptitudes and personal forms of expression” (437).

Burleson then discusses other researchers who develop ideas about realizing one’s self. Wildfogle’s idea of role-playing to improvise and reminisce about the “next five years” was very intriguing. Burleson elaborates on Wildfogle’s work: “This process is repeated with different conversational partners, allowing diverse ‘possible selves’ to emerge. Participants can try futures on for size in new and different ways until they develop a strategy that fits at an internal level of personal well-being” (442). This would be an amazing way to have students think about their future desires. I believe that if this is a continual process, those desires might bring students a step closer to making them realities.

I am not at all clear from Burleson’s piece how he is really explaining motivation. This is definitely one of education’s most difficult challenges. But I definitely connected with the following: “Notable educators and psychologists agree that learning is enhanced when it is pursued as a creative and self-actualizing passion. Imagination, meta-cognitive awareness, and the development of multiple perspectives are fundamental to deep understanding. Because failure, over and over and over again, is a prerequisite to becoming an expert, so too are the abilities to persevere through failure” (449). This is exactly what takes place when learning how to play a musical instrument. I realize that not everyone has the desire to become a professional musician, but the process of learning an instrument very effectively embodies these learning attributes.

In Moreno and Mayer’s article, the author’s research and experiments resulted in an increased learning capacity when visual and auditory materials were in close proximity. Close proximity meant multimedia images accompanied by auditory narration. This seems fairly straightforward because two of the body’s senses are involved in the learning process.  The authors take great care to present these experiments in very controlled circumstances, and they are very well done.

This study is fascinating as it develops the two effects that are central to the results of their tests: “a spatial-contiguity effect and a modality effect” (359). The researchers hypothesize, and ultimately show, that “students in the N group should outperform both on-screen text groups because of the increase of effective working memory created by mixed modality presentations” (360).

What I do not understand is why these researchers do not mention that two of the human body’s senses are actively involved in the learning process – sight and sound. It seems obvious to me that the interaction of sight and sound would easily eclipse sight alone when brought together in the human mind for processing.

In Jane McGonigal’s TED talk, she asks why, when we play games, we feel that we can accomplish anything, yet in real life, failure wears us down? McGonigal’s innovative approach to gaming is an attempt to tap into the cognition of millions of gamers in hopes of using their power to change the real world. World of Warcraft is the example game that McGonigal suggests demonstrates the potential of her vision. She then proposes a similar game format, but replaces the content of the game with real world issues. I really like this idea and approach because it does have great potential. A larger problem that is not addressed is how to motivate all those gamers playing World of Warcraft to accept a real world challenge. A major selling point for World of Warcraft is the idea that it is NOT the real world!

week 5.1 – Solving an Educational Challenge: Possibilities

Last week in our ED 256 class, fellow grad students brainstormed for each other some different ways to imagine solving educational problems. This week we are to discuss two solutions from that brainstorming session that help us solve the educational challenge we set forth last week. For this week’s blog, I will briefly describe my educational challenge and then highlight two possible solutions culled from the brainstorming session.


This challenge basically concerns content in a course about music and popular culture in North America. This would be a general education college level or possibly high school level course in a large lecture class setting of a 100 plus students. Ultimately, the course addresses issues of class, race, gender, and age (social theory). The challenge asks: How can we integrate technology into a large lecture class setting to teach students about social theory?

There were many great ideas about how to approach this challenge. We are to choose two to highlight this week. While I will be describing each solution separately, it is very possible they could be combined.
Solution #1: Making Use of Online Social Networks, Facebook Links, Edmodo, or ???
The social interaction of students online is already a solid reality.  Using this network technology was mentioned as a way to engage students collaboratively and to put them in conversation about the content of the course. Guided by the teacher, the larger social issues of the content could be worked out in smaller groups where individual students choose specific issues to discuss through musical genres or artist narratives. These narratives, which would entail collaborative discussions and decisions concerning race, gender, etc., might make use of historical musical archives or create new experiences. The point is to have students work together to imagine, or to historically relate, the ways in which social theory is a part of real life events. The possibilities of this interaction through the use of blogs, making videos, creating apps, or using other technology to create narratives is very enticing, and would allow choices for different kinds of learners to use different kinds of formats.
Additionally, this particular course has a writing component. A blog or other social media site would give students the opportunity to respectfully comment on each others ideas and writings. I drew inspiration for this from a successful use of the idea by Carole McGranahan at the University of Colorado: Using Social Media to Teach Theory to Undergraduate Students
Solution #2: Interactive Gaming Platform
I was inspired by the reading we had for week three by Squire and Jan’s augmented reality game Mad City Mystery.* Designing a game that allows students to interact in virtual, musical social settings is exactly where this course material might be most effective. Squire and Jan identify “at least five core features pertinent to designing games for learning” (2007:8). These are listed below along with the possible ways they may work for this educational challenge:
-Inhabit roles: link social interaction and choices to real world consequences
-Challenges: students switch roles, negotiating differences and different outcomes
-Places and spaces: tying goals to particular places, historic musical spaces perhaps?
-Embedding authentic resources and tools: use of non-playing characters (NPCs) or things?, objects?, to enhance the learning and relate social theory
-Collaboration: promote competition and a sense of community
In this last feature, collaboration, would it be possible for smaller groups of students to come together as one large group to realize how the social decisions of smaller groups have consequences for larger groups? For example, learning about the impact of colonialism regarding dominant and minority groups of people using music as a lens would be very helpful and fun.  Well, at least fun for me!
*Squire, K., & Jan, M. 2007. “Mad City Mystery: Developing Scientific Argumentation Skills with a Place-based Augmented Reality Game on Handheld Computers.” Journal of Science Education and Technology. 16, no 1. 5-29.

Feedback and the Learning Process

This week our ED 256 class read a piece from Dow et al (see citation below) about the benefits of receiving feedback on advertising projects that were designed using either serial or parallel prototypes. The idea was to create examples of Web advertisements and then receive feedback after each single design (serial) or receive feedback after multiple designs (parallel). The serial participants received feedback after every one of their designs. The multiple designs test group received feedback after initially creating three designs, then received feedback after two more designs, before creating a final design. The researchers of this very statistically accurate study found that “parallel participants outperformed serial participants by all performance measures…” (18:2).

At first glance, I was quick to simply think this made perfect common sense. If you, as a participant, design three prototypes as opposed to another participant who only designs one, then you have an advantage. But to stop here at a conclusion would be to miss some of the important issues the study raises.

The study is really developing ideas about how we learn. The researchers use the timing of feedback as a tool to demonstrate that “delay helps learners reflect” (18:16). The feedback delay was reserved for the multiple design participants. For me, it is easy to follow how a potential learning outcome that allows time for reflection offers growth as opposed to feedback that comes after only one design prototype. The writers also note that feedback on serial design participants tended to keep those participants fixed and focused on refining an already existing design, rather than suggesting any ideas of beginning anew. The parallel design participants had the ability to consider feedback on three designs together. In this case, three is definitely better than one.

For me, what the study highlights about the learning process is that students learn more effectively when they are given more than one opportunity, or given alternatives, to creating solutions to problems. This is clearly highlighted in this study by the higher level of “self-efficacy” with the participants of the parallel prototypes. Feedback on single design prototypes led to a lack in “self-efficacy” (18:5). The processes of delaying feedback and allowing participants time to reflect greatly enhanced their learning experience. This, I believe can be adapted to other learning environments.

To conclude I want to return to the feeling I had as I read this entire piece. The advantage of the parallel participants was affected by their ability to design three prototypes before receiving  any feedback. That advantage over the serial participants was in numbers, experience, and practice. I believe that the experience of creating three designs, coupled with the ability to reflect on those designs, allowed a greater learning experience to take place.

Dow, S., Glassco, A., Kass, J., Schwarz, M., Schwartz, D., & Klemmer, S., (2010). “Parallel prototyping leads to better design results, more divergence, and increased self-efficacy”. ACM Trans. Comput.-Hum. Interact. 17, 4.

Each and Every Student in Collaborative Learning

librarian Like the caption here suggests, technology is redefining how we access information. This is by now old news.  Five years ago I learned how to access information through a university library’s electronic database system, including how to find out where some of the most obscure European classical music pieces reside – something that required lengthy and labor intensive search criteria. This is old news too, even though it was new for me at the time. What is new, or at least something new ubiquitously, is that the search engine is a daily fact of life for almost everyone I know, and more importantly, we all use it differently.

What isn’t new, for the most part, is the way students are being taught in institutional settings – by teacher dominated homogenous groups. Kurt Squire and Mingfong Jan highlight how today’s students perceive their world: “what is ‘true’ is what works in experience or is the consensus of a community, as opposed to appeals to authority—what the teacher dictates as correct.” (6).

Students engage in social media, games, chats, tweets, etc. constantly, that is, whenever their not in a classroom, but then again… While knowing how to use electronic databases is extremely valuable, it meant little to me until I had to put it to extensive use later on in my graduate career. If educating students was only about teaching them alternative ways to access information, then we need not ponder any longer something students do very well on their own. But if we, as educators, want to engage students on the level of what each and every student needs, then we must embrace ideas that allow students to choose their learning outcomes.

I would like to begin this week’s reflection on UCSB’s ED 256 course readings with some ideas from Sasha Barab and Chris Dede’s article located in a 2007 special issue of the Journal of Science Education and Technology. Instead of relaying scientific facts


through lecturing, Barab and Dede point out that “knowledge and skills in science should be situated as an inquiry process…” (1). The authors relate that new technologies and designs can be used for students to work toward the investigation of science rather than acquiring scientific knowledge as dictated by teachers. One way to accomplish this task is to use the creative power of computer gaming to enhance student learning. Barab and Dede note that a “game-based scenario” can reshape the learning environment.

A collaborative, social, and engaging game-type platform is quite an opposite approach from a standard cultural climate where teachers and print media control how learning takes place. Educators are quickly learning that students are connected to technology outside the classroom on a regular basis. This connectivity is vibrant and engaging and will obviously be increasing with succeeding generations. It is imperative that educators and school systems learn how to harness the use of technology, not as another social platform or entertainment center, but as a space where the tools of engagement allow learning to take place through collaborative inquiry.

The entries in this journal issue are studies that do exactly this kind of work. By highlighting some of those ideas below, I hope to make connections between how these emerging technologies and concepts might be useful in other fields of inquiry. Specifically, how might a gaming platform similar to those described in these articles be used to engage students in role-playing activities about music and popular culture?

In Neulight et al, students created avatars in a “multi-user virtual environment (MUVE)” who were susceptible to a virtual epidemic (48). This simulated scientific study tracked the progress of students perceptions of infectious diseases and included a data analysis of how the students came to conclusions about the spread of disease.

While the data was fascinating and important, I found the premise of the game more interesting. Students were able to chat with each other about what was happening with their illnesses and the illness of others. They could also create different hypothetical scenarios and outcomes by changing parameters of the game. Importantly, the authors relate how an increasing level of what they term “immersiveness” tended to heighten the emotional connection with the simulated game. Immersiveness is akin to a “feeling of presence in the simulation and the integration of the simulation into the classroom curriculum” (48). Generally speaking, when students have the ability to manipulate their personal learning environment, the level of engagement is certainly much higher than a conventional classroom setting.

Squire and Jan introduce five “core features pertinent to designing games for learning” that are already present in games involving science education (8). These five features are explained using a sociocultural viewpoint. (1) The “games ask students to inhabit roles…” where “game designers use differentiated roles to encourage (and indeed require) collaboration across groups; (2) Activity is organized around challenges” that “employ multiple challenge/reward structures designed to support engagement, collaboration, and learning; (3) “Games offer opportunities to tie goals to particular places, particularly, sites of contested spaces; (4) Digital games allow for embedding authentic resources and tools that are used within the context of game play; (5) Recent work on gaming has illuminated the fundamentally social nature of game play, suggesting that frequently the game community, not the game, is a productive unit of analysis for educators” (8-9, italics in original).

The preceding ideas about immersiveness and simulation, along with the five core features of game design for learning, offer a platform for designing interactive and collaborative ways of learning. In Squire and Jan’s hypothetical “virtual investigation” of Ivan Illyich, (see Squire and Jan 2007), students take on differing roles in order to help solve Illyich’s mysterious death. What is important to me is the level of role-playing and collaboration that must take place in order for the mystery to be pieced together effectively. This is the ultimate goal, not what actually happened to Illyich.

I believe all of these principles and ideas could be used to engage students in learning about all sorts of subjects – the ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ sciences, language, history, anthropology, art, music, etc. – in virtually any setting.

In having students choose a role (and eventually choosing another or trying on different roles), and interacting with other roles chosen by other students, each and every student can benefit in some way. Whether introverted, extroverted, complacent, gregarious (insert adjective), each student can try differing roles. In popular music studies these roles might include a lead singer or guitarist of a band, a promoter, a graphic artist who designs band logos, a music industry lawyer, a band manager, agent, fans, or many other roles related to the music industry.

From an ethnomusicological perspective, the social interaction of these roles integrated with authentic resources and tools could create a colorful and engaging simulation of how people make music. At the same time, students would have the opportunity to engage in social theory on a practical level.

How would this facilitate the learning of social theory you may ask? I will consider a somewhat extreme example that might be best suited for high school or college aged students: If you are a writer of a fanzine for punk music and love to don safety pins in your ear lobes, you are initially a part of a subculture that is making a bold statement juxtaposed to a dominant mainstream society that sees this as subversive. When a pop-up chat between you and the teacher in your local school has that teacher asking you to stop distributing news about the crazy antics of your favorite punk lead singer, you may get a simulated sense of what it feels like to be marginalized, or at best, a simulated version of how authority figures attempt to control what they perceive as a misinformed group of people. But then again, you can reverse the role next time, and as the teacher, join the fanzine writer at the next performance


Barab, S., and Dede, C. 2007. “Games and Immersive Participatory Simulations for Science Education: An Emerging Type of Curricula.” Journal of Science Education and Technology. 16, no.1. 1-3.

Neulight, N., Kafai, Y., Kao, L., Foley, B., Galas, C. 2007. “Children’s Participation in a Virtual Epidemic in the Science Classroom: Making Connections to Natural Infectious Diseases.” Journal of Science Education and Technology. 16, no.1. 47-59.

Squire, K., & Jan, M. 2007. “Mad City Mystery: Developing Scientific Argumentation Skills with a Place-based Augmented Reality Game on Handheld Computers.” Journal of Science Education and Technology. 16, no 1. 5-29.

Writing about Technology and Learning

Hello Everyone,

This particular blog will be active for at least nine weeks as part of a course I’m taking at UC Santa Barbara. It is a Teaching and Learning Contexts course to help us articulate and demonstrate how we may apply technology to our various teaching fields.

The diversity of graduate students and their research interests in the class is very inspiring.

One of the tasks for the course is to write a blog entry each week for the class readings. Please feel to comment, discuss, or otherwise postulate on these musings as you wish.

Randy Drake – ethnomusicology graduate student, UC Santa Barbara