A Visit to the Four Eyes (4 Is) Lab, UCSB

Last week, we had the chance to attend the Four Eyes Lab (Imaging, Interaction, and Innovative Interfaces) in the Computer Science department at UCSB. These computer scientists and engineers went through a few demonstrations of human and technological interactions. I found the use of technology for human information consumption engaging and intriguing.

I will speak specifically about the trip to the Allosphere and the demonstration of remote viewing for instruction or emergency feedback. First, the Allosphere (even with its kinks) was by far a fantastic demonstration. The use of 10 projectors to display images from multiple computers in order to create a sphere was fantastic. The programming of 3D images made it immersive. The applications (although immobile) are vast. It allows an audience to enter virtual worlds. With simple controls, a group of neurology students can enter a brain and discuss what each structure and do. It could act like a 3D planetarium for astronomy students, looking at the solar system.  Forget 2D representations, or even the fantastical pipe dream of a Magic School Bus, this sphere has strong implications for education and communication. Obviously, the roadblock to this system is cost, space, and engineering (building). I would have loved to stay there longer and learn more. I can only imagine the system will become more streamlined and accessible as technology and engineering get better.

The other demonstration I found especially intriguing was the remote-viewing interface. While the system is in its early stages, it shows lots of promise. It is especially useful for helping during a remote emergency, from expert to novice. I thought the prototype example of a plane situation with a novice pilot is especially apt. However, this device and interface has more than just emergencies written over it. This could be used for remote-teaching, providing an augmented reality for museums or other education institutions. It might also facilitate distance education in a more interactive way, enhancing the basic static nature of the current system. It could also be used on a day-to-day industry-level, where office-bound techs can assist engineers in the field remotely, say in repairing a blacked-out power grid.

I really enjoyed hearing the other demonstrations and presentations from the Four Eyes Lab. It was something I didn’t realize was happening at UCSB, being insulated in my own little psychological world. I’d love to see some of these inventions and innovations make their way to mainstream consumerism or at educational institutions.

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Brainstorming Multiple Challenge Solutions

(This post is reproduced on Molly Metz’s blog.)

Design Problem: Making method and statistics courses more palatable and to get students to understand psychological science in the realm of psychology.

Solution #1 (Alex’s Idea)

Introduce a class project or projects in a methods course that facilitates discussion of design, implementation, and analysis to the course.

  1. Main engine: Zaps, The Norton Psychology Labs (http://www.wwnorton.com/college/psych/zaps/).
    1. This laboratory engine has an online component, where students register for the site, and may take part in famous psychology experiments from cognitive, social, and other areas in psychology.
    2. Modules can allow for individual registrants that can be aggregated into class data.
    3. Students can also print out their individual performance for aggregation into a spreadsheet for analysis.
    4. Modules are presented to students using Flash.
    5. Aspects of the Project
      1. Depending on the size of the class, the interactive component can either be group-based (for small-medium size classes) or iClicker/crowdsourced-based (for large lecture classes).
      2. Depending on the length of the term, one or two projects can be completed.
      3. In addition to the normal curriculum of the course, the project will incorporate required course content. This integration should help students realize the way psychological students is done in the real world, giving some context to the field in general
  1. While the module(s) will be chosen prior to the start of the course to ensure that all milestones are hit and the curriculum matched, the students will discuss the design of the experiment, with various activities in-class to facilitate answers.
  2. Students will then do the experiment online, effectively being their own subjects.
  3. More in-class activities will facilitate the analysis of the data phase of the project
  4. Following part of the procedure from Ciarocco, Lewandowski, & Van Volkom, 2013, students will complete a small results section and truncated discussion section
  5. Expectations
    1. Due to the introductory nature of the course, simpler designs are required; the Zaps experience needs to be highly controlled.
    2. The project will hopefully show students the utility of psychological research and assuage misconceptions of psychology.
    3. The writing portion of the project will prepare the students for the laboratory courses where more writing is involved.

Solution #2 (Molly’s Idea)

As identified in an earlier post, the educational challenge Alex and I have decided to approach concerns the teaching of undergraduate psychology research methods and statistics. To review, undergrad psych majors tend to dislike methods and stats classes due largely to three major issues: misconceptions about psychological science; disconnect between methods, stats, and content; and the lack of inherent interest in the material. As a result, students experience high levels of anxiety, low perceived value of the material, and low interest in engaging with it.

One possible solution I would like to propose is the use of the adaptive learning technology being developed by Knewton (http://www.knewton.com/about/). This platform, currently being developed and tested with private investors, aims to personalize the learning experience as much as possible by utilizing user data and adjusting the lesson plan according to user needs and preferences. Described by the website as a “recommendation engine,” Knewton uses both personal history and education research to suggest tailored lessons and activities to fit specific needs. For example, based on the finding that trouble with algebra word problems is more likely due to impaired critical reading skills than any math-related issues, a student struggling with word problems will be directed to reading comprehension exercises. As with other platforms based on user data (such as the tracking of shoppers using discount cards or optimizing Amazon search functions), the platform delivers better content as it collects more data.

Technology such as this is remarkably well-suited to address each of the components of our challenge described above. Students can fill out a survey gauging their knowledge of psychological science, and be directed toward resources to correct any misconceptions. The adaptive learning technology is useful for all students, but will be especially helpful to those experiencing high levels of anxiety by tailoring lesson to their knowledge and taking them at their own pace toward achieving the target objectives. Knewton’s “cross-disciplinary knowledge graphs” will go far in integrating the statistical and methodological concepts learned with the rest of psychology, and it could be programmed to direct students to simulations, research articles, or videos about concepts students are either most interested in or need the most help engaging with. By personalizing the learning experience as much as possible to the needs of each learner, Knewton’s adaptive learning technology can greatly enhance the experience and enjoyment of students in stats and methods courses.

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Integrating Multimedia Technology

For this weeks readings, there were two papers (Burleson, 2005; Moreno & Mayer, 1999) and a video of Jane McGonigal at the TED2010.

Moreno & Mayer (1999) discussed two experiments regarding multimedia learning and the effects of images/visuals and text vs. narration within a lesson. This is an important effect, as lesson become increasingly multimedia-based. Students are bombarded with text, a teacher’s or video’s narration, and images to tie everything together. However, facilitating learning for transfer requires a careful balance between each of these components. This means there is pretty much a proper way to use Powerpoint for lecturing to college students. Thus, for our technology project, facilitating learning requires a deep understanding of what students will be doing with our technological solutions to the educational challenges we’ve identified.

Burleson (2005) discussed creativity, motivation, and self-actualization with respect to hands-on technological learning. This has implications for every new technology that comes out, including our real or imagined solutions for our class project. Specifically, the idea of constructionism is important for my challenge; that is, since psychology methods and statistics courses are so dry, and since there is little time for anything else that contentless doldrums, students are not getting the opportunity to get hands-on training. At UCSB, there is too much time between when students take the intro courses to the lab courses where hands-on actually occurs, and it is a no-brainer that they’ve forgotten all the techniques and concepts that will aid them through designing and implementing scientific design. It is exactly this reason why I would like to add hands-on training to the intro courses to facilitate the deeper learning needed for retention.

This brings me to Jane McGonigal’s TED talk from a couple of years ago. She implored the audience to start gaming in order to solve real-world problems. While I agree with this sentiment, she is missing the one piece of motivational difference from those who game and those who don’t. I argue that those who game with a strict passion displayed in the portrait she uses, these people are using gaming to remove themselves from the real world on purpose in order. It is a form of escapism, much like movies were and still are. Though the problems they solve in these massive multiplayer games are important for problem-solving skills and other social abilities, I think the motivation is not there yet to branch out the big guns of real-world “holy crap” problems. If everyone played a game that solved one problem and it was something that they like doing in their normal lives (and not as a form of escape), we’d be doing pretty good right now. Her video is embedded below. I definitely recommend watching it.

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Parallel vs. Serial Design

The paper by Dow et al. (2010) was insightful and intriguing. The findings showing parallel design is in many ways better to the design process than serial design makes intuitive sense to me. The comprehensive nature of the analysis was also helpful in evaluating the conclusions of the study.

I agree with many of the conclusions represented in study. Creativity does not occur in a vacuum. It needs fostering and room to move/grow. It also needs weak constraints to maintain a connected course. Parallel design seems to foster this approach. It allows the person to try multiple ideas and receive a confluence of feedback, or at least move forward with the most desired design. Conversely, serial processing creates an environment that sustains functional fixedness, or a lack of lateral thinking. A designer creates one design and continues with that initial move, incorporating feedback into the original design, instead beginning again (as this would be counterintuitive to the serial designer). Thus, the designs become stagnant (not always, of course).

It is interesting to note, that as an academic, I tend to work in both ways. When designing experiments from the ground up, it makes the most sense to discuss multiple ideas. However, serial design comes into play when using a design already created and just tweaking it. While this has scientific implications above just designing experiments, it can be a place where a researcher gets stuck. When writing a paper, it is difficult to not think of the paper linearly, or serially. What I need to do is realize the disconnect and approach writing a paper with parallel design in mind.

I see many parallels (hah!) with this paper and next class’s topic of solution generation of the educational challenges the class has proposed, as well as the next mini-assignment for the overall group project. For the massive brainstorm session in the next class, this could be considered a parallel design process–multiple ideas from multiple sources happening concurrently. Similarly, the group mini-assignment of creating multiple design ideas is very much like the parallel condition in the study; we generate ideas on how to solve our educational challenge and then receive feedback on those ideas before moving forward with a design.

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Using Technology for a Specific Purpose in Education

For this week’s readings, I read Ikpeze (2007) and Squire & Jan (2007).

To begin, I’d like to offer my thoughts on Ikpeze (2007). The study was about electronic discourse (ED) in distance education, and looking at qualitative group dynamics in a graduate seminar course. I have had two experiences with distance education, one that was fully online and the other that was mostly a regular lecture-style course with an online component. My first experience was an undergraduate summer class that I took online on the history of the Chicano/a experience in America (to be honest, it was a GE requirement and I was glad I didn’t have to go to campus to do it). There were readings, small quizzes, and reflection papers–standard online fare in my opinion. The portion of the course that relates to this paper was the mandatory chat sessions we had with the instructor each week. The discussion forums were optional. However, my experience was one that research described as ineffective: the instructor did not have control over the chat session, very little was actually discussed, and I felt my learning would be better served doing something else. Spending 20 min of an hour chat session just watching people enter or have technical difficulties was painful. My experience would be qualitatively different from the research described in the paper. In fact, if the methodology of the study was adopted by the instructor of my course, it might have been a better experience.

The other experience was to be a teaching assistant for a psychology course where the students had to make a wiki page on a specific psychological phenomenon in groups on a website. They had to collaborate, engage in discussion regarding editing, and maintain a working and effective webpage. I oversaw the groups, and acted in a similar manner as the instructor of the paper. Though not necessarily linked to the Ikpeze paper, grouping seemed to help effective learning, as the better working groups (similar the 3 groups in the ED paper) produced better final products.

I do have some criticisms regarding the ED paper, however. One, the findings did not seem that ground-breaking to me. While ED adds a new wrinkle to the in-person group dynamic, the group processes still remain: if you’ve got a good group, it will be better; if you have a sucky group, you won’t feel as though the utility of the ED was high. As a psychologist, I was not surprised by these findings. Two, it would have been better to see the study run on undergraduates; this is due the differential motivations in these classes vs. graduate seminar classes. This leads me to my third criticism, which entails my wariness of the conclusions made based on qualitative data. I would have liked to have seen more quantitative data on the observations made. I do not believe they would have been too hard to implement. I did see the use of Likert scale questions, but I think more would have given strength to the conclusions of the study.

The other paper I read for this week was Squire & Jan (2007). This was also a qualitative study, looking at scientific thinking in children (4th-10th grades) on an augmented reality murder mystery game. I don’t have much to say about this study, but again, I would have liked to have read more quantitative findings to give their qualitative analysis more weight.

As for the method, it seems like it has potential. I do like the Sherlock Holmes-esque style of gameplay that requires the students to go from an end event and retrace the steps backward asking specific questions. This is missing from higher education. I would like to see sustained use through multiple grades, especially in longitudinal form. My concern about this game, however, is the openness regarding the gameplay. The authors state that there are many reasons why the person might have died and it is up to the students to make a storyline. The issue I have with this is that there appeared to be no wrong answers. While I agree that the path should be complex for the children to ask deeper questions, it is unclear if they tend to start going down the wrong path if they are nudged back in the right direction. It is easy to rationalize mistakes and seem like a logical deduction or abduction was made.

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