Posted by: soniahs | November 12, 2010

Exam readings: networked tech and STEM learning

Two related readings on networked technologies and science: the first a NSF task report on cyberlearning, and the second on “collaboratories”-collaborative laboratories.

Christine L. Borgman, Hal Abelson, Lee Dirks, Roberta Johnson, Kenneth R. Koedinger, Marcia C. Linn, Clifford A. Lynch, Diana G. Oblinger, Roy D. Pea, Katie Salen, Marshall S. Smith, and Alex Szalay. “Fostering Learning in the Networked World: The Cyberlearning Opportunity and Challenge.” Washington, DC: National Science Foundation, 2008.

Summary: Task force report designed to give NSF guidance on cyberlearning: “networked computing and communication technology to support learning.” Their focus is on using CL to support STEM education in a lifelong, customized setting- redistributing learning over space & time. The authors believe there’s a high potential now because of new technologies, increased understanding of learning processes, demand for solutions to educational problems. Some examples: Web tech & breaking down location barriers, open & multimedia educational resources, new techs. making learning affordable & accessible, cloud computing, customizable content, and an enthusiastic audience (though schools aren’t up to speed on digital techs.) Key potential problems: responsible data use/data overload, scaling technologies for large communities, how to apply software & other resources. Several issues require action: data management, open/accessible resources need to be guaranteed, NSF needs strategy of funding projects that produce resources for both education & research. They have 5 main recommendations, including a “platform perspective” (shared & interoperable designs), resources developed should be open & freely shared.

Comments: Apparently, while the public doesn’t respect education, we do like electronic gadgets- so the idea is to use these to educate people. This reference will mainly be useful for giving me a sense of the state of the field. They do ask one question that’s interesting: should we train people to work in interdisciplinary teams, or increase the versatility of individuals? (trend seems to be to work in teams…)

Links to: Finholt (collaboratories)

Thomas Finholt. “Collaboratories.” Annual Review of Information Science and Technology. 36(1): 73-107, 2002.

Summary: “Collaboratories”=collaborative laboratories or “labs without walls;” joint science work has historically depended on physical proximity, esp. science with large instruments (or specific study sites). While one answer has been residencies, the problems of this structure have remained, primarily barriers to access or research. Science has been moving toward large, complex distributed projects- can consider these a types of distributed intelligence. Collaboratories require two types of IT: increased communication + better access to instruments and data (data sharing/data viz. tools, remote-use instruments). Finholt discusses history of such projects, from “memex” concept & ARPAnet to current projects in various disciplines. These still involve a small number of participants; libraries and datasets have more use. Other lessons: people can use them sporadically and still be useful, easily integrated software is more accepted (e.g., web-based), some types of activity are naturally more collaboratory (data coll. vs. idea generation), and there are new expectations for participants. Challenges: moving from shared space to virtual space introduces new demands: must make implicit interactions explicit (e.g., pointing, gaze detection), willingness to collaborate and adopt tools is also issue.

Comments: Points out that increased communication can lead to Balkanization as well as broader communication (social exclusivity); benefits are highest for students & non-elite scientists, drawback might be these projects becoming pools for marginalized scientists (e.g., e-journals have lower status). F2F interactions still crucial for establishing contacts; meetings still important- these projects will augment, rather than replace current practice.

Links to: Howe (crowdsourcing)



  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Leah Morrison, Sonia Stephens. Sonia Stephens said: Exam readings: networked tech and STEM learning: […]


%d bloggers like this: