Posts from the ‘projects’ category

UI Design Patterns for 21st Century Learning

This project examines online learning environments that involve creating, remixing, sharing, critiquing, and communicating about artifacts and ideas. Research has shown that youth participation in online communities using these kinds of environments can build technical competencies related to 21st century learning such as creativity, collaboration, critique, and communication. However, inequities exist in terms of who is participating and how youth participate.

With attention to equity and the experiences of underrepresented youth populations, we are analyzing online social learning networks to identify key user interface design patterns that support 21st century learning. Analysis includes attention to the ways in which the UI supports adult and youth interactions and 21st century learning activities. The results of this work will be useful to educators, designers, researchers who look to online tools as spaces to engage youth in learning communities.

Communities and Collective Action: Intentional Intergenerational Design

The objective of this study is to explore how online communication can be used to empower citizens to take action toward solving local issues (e.g., crime) by encouraging collective action and civic engagement. The broader goal is to design, build, and evaluate a technological solution that increases social capital and digital connectedness amongst local residents in a low income Chicago neighborhood.

Digital Youth Divas

As technological and mobile devices continue to become pervasive in our lives, young women, overwhelmingly, have opted to pursue non-STEM areas of study, leaving a growing number of STEM career opportunities on the table. Prior research suggests that middle school is the ideal time to engage girls in STEM exploration. In this research project, we expose middle school girls to "non-traditional" learning pathways where they learn a variety of technical skills through the completion of digital challenges in design, programming, and circuitry. Our objective is to use narratives, community, and a unique introductory curriculum to allow girls to explore STEM subjects in hopes of fostering long-term interest in STEM fields, strengthening students' self-efficacy regarding their ability, and challenging traditional stereotypes regarding who should be in STEM. This research project is sponsored by NSF.

Online Conversations in Transitional Neighborhoods

"Gentrification" is the process of transformation of certain urban areas where residents of low socioeconomic status are displaced by those of high socioeconomic status. This complex process structuring the global urban landscape has been studied for over fifty years. Despite an explosion of ethnographies of gentrifying neighborhoods, few have analyzed how social media and online communication structure the forms of material and social exchange and social organization of communities in the midst of the attendant social transformations of gentrification. A thorough analysis of this discursive landscape is particularly salient given the recognition by scholars of links between gentrification and delimitations of public space and the increasing use of social media to organize local social lives, social space, and neighborhood change.

The objective of this study is to explore online communication about gentrification in one Chicago neighborhood and begin to identify patterns in online conversations as they are related to the dynamics of social interactions amongst residents. This study will provide insights into how to design technologies that bridge communication gaps amongst predecessors and newcomers.

Communities, Technology, and Crime

This work focused on the intersection of communities, technology, and crime, specifically examining how members of low-income Chicago communities use technology to address violent crime in their local neighborhoods.

Using Data Visualizations to Enable and Enhance Learning Support Roles for Educators in an Out-of-School STEM Program

Adults in the lives of children (i.e., parents, mentors, teachers) play a wide range of roles that support youth learning and development. Teachers, for example, present content and organize projects, provide encouragement and access to resources, broker connections to people and learning opportunities, and prompt learners with feedback to revise and improve their work. Being able to interact with educators who can play these diverse roles in a way that builds relationships and helps them navigate into areas of interest and career pathways can be formative, particularly for underserved youth. In this poster, we ask, how can we better enable educators to provide individualized and equitable learning support to youth? Based on observations of mentors working with middle-school aged girls in a 10-week out-of-school STEM program, we describe how various learning support roles were played over the course of the program. We describe how stages of the program reflected different instructional activities and challenges. We then suggest visualization design principles for helping mentors address the challenges and opportunities of practice that were observed. This work contributes to a growing body of research aimed to promote equity in STEM learning in informal learning environments by exploring how data visualizations can be used to inform educator practice and the iterative design and development of STEM programs.

Using Automated Log Coding and Data Mining to Understand Teaching and Learning

In domains such as digital media, programming, and writing, online social learning networks increase opportunities for students to create, learn from exemplars, receive and offer feedback, and showcase work in ways that are not limited by the constraints of classroom time and space. While the growing presence of computers in schools and prominence of social networks in the everyday lives of students may find educators more willing to try online social learning networks, there is a lack of tools to help teachers understand if and how learning is occurring. Educators need to have meaningful data about how youth are interacting online, and how adult actions are supporting learning or not.

This project involves developing frameworks for analyzing the online activities of adult educators and students and identifying analytics that can be used to provide useful information about teaching and learning in online social learning networks. The availability of such information can be useful to educators, designers, and researchers as they seek to understand and design for activity in online learning systems, for example, by revealing information about the content, emotional tone, and function of online interactions. 

This project is supported by a NSF Cyberlearning and Future Technologies grant and a CDM Collaborative Research and Creative Activity Grant. 

This collaboration combines expertise in learning sciences, data mining and visualization, and human-computer interaction to develop learning analytics for online teaching and learning which can inform both theory and design.

Co-Principal Investigators: Denise Nacu and Daniela Raicu

Project Team

  • Faculty/Staff:
    • Denise Nacu (School of Design)
    • Daniela Raicu (School of Computing)
    • Jonathan Gemmell (School of Computing)
    • Caitlin K. Martin (Digital Youth Network)
    • Nichole Pinkard (School of Design)
    • Ugochi Achonolu (Digital Youth Network)
    • Tre Everette (Digital Youth Network)
    • Mighel Jackson (Digital Youth Network)
  • Students: 
    • Michael Schutzenhofer (Psychological Science)
    • Ryan Schmitt (Human-Computer Interaction)
    • Joseph Bringley (Applied Mathematics)