My research focuses on designing meaningful classroom interactions through creative use of technologies. I have developed a program of research that explores the nature of face-to-face and online interaction and learning in classrooms, designs technology-rich learning environments and courseware, and assesses the effects of instruction in these environments.
I have been conducting studies on three specific lines: (a) exploring ways of facilitating online learning through productive online discussions; (b) examining the potential of new technologies, such as Web 2.0 applications and iPad/iPhone, for supporting collaborative online learning.
I. Fostering Productive Online Discussions
Over the years, I have been studying online discussions from multiple angles. I have designed different types of discussion environments and investigated how the environments influence the way participants respond or interact. I have also developed online discussion strategies to encourage in-depth online discussions, and written a conceptual piece on how research on learning from text could inform online discussion research. So far, my work has resulted in both conference presentations and publications, including two presentations at the annual meeting of AERA, and several publications on First Monday, Journal of Educational Computing Research and The Journal of Educational Technology Development and Exchange.
This has led to a clear, well-defined future agenda that should result in productive research for many years to come. More specifically, there are three areas related to online discussions that I plan to explore. First, I will continue designing and testing various online discussion environments. I have learned from my past research how specific features of the discussion environments support or hinder certain types of online discussions. The next step is to develop online environments that support specific pedagogical goals. Second, I will develop online instructional and learning strategies based on both research on learning from text and research on online discussions. Research on learning from text offers insights on how to support effective learner-text interactions. Since many learning materials and activities in online courses are text-based, I believe that this line of research will be productive. Third, I plan to work on assessing the quality of online discussions. Literature in the field of online discussions suggests a need to develop comprehensive measures of the quality of online discussions. My dissertation and my previous research have broadened and deepened my understanding of online discussions, and qualified me to accomplish this research goal.
II. Supporting Collaborative Online Learning with New Technologies
Comparing role-playing activities in Second Life and face-to-face environments
I initiated and conducted a study examining the use of Second Life (secondlife.com) in education. The study, ppublished on Journal of Interactive Learning Research, compared undergraduate student performances in role-playing activities in both face-to-face environment and Second Life, and reported different interaction patterns in both environments. As one of the first few studies on educational use of Second Life, it contributes to people’s understanding of learning activities occurring in Second Life, and raised a set of questions for future study, which include the effects of different learning tasks on learners’ performance, and the interaction of personality characteristics with learning environments.
Supporting an Online Community of Inquiry Using VoiceThread
I use the community of inquiry (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000) as the theoretical framework, and explore how multimedia presentation tools - VoiceThread (voicethread.com) - can be used to design meaningful online learning activities.
Developing Interactive Videos on iPads to Promote Science Learning and Self-Regulation
I am currently working with my colleagues on a NSF grant proposal. The purpose of our research is to explore how the use of interactive videos on iiPads can bring a change to how science is learned in traditional classroom learning, and help develop self-regulated learners in early childhood environments. We propose that this device may support independent learning in and outside the classrooms, and it is important to discover and understand the potentials and barriers of using iPads in classrooms.