Published: Oct. 2, 2017

Kids viewing infographicWhat’s the future of learning with technology? How can students use their bodies and minds to learn what will be important in the 21st century? What advances in computation and technology are needed? How can learning with technology expand access, equity, and depth of learning?

To address these questions and beyond, the cyberlearning community brings computer scientists and learning scientists together to design and study innovative learning technologies.

A new report co-authored by 22 members of the U.S. cyberlearning community — including Joseph Polman, CU Boulder professor of learning science and human development in the School of Education — investigates design themes emerging across multiple cyberlearning projects nationwide. The report, titled “The Cyberlearning Community Report: The State of Cyberlearning and the Future of Learning with Technology,” highlights examples of the exciting work across the community as the latest innovations in learning science and computer science are integrated into new research designs and methods.

The report, organized by the Center for Innovative Research in Cyberlearning (CIRCL), describes six emerging genres across multiple National Science Foundation-funded cyberlearning projects:

  • Community Mapping: Moving and Discovering across Contexts
  • Expressive Construction: Enabling Learners to Represent Powerful Ideas
  • Classrooms as Digital Performance Spaces
  • Virtual Peers and Coaches: Social and Cognitive Support for Learning
  • Remote Scientific Labs: Authenticity at Distance
  • Enhancing Collaboration and Learning through Touch Screen Interfaces

Joe Polman

For each design theme, the report highlights computer science and learning science innovations, provides examples, and discusses opportunities and challenges. The design themes contrast with today’s common tablet or laptop-based school products by emphasizing context, mobility, physicality, agency, authenticity, and social learning.  

Polman co-authored the chapter on Expressive Construction, which explores the new technological tools and activities that can maximize opportunities to learn within the opportunities to create in a variety of settings, ranging from the maker movement to coding to using media to express ideas. 

The chapter highlights Polman and colleagues’ NSF-funded STEM Literacy through Infographics project, in which high school youth take the role of citizen data journalists who publish science infographics. The high school students select, process, and analyze a dataset to create a news magazine infographic. Students learn about the editorial process and how to communicate clearly to a public audience. The research helps the cyberlearning community understand what tools and social supports youth need to refine their representations and their ideas, and the activity has great potential for youth to develop agency as people who use STEM knowledge to help their community in meaningful ways.

"In our present day and age, with rapid advances in networked technologies as well as social change, it is vitally important that developers of technologies and experts on learning join forces," Polman said. "By researching new innovations in technology and the ways that people use them for learning, these cyberlearning initiatives can expand educational opportunities that benefit all members of society."

Polman also pointed out the remarkable number of scholars doing innovative cyberlearning research and development at CU Boulder. The report points to projects involving CU Boulder faculty members Ben Shapiro, assistant professor in the ATLAS Institute and of computer science, Michael Eisenberg, professor of computer science, and Sidney D’Mello, associate professor of computer science. The National Science Foundation also funds projects related to cyberlearning involving Tammy Sumner, professor and director of the Institute of Cognitive Science and of computer science; Bill Penuel, professor of learning sciences and human development in the School of Education; Tom Yeh, assistant professor in computer science; and Bridget Dalton, associate professor of literacy studies in the School of Education. The Institute for Museum and Library Services recently funded a cyberlearning project headed by Ricarose Roque, assistant professor of information sciences in the College of Media, Communication, and Information.

"I don’t think any university in the country has such a rich environment crossing multiple colleges and institutes cultivating interdisciplinary cyberlearning research," he added.

Report cover 

To learn more, find the cyberlearning community report here