Assignment 2: Exploring Educational Technology (Spring 2019)

Last week, you started the course by exploring projects students in the class have done in the past. This week, you’ll expand your view from projects done in CS6460 to projects done in the educational technology research community as a whole.

What to Do

This week, your goal is to get a survey of the expanse of the educational technology research community. Educational technology is a massive area with dozens of subcommunities, with far more content than could ever be appreciably covered in a single semester. Your goal in this class will be to select a segment of the broader community for a deep dive, culminating in your own project within that area.

But to select where you want to take your deeper dive, it’s important to know the scope of the community as a whole. This is a complex problem: the “community” includes different technologies, audiences, content areas, theoretical issues, learning theories, media, and methodologies. To get a large view, this week focus on reading a variety of articles from the literature.

There are a variety of ways you can go about this:

  • Use the course library as a baseline. Look through the high-level topics, find which are particularly interesting to you, and drill down a little deeper. Don’t spend a lot of time focusing on any one topic: jump around a lot.
  • Use Google Scholar. Search for things you’re curious about. Try to focus on well-cited papers, but don’t automatically dismiss papers with fewer citations, especially if you find them particularly interesting.
  • Look at popular venues. EdTech has numerous conferences and journals, like AI in Education, Learning @ Scale, Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, and Intelligent Tutoring Systems. Learning-focused conferences often have a significant technology presence as well, such as the International Conference of the Learning Sciences and the American Education Research Association’s annual conference. There are also numerous journals on EdTech topics as well as higher education, adult education, education in specific content areas, and so on. Peruse the tables of contents for these venues, then use either Google Scholar or the Georgia Tech Library to see if you have access to the full works.
  • Seek non-academic sources, but sparingly. There is value in looking at what is going on in industry as well, but generally companies are more opaque about their methods and results: to build on others’ work, you need a more transparent view of the work, which is more present in academia.

Further discussion on how to find sources will take place on Piazza.

As you go, make sure you’re not just getting a variety of sources, but also a variety of types of sources. Look at educational technology as it targets different audiences, different specific content areas, and different technologies. Look for more sociotechnical sources regarding access issues, gender issues, and issues of differing socioeconomic status.

Note that depending on your background, this may feel unfamiliar: you may have never done independent research like this before. That’s part of the purpose of this assignment: not just to understand the EdTech community, but also to learn to do independent research. This will help you over the next few weeks.

To be adequately prepared to start working on the assignment, you’ll likely want to peruse 30 to 40 papers or other sources. Just like last week, you’ll likely only need to spend on average 10 minutes on each: some you’ll flip through in as little as 5 minutes, while some that catch your eye may need 20 to 30 minutes.

What to Submit

Assemble a document that covers the following for the sources you gathered above:

  • The citation for the source in APA format. (This can often be copied directly from Google Scholar.)
  • A 1-2 sentence description of the source.
  • A very brief categorization of the source according to the seven categories outlined above:
    • Technology: What technology or technologies does the source use? For example: chatbots, data analytics, virtual reality, wearable devices, etc.
    • Audience: Who is the target audience for the source? For example: K-12 students, working professionals, informal learners, etc.
    • Content: What content is being taught by the source? For example: computer science, math, writing, geography, etc.
    • Sociotechnical Issue: What issue is the source addressing? For example: access to technology, gender disparities in technology use, use of technology for social good or social evil, etc.
    • Theory: What learning theory is the source leveraging or investigating? For example: communities of practice, social learning, spaced repetition, etc.
    • Medium: What medium is the source using to deliver its idea? For example: traditional classrooms, MOOCs, informal museum displays, etc.
    • Methodology: How does the source investigate its idea? For example: controlled experiments, surveys and interviews, naturalistic observation, etc.

Note that not every source will necessarily have an answer to every single categorization. A lot of sources you find will not discuss sociotechnical issues at all, or may leave the audience or content implicit. For example, an investigation of what user behaviors predict MOOC completion may be agnostic to audience, sociotechnical issues, and content, but would have a technology (MOOC platforms), a theory (whatever explanation it shares for what predicts MOC completion), a medium (MOOCs as a delivery method), and a methodology (log analysis).

Your inventory of sources does not need to cover every single source you read in the stage above. However, it should have at least four different examples for each of the seven categories above: taken as a whole, your submission should feature sources that use at least four different technologies, address four at least different audiences, teach at least four different content domains, investigate at least four different sociotechnical issues, build on at least four different learning theories, deliver via at least four different mediums, and use at least four different methodologies for investigation.

Here is an example of what one such entry in this assignment might look like. Imagine if you were including my paper “Toward CS1 at Scale: Building and Testing a MOOC-for-Credit Candidate” in your inventory. Your entry might look like this

  • Joyner, D. (2018, June). Toward CS1 at scale: building and testing a MOOC-for-credit candidate. In Proceedings of the Fifth Annual ACM Conference on Learning at Scale (p. 59). ACM. Technologies: MOOC platforms; Audience: College students; Content: Computer science; Sociotechnical Issues: Equality of online and in-person educational outcomes; Medium: MOOC; Methodology: Quasi-experiment. In this work, Joyner compares the performance outcomes and attitudes of students in an online CS1 class to students in a traditional class. The paper finds students in the online section learn just as much and enjoy the experience more.

This source would cover a technology, an audience, a sociotechnical issue, a medium, a content area, and a methodology. Depending on how many categories the papers you select each cover, you may need more or fewer sources overall to find four examples of each category; even if each source covers a lot of examples, however, you should have at least 20 total sources. You may need more if you have many papers that only cover a couple areas.

The main goal of this assignment is for you to learn about the expanse of the educational technology community, in order to make an informed decision of where to focus going forward. A secondary goal is for you to help your classmates adopt a similar understanding by sharing your findings with them; peer review is a very important part of this assignment as you will benefit from seeing the variety of examples your classmates will find. Another secondary goal is for you to practice doing independent research. In many ways, this assignment is a preview of Assignment 5: here you gather a breadth of sources on many topics, whereas in Assignment 5 you’ll gather a depth of sources on a couple of topics.

Your writing is expected to be semi-formal: it is acceptable to use personal pronouns, share your own anecdotes or perspectives, and provide your personal history to explain your interests. However, your writing should be well-organized, grammatically sound, and cleanly formatted.

Submission Instructions

Assignments should be submitted to the corresponding assignment submission page in Canvas. You should submit a single PDF for this  assignment. This PDF will be ported over to Peer Feedback for peer review by your classmates. If your assignment involves things (like videos, working software prototypes, etc.) that cannot be provided in PDF, you should provide them separately (through OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.) and submit a PDF that links to or otherwise describes how to access that material.

This is an individual assignment. Even if you already plan to work on a team for the project, this assignment should still be completed individually.

Late work is not accepted without advanced agreement except in cases of medical or family emergencies. In the case of such an emergency, please contact the Dean of Students.

Grading Information

As with all assignments in this class, this assignment will be graded on an 11-point scale (0 to 10), in accordance with the grading policy outlined in the syllabus. If your deliverable receives a 9 or below, you may revise and resubmit it once within two weeks of the original due date or one week of receiving a grade, whichever is later. Resubmissions may receive up to a 9. Note that this should not be treated as a de facto free pass to submit sorely lacking work initially; we reserve the right to deny resubmission or grade a resubmission more harshly if we perceive the original submission was lacking in earnest effort.

Peer Review

After submission, your assignment will be ported to Peer Feedback for review by your mentor and classmates. Grading is not the primary function of this peer review process; the primary function is simply to give you the opportunity to read and comment on your classmates’ ideas. All grades will come from the mentors alone.

You will typically be assigned four classmates to review. You receive 1.5 participation points for completing a peer review by the end of the day Thursday; 1.0 for completing a peer review by the end of the day Sunday; and 0.5 for completing it after Sunday but before the end of the semester. For more details, see the participation policy.