Assignment 3: Exploring Your Areas (Spring 2019)

Last week, you built an inventory of the expanse of EdTech. This week, you’re going to start to narrow down what you specifically want to work on this semester.

What to Do

Now that you have an understanding both of past projects in this class and of the EdTech space as a whole, it’s time to start narrowing down what you want to work on this term. The next three weeks will focus on that: this week you’ll explore a smaller set of topics in greater depth, next week you’ll specifically pose a problem that needs to be solved, and the following week you’ll formally gather the foundational literature on which your project will build.

This week, choose a subset of areas you want to investigate in greater depth. We expect most people will choose around 5 areas. The way you go about this will differ based on how much you already know about what you want to do in this class.

If you already have a strong unifying idea of what kind of project you want to tackle, identify the areas that it touches on, according to the same seven categories we discussed last week: technology, audience, content, sociotechnical issues, theory, medium, and methodology. As with the papers you read, not every category may be relevant to you, but several will be. For example, if you wanted to work on AI-based tutoring for middle school science, then your project would have a clear content area (math), audience (middle school students), and technology (intelligent tutoring). Depending on your unique focus, you might have a sociotechnical issue (e.g. gender representations of a tutor and its effect on student outcomes), a methodology (controlled experiment between students with and without the tool), or a theory (e.g. social feedback for visualizing classmates’ progress).

If you do not have a strong unifying idea, instead select areas that caught your eye during the previous assignment. They may not have a natural alignment that you can see so far, but exploring them in greater depth may help you find an alignment you did not know was present. For example, if you were interested in computer science education, the effect of differences in socioeconomic status on educational outcomes, and MOOCs, you may find they overlap to form a project on how individuals at different SES levels interact differently with MOOCs in CS education.

In either case, select a number of areas in which you are interested in investigating further. Then, begin reading in each area in greater depth. If there are conferences dedicated to each area, read multiple papers from the last couple years of the proceedings. If the topic area spans multiple communities, try to follow the citation “breadcrumbs”: start with one paper and look through its citation list for interesting follow-up readings to peruse.

At this stage, you may want to start considering the three tracks described in the project proposal description. If you’re looking at building something, you might want to look at what companies or lab groups are already building tools to address the problem in which you’re interested. If you’re interested in doing some research, you might want to look at what the dominant theories are in this area, as well as the types of methods (e.g. quantitative or qualitative) that are usually used. If you’d like to author some content, you’ll want to look into both general pedagogical practice and pedagogical content knowledge for your chosen area.

To be adequately prepared to start working on the assignment, you’ll likely want to peruse 10 to 15 papers per topic area that you selected if possible. There may be some topic areas where the literature is particularly sparse, however; in those cases, it is fine to just peruse as much as you can find. Just like previous weeks, 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

Your goal now is to start to synthesize a foundation for your work. So, rather than writing about your sources in isolation as you have done the previous two assignments, this time you will shift to writing in a more narrative style.

Start by briefly describing the areas you selected and how you arrived at them: is there a unifying idea behind the areas you selected, or did they individually catch your eye?

Then, for each area that you selected, write and summarize what you learned in a separate section. This should include citing many of the papers that you read during the phase above, but this should not simply be a list of summaries. Instead, you should synthesize what you learned about each area into an overall summary supported by the literature that you cite. We would generally expect to see at least 6-7 citations per area, although that number may vary: some areas may have relatively little literature on which to build. Similarly, if your ideas cover a larger number of areas, it is reasonable to have a smaller number of citations per area.

The main goal of this assignment is for you to learn about the communities in which you’re interested in participating. The secondary goals are for you to have the background necessary to select teammates, to provide your mentor and classmates with the information necessary to help you find more material, and to have you learn to drive your own research into a topic.

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.