PIs: Jichen Zhu, Glen Muschio, Aroutis Foster
A key challenge for interactive learning environments is how to automatically co-regulate “balancing learners” autonomy with the pedagogical processes intended by educators. In this Cyberlearning: Transforming Education EAGER project, the PIs are exploring the use of experience management (EM) to address this issue. They are collecting preliminary data about (1) the relationship between a learner’s goal orientations and play style and (2) the impact of dynamically adjusting the learning environment using a variety of EM strategies and their impacts on learners’ autonomy and learning outcomes. These issues are being addressed in the context of an interactive learning environment called Solving the Incognitum. Using this environment, learners learn about geological time and the fossil record. The setting is the historical Charles Willson Peale Museum of Art and Science, the largest US natural history museum of its day (1801-1827). Included in this virtual museum are all the dinosaur and ancient animal bones that Peale and his group brought back from his expeditions. Learners are challenged to find the bones that are missing from a skeleton, and clues are scattered around the museum. Learners with a goal-achievement orientation may not explore enough and may need to be encouraged to do that, while those who are more natural explorers may need to be guided to move towards the planning needed to achieve their goal. Reflection in action and reflection on action are supported.
As ailing governments cut funding for schools, there is a push towards using technology for providing the kinds of help that aides and specialized teachers might have provided. For such an effort to be successful, we need to learn more about how to design engaging learning environments that can help struggling learners. Learning environments where learners get to explore, design, build, and solve problems are engaging, but using them to promote learning requires understanding how to give learners the autonomy they need to remain engaged and enthusiastic along with the guidance they need to successfully learn. This project represents an early attempt at addressing that need.